Dwyane Wade is a free agent again. He’s agreed to a buyout of the remaining year on his contract with the Chicago Bulls, according to K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune.
That frees Wade to join a contender, which was long expected once the Bulls traded Jimmy Butler and committed to a rebuilding effort. A reunion with LeBron James and the Cavaliers is possible, but the Spurs are in the mix, as is a reunion with the Miami Heat, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.
Sources: Cleveland, San Antonio and Miami are leaders for Dwyane Wade post-Bulls buyout. OKC could become factor too.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) September 25, 2017
Cleveland's clear frontrunner with LeBron James, but Wade may take a little time to decide, league sources tell ESPN. https://t.co/onXPOeaYfG— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) September 25, 2017
Wade gave back about a third of his salary to become a free agent, according to Wojnarowski.
Dwyane Wade gave back approximately $8M of his $23.8M salary to reach buyout agreement with Bulls, league sources tell ESPN.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) September 25, 2017
This was destined to happen
Wade signed a two-year, $49 million contract with the Bulls in the summer of 2016, with a player option for the second year for $24 million. When the Bulls traded Butler to the Timberwolves during the NBA draft, that threw Wade’s future with the franchise into doubt.
But rather than opt out and find a new team then, Wade elected to pick up his $24 million option.
Asked Dwyane Wade tonight why he opted in with Chicago for 2017-18: "24 million reasons."— David Aldridge (@daldridgetnt) June 21, 2017
That specific comment came before the Butler trade, but he stuck to his guns even after Butler’s departure.
That posed an interesting dilemma for the Bulls at the time, as Tom Ziller wrote:
The Bulls aren’t going to win anything in 2017-18, and at 35 years old, Wade has a limited amount of time to both make money and compete for a fourth championship. Wasting a season in Chicago after what was arguably a wasted season last year is not tenable.
Wade’s a professional, but it’s not a good situation for young players like Zach LaVine and Kris Dunn. A miserable, impatient Wade playing for a team that doesn’t really want him anymore is an ugly combination, even if everyone tries their best to keep it positive.
Trading a player of D-Wade’s stature while he’s making $24 million is tough. The intersection in the Venn diagram of teams that can absorb that kind of salary (through cap space or with non-obtrusive outgoing contracts) and teams that could use Wade’s still-potent scoring and veteran moxie is small.
Both sides seemed headed toward a buyout, but the timing was up in the air. In late August, ESPN’s Nick Friedell reported that Wade “isn’t long for the organization’s future” and that a buyout was inevitable, if not close to imminent.
All stayed quiet until just before training camp. John Paxson, the Bulls’ team president, told 670 The Score that the Bulls were “more than willing to work with [Wade]” on a buyout, but it needed to be in “our best interest.”
That apparently was an $8 million giveback on his $24 million salary.
So where does Wade go now?
A reunion with good friend LeBron James in Cleveland is the likeliest scenario. Some close to James were “fairly confident” Wade would end up with the Cavaliers at some point, according to Cleveland.com’s Joe Vardon. The Cavaliers have about $2.6 million remaining from the taxpayer mid-level exception to offer Wade after using the rest to sign former second-round pick Cedi Osman.
There are other options. San Antonio looms in the background and can offer Wade the bi-annual exception of $3.3 million with no state income tax. The Thunder are an option after acquiring Wade’s good friend Carmelo Anthony in a trade.
Don’t completely rule out a return to Miami too, as surprising as that may seem. Pat Riley spoke highly of Wade in a recent press conference.
"I feel great about our relationship that we had over the 13 years," Riley said, via the Associated Press. "And anything that happens from a personnel standpoint down the road, or any opportunities that are there, we're always going to approach that. But right now he's under contract. He's under contract with Chicago, and I wish him the very best."
That still appears to be a long shot, but stranger things have happened.