Why Dwyane Wade Will Return to the Miami Heat

Wade Heat

We talked about this in February, but there’s a reasonable chance Pat Riley doesn’t want Dwyane Wade anymore.

Shooting guards who can’t shoot aren’t black sheep in the modern NBA. If Riley wants to chase a superstar he can’t afford to do so while retaining both Wade and Hassan Whiteside, and 26-year-old centers are more valuable than 34-year-old guards. It might just be time to start building around different players. Wade isn’t going to be good for very much longer.

Miami probably isn’t going to get a superstar. If Chris Bosh’s health were more certain they might, but as it stands right now their roster isn’t desirable enough. The difference between Wade and Whiteside is that Whiteside is far more desirable on the open market. The Heat can’t waste any time on him, and in fact probably will lose him while they’re fawning over Kevin Durant.

But Wade? Nobody’s giving Wade a multi-year deal. It just doesn’t make sense. Guards don’t maintain star status into their mid-30’s. He’s going to fall off sooner rather than later, and at this point in his career he’d only play for the sort of contender that doesn’t just have $20 million lying around to give to a one-year player.

Where would he even go? Chicago? The basketball fit makes no sense. Dallas isn’t good enough. A fit doesn’t exist.

And when Miami strikes out on Durant and realizes they aren’t winning the championship next season, their best bet is going to be playing for PR. So they’ll give Wade his one-year lump sum and go through the same dance again next year. But one of these seasons, they’re going to need to use their cap space on actual long-term basketball matters rather than public relations. Eventually, Wade is going to be forced out, and it’s going to be ugly.

On the off chance it happens this summer, Dallas and Chicago are the two teams that possibly come to mind. But in all likelihood, Wade’s headed for one last 59-game Miami rodeo.

Likely Contract: One Year, $17 Million

Fake NBA Trade of the Day 6/15/16: Kevin Love to Miami

Kevin Love Heat 3

Every day, Pick and Popovich will post one fake trade and explain why it makes sense for every team involved to make it. There are no parameters beyond fitting within the salary cap. Sometimes the trades will involve stars, others role players. They are not grounded in actual rumors, they just make sense on paper. During the 2016 NBA Playoffs, each week will feature seven fake trades of one star player. This is Kevin Love Week. 

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Cleveland Cavaliers Receive:                                                  Miami Heat Receive:

Chris Bosh                                                                                     Kevin Love

Josh Richardson                                                                          J.R. Smith                                                                 

Luol Deng*                                                                                   Mo Williams

 

 

Why Cleveland would make this trade: Richardson and Deng are both very valuable three-and-D players, but the real play here is for Bosh. It’s obviously a huge risk, he might never play again. But if he can get healthy, he’s the perfect big man for a LeBron team.

Why Miami would make this trade: It gets them a sure thing in Kevin Love compared to the huge risk that comes with Bosh’s health. They’d then just bring back Dwyane Wade and Hassan Whiteside and have an extremely talented, if not oddly fit, roster.

*Deal depends on Luol Deng agreeing to a sign-and-trade

Fake NBA Trade of the Day 4/19/16: Carmelo to Chicago

Carmelo Bulls

Every day, Pick and Popovich will post one fake trade and explain why it makes sense for every team involved to make it. There are no parameters beyond fitting within the salary cap. Sometimes the trades will involve stars, others role players. They are not grounded in actual rumors, they just make sense on paper. During the 2016 NBA Playoffs, each week will feature seven fake trades of one star player. This is Carmelo Anthony Week. 

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New York Knicks Receive:                                                   Chicago Bulls Receive:

Jimmy Butler                                                                           Carmelo Anthony

 

 

Why New York would make this trade: Jimmy Butler is a superstar! A young superstar! They’d be crazy NOT to make this trade.

 

Why Chicago would make this trade: If the rumors about Chicago wanting to deal Butler are true, ridiculous as they are, they aren’t going to get a better player right now than Anthony. The Bulls could conceivably build an immediate contender around Carmelo, and knowing Jerry Reinsdorf’s profit-driven philosophy, that’s probably more appealing than waiting on a multi-year rebuilding plan.

Fake NBA Trade of the Day 4/18/16: ‘Melo to Miami

Carmelo Heat

Every day, Pick and Popovich will post one fake trade and explain why it makes sense for every team involved to make it. There are no parameters beyond fitting within the salary cap. Sometimes the trades will involve stars, others role players. They are not grounded in actual rumors, they just make sense on paper. During the 2016 NBA Playoffs, each week will feature seven fake trades of one star player. This is Carmelo Anthony Week. 

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New York Knicks Receive:                                                         Miami Heat Receive:

Justise Winslow                                                                            Carmelo Anthony

Chris Bosh

Josh McRoberts

 

Why New York would make this trade: Justise Winslow is a future All-Star. He is among the best players New York could hope to receive as part of a Carmelo deal. And hey, if Chris Bosh turns out to be healthy? All the better.

 

Why Miami would make this trade: Not only does Miami acquire Anthony, but they also clear an enormous amount of long-term salary in Bosh and McRoberts. A trade like this would leave Miami with only Anthony, Goran Dragic, Josh Richardson and Briante Weber under contract for next season. That gives them around $45 million in projected cap space to play with over the summer. That might mean bringing back Hassan Whiteside and Dwyane Wade, or it could allow the Heat to get more creative in building a roster around Carmelo. Either way, the flexibility is very valuable.

What if Toronto Drafted LaMarcus Aldridge?

LaMarcus Aldridge Raptors

Every Wednesday, Pick and Popovich will dive down the rabbit hole and explore a different NBA “What if.” The only rule is that the scenario must come from a place that is somewhat realistic and grounded in at least somewhat believable rumor or hearsay. Otherwise, anything goes. 

Most pundits decide that the 2006 NBA Draft does not have a surefire superstar. The Toronto Raptors disagree, and their use of the No. 1 overall pick on Texas forward LaMarcus Aldridge leads to a series of events that change the NBA forever.

The Raptors win 51 games in the 2006-07 season, slowly realizing the advantages of playing Aldridge and Chris Bosh at the same time. Both big men have range on their shots, and when paired with marksmen like Anthony Parker and Jose Calderon the floor is spaced so well that drives and post ups become markedly easier. They may lose their second round series to Cleveland, but with their new style of shooting big men have discovered a method of team-building largely ignored throughout the rest of the league.

Portland, the other team in the draft most interested in Aldridge, settles for Italian forward Andrea Bargnani and stumbles to only 29 wins. Had they won only three games more, the lottery balls might have earned them one of the draft’s two top prizes, Ohio State’s Greg Oden or Texas’ Kevin Durant. Instead, Atlanta and Minnesota leap up to the top spots forcing the Blazers to settle for the No. 3 pick and lesser prospect Al Horford. Atlanta eagerly scoops up Oden, while Durant goes to Minnesota to learn from Kevin Garnett.

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The addition of such a talented rookie completely rejuvenates KG. The Timberwolves storm to 50 wins and their first playoff berth since 2005, and though they lose to the Hornets, Garnett feels confident enough in Durant’s future that he assures the franchise that he will stay in Minnesota for the rest of his career.

Things in the east are far muddier. The 60-win Pistons grasp the No. 1 seed fairly easily, but Boston (with newly added Ray Allen and Pau Gasol), Cleveland, Orlando and Toronto spend the entire season fighting for position behind them. The Raptors end up in fifth, losing the Celtics in the first round but in an encouraging enough way to extend the contract of head coach Sam Mitchell for three more years. The Pistons and Spurs meet in a rematch of the 2005 Finals, and the result is the same. The Spurs win the series in six games to capture their fifth championship.

After missing out on Aldridge and Durant in back-to-back years, the draft gods finally grant Portland the break they need. The Blazers, with the eighth-worst record in the NBA behind the solid play of Horford and not much else, shock the NBA and win the lottery. They grab Memphis point guard Derrick Rose with the first pick and suddenly appear to be one of the more promising teams in the league.

That draft produces several meaningful players. The league’s worst team, the future Oklahoma City Thunder, use the second pick on Michael Beasley to give their new city a face for the franchise. Miami, picking third, settles for UCLA’s Russell Westbrook. Memphis takes O.J. Mayo fourth, clearing the way for the New York Knicks to grab UCLA’s other top prospect: Kevin Love.

A later pick of note belongs to the Raptors. Knowing their stature as a playoff team affords them the patience to draft an international player, Toronto grabs yet another shooting big man, Serge Ibaka from the Republic of Congo. The way they figure, he’ll be a useful backup for a few years and serve as eventual Bosh insurance should he choose to leave as a free agent in 2010.

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That worry grows into the eventual reality. Though Aldridge grows into a legitimate star, the Raptors can’t break past Orlando in the East. The Magic win the conference in both 2009 and 2010 and earn the NBA championship in ’09. They simply don’t have an answer for Dwight Howard’s raw strength. Bosh goes into free agency determined to find a team that can get him past Orlando.

Luckily for him, Cleveland’s LeBron James has the same problem. The two secretly decide to pair up, and though they attempt to recruit Miami’s Dwyane Wade with them, the exciting development of his new backcourt partner Westbrook makes both he and the organization hesitant to commit to such a risky strategy. Instead, the pair look to one of their former Olympic coaches, New York’s Mike D’antoni. His Knicks are on the rise thanks to the emerging Love, and that entices two of the biggest free agents in league history enough to jump to the Big Apple.

Of course, the star-studded Knicks aren’t completed until a year later. After their shocking loss to the Dallas Mavericks in the NBA Finals, New York dangles Love to the Hornets for the point guard D’antoni has always craved: Chris Paul. Eventually, a deal is consummated and the trio of Paul, James and Bosh prepare to bring New York its first championship in almost 40 years. Of course, to do so, they’ll have to get past Aldridge, Ibaka and the ascendent Raptors.

What If LeBron Stayed in Miami

LeBron Heat Wade

Every Wednesday, Pick and Popovich will dive down the rabbit hole and explore a different NBA “What if.” The only rule is that the scenario must come from a place that is somewhat realistic and grounded in at least somewhat believable rumor or hearsay. Otherwise, anything goes. 

It doesn’t come as much of a surprise. He waits. He makes them sweat. He even lets Cleveland believe that he might just come home after all. But on July 11th, 2014, LeBron James announces that he’ll re-sign with the Miami Heat. The max-deal is notable for its length; James signs only a one-year deal with an option for 2015-16. The message is clear: put the right teammates around me, or I’ll walk.

Similar thoughts are exchanged in Minnesota, where Kevin Love is sick of losing. Cleveland agrees to trade No. 1 pick Andrew Wiggins for him, but Love refuses to sign an extension with the Cavaliers so he returns for an awkward new season with the Timberwolves.

Miami starts the 2014-15 season in typical form. Dwyane Wade, having promised to help LeBron share the load, plays in 32 of the Heat’s first 34 games and free agent surprise Hassan Whiteside shows flashes of greatness off of the bench. The Heat even decide not to heavily pursue Goran Dragic at the trade deadline for fear of risking the chemistry that led to their hot start.

Bosh

That decision proves costly. A day after the trade deadline, Chris Bosh is ruled out indefinitely with blood clots. The Heat have no way to replace his production. Had they known earlier, perhaps they would have made a run at Minnesota’s Kevin Love. The Wolves actually play fairly well despite Love’s desire to be traded. They finish the season with the league’s 9th worst record and flirt with the playoffs for a few months, but by the deadline it becomes apparent that the team has to trade him, even as a rental.

The Boston Celtics, very much on the upswing under Brad Stevens, steal Love for No. 6 overall pick Marcus Smart, a first-round pick they had acquired from Dallas earlier in the Rajon Rondo deal and salary cap fodder. Love gives no assurance that he’ll return, but Boston is prepared to take the risk. Minnesota, meanwhile, grumbles over their disappointing return and wonders if they should’ve traded him over the summer.

Love’s Celtics end up making the playoffs, but losing to LeBron’s Heat in the first round. But without Bosh, Miami doesn’t have enough left in the tank to beat the resurgent Bulls. Chicago wins the East after sweeping Atlanta in the conference finals, and Golden State takes them down in five to win the championship.

Yet all anyone wants to talk about is LeBron’s second free agency in as many years. With Bosh’s future up in the air, Wade’s health declining and no guarantee that the Heat will be able to retain Whiteside after the 2016 season, many pundits actually believe this will be the summer that LeBron leaves Miami.

Wiggins Cavs

The one team that’s ironically unconvinced is Cleveland. They use the No. 10 overall pick to select a small forward, Duke’s Justise Winslow. The pick is universally seen as a steal, as many argued that the New York Knicks should consider him as highly as the No. 1 overall pick (which they use on Karl-Anthony Towns). The Orlando Magic take Kristaps Porzingis second, followed by D’Angelo Russell going to the Lakers and Jahlil Okafor to the Sixers.

LeBron makes no secret of his willingness to explore other options once free agency begins. He takes meetings with Houston, Chicago, Phoenix and New York, but a year after spurning them for a second time, James decides that he’s ready to return to Cleveland. The Cavs, with LeBron joining Kyrie Irving, Wiggins, Winslow and Tristan Thompson, are pegged by most as the favorite in the Eastern Conference.

Of course, LeBron is far from the only major domino to fall in the summer of 2015. Dragic signs a max contract with New York and LaMarcus Aldridge heads to San Antonio. But the real story is Love. Initially, his destination of choice is San Antonio, but once the Spurs make it clear that Aldridge is their first choice he moves to another team in Texas. Eventually Love agrees to a sign-and-trade that gets him to Houston where he pairs up with James Harden and Dwight Howard. That trio makes the Rockets an early favorite to unseat the Warriors in the West.

Golden State doesn’t take too kindly to such speculation. They race out to a 24-game winning-streak to start the season and breeze to an NBA record 74 wins. Houston and San Antonio both top 60, but neither appear particularly close to the Warriors. Golden State eventually ends up winning the West with relative ease. They run into a much stiffer test against Cleveland in the Finals.

The Cavaliers begin the season beating a square peg into a round hole. Rather than start their five best players, coach David Blatt insists on playing LeBron James at small forward and starting Anderson Varejao as a second big man next to Tristan Thompson. Luckily for Cleveland, Varejao can’t stay healthy. This forces Blatt to move James to power forward and insert rookie stopper Winslow into the starting lineup.

That substitution makes all of the difference. The Cavs are the second-best defensive team in basketball with James, Wiggins and Winslow switching relentlessly on pick-and-rolls. Even Thompson gets in on the fun, and the four suffocate opponents even with Irving’s lackluster defense. It’s not pretty, but their defense and isolation scoring carry them to a six-game upset over the Warriors in the Finals. With LeBron back home seemingly for good and the young core only improving, it seems like the Cavs are primed to contend for the rest of the decade.

 

Miami Doesn’t Want Dwyane Wade Anymore

Dwyane Wade

There’s a Dwyane Wade-sized elephant in the room in Miami.

The Heat are a generally predictable organization. Find a star. Compete with that star. Maybe win a title or two with that star. Lose that star. Lather. Rinse. Repeat. It happened with Alonzo Mourning. It happened with Shaq. It happened with LeBron. And if Pat Riley has his way, it’ll happen again this summer.

Miami, with around $35 million in likely cap space this summer, is built perfectly to absorb a star. They have two stars in or near their prime (Goran Dragic and Chris Bosh) who are versatile enough to take a backseat. They have a young player many expect to reach that same level in Justise Winslow. They even have a super fun white guy who passes in Josh McRoberts. Whether it’s Kevin Durant, Al Horford, someone out of the 2017 class or a surprise in the trade market, few teams are better situated to accommodate a true superstar than Miami. The only problem is Wade.

Kevin Durantt

Wade is by no means a bad player. Most players who give you a generally efficient 19-5-4 are pretty good players. But Wade doesn’t want to be paid like a good player. He wants to be paid like the superstar he hasn’t been for four years. And he’s been extorting the Heat for two years to make that happen.

Miami needs a shooting guard who can hit three’s, play defense, and doesn’t need the ball. Wade is the polar opposite of that player. He has attempted only 32 three-pointers all season. He’s made seven of them. Miami’s Defensive Rating is over six full points better per 100 possessions when Wade sits, dropping from 102.8 to 96.5. His usage rate of 32.3% is nearly identical to the 32.5% rate he posted in the 2005-06 championship season. His third year.

That refusal to give up the ball is key. It’s made it nearly impossible for Goran Dragic to play next to him. Dragic can’t attack the basket because Wade’s lack of shooting clogs the paint. He can’t run pick-and-rolls with Chris Bosh because they’re the only two Heat starters who can hit a shot. The only real value he’s providing is by making 39% of catch-and-shoot three’s, giving Wade space to operate for himself. Keep in mind Dragic is locked in for five years and making $15 million this season. Wade makes him a paperweight.

This is especially relevant considering how good even this neutered version of Dragic makes Miami. When he’s on the floor the Heat have a net rating of +3.4. When he’s off, that falls to -1.7. He’s the only perimeter creator on the team who can also shoot. The fact that Wade can’t cripples the offense. Miami has an effective field goal percentage of 49.4% when Wade is on the floor… and 50.1% when he’s off. If you’ve been doing the math, Wade definitely makes his defense worse and arguably makes his offense worse. That adds up to a net rating of -1.0 when Wade is on the floor and +4.3 when he’s off.

Goran

And yet Miami was forced to give Wade $20 million this season to actively make their team worse. No team on the open market would pay Wade $20 million per year at this stage of his career because he’s probably not worth half of that. But Wade means so much to the Miami community that they’ve had to overpay him just to avoid the PR blow. That’s been generally harmless without an immediate path to contention. But should the Heat manage to lure someone like Durant or Horford, or even choose to retain Hassan Whiteside, they’re going to have to sell their fans on the fact that Wade probably has to finish his career elsewhere.

And that somewhere else is probably a contender. Teams like Oklahoma City and Cleveland would love to have Wade as a sixth-man. They’d surround him with shooters and defenders and let him carry the offense for 20 minutes a night. Odds are, if Wade isn’t in Miami he’ll be playing deep into the playoffs for someone else. If the Heat aren’t a title contender next year, that’s a tough pill for the fans to swallow.

But there’s just not a good reason to keep Wade on this basketball team. He doesn’t fit the roster they have anymore. The sooner both sides realize that, the sooner both can start competing for championships again.