South Beach can let out a sigh of relief.
Dwyane Wade has agreed to a one-year, $20 million contract to re-sign with the Heat, according to the Associated Press and ESPN.com. The contract, which keeps the Heat lifer in Miami for his 12th season, takes the place of a $16.1 million player option Wade turned down earlier this summer. That raise returns to Wade some of the money he sacrificed by opting out of $41 million over two years last summer.
"It's no secret that my goal was to sign a longer-term deal this summer," Wade told the AP. "That's what I was focused on. Once I realized that probably wasn't the best thing for me right now, where everything is financially with the NBA and a lot of things coming up that we don't even know about yet, a one-year deal isn't a bad thing."
Wade, 33, made his 11th All-Star Game last season, averaging 21.5 points, 4.8 assists and 3.5 rebounds per game. He missed roughly one-quarter of the season due to various injuries and ailments, marking the fourth straight season he's missed at least 13 games due to injury.
This agreement comes after a month or so of anxiety generated by an impasse between player and team. Wade even fanned the speculative flames by referring to his time in Miami in the past tense during an NBA Finals telecast. Despite rumors loosely linking Wade to the Lakers and LeBron James's Cavaliers, a return to the Heat was always the most plausible option. Miami not only offers the familiarity that comes with a career-long relationship, but also a lineup that's in position to be one of the East's best.
Wade's return completes a projected starting five that looks stacked on paper: Wade joins Goran Dragic in the backcourt, with Luol Deng, Chris Bosh and Hassan Whiteside in the frontcourt. If you're into counting accolades, that's three former All-Stars (Wade, Bosh, and Deng), three former All-NBA selections (Wade, Dragic, and Bosh), two former All-Defensive selections (Wade and Deng), and one of the top candidates for the 2015 Most Improved Player award (Whiteside). Although that quintet has yet to play a single minute together due to a 2014-15 season-ending health issue for Bosh, it boasts size, experience, multiple playmakers, potency inside and out, and five different sources of offensive production. This is a group that shouldn't be taken lightly.
From the Heat's perspective, this contract is a win from a public relations standpoint, a basketball standpoint and a roster-planning standpoint. Wade is one of the NBA's few remaining franchise icons, and letting him walk would have been borderline sacrilegious to the Heat's fan base. In the short-term, a Wade departure would have also severely compromised Miami's hopes at making a deep run in the 2016 playoffs, something that is absolutely a priority given the max money spent on Bosh last summer and the $90 million deal Dragic agreed to earlier this summer (not to mention the multiple first-round picks used to acquire Dragic at the trade deadline). Longer-term, Heat president Pat Riley can use any flexibility he can get, given the existing commitments to Bosh, Dragic, Josh McRoberts and the need to pay Whiteside next summer (he won't come cheaply).
Maybe most importantly, the Heat have avoided, for the time being, the worst-case scenario that has plagued the Lakers with Kobe Bryant. If Wade starts to fall apart, with more than 28,000 regular-season minutes and nearly 6,000 postseason minutes on his tires, Miami isn't locked into paying him huge money for multiple years. That type of dead money hurts in so many different ways: it inhibits free agency pursuits, it limits trade options, and it can turn off stars who want to maximize their ability to win in the short-term. With the insane 2016 free agency class on the horizon, the salary cap set to explode, and Miami always among the league's most popular destinations among players, being free of a multi-year commitment to Wade has the potential to pay off big time.
Wade, who placed No. 10 on SI.com's "Top 25 Free Agents of 2015" list, remains one of the most dynamic players at his position in the league. This deal puts him among the NBA's highest-paid players, which was surely a prerequisite, it keeps him home, and it gives him a reasonable shot at postseason success. He wasn't going to find a better total package this summer, no matter how hard he lobbied publicly, and he wisely made the logical play.