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With NBA free agency beginning Friday, the Miami Heat and Dwyane Wade will once again try to agree to a new contract to keep the 34-year-old guard with the team.
But that plan has already hit a speed bump. According to ESPN’s Brian Windhorst, citing unnamed league sources, the two sides couldn’t find a “common ground” in contract discussions Tuesday, leading Wade’s representatives to let teams know Wade would be on the market this summer.
This could easily be a negotiating tactic by Wade and his team to try to force Miami’s hand. As Windhorst notes, Wade and the Heat had several contentious weeks last summer while Wade was a free agent before they eventually agreed on a one-year, $20 million deal.
Yet there’s reason to believe that this summer could actually be different. While a divorce between Wade and Miami, where he has spent all 13 years of his career, seems unimaginable, the Heat are facing some difficult decisions this offseason.
The Heat are considered one of the frontrunners to nab Kevin Durant if he leaves Oklahoma City, and they are also trying to retain breakout center Hassan Whiteside and forward Luol Deng. Simply put, the Heat can’t afford to pay all four players at their market value.
Deng would seemingly be the odd man out, but even then the Heat can’t logistically sign Durant, Whiteside, and Wade to maximum or near-maximum contracts at the same time. It would take major concessions from all three. This is dependent on Durant choosing to sign with the Heat, of course, but they are one of the teams he is scheduled to meet with when free agency begins.
This all leads to an awkward atmosphere for Wade and the Heat to negotiate under. According to Windhorst, the Heat have $40 million in cap space. If they were to sign Wade to a deal that pays him $20 million a year, they won’t be able to afford Durant unless they clear more cap space. Ditto for Whiteside, whose max contract with the Heat would pay him over $24 million a year.
The Heat would have to first sign Durant (or any other big free agent) with their cap space, and then, because they own Wade’s Bird rights, they could go above the salary cap to re-sign Wade. Yet this is asking Wade to wait in limbo while the Heat handle seemingly bigger priorities, something that doesn’t exactly stroke any star’s ego.
There’s also the matter of what Wade’s market value is. Wade was mostly healthy and productive last season, playing 74 games while averaging 19 points, four rebounds, and four assists – one of his best regular seasons in several years. But he is 34; how much are the Heat willing to pay him, and for how long?
None of this means a divorce is inevitable, but it is unlikely that these contract negotiations will be settled quickly. At the very least, for the Heat and Wade to remain together it seems as if there will have to be some big concessions from both sides.