Opt out and Wade remains King of Miami

By Jeff Caplan, NBA.com

VIDEO: Pat Riley on Big Three staying in Miami

HANG TIME SOUTHWEST — Any red-blooded capitalist will tell Dwyane Wade to take the money and run. He earned it.

Only this isn’t free-wheeling Wall Street, it’s the salary-capped NBA. And Wade is no longer a wolf, now a flicker of the former “Flash” of South Beach. Therefore the remaining $41.8 million over the final two years of his contract is no longer a value, but a hindrance to his franchise’s only path forward as a title contender.

And so it is the moment of truth for Wade, just 32, but aged hard by throbbing knees: Opt-in, take all the money contractually owed to him, yet surely suffer the vilification of his own fans; or opt out for the good of the team, re-sign at a discount, and secure his legacy as one of Miami’s all-time most cherished sports stars.

There is no middle ground here. If Wade opts in it will almost assuredly kill the Big Three era. Wade’s salary would hamper president Pat Riley‘s ability to reinforce the roster and LeBron James — the centerpiece of the franchise and the first of the three to opt out of his contract earlier in this week — will take that as his cue to relocate his talents elsewhere.

While the overwhelming focus is on what James will do, it is Wade who controls the Heat’s future. He can follow Kobe Bryant and gobble up a significant percentage of his team’s cap space. Of course, Wade, who has earned more than $121 million in salary alone during his 11-year career, can, like the rest of us, gauge Bryant’s title chances over these next two seasons.

If Wade opts out, as some reports have him doing this weekend, the expectation is for forward Chris Bosh to do the same, allowing the Big Three, with four consecutive Finals appearances and two rings during their time together, to work in concert on deals that allow Riley to get to work on “re-tooling” the team.

There is, of course, a stunningly convincing blueprint for all three to take less if contending for championships is truly the ultimate goal. The San Antonio Spurs’ Big Three combined to make $29 million this season, or $1 million less than Bryant took home. Tony Parker, the Spurs’ 32-year-old All-Star point guard, made a pedestrian $12.5 million this season, and will again next season.

In 2012 at age 36 and seemingly physically slowing down, Tim Duncan signed a three-year contract for $30 million. At the same age, Kevin Garnett signed a three-year, $36 million extension. Next week, Dirk Nowitzki, also 36, is expected to sign a new deal in a similar range.

Wade is obviously a younger player, but considering the health issues that limited him to just 54 regular-season games while on a season-long maintenance plan — one that surely must continue into the foreseeable future — and clearly slowed him in the Finals, accepting a similar contract could be asked of Wade.

There is one glaring difference, however, between the aforementioned players and Wade that could push him to seek a bit more in return in a reworked deal — none were asked to opt out of a lucrative deal already in place.

Wade is realistic enough to understand the cap ramifications of opting in vs. out, and what it means for the Heat’s ability to stay together, contend and plausibly rewrite history. After playing in four consecutive NBA Finals, it’s doubtful Wade, who has sacrificed salary and stature in the progression of the Big Three, could stomach a return to mediocrity, despite the millions he will be asked to leave behind.

And he’s likely honest enough with himself to realize that his twilight could be short. His knees are robbing him of prime basketball years, a shame, but also a reality.

Can he last four more years? Maybe he has only two left. The clearest picture is for Wade to opt out and accept a lesser deal in the neighborhood of four years and in the range of $40 million to $50 million.

It might not be the American way of doing business, but odds are it keeps James in town, keeps championships in play and retains Wade’s status, perhaps not as the King of the Heat, but as the King of Miami.


  1. JM says:

    I feel bad for D-Wade. He led Miami to the 2006 title and had significant roles in the 2 titles w/ Bosh and James but his body is failing him. Flash is indeed slowing down and there ain’t no denying that one. He ain’t the mid-range jump-shooting sensation that made him a deadly scorer even w/out the 3-point shooting and he ain’t as tenacious on D as he was last year in the Finals. I don’t know. Maybe he should just take a pay-cut.

  2. LaCrampa says:

    weak modern paper superstars team up because they can’t win

  3. charless702 says:

    Well Wade partially shut me up. I didn’t think he had it in him to opt out of that huge contract. I will say this though, whatever they pay him will probably make him overpaid, IMO. Even if he takes a 50% pay cut he’ll still be overpaid. Anything over $8M will be too much. Anything over a 2 year deal would be pretty foolish as well. He’s a complete liability at one end and even his offensive skills are lacking when he goes against good defenses. People can try to pretend like he was “hurt” during the Finals but after the Eastern Conference Finals all I heard from those same people was how in trouble the Heat’s opponent was in now that Wade was healthy. His best just isn’t good enough to cut it when it comes to elite teams. I’m not trying to knock or belittle the guy, especially since my best could only hang with the scrubs at my local park, I’m just looking at it rationally.

  4. Big Al says:

    The best player in the world not getting max contract is just ridiculous. LeBron has been called King ever since; now he should act like one by demanding for stuff. If he doesn’t care about money, at least he should have a say about who’s in and who’s out of Miami. That said, Bosh has to play elsewhere. He just didn’t live up to the task, playing more like a very tall shooting guard than a proper power forward. That really hurt an already small lineup. It’s no brainer that Chalmers is a goner as well. There’s a wide array of talent for that position, really easy to upgrade. But regardless of how his legs hold up, they ought to let Wade end his career in South Beach.

  5. kobeballhog says:

    great move by wade, only a true ballhog like kobe will hold hostage his team until he retires, kobe earned more than enough to lasts generations yet he still got selfish, at least wade shown he is a true hall of famer a legend, im sure even after he retires miami will still hire him and he still going to earn millions long after he retires

  6. LordP says:

    What you’re Loyal franchise player is suppose to do..follow Duncan way or Kobe’s way??Wade is the Man in South beach believe or not…they don’t sell Loyalty…

  7. Kome the Black Dumba says:

    Obviously not Everyone is Kome, who took all the money and Lakers are doomed for the next two years.

    Question: How long will Julius Randle stay positive before Kome ruin everything again like he did with D12?

  8. Lorethea says:

    My favorite player will always be Wade. Make less now and miami will become unbeatable. Wade has a great future with the heat organization and will make up those millions with the Heat. Let.s bring back the title. WE ARE MIAMI STRONG!

    • nbafan says:

      miami big 3 are done. wades knees done. bosh to soft cant rebound. done. its the miami cavaliers! gooo cavs! hey at least they got the 1st pick in the draft.

  9. Devarajaswami says:

    Wade would be naive to opt out. His team gave him the contract with their eyes open. Nobody laid a gun to Micky Arison’s head. Wade should take all the money he is owed under the contract, fulfill his part of the contract by playing to the best of his ability until the end of the contract, and then he call it a day and go full time into business.
    Some fans will complain, but they don’t pay him. Many fans will move on. Other fans will applaud him for having the courage to do what each of them would under the same circumstances – take the money owed you legally and don’t get tricked into giving it up.

    • Hans says:

      Thankfully Wade probably cares about more than money. What’s the difference between earning $40 million over the next two years and signing for the mid-level exception on a title contender in 2016 or signing for 4 years and $50 million to stay and end his career with the Heat? One wastes the last few productive years of his career on a mediocre Eastern Conference team, the other continues to play for championships.

  10. Anthony says:

    There’s not much into this article I will disagree with. It makes sense. Dwayne Wade has always been and always be my favorite player, I grew up watching his play and appreciate his adoration and approach to the sport of basketball. Now no disrespect to the reporter at hand but of course they glamour the idea of this article with mentions “king of Miami” or whatever the case maybe. Overdramatic as per usual.

    How I see it is far simpler than what’s being implied here; if he opts-out, he has a greater chance of maintaining the core of players that he has around him. If he does not decide to do that. It doesn’t change the fact he’ll still be the quote “king of Miami” and just like Kobe Bryant deserves the money. So either way, I don’t see wrong in any decision he makes, it comes down to preference at this stage of his career.

    He’ll more than likely get backlash if he doesn’t use his opt-out. Which to be perfectly honest, would be not only unfair to him and the city of Miami, but also another glaring negative in the perspective of how we as “fans” view clear hall of famer caliber players.

    In short, he can do whatever he want’s, he’s still the face of the franchise. He’s got more rings than Lebron, let that be clear (I like Lebron, let me make that clear). When’s it come to whatever the Heat organization has done as far as making moves. The responsibility falls on (again, hall of famer) GM-Yes, we know that. But the flexibility comes from Dwayne Wade’s decisions. Always has, always will be till he retires.

  11. Jacob Graves says:

    As a financial professional, Mr. Wade would be foolish to opt out. What is in it for him? those championships will not secure the future of him and his family. How dare the team even ask such a thing. Take less, so Pat Riley and Mickey Arrisson can make more. Outrageous! I caution Mr. Wade, do not let your ego make this decision for you, you will regret it.

    • Hans says:

      There is more to it than money when you have all ready set your family up financially for the next 5 generations. Wade can be Mr. Heat after he retires or the man who chose another couple million dollars to be on a mediocre team versus continuing to play for championships.

      All signs point to the Heat offering him a longer deal for more money (I keep hearing 4 years, $50 million) if he opts out. What is he realistically going to earn in two years on the open market with the way his knees are?

  12. SAVAGE22 says:

    Wade and Bosh will follow suite and opt out. Although many believed Napier to be the best pure PG in the draft, hes months if not 1-2 years away from being a solid contributor so they need real help at the PG position as well as a big who can really anchor the defense maybe Gortat. Add a defense minded 4 like Humphries to back up Bosh if Rashard Lewis doesnt come back. I dont think RayRay is going to retire but add another shooter just incase.

  13. Vincent Herring says:

    Everyone loves Wade including me! But…… you gotta go, or stay for less.

  14. Maiya Hayhurst says:

    I love DWade more than anybody else in the NBA. I follow my favorite baskeball player for many years now … Never ever had feelings he is selfish guy .
    I’m sure DWade will opt out and resing with other big 2 . Just can’t wait to see him playing ball again ! Go DWade!!!

  15. theking0522 says:

    Wade will do the right thing. He is a team first kind of player. If he takes the pay cut, he will make up for that money with advertisement deals, especially if the Heat keep contending for championships. Duncan is making $10 million/year and we know he could be making more. That allowed the Spurs to surround him with great shooters. Wade will do the same. It is about rings for him