After 13 years of being one of the most recognisable and consistent faces of the Heat lineup, Dwyane Wade has swapped Miami for Chicago as he begins life at the Bulls.
In doing so, Wade, 34, has honoured a childhood dream of playing for his hometown club and given the Bulls a new star name for their lineup in the wake of Derrick Rose’s departure. Despite the Heat offering him a 2 year deal for $40million, the souring of his relationship with Heat coach Pat Riley convinced Wade to move north on a 2 year deal for $47million.
The Bulls, who posted a 42-40 win rate and also missed out on the playoffs this year, currently have Jimmy Butler and Rajon Rondo as their starting guards. While Butler – who like Wade, attended Marquette school before being drafted – has flourished on court, averaging 20.9 points per game, Rajon has struggled in that department. The 30-year-old scored 11.9 points per game for the Kings last year. Though his real talent lies in assists – leading the Bulls on 11.7 assists per game, the only man on the current roster to make it to double figures. Wade finishes the 2015/16 season by registering the best numbers in points, blocks, assists and steals since the 2013, and despite being four years Rondon’s junior, may very well edge him out for a starting place come the season opener.
Wade departs the Heat in somewhat ambiguous circumstances. On his first interview since leaving them, he spoke of his departure being purely “business related“, after the Heat offered him a 2 year $40million deal that Wade felt was an unjust recognition for his efforts over the season. The relationship between he and Pat Riley is something he discussed in very professional terms, while his social media outlets also indicate a magnanimous feeling towards a franchise he abruptly cut ties with.
But Riley is not to be outfought here. Just as he did when LeBron departed in 2013, he has made moves to ensure Wade’s departure will not hinder the Heat’s charge for the Championship next season. He prioritised the retention of Hassan Whiteside, and moved quickly to secure Tyler Johnson and Willie Reed who both last played for the Nets. To top it off, Udonis Haslem has been offered a new contract.
Wade’s arrival shows a distinct improvement in the Bulls fortunes for next season, a move that could see them straight back into the playoffs at the first time of asking. As for the Heat; with Riley at the helm, they should be fine. Retaining Whiteside is a huge boost, but whether they get a star name to replace Wade may define how far they go next season.