Now that the Miami Heat have been eliminated from the playoffs, let the Dwyane Wade sweepstakes officially begin! Wade and LeBron James headline a free agent class that is the most hyped in the history of the league and the offseason wooing should be more entertaining than anything that has happened on the court this past season. Several teams have been jockeying their salary cap situation for a couple years, waiting for the slim opportunity to land one of the superstars by offering the max contract allowed by the league.
So has Wade played his last game in a Miami Heat uniform? If so, where will he be calling home next season? Allow me to break down the potential suitors for Wade's services this offseason and which teams have the best odds of luring the former Marquette All-American to their team.
Miami Heat (40% chance)
First things first, Wade has to opt out of his contract, which he has the right to do. There is a player option for the 2010-2011 season which is worth approximately $17.15 million, but Adam Morrison is more likely to resurrect his career than Wade is to pick up the final year of his deal.
With that said, the Heat can offer Wade more than other team this summer; a 6-year deal worth about $125 million. On top of that, Miami would have enough cap space to sign another marquee free agent to a max deal, (Chris Bosh, Amare Stoudemire, Carlos Boozer would be the most likely candidates) and still have $9-$10 million on another major player.
That nucleus of Free Agent A, Free Agent B, Michael Beasley, the 18th pick in the 2010 NBA Draft would be more appealing than any other team with enough cap space has to offer other than maybe the Bulls, and would immediately give Wade and the Heat the chance to compete in the Eastern Conference. Although under this scenario, Miami would have to fill out the rest of its roster with their three second-round picks and by re-signing players like Udonis Haslem, Dorrell Wright, Carlos Arroyo and/or Quentin Richardson, or sign free agents to minimum value contracts putting their depth in question.
And let's be honest; why would he want to lose his throne as the King of South Beach?
Chicago Bulls (30% chance)
Having an opportunity to play in his backyard has to be a major selling point for the Bulls this offseason as Wade was born and raised right outside Chicago. The maximum deal the Bulls or any other team besides the Heat can offer is a 5-year contract worth around $95 million.
The Bulls are a playoff team without Wade but could vault to one of the top teams in the East if he is added to their current core of young players like Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah, Luol Deng, Kirk Heinrich, Taj Gibson and James Johnson, who are the only players under contract in Chicago for next season. Add in the 17th pick in the 2010 NBA Draft and a remaining $9 million in cap space, and the circumstances are awfully lucrative for Wade returning to Chicago.
New Jersey Nets (17% chance)
The Nets are a sleeper in the Dwyane Wade sweepstakes and not just because part-team owner Jay-Z rapped on his latest album, "If Jesus payin' LeBron, I'm payin' Dwyane Wade."
Riddle me this... let's say the Nets land the first-overall pick in the 2010 NBA Draft and take John Wall. Devin Harris becomes expendable and New Jersey could deal him for a valuable asset. The Nets give Wade the max deal and then have enough cap space to make a run at say, Carlos Boozer. Suddenly you have a starting five of Wall, Wade, Terrence Williams, Boozer and Brook Lopez with the Harris asset, Courtney Lee, Chris Douglas-Roberts, Yi, Kris Humphries, and whoever they take with the 27th pick in the draft on the bench. That is easily a top-four team in the Eastern Conference. Worth considering, wouldn't you say?
New York Knicks (12% chance)
Yes, there is the allure of playing in the "Mecca of Basketball" and the worldwide exposure that would come with the Big Apple. But let's be honest, Wade is one of most popular athletes alive and already makes a nice paycheck from his advertising and commercials with the likes of Jordan Brand, Gatorade and T-Mobile.
From a basketball standpoint, the Knicks are building from the ground up as they don't have a first-round pick in the draft. Only four players are under contract for next season; the worthless Eddy Curry, Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler and Toney Douglas. If Wade went to New York, the Knicks would still have about $23 million left to bring in another max value player and a better supporting cast. Still, I think the aforementioned franchises give Wade a better chance to win right away.
The Field (1% chance)
This group includes the Clippers, Kings, Timberwolves and Wizards. If Wade signs with one of those teams, I would be more shocked than if I ran into the smoke monster from Lost. Oklahoma City appears as if they will just barely have enough cap space to sign a max player and would be an intriguing destination, but I don't see the Thunder making any sort of serious run at Wade with Kevin Durant already in house. Plus, I don't think Wade would want to sign with the Thunder and possibly have to play second fiddle to Durant.