By: Taylor Summers
From being drafted in the incredible 2003 NBA Draft to winning gold together for the Redeem Team in 2008, to forming the Heatles in 2010, where they won two NBA titles together and sharing one of the internet’s best photos, Dwyane Wade and LeBron James are reunited once again.
After his buyout from the Chicago Bulls on Sunday, where he relinquished $8 million of the $23.8 million owed to him, Wade officially signed a one-year contract for the veteran’s minimum of $2.3 million with the Cleveland Cavaliers on Wednesday after clearing NBA waivers at 5 p.m. EST.
It was an unsuccessful homecoming season for Wade. He was not selected to the All-Star game for the first time since his rookie season in 2003-2004, battled injuries which cost him 22 games, and was the center of a locker room riff midway through the season. He also averaged career-lows in points, assists, and field goal percentage (18.3 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 3.8 assists on 43.4 field goal percentage) in the 60 games that he played for the Bulls.
But now, the three-time NBA Champion, 2006 NBA Finals MVP, and 12-time All-Star shooting guard out of Marquette joins the three-time defending Eastern Conference champions, a squad that is much different from just three months ago but includes veterans such as Kevin Love, J.R. Smith, Tristan Thompson and fellow newcomers in Derrick Rose, Isaiah Thomas, and Jae Crowder.
Oh yeah. And one of his best friends, LeBron James.
We all know that statistics and money weren’t the deciding factors for this decision. At the age of 35, Dwyane Wade is not interested in being apart of a rebuilding team, and the Bulls definitely qualify as such after trading Jimmy Butler on draft night and letting Rajon Rondo sign with the New Orleans Pelicans. He wants to win another championship in his twilight years, and the best option for him to do that is with the guy that he went to four straight NBA Finals with from 2011-2014, winning it all in 2012 and 2013.
The first question to this transaction is whether or not Wade will start or come off the bench. But first, let’s look at what the current depth chart looks like for the Cavaliers heading into the 2017-2018 season:
PG: Derrick Rose, Isaiah Thomas (injured until January), Jose Calderon, Kay Felder
SG: Dwyane Wade, J.R. Smith, Iman Shumpert, Kyle Korver, John Holland
SF: LeBron James, Jae Crowder, Jeff Green, Richard Jefferson, Cedi Osman
PF: Kevin Love, Channing Frye, Ante Zizic
C: Tristan Thompson, Edy Tavares
As you can see, they currently have 19 players under contract. Per NBA rules, a team can only carry 15 guaranteed contracts into the regular season, so a combination of expendable veterans such as Iman Shumpert (who the Cavaliers have been shopping most of the summer), Channing Frye, Richard Jefferson or Jose Calderon will have to be moved in order for Wade to have a permanent spot on the roster.
But back to whether or not Wade starts. Carmelo Anthony laughed during his media day press conference with the Thunder when asked if he would come off the bench in Oklahoma City, but it’s more of a serious question for the Cavaliers. As mentioned before, Isaiah Thomas, who was acquired from the Boston Celtics for Kyrie Irving last month, is expected to miss the first few months of the regular season, leaving a big offensive gap and another driving force to adding another scorer and playmaker such as Dwyane Wade.
However, that means Derrick Rose will be the starter at the point guard position until then, and along with Wade, they both rely on having the ball in their hands to be their at their most effective forms. Although they are both great at cutting and possess exquisite slashing and footwork skills in the paint and midrange, they are poor three-point shooters, both averaging under 30 percent for their careers. And with the two of them missing several games the past few seasons (Wade has never played a full 82 game season; Rose, of course, has had knee problems since 2012), their durability will be in question all year.
With all of that in mind, and to preserve Wade’s 32,000-plus logged minute legs for the playoffs, it may be wise to leave the incumbent starter, J.R. Smith, in the starting lineup. According to head coach Tyronn Lue, Smith is considered the Cavalier’s best perimeter defender outside of LeBron, and albeit a well-know streaky outside shooter, is much better suited to space the floor and defend quicker players than Wade is. Along with the Thomas injury, Wade could run the second unit while tailoring to his natural talents and abilities much more seamlessly than if he were to start.
Nonetheless, Tyronn Lue will have his hands full with his toughest coaching job to date, having to be the wizard that must finagle and fine-tune this veteran lineup throughout the season in order to make a fourth consecutive trip to the NBA Finals. But with a bunch of savvy veterans that have years of experience, in addition to playing in the watered-down Eastern conference after several top-tier players move out west this offseason, it’s a good problem to have.
A lot has changed since these two joined forces seven years ago back in 2010. In many ways, it seems like another life ago. This reunion doesn’t hold the same luster as the first go-around, an event that changed the landscape of the NBA and how superstars began to dictate what teams they would play on during their careers more so than the other way around. And it surely doesn’t seem to hold as much longevity, with the looming potential of another super team forming out in Los Angeles next season being one of the NBA’s most poorly kept secrets.
And yet, who really knows? If Cleveland can pull off a title run this season, adding a fourth ring to both James and Wade’s legacies, it may prevent another super team from forming out west and keep LeBron in a Cavaliers uniform. Which in a way, may dictate NBA history down another path altogether.
But for now, with Wade and James, two buddies who have been through a lot together, are keeping their eyes on this season, as they both know what’s at stake and will do whatever it takes to reach their ultimate goal with a championship-or-bust mentality. They had their best efficiency during their last season together in 2013-2014 (both with career-bests that year at 54.5 percent for Wade and 56.7 percent for James, respectfully), and with no signs of slowing down entering their 15th seasons in the league, they hope to pick-up where they left off and snatch the Larry O’Brien trophy from the Warriors in a potential Part IV come June.
Half of the banana boat has been revived. Now let’s see if they can keep it afloat.