Dwyane Wade is returning home to the Midwest after all.
After 13 years in Miami, Wade ended a whirlwind day of meetings in New York on Wednesday by reportedly agreeing to sign a two-year, $47 million deal with his hometown Chicago Bulls. To make room for Wade, the Bulls moved the salaries of Mike Dunleavy to Cleveland -- despite reported Bucks interest -- and Jose Calderon (and two second round picks) to the L.A. Lakers hours later, capping an eventful week that saw Wade so insulted by his dealings with the Heat that he was willing to uproot the easy living of South Beach for a cold winter playing alongside Rajon Rondo. Maybe Pat Riley should have given him a call.
The Bucks' lack of cap room appeared to prevent them from ever being that serious about signing the 34-year-old former Finals MVP, though in the big picture that might be for the best. Owner Marc Lasry reportedly did not make Wade an actual offer when they met on Wednesday afternoon, and the fact that the Bucks didn't send a party of recruiters hints that Milwaukee was not expecting to contest for his services at that point. As we've reviewed about a dozen times by now, giving Wade a deal comparable to Chicago's would have required moving Greg Monroe for cap space and possibly rescinding Miles Plumlee's qualifying offer, a scenario that would have added a big name and subtracted virtually all of the Bucks' big man depth. While Monroe undoubtedly remains available, the lack of buzz around the Bucks pushing for a salary dump suggests they never got too close to pulling the trigger on anything, which makes sense given they were never close to signing Wade.
So what do we make of all this? Improbable as it might have been, I get that many people wanted to see Wade land in Milwaukee if for no other reason than the splash and excitement it might have brought. Despite being 34 years old, Wade is still good at basketball, and few stars have carried as much weight in Milwaukee over the past 15 years as Wade, whose basketball journey took its first star turn at Marquette. And let's be real for a moment: many Bucks fans are desperate to feel anything after decades of irrelevance, and there's no debating Wade's arrival would have made for good theater -- if not great basketball. So I think very reasonable people can talk themselves into Wade's star power and remaining abilities being a net positive, especially if he sprinkles some of his magic superstar dust on Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jabari Parker while he's here. Moreover, as we've noted multiple times, it's hard to really hurt yourself with a two-year deal given the current cap climate; sometimes you just have to say "screw it" and let it ride, right?
On the flip side, "cool" in July doesn't always equate to "smart" in January, and that's where discussions of guaranteed third years and how Wade would actually fit into a hypothetical lineup should have made all Bucks fans a bit queasy. It was never going to be optimal to shoehorn another non-shooter who needs the ball into the Bucks lineup for a two-year swan song, though Wade is talented enough and good enough as a cutter and playmaker that he should have helped the Bucks' offense regardless -- even if by January a sizable subset of fans would likely be gritting their teeth over all his long twos "taking away" shots from Giannis and Jabari.
As for defense, the task of finding someone on the Bucks' roster to check opposing point guards would necessarily be an issue; in his prime Wade could guard anyone, but nearing the age of 35 he's no longer a factor and understandably so. He's missed an average of 20 games over the past four seasons, so picking his spots is as sensible as it is non-constructive defensively. No team was reportedly willing to offer Wade a third year for obvious reasons, and in Milwaukee it would have meant an all but certain trip into the luxury tax once Giannis and Jabari are each on max deals in 18/19. By then Wade would have been a stronger candidate for the stretch provision than the all-star game, which would be a steep price to pay for whatever he might still be able to do over the next two years.
In any case, Wade's career in Milwaukee will remain a counterfactual, though I'm sure Bucks fans will watch intently to see what his performance in Chicago -- in another ill-fitting lineup with Rajon Rondo and Jimmy Butler -- suggests about what might have been in Milwaukee. Speaking of which, here's what our friends at Blog a Bull wrote about it:
This, for better or for worse, is significant! And as said here this morning: once Rondo was signed this offseason was a disaster regardless. Just showed a total lack of plan in terms of an actual 'retool' (let alone rebuild) to get 'younger and more athletic'. And with no real plan, why not get Dwyane Wade for his twilight years, getting ready for his age-34 season in the town he grew up.
Wade had sort of a bounce-back season last year though still on the decline overall. But this, while ultimately still a total desperate nonsensical path, feels like a better option than having just Rondo around. Wade is a similarly awful on-court fit, another non-shooter who's no longer truly suited for up-tempo. But, again, Rondo was screwing that all anyway. And the Hoiberg death-watch only intensifies getting an alpha like Wade to try and share the ball with Rondo and Jimmy Buler.
But this is more, well, buzzworthy at least. If the Bulls are aiming to be a middling East playoff team hoping for a big acquisition in the summer of 2017. And as bad of an idea as that is, they probably have a better chance of recruiting if Wade has a good season and is under contract, than if they had a cruddy season with Rondo-ball and 2 max salary spots.
Wade would have unquestionably sold tickets and done wonders to stoke interest among casual fans in Milwaukee, but ultimately the thesis behind the Bucks as a basketball team would have remained remarkably similar. Regardless of Wade or anyone else that the Bucks could have added this summer, Milwaukee's hopes of contending at some point in the future is, was and would have still been tied to how far Giannis, Jabari and Khris Middleton can take them. And while the Bucks' summer is hardly over -- at a minimum they still have to sort out what to do with Monroe and Plumlee and add another shooter -- their moves so far have clearly been focused on finding complements to that core group. They may or may not be ready for it, but without Wade we'll likely find out their true potential a bit sooner.
In other free agent news...
The Bucks have three roster spots to fill, and to date they've been able to take their time with Plumlee -- convenient given how much his role is dependent on the future of Monroe. As a restricted free agent, Plumlee has been forced to sit and wait while the rest of the league spends money like it's going out of style, though David Aldridge suggests the NBA's check-writers might soon be knocking on his door.
Milwaukee C Miles Plumlee one of the top RFA bigs. Several teams looking to create room to make offers for 27-year-old.— David Aldridge (@daldridgetnt) July 7, 2016
Plumlee's worst-case scenario is simply taking his $3 million qualifying offer and hitting unrestricted free agency next summer, though it sounds like the Bucks might instead have to make a decision on matching a multi-year offer sheet instead. Cole Aldrich's three-year, $22 million deal with Minnesota might provide a reasonable ceiling on the type of money Plumlee might land, though in this market anything can happen -- a team with excess space and an interest in dis-incentivizing a Bucks match could go higher. Personally, I'd like to see Plumlee back on a shorter deal because of how well his rim-rolling complemented Giannis, Jabari and Khris in the second half of the season, though that's also not a blank check endorsement. We'll get a hint in Vegas as to how quickly Thon Maker might be able to start doing some of those things as well, which certainly also plays a role in Plumlee's long-term role.
As for the Bucks' shooting needs, they almost add another marksman last night when the Bulls began their firesale to clear room for Wade, but ultimately Dunleavy landed in Cleveland instead.
Milwaukee wants Mike Dunleavy but DWade's buddy LeBron and his Cavs are working to acquire a player King James has long sought as a teammate— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) July 7, 2016
Dunleavy's return to Milwaukee would have of course been somewhat awkward given his history with Giannis Antetokounmpo and Michael Carter-Williams, but I'd argue it's nothing a few long three pointers wouldn't have smoothed out. Instead, the Bucks will have been $4 and $6 million in cap space plus their $2.9 million room exception to find another solution. You can check out available free agents by position here, and given their current roster I'd suggest the Bucks probably need a 2/3 swingman more than anything else.
Giannis leads Greece past Mexico
Mexico hung tough for a half, but a big third quarter from Giannis helped Greece ultimately take a comfortable 86-70 win to close out group play in their Olympic qualifying tournament. To qualify for the Rio games in August, Greece will need to take down Croatia in the semifinals on Friday and then the winner of Italy and Mexico on Saturday.
Giannis once again did damage both inside and out, hitting 3/5 threes and 6/10 overall to finish with a game-high 21 points as well as five rebounds and two blocks. Highlights below: