The Miami Heat are at a turning point. The team was not expecting a lot of offseason changes to take place this summer, but as free agency prepares to kick off on July 1 they are suddenly without their biggest star. Salary cap space has been an issue for the team over the past season and this year will be no different which is why Dwyane Wade opting out throws off the team's entire plan. Will they be able to retain the veteran for the long-term.
Wade has always been the face of the Miami Heat and shown willingness to take pay cuts in order to help the team acquire more help. However, that patience ran out on Monday when Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.com reported Wade turned down a $16 million option to become a free agent. The Heat wanted Wade to opt in and then re-sign in 2016 in order for the team to have enough money to give Goran Dragic a max contract and then re-sign Hassan Whiteside next year along with another big name. Wade is done being patient and wants his money now.
The question for Wade is just how much leverage does he have with the Heat. He is still playing at a high level, but injuries continue to cause him to miss games. According to the Miami Herald, Wade wants something north of $16 million while the Heat are only prepared to offer $10 million at most. As a result, teams like the Los Angeles Lakers, New York Knicks and Cleveland Cavaliers have been tossed around as options for the shooting guard.
So where does Miami go from here? Luol Deng shocked several people by deciding to opt in on his player option for next season. The Heat could retain Deng or trade him after acquiring Justise Winslow in the NBA Draft. Deng holds a lot of value in the league and on a short-term contract he would gain interest. According to the Herald, Winslow is expected to be a star for the Heat and could take his place.
The Heat will also offer Dragic a max contract. At this point, Miami cannot afford to lose the point guard as several teams will eye him in free agency. Dragic wants the max contract and he told ESPN.com that he favors remaining with the Heat next season. There is no word on whether or not that changes with the departure of Wade.
If the Heat are unable to keep Wade, the team has some options, but they must be aggressive. Arron Afflalo, Wesley Matthews and Monta Ellis could be the best options in free agency. Danny Green could get some looks from the Heat along with Louis Williams. Team president Pat Riley made it clear that he has every intention to retain Wade for the remainder of his career, but the star might no longer have the same mindset.