Dwyane Wade is leaning heavily toward the Cavaliers as his new team once he clears waivers and may have already decided on a reunion with LeBron James, league sources with knowledge of Wade’s thinking told cleveland.com.
A prominent league source outside of James’ circle with knowledge of Wade’s thinking told cleveland.com that Wade “has no intention of going anywhere else.” Sources close to James have long believed he would come to Cleveland in the event of a buyout.
Cavs sources would confirm the team’s interest in Wade, but nothing more.
Wade, 35, a 12-time All-Star and close friend to James, is expected to clear waivers Wednesday, when he is free to sign with any team. He accepted an approximately $16 million buyout of his $23.8 million contract from the Chicago Bulls on Sunday night.
Wade has given no indication publicly what he will do, and at least three teams besides the Cavaliers — Oklahoma City Thunder, San Antonio Spurs, and his old team the Miami Heat — are interested in him. His agent is taking calls from those teams and others, and Wade told the Associated Press he would do his due diligence as well.
But sources expect Wade to sign with the Cavs as early as Wednesday, upon clearing waivers.
The Thunder traded for another close friend to Wade — Carmelo Anthony — on Saturday and are interested in signing him. General manager Sam Presti told reporters in Oklahoma City that while the Thunder would pursue Wade, “there’s kind of an idea in advance where the player might be leaning toward or going to.”
If indeed Wade has settled on reuniting with James, with whom he won two titles in four seasons in Miami, the Cavs would have an enviable problem of clearing a roster spot by the start of the regular season.
Cleveland already has 15 players under guaranteed contract, and would pay millions in luxury-tax penalties if it has to waive a player instead of trade one.
The Cavs could attach a second-round pick in any trade to deal away a player and clear a spot for Wade.
Also, the Cavs would likely pay Wade the veteran’s minimum — about $2.3 million — instead of the $2.55 million left under the mid-level exception to the salary cap because of tax purposes.
Cleveland is already $18.6 million over the $119.3 million luxury tax line for salaries. If Wade accepts the minimum from Cleveland, only $1.47 million would count against the Cavs’ payroll for salary cap purposes. That’s millions less in taxes the Cavs would have to pay than if he took what’s left of the mid-level exception.
Wade averaged 18.3 points and shot 31 percent from 3-point range for the Bulls last season — his second-highest shooting percentage from beyond the arc on the third-most 3-point attempts per game (2.4) of his 15-year career.
“I would love to have D-Wade a part of this team,” James said Monday. “I think he brings another championship pedigree, championship DNA. He brings another playmaker to the team who can get guys involved, can make plays and also has a great basketball mind.
“I’ve talked to D-Wade throughout the whole summer and I will probably reach out to him as well, but it’s not up to me,” James said. “It’s up to D-Wade if he can clear waivers, it’s up to our front office. But I hope we can bring him here. I would love to have him here.”
While it would be a surprise for Wade to go away from James, especially at this point in their careers and with their shared desire to play with one another again, there is a precedent. James walked away from his friend Wade to rejoin the Cavs in 2014.