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Dwyane Wade’s Future in Free Agency Is Crystallizing, While Gordon Hayward’s Is Murkier Than Ever

The Bulls appear ready to run this season back, while the Celtics are hunting for a star

(AP Images/Getty Images/Ringer illustration)
(AP Images/Getty Images/Ringer illustration)

Weeks from now, Gordon Hayward and Dwyane Wade will decide their future in free agency. Much will pass in between, like LeBron James carrying the Cavaliers back from a 3–0 deficit, Magic Johnson shocking everyone by selecting himself with the second overall pick, and Drake hosting the NBA’s first award show only to give the league MVP to Rihanna.

Technically, Wade’s and Hayward’s deadlines to decide on their player options are June 27 and 29, respectively. Both are weeks away; both already seem decided.

Wade discussed his $23.8 million option with the team on Saturday, the Chicago Tribune reported, the day after newly redheaded Wade attended Game 4 of the Finals in Cleveland. No official decision was reached, but the meeting was "positive," and one anonymous Bulls player has since told the Chicago Sun-Times that Wade "definitely sounds like a guy that’s coming back."

For Wade, running it back is a no-brainer. Last season further exposed the obvious: His body won’t allow him to stay on the court like he used to, and previous injuries will likely return to steal bits and pieces from future seasons. Nearly $24 million is incredibly difficult to turn down. Anywhere else he’d turn in free agency would offer less, save, perhaps, Brooklyn. That kind of money is almost restitution for the pay cuts he took in Miami, his home for 13 seasons.

His exit in free agency last offseason was unexpected on Wade’s part, and ugly on the Heat’s part. Still, his departure was reported much like LeBron’s from Cleveland — alongside the notion of a possible return. Heat lifer Udonis Haslem, who will enter free agency this summer, was talking up the organization’s chance at bringing back Wade only a month ago.

"If [the Bulls] decide to get rid of Jimmy [Butler] and start young," Haslem said, "it’s a little bit different … If they decide to go young and start over, I think we will be a little bit ahead of those guys." Bulls executive John Paxson has gone on record denying that the team wants to deal Butler (while also calling his situation an open one). But the Bulls could form a new identity even with Butler, as Chicago has cap flexibility few teams can tout: more than $47 million without Wade, around $23 million with. GM Gar Forman said this spring, "a big part of our job is managing our cap, especially as we redo this roster." The team could decline its $13.4 million option for Rajon Rondo, which will be another crucial decision. Apart from some surprising playoff success with Rondo, the year was largely a fluctuating mess. Is it worth playing back?

Whereas Wade will almost certainly opt in, Hayward will almost certainly do the opposite with his $16.7 million option. That seemed certain the moment he failed to be voted onto an All-NBA team, leaving him without a fat bonus, and an incentive to stay. He could stick with Utah after declining; the Jazz can give Hayward something no other team can: a five-year max contract.

But rumors of Hayward entertaining a move to Boston have chipped away at the hope of Jazz fans. Brad Stevens coached Hayward at Butler, and signs of a reunion keep appearing: First Adrian Wojnarowski says the Celtics will go hard after him, and then on Sunday, Hayward’s wife, Robyn, posted a picture of their daughter wearing a "Go Green" tee to Instagram.

Possible explanations:

  1. Hayward’s child is environmentally conscious, and though not yet 5 years old is already silently showing support for the Paris climate agreement.
  2. Robyn, knowing that her family will go to Boston, has begun the fandom-conversion process by dressing her daughter in tees she likely cannot yet read.
  3. This shirt was cute and only $13.99 at Gap Kids.

Robyn deleted the Instagram post, which only scared some Jazz fans further. But it was likely because this—

—horrified a mom into thinking that the internet believes she planted an adorable picture snuggling with her daughter as some kind of cryptic hint.

I would suggest here that Bulls fans wondering if Wade will re-sign should just follow his wife’s Instagram account for clues, but they likely already do. It’s Gabrielle Union.