The Banana Boat appears to be heading from Chicago through the Great Lakes to Cleveland. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported Tuesday that Dwyane Wade will sign with the Cavaliers to join longtime friend LeBron James.
Wade agreed to a buyout with the Bulls on Sunday that excuses him from the final year of his contract with the franchise. He played in Chicago for just one season, reportedly becoming upset after the front office traded Jimmy Butler, leaving the team uncompetitive as the 35-year-old Wade enters the twilight of his career. The 12-time All-Star will be eligible to sign with Cleveland, which has emerged from the Eastern Conference finals the past three years, on Wednesday.
Wade won two championships with James in Miami, and the duo remained close even after James left the Heat to return home to Cleveland. They’ve voiced their desire to play together again, along with the rest of the Banana Boat crew: In March 2016, James told Bleacher Report’s Howard Beck that he “really [hopes] that, before our career is over, we can all play together. At least one, maybe one or two seasons—me, [Carmelo Anthony], D-Wade, [Chris Paul]—can get a year in. I would actually take a pay cut to do that."
James won’t have to take a pay cut to reunite with his pal; Wade will reportedly trade $8 million of the $23.8 million that he was to make playing for the Bulls in 2017-18 for the right to sign a deal with the team of his choice. With around $15 million as a starting base, the veteran shooting guard won’t seek the typical “star” salary he might otherwise demand. Which is good, because the Cavs can’t afford to pay him much: With $137.9 million committed to the active roster—yes, nearly $39 million more than the cap—Cleveland can sign Wade only to the veteran minimum, $2.3 million. (Minimum salaries do count toward a team’s luxury-tax bill, however; the Cavs are already footing an estimated $59 million in tax prior to any deal with Wade.)
How Wade fits with the team is another question. During media day, Tyronn Lue named Derrick Rose (signed to a vet minimum deal in July) the starter until Isaiah Thomas’s potential return in January. Wade could play at the two-guard spot, his natural position, where Iman Shumpert and J.R. Smith shared time last season, but sharing the floor with Rose could create ruinous spacing issues. And Wade’s minutes dwindled significantly in recent years, to 29.9 last season in 60 games; between his health and Rose’s, neither is entirely reliable for a full season. But even in limited minutes, Wade has enormous value for Cleveland, and can provide some of the scoring it will miss in the absence of Kyrie Irving and, for now, Isaiah.
This piece was updated after publication after Wade’s signing was confirmed.