Cleveland had the highest payroll in the league last season and has more than $122.6MM committed for 2016-17. That left the team with little flexibility when negotiations between Wade and the Heat broke down in early July. But it doesn’t mean the defending champs weren’t very interested.
“We couldn’t afford him,” said LeBron James, Wade’s longtime friend and former teammate in Miami. “It’s that simple.”
Chicago gave Wade a two-year, $47MM deal with a player option on the second season. To clear enough cap space for the signing, all the Bulls had to do was arrange deals involving Jose Calderon and Mike Dunleavy Jr. Ironically, the Cavs benefited from one of those moves, picking up Dunleavy in a deal involving the draft rights to two players taken more than a decade ago.
Cleveland would have needed a major roster adjustment in a short time to create the cap space needed to chase Wade. As it was, all the franchise had to offer was the taxpayer midlevel exception, which was only worth about $3.5MM. That money was eventually used to re-sign Richard Jefferson.
“Who wouldn’t be interested in a Hall of Famer?” Cavs coach Tyronn Lue said about the possibility of acquiring Wade. “That don’t even make sense. Yeah, we wanted him.”
James has spoken often about his friendship with Wade and the possibility of someday teaming up with him, Carmelo Anthony and Chris Paul. He also addressed the sudden break-up of the dominant Miami teams, while hinting that a reunion with Wade could still occur some day.
“In professional sports things can change from one year to another like that, so I’ve always had that perspective ever since I came into the NBA,” James said. “I’ve always known it’s a business and you could be with one team this year — have teammates this year, the next year you might not have them. That’s part of the business. So I’ll always have that perspective.”