Here's the worst-kept secret in the NBA: Dwyane Wade is done playing basketball for the Chicago Bulls. After his hometown team traded Jimmy Butler to the Minnesota Timberwolves and waived Rajon Rondo, it's obvious the Bulls will try to buy out his $23.8 million deal.
Heat fans, naturally, are wondering what happens next for their team's greatest all-time player. Would Wade be willing to join LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers on a ring-chasing, one-year discount? Just imagining Wade in a Cavs uniform gives most Heat fans that metallic, pre-vomit taste in their mouths. What would watching him team up with LeBron against the Golden State Warriors in next year's NBA finals do to Miami?
Take a deep breath, Heat Nation. These are the five likeliest destinations for Wade if he indeed reaches a buyout with the Bulls.
5. Cleveland Cavaliers
Listen, we're not going to sit here and pretend this isn't about us. It is. It's completely about us. In theory, Wade repaying LeBron for coming to Miami for four years does make a lot of sense — in a vacuum. But not to a Miami Heat fan, because we have beating hearts, not hoses and brush accessories. Heat fans are well aware Wade is free to make his own life decisions.
But this is also true: If Wade joins Cleveland, Heat fans will be left with a sour taste in their mouths forever. A Google image search of "Dwyane Wade" would always result in pics of Wade in a Cavs uniform. The pain would be real.
4. Los Angeles Clippers
If anyone overvalues a 30-something NBA star, it's Clippers coach Doc Rivers. He has a history of going to battle with guys on their last leg or long ago were on their last leg. The Clippers are in desperate need of another "star" to place next to Blake Griffin after Chris Paul and J.J. Reddick departed this offseason. With the Lakers' star power on the rise and the Clippers' on the wane, the Clippers will need to make a move or two to stay relevant next season in Los Angeles.
The Clippers are reportedly looking into trading for Carmelo Anthony, but subsequent reports claim Melo is interested in going to only Houston or Cleveland. That means the Clippers could be the final chair Wade is staring at when the music stops, and it could bring a higher salary than some of the others on this list.
3. Golden State Warriors
Obviously, Golden State is a desirable NBA destination for players right now, so if Wade has already made his money next season from the Bulls, he might accept a bargain-basement-clearance deal with the Warriors. Last we checked, the Warriors had an interest in Michael Beasley, so Wade makes plenty of sense if scoring off the bench is what interests the team.
Golden State is where aging stars go to ring-chase these days, so why not Wade? Another title would push him ahead of LeBron in the ring department (4-3) and give him an opportunity to ride off into the sunset on a championship-champagne-soaked high. If Miami can't have him, this seems like a nice destination.
2. Houston Rockets
This one has a China connection and a banana boat connection. Wade's sneakers are made by Li Ning in China. Selling sneakers in China is a huge part of Wade's retirement plan. Last offseason, there
The banana boat connection is obvious now that Chris Paul is on the Rockets after a sign-and-trade with the Clippers. Wade has long wanted to play with another member of his famous Banana Boat Crew, and this would be a chance. With Carmelo Anthony also eyeing a move to Houston, it could be three-of-four Banana Boat Crew members in Houston next season. Call it crazy, but here in Miami, we've seen crazier things happen.
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1. Miami Heat
This feels a year early, but why not get it over with? It's quite clear Wade made a mistake last offseason. One forgettable season in Chicago and a buyout does not make a successful homecoming for him unless he's supermotivated by the couple million dollars extra he made by switching teams. Miami, on the other hand, rebounded quite well on the fly, and life went on without its biggest star. Now, after seeing other people for a year, why not make up and end this story right? Wade will have made his money and, more important, his point. He can play one final year with Udonis Haslem, something that certainly isn't guaranteed if he were to rejoin Miami the following year.
If Wade finds himself wondering where to finish his career, and money isn't an issue, what better place than were it all began?