The Chicago Bulls, Dallas Mavericks, Denver Nuggets and Milwaukee Bucks have started a courtship process that has included offers in length of two and three years and upward of $20 million a season – a salary the Heat so far have been reluctant to offer, league sources said.
The Nuggets and Bulls have been among the most aggressive pursuers of Wade, league sources said.
This might come as a bit of a surprise to Nuggets fans since Wade hasn't even been on the radar but it is actually indicative of the type of flexibility that the Nuggets have been building toward for years. Let's start at the beginning of Wade's contract negotiations to see what is at play here.
Despite the last 24 hours being filled with absurdly enormous free agency signings - like former Nuggets' center Timofey Mozgov signing for $64 million - the Miami Heat reportedly offered Wade just $10 million per year. Wade has taken discounts to play with the Heat for years and has led the franchise to three championships. It's certainly not his duty to take a paycut to help Pat Riley build a contender. He's done more than enough for that franchise to demand any number he wants next season.
But why would Denver be interested in Wade? The Nuggets already have a loaded back court with young and promising players like Gary Harris, Will Barton, and Jamal Murray and they have two of their best players at the small forward position in Danilo Gallinari and Wilson Chandler. So what gives?
It comes down to two things. First, Dwyane Wade is a superstar and this is a superstar league. Even if he was the final piece of the puzzle and the roster stayed exactly the same but added him, they'd instantly be a playoff team with a significantly higher upside than they currently have. This league is also unpredictable and who knows if Wade gets you over the hump and into title contention, but he certainly gets you closer than you are right now. But that alone probably wouldn't be worth it since he'd eat up minutes that are earmarked for the young group of players behind him.
That brings us to the second detail and the most important detail of this entire offseason. For two seasons now, the Denver Nuggets have acquired "assets." Assets is an impersonal way of saying "really talented young players with upside, draft picks, and solid veteran players on discounted contracts." None of the those three things translates into wins on their own but they do provide the flexibility to dramatically shake up the roster if a situation presents itself.
Here is where Wade comes in. Denver has the cap space to sign Wade as a free agent to a fairly sizeable contract without having to lose anyone on the roster. They have the "assets" to trade for another superstar talent, for example, DeMarcus Cousins, Blake Griffin, Paul Millsap, or Chris Paul. They actually have enough assets to trade for two superstars, effectively creating a big three.
Now, that would be a two or three move combination that at this point is extremely unlikely, but the first move is by far the most difficult. Would the Hawks, who are currently in a dramatic restructuring of their roster, entertain a trade of Paul Millsap for Kenneth Faried, Jusuf Nurkic and a 1st round pick? If the Clippers get off to a slow start next year, would they find a better deal for Chris Paul than Emmanuel Mudiay, Gary Harris, and Kenneth Faried? What about the Kings? Could they pass up a deal for the disgruntled Cousins if the Nuggets offered Nikola Jokic, a pick, and Danilo Gallinari?
Again, this is all very unlikely. The Nuggets are just one of four teams vying for Wade's interest and the most likely outcome is that Miami finally comes to their senses and signs him to a much bigger deal. But if Wade does sign in Denver and the Nuggets front office decided to go all-in on creating the best team possible this season, it wouldn't be difficult at all for Denver to overhaul their roster on the fly.
Every player on the roster is currently under contract at a discounted rate. This is the type of flexibility the Nuggets have been working toward for two years. They are in an incredibly opportunistic spot right now and if they decide to pull the trigger on a player of Wade's caliber, look for them to shuffle the deck and try to add more win-now pieces. And if they strike out with Wade and he re-signs with Miami as is the more likely outcome, they still have a roster full of players that are highly coveted by every team in the league and have a very bright future here in Denver. They are set up to win in the future, but if Wade signs here, they could quickly transition to win right now.