Chicago Bulls

Sources: Dwyane Wade still mulling decision to pick up player option with Bulls

Sources: Dwyane Wade still mulling decision to pick up player option with Bulls

Dwyane Wade sat courtside in Cleveland in a fashionable jumpsuit that made its rounds through social media as the Cavaliers registered their lone win in the NBA Finals last week, drawing conversations from Kyrie Irving as Irving kept the eventual champion Golden State Warriors at bay in the second half.

One wonders if that’s as close as Wade will get to championship competition next season as he ponders his future with the Chicago Bulls, having to decide whether he’ll exercise a nearly $24 million option to remain with the Bulls for the 2017-18 season. Wade has until June 27 to opt-in to the second and final year of his contract.

Sources tell CSNChicago.com Wade hasn’t yet made a decision on next season and hasn’t informed the Bulls of anything yet, as he’ll continue vacationing for the next couple weeks before deciding his future.

Wade met with Bulls management last week in the attempt to gauge where the franchise’s direction would be for next season. The Bulls hold the 16th pick in next week’s NBA Draft, and although they’ve met with Jimmy Butler, things still appear murky as to their long-term commitment to Butler and if they want to try to make inroads in the Eastern Conference with veteran reinforcements.

Currently, the team line has been about allowing some of their younger pieces to grow and hoping head coach Fred Hoiberg can coax some development and consistency from an inconsistent bunch.

In that meeting, the Bulls were up front about the likelihood that they will stay the course as opposed to looking at the landscape of the East and making significant changes to the personnel, sources close to Wade tell CSNChicago.com.

The Bulls gave the same speech to Butler in their last meeting when Butler came back to Chicago over a week ago, although one wonders if they’ll entertain trade discussions surrounding Butler next week with the draft approaching.

Wade’s relationship with Butler was a chief reason why he chose the Bulls, along with the sizeable contract offer, and on more than a few nights Wade was the Bulls’ best player.

How often he should be counted on to do that in the future is a question, unless one of the Bulls’ younger players makes an unlikely leap to consistency next season. One wonders if Wade wants a role similar to what he had this year, although his itch to play deep into May suggests he would be willing to cede space in the team’s hierarchy if the Bulls were to acquire a dependable veteran.

Before his elbow injury in March, Wade was on track to play over 70 games and averaged 18.3 points, 4.5 rebounds and 3.8 assists in 29.9 minutes, as his per-36 minute production hovered around the same mark it had his last two years in Miami.

So for Wade the options appear to be simple, while the execution is more complex: Sign up for more of the same next season or opt-out of his contract for another round of free agency, to Parts Unknown.

He’ll turn 36 in the middle of next season and hasn’t been definitive on how much longer he wants to play, along with balancing the reality of another salary cap spike this offseason as going after another payday could be tempting from another franchise in need of star power.

However it’s unlikely a team will shell out that much cash annually for Wade, who feels like this payday has been earned after years of salary sacrifices in Miami.

Knowing Wade, the clarity in communication was likely appreciated given his feelings on how his time with the Miami Heat ended one year ago.

“When you get respect, that's what you get back,” Wade said to CSNChicago.com days before his return to Miami last November. “I've given nothing but respect (to the Heat). I feel like a lot of things in this world and this league are mishandled from the notion of communication. That's it.”

“I understand this business just as good as anybody. But it's a way, someone like me, a way you communicate what you're trying to do, and how you're gonna do it and what it looks like for me.”

His oldest son will turn 16 next season and Wade had made a note of wanting stability for his family compared to moving them around frequently at the end of his career.

Wade’s patience will likely factor into this decision, as his lone public relations hiccup with the Bulls came in January when he and Butler’s frustration with the youth of the roster boiled over into some strong postgame comments that resulted in discipline from the team.

From that point on, Wade became much more reticent about speaking up about the direction of the team, even though his feelings about the Bulls having an opportunity to advance through an underwhelming Eastern Conference remained and was almost proven right if not for Rajon Rondo’s injury in Game 2 of their first-round series against the Boston Celtics.

Because the Bulls were open with Wade, it leaves him with a few options and a few weeks to figure out how he wants to spend his 15th season—just days away after witnessing championship basketball from the sidelines.

State of the Bulls: Stacked 2018 draft class

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USA TODAY

State of the Bulls: Stacked 2018 draft class

2018 draft class is loaded at the top

Quietly, you can bet Bulls' front office executives John Paxson and Gar Forman had a little celebration after hearing that prep star Marvin Bagley III was going to graduate from high school early and enroll at Duke for the 2017-18 season, making him eligible for the 2018 draft.

Bagley, a 6'11 power forward from Los Angeles, is being compared to longtime NBA star Chris Bosh, right down to his smooth left-handed shooting touch. Bagley averaged 24.6 points, 10.1 rebounds and two blocked shots during his junior season for Sierra Canyon H.S. He's also fared well against NBA competition at the highly-regarded Drew League in L.A. this summer. Bagley’s physical tools are off the charts, and you can count on Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski preparing him well for life in the NBA.

Most NBA scouts and execs expect the No. 1 overall pick to come down to either Bagley or Michael Porter Jr., who will play his one season of college basketball at Missouri. The 6'10 Porter averaged an amazing 34.8 points and 13.8 rebounds last season against Seattle high school competition. He's considered a more dynamic scorer than Bagley with more range on his jump shot. Some scouts believe he could quickly develop into one of the league's elite players with Kevin Durant-type length and shooting ability at the small forward position.

International swingman Luka Doncic is also highly coveted by NBA teams. The 6'8 swingman has excellent shooting range, and is also capable of creating his own shot with outstanding ball-handling ability. Forget the stereotype of European players being mechanical and unable to compete athletically, Doncic is capable of being an 18-20 point scorer in the NBA and should go in the top five next June. He's considered one of the best international prospects in the last decade.

Two 7-footers also will hear their names called early on draft night 2018. University of Arizona freshman DeAndre Ayton averaged 19.8 points and 12 rebounds in high school last season, while Texas freshman center Mohamed Bomba has an incredible 7-foot-9 wingspan. Sure, the NBA has moved away from the traditional low post center, but teams are still looking to acquire agile big men like Karl-Anthony Towns, Joel Embiid, DeAndre Jordan, Rudy Gobert and Hassan Whiteside. Depending on how they fare against top level college competition, Ayton and Bomba could round out the top five.

Other names to watch in the lottery portion of next year's draft include Texas A&M power forward Robert Williams, Michigan State's forward duo of Miles Bridges and Jaren Jackson Jr., and the latest one-and-dones from John Calipari's Kentucky program, center Nick Richards and small forward Jarred Vanderbilt.

In case you missed it, ESPN released its preseason win total expectations for the Eastern Conference on Wednesday, and the Bulls were dead last with a projected record of 26-56. Now, I'm not sure a team with veterans Dwyane Wade and Robin Lopez and the three young players acquired in the Jimmy Butler trade with Minnesota will be quite that bad, but if you're going to rebuild, the idea is to get the best draft pick possible, and the Bulls appear to be on course for a top-five selection depending on how the lottery falls.

If the Bulls are able to land an elite talent like Porter Jr., Bagley III or Doncic in the draft, then use their $40-50 million in cap space to land a couple of quality free agents, the rebuild might not be as painful as some fans are fearing.

Last dance for LeBron in Cleveland?

Well-connected NBA writer Chris Sheridan dropped this bomb on Twitter Wednesday, quoting an NBA source, "This will be LeBron's final season in Cleveland. He is 100 percent leaving. Relationship with owners beyond repair." Don’t forget, Sheridan was the first national writer to report James was going to leave Miami to go back to Cleveland in 2014, so his reports definitely warrant a little extra attention.

Okay, we've already heard countless rumors about James planning to join the Lakers after next season. He's built a mansion in Brentwood, is close with Magic Johnson and will be able to bring another superstar with him to L.A. like Paul George or Russell Westbrook. Plus, the Lakers have a number of talented young players in place like Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Julius Randle, Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr. and a promising coach in Luke Walton.

Add in the likelihood Kyrie Irving will be traded before training camp opens and LeBron's long-standing poor relationship with Cavs' owner Dan Gilbert, and you have the perfect formula for another James' free agent decision next July. Although, I'm not sure why LeBron would want to go West, where Golden State is positioned to dominate the league for another five seasons, with strong challengers like the Rockets and Spurs still in place. 

But if we've learned anything from watching James over the years, he's clearly a man who wants to align the odds in his favor. So don't rule out anything when it comes to James' free agent decision. If the Cavs make a home run trade for Irving, maybe LeBron decided to plays out his career in his home state. If not, look for him to find a team with the cap space to bring in another top star to run with him.

Back in 2010, the Bulls carved out the cap space to add two max contract stars, but lost out to Pat Riley in Miami. This time around they won't be on James' July travel itinerary.

One thing we know for sure. Where LeBron plays in 2018 will be the number one story throughout the NBA season.

Report: Bulls expected to reach buyout agreement with Dwyane Wade

Report: Bulls expected to reach buyout agreement with Dwyane Wade

Dwyane Wade's homecoming may not last much longer. 

According to Nick Friedell's ESPN report, the Bulls are expected to reach a buyout agreement with the 12-time NBA All-Star "at some point in the next few months." 

The news comes two months after Wade picked up his player option, choosing $24 million over earning less on a more competitive team. 

If Gar Forman and John Paxson indeed decide to buy D-Wade out, the "Three Alphas," which consisted of Wade, Jimmy Butler and Rajon Rondo, would all be out just one season after coming together. 

The buyout may also mean more ping-pong balls in next year's stacked draft