As the Miami Heat and San Antonio Spurs prepare for a second straight NBA Finals matchup, the status of San Antonio’s aging trio of Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker will be speculated on if the Spurs win another title. But the Heat have their own aging veteran in guard Dwyane Wade, who at age 32 has battled injuries throughout this season and has was rested in the second game of back-to-backs during the regular season by coach Erik Spoelstra.
It’s not surprising that Wade set a career-low in minutes per game during the regular season this year (32.9 per game), and his 19.0 points per game average was the lowest since his rookie season in 2003-2004. It’s also not shocking that he has played a little bit more during the playoffs (34.7 minutes per game), with the benefit of days to rest between games, and Wade has averaged 18.7 points per game thus far in the postseason. Wade was at his best early in the Eastern Conference Finals against the Indiana Pacers, as he averaged 24.3 points per game in the first three games (23 or more points in all three contests) before tailing off a bit over the last three games of that series.
Wade, like teammates LeBron James and Chris Bosh, can opt out of his contract this summer. He is due to make $20.1 million next season and $21.6 million in 2015-16, so it’s hard to envision him choosing to leave Miami and trying (most certainly in vain) to find similar money on the free agent market at his age and with his injury history.
If the Heat “Three-Peat” this year, Wade would win the fourth title of his career. That would put him in a fairly exclusive class, as just 35 other players in the modern era of the NBA have won four or more championships in their career. He was already a sure-fire Hall of Famer, whenever his career ends, but winning the fourth ring of his career would cement Wade’s legacy as an all-time great.
It’s hard to envision Wade in another uniform as his career winds down, and it wouldn’t make sense for the Heat to keep him around at over $20 million per year over the next two seasons. A decision to opt-out with the understanding he’ll re-sign a more reasonable contract is possible, but if Wade gets another ring he should simply retire before possibly tarnishing his legacy as a shadow of the player he was in his prime.