The sports world was shocked on July 6 when it was made known that Dwyane Wade would be leaving the Miami Heat, the team he has played with since being drafted in 2003, with whom he won three NBA championships. His new team? The Chicago Bulls.
The Bulls became a contender for Wade late in the process, and despite the dreams (or potentially nightmares) of the Bulls faithful, most people thought that Wade would eventually get the contract he wanted and would return to Miami.
Instead, Miami held firm with their 2 year, $40 million offer, one which Wade balked at. Chicago offered $47 million over the same time period, an offer which the 34-year-old guard accepted, despite an even higher offer from the Denver Nuggets still being on the table. In the end, Wade decided that it’s time to come home to Chicago.
Sports media, both professional and social, was abuzz to say the least following the news. There was a mix of anger and excitement from Bulls fans, while it was almost uniform sadness from Heat faithful, even if it was potentially a good move basketball-wise.
Instead of getting younger and more athletic, like Gar Forman insisted was a goal for the Bulls this offseason, the Bulls went out and got another aging backcourt player with an injury history, one who isn’t a particularly good shooter, either. That last part is especially important when considering the type of offense coach Fred Hoiberg likes to run, a pace-and-space system.
With all of this in mind, it’s hard to say that this was a great move by the Bulls. However, there may be something positive to draw from this acquisition.
With the way the NBA is today, there are three tiers of teams: the elite, the bottom dwellers and those in basketball purgatory, the last of those groups being the largest by far. For several seasons now, the Bulls have been a member of that large faction.
The best way to build your team up into that elite class, assuming you’re not signing the likes of LeBron James, Kevin Durant or Steph Curry in free agency, is to strip your team down and rebuild through the draft. Many have been in favor of the Bulls using this approach, because it’s clear that the team does not have a championship-caliber roster, nor is it bad enough to get a top-five draft pick.
Then this offseason began.
Trading Derrick Rose and letting the likes of Joakim Noah and Pau Gasol walk was jarring to the fanbase, even if it wasn’t unexpected. Then Rajon Rondo was signed. Then Dwyane Wade was signed, proving that even if they’re not going to be big winners on the court, the Bulls can still be big winners in the headlines.
Wade does not make the Bulls a team that can compete for a championship, in fact it likely doesn’t bring them much closer at all. Sure, they may be good enough to actually make the playoffs this year, but they still won’t be able to contend with the class of the Eastern Conference, let alone the West, and now they have an even smaller chance of getting an elite draft pick. But does that mean you should tune out and ignore them this season?
In a way, Wade fills a need for the Bulls and their fans. He brings an excitement to the organization that they were sorely lacking even last season and especially after all their moves prior to July 6. Add in the fact that he’s a hometown kid coming back to the place where he idolized Michael Jordan as a kid? You can just print money with storylines like that.
Wade cannot save the Bulls franchise because that is a role no single player can fill at this point in time, save for Durant changing course and taking a minimum deal in Chicago. He can add a spark of excitement to the team though, one which will make them at least bearable to watch in the 2016-17 season. That is something that mere days ago seemed like a near impossibility.
Are the Bulls risking whatever vague and apparently incomprehensible future plans they have by signing Dwyane Wade? Maybe. But are they enticing you to watch them this upcoming season, for better or for worse? That is a near certainty. Regardless of whether or not the Bulls sink or swim this coming season, you know that the United Center will be filled to the brim with brand new Wade jerseys all season long.