It’s LeBron’s world and we are all just living in it.
On Wednesday night, Dwyane Wade decided to leave the Miami Heat and sign with the Chicago Bulls. And yet, even though on the surface the move seemingly has nothing to do with LeBron James, his fingerprints are on this move and he is the one who may benefit the most.
Let’s take a look at all the ways in which Wade’s $47 million deal with the Bulls actually helps James, a list that includes one important on-court scenario and some other minor perks.
The Cavaliers now have an easier path to the NBA Finals.
This is the biggest benefit to LeBron and the Cavs. With Wade switching teams he has made one potential road block for the Cavs weaker but it is not enough to turn the Bulls into a contender.
If the Heat could have fielded a lineup that included Hassan Whiteside and Dwyane Wade, and had somehow gotten a full season out of Chris Bosh, that is a formidable opponent, a team that the Cavs would not enjoy facing in the playoffs. Now it is not going to happen. Meanwhile, the Bulls, with a weird backcourt mix of Wade, Rajon Rondo, and Jimmy Butler, are a borderline playoff team and no threat to the Cavs.
Make no mistake, the Cavaliers are still the heavy favourite to win the East no matter where Wade is playing. But this move just tightened the grip.
LeBron has long coveted playing with Mike Dunleavy.
In order to clear enough salary-cap space to sign Wade, the Bulls had to basically give forward Mike Dunleavy to the Cavs. In return, the Bulls will receive the rights to an unnamed European player, according to Chris Haynes of Cleveland.com.
Dunleavy is a 35-year-old veteran who averaged just 7.2 points per game for the Bulls last season. But what is really interesting about this move is that, according to Haynes, Dunleavy is a player that LeBron has long coveted as a teammate.
It is unclear how much Dunleavy will help the Cavs next season, but clearly LeBron feels he is an asset and it cost his team almost nothing.
LeBron was able to exact some more revenge on Pat Riley and the Heat by helping a friend.
When negotiations between Wade and the Heat started to break down, rumours began circulating that LeBron, who was on vacation with Wade at the time, was recruiting the Heat star to join the Cavs.
While that rumour was quickly shot down, it was important because it was the first time everybody stopped and thought, “Wait, Wade might actually leave the Heat.” At that point, the Bucks were seemingly out of the picture and the Nuggets were offering $52 million but seemed like a long shot at best. That left the Bulls, but without enough cap space to make it happen.
In step LeBron and the Cavs. If rumours, reports, and more importantly, common sense, are to be believed, the Cavs don’t make roster moves without consulting James. That means LeBron was able to help his good friend by giving the OK to trade for Dunleavy.
But more importantly, LeBron likely saw this as another chance to hurt Pat Riley.
When LeBron decided to leave the Heat and return to Cleveland, Riley was not shy about how upset he was, calling it the biggest mistake of LeBron’s career. After winning the championship this season, LeBron admitted that he was using those comments as motivation to win another ring. While he didn’t point out Riley specifically, it was obvious that he still held a grudge against Riley and the Heat for how they treated him on the way out the door.
On ESPN Radio, Le Batard discussed how James clearly was an influence in Wade’s decision and James helped Wade exert power over Riley:
“LeBron James is absolutely about player empowerment. And the idea that he could do this to Pat Riley before Pat Riley could do it to him, that he could see down the line, ‘Hey, Dwyane, this isn’t about loyalty. Grab your power and use it as best you can.’ Dwyane Wade, the last couple of years hasn’t had leverage power. This year he had some leverage power [but] he didn’t have enough to exert it the way LeBron James did. So, that one is a fascinating one, because LeBron James Pat Riley’d Pat Riley before Pat Riley could Pat Riley LeBron James.”
In the end, Wade got a little bit more money (an amount that is likely offset by the lack of state income tax in Florida) and he makes the Bulls marginally better. But more importantly, Wade’s move strengthened the Cavs’ grip on the East, gave LeBron a teammate he always wanted, and also gave him one more bit of revenge against Riley while helping a pal.
It’s the Summer of LeBron and he is still winning.
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