Dwyane Wade employed a brilliant strategy the last time he was a free agent, back in July of 2006 — with a six-year extension offered by the Heat, he instead took just three.
It was brilliant because it kept his options open. It kept pressure on the Heat organization to build a title contender around him (which is certain to pay big dividends in the coming off-season). It also allowed him to secure the best possible contracts for himself as his career progressed (players with seven years tenure are eligible to receive up to 30% of the adjusted salary cap).
Will it happen again? Will Wade ink a new three-year deal next month?
Don’t count on it.
There is one key difference this time around – the current collective bargaining agreement is set to expire in the summer of 2011. While nobody knows exactly what to expect from the new agreement (if one is successfully negotiated), initial indications have not been promising.
Commissioner David Stern, after witnessing a decade of horrific, franchise-crippling contracts that have left teams hemorrhaging cash to the tune of $200 million annually, wants to make some huge changes.
A hard salary cap, drastic reductions in the value of maximum salaries, shortening of contract lengths, and the loss of Bird rights have all been suggested by Stern. There are also rumors of potential reductions to the guaranteed nature of contracts as well as reductions in the share of basketball related income earned by players from the current 57% to as low as 45%.
In such an uncertain climate, Wade would be foolish to leave guaranteed money on the table. Taking a three-year deal rather than the six the Heat will undoubtedly offer would be doing just that.
Every potential free agent will be looking for a full value, full length contract this off-season. Even Dirk Nowitzki insinuated as much by deciding to opt out of his $21.5 million next season salary.
That doesn’t necessarily mean that Wade can’t negotiate a longer-term contract with an opt-out provision after three seasons. Such an arrangement would still provide him significant leverage and put pressure on the Heat to maintain a winning product.
But the issues would be substantial. Read more…