For those Cleveland Cavaliers fans dreaming of a LeBron James–Dwyane Wade reunion in Northeast Ohio, I imagine yesterday was quite anticlimactic.
After spending the past few days refreshing Twitter, tracking flights and trusting the inside sources of teenagers tweeting from their parents’ basement, Cavs fans found out yesterday Wade was in fact not coming to Cleveland. Ironically, he wasn’t staying with the Miami Heat either, choosing instead to come home and play for the Chicago Bulls. Turns out their $47.5 million offer was far more enticing than the $3.5 million the Cavs could’ve given him.
Soon after the signing was announced, Chicago made a cap-clearing move and sent forward Mike Dunleavy to Cleveland. Obviously, there wasn’t quite the same amount of fan-fare with this deal than there would’ve been had the Cavs somehow acquired Wade.
That said, while the move certainly seems underwhelming on the surface, trading for Dunleavy was hardly a bad thing. In fact, you could easily argue he’s a much better fit for Cleveland than Wade would’ve been.
Now, I’m not here to claim trading for a 35-year-old shooting guard who dealt with a back injury last season is in any way comparable to the Golden State Warriors signing Kevin Durant. This deal should in no way be seen as Cleveland’s counter to the Warriors’ shaking the foundation of the NBA.
That said, this doesn’t mean it’s a bad move by any means.
Even though Dunleavy’s back injury limited him to 30 games last year, he still shot 39% from three-point range. While he was a starter with the Bulls, he’ll be relied on as a bench player for Cleveland, lessening his workload and overall expectations. This will be a big boost for the Cavs, as their bench proved to be inconsistent for the majority of last year.
However, the argument here isn’t just that Dunleavy is a great fit in Cleveland, it’s also that he’s a better one than Wade.
Could Wade have contributed for the Cavs? Of course. Would he have made just as much impact as Durant can in Golden State? That’s laughable.
Cleveland fans seemed quick to forget Wade is on the back end of his career, and while he put forth a solid season last year, he’s hardly someone who would’ve drastically improved the Cavs.
This isn’t to say Dunleavy does, but he’s much more of a low-risk/high-reward addition.
Just look at the adjustments (or lack thereof) Cleveland has to make upon acquiring him. Dunleavy can be moved to the bench, perhaps as a sixth or seventh man, can provide spacing and improve scoring percentages for the reserves. Additionally, he’s yet another player who can give James some rest, as he and Richard Jefferson can both play small forward.
Now compare this to what the Cavs would have to do if they acquired Wade. Players like Channing Frye, Iman Shumpert and Kevin Love might have had to be moved to make room on the salary cap. Does Wade start over J.R. Smith at shooting guard? Does the team even keep Smith to begin with, or let him walk once Wade was in the fold?
Let’s also remember both Wade and Dunleavy have past injuries to keep an eye on. Now consider the fact that, if Dunleavy gets hurt, Cleveland’s bench is shortened a player. If Wade is out, the Cavs would lose a starter and the rotation is limited, likely due to the fact they will have had to give up other players to make room for him in the first place.
The bottom line is Golden State’s moves shouldn’t have the Cavs overreacting and shedding players to make cap space for a player whose best years are behind him, whose knees still aren’t reliable, and whose presence would drastically alter the rotation. Wade joining Cleveland was an entertaining pipe dream, nothing more, nothing less. Fans getting excited about this potentially happening seemed to glaze over a lot, from his place on the team to the sacrifices the Cavs would have to make just to be able to sign him.
No such sacrifices had to be made to acquire Dunleavy. This, along with what he can contribute in Cleveland combine to make him a better piece to the puzzle than Wade would’ve been.