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Dwyane Wade on the Bulls: Three Fantasy Takeaways

While the basketball world was still reeling from Kevin Durant’s decision to forsake tradition and flee to Golden State, another bombshell struck the NBA. Dwyane Wade, fed up with Pat Riley treating him like a middle-tier free agent, decamped from Miami, his home of 13 years, to start a new chapter of his storied career in Chicago. It’s hard to picture Wade playing on any team besides the Heat. Note: Perhaps the fact that Chicago is his home town and that the Bulls’ color scheme of black and red directly mirrors the Heat’s will help fans transition. Before we see that, though. as fantasy basketball players we must try to predict what's going to happen as a result.

 

Dwyane Wade on the Bulls: Three Fantasy Takeaways

Takeaway #1: Despite the change of scenery, expect Wade’s production to decrease

“The Flash” seemingly defied Father Time in both the regular season and playoffs, posting 38 points in Game 3 against the Raptors on his way to averaging 21.4 PPG in the postseason and 19.0 PPG in the regular season. Frankly, he exceeded everyone’s expectations, appearing in 70+ games (74 to be exact) for the first time since the 2010-11 season. Despite playing fewer minutes per game (30.5 MPG) last season, his 19.0 PPG matched his average in the 2013-14 season, when he averaged 32.9 MPG.

While Wade will finally have an assist-happy point guard in Rajon Rondo (Goran Dragic is more of a scorer whose game overlapped with Wade's), he may not have the athleticism, burst, or three point shooting ability to fully capitalize on the partnership. Yes, Wade shot 52.2% from behind the arc in the playoffs. However, in last year’s regular season, Wade shot an atrocious 15.9% from three and has never averaged above 32% in his entire career. We’ll assume Wade regresses to his mean as a below-average three-point shooter. Unfortunately, as Wade’s once astounding athleticism dwindles, he will need to rely more on an outside shot—one that so far in his career has been spotty.

Additionally, he will be competing for touches with emerging super-star and alpha dog Jimmy Butler, while Rondo will need the ball in his hands in order to be an effective player. Don’t expect a Wade resurgence. You can't count on the same usage rate he got in Miami, and, sadly, you must also face the reality that his skills will continue to decline -- age always wins.

 

Takeaway #2: Josh Richardson, Tyler Johnson, and Goran Dragic should flourish

With Chris Bosh battling career-threatening blood clots in his lungs and Wade’s departure, a leadership chasm has opened on the Miami Heat. Last year, a relatively productive campaign from Goran Dragic was shrouded in Bosh injury concerns and the emergence of Johnson, Justice Winslow, and Richardson. Dragic averaged 14.1 PPG, 5.8 PAG, and 3.8 RPG—solid fantasy production from an underrated point guard. Now, with Wade gone and Bosh sidelined, Dragic, an 8-year vet, must step up as a leader. Expect a big season from “The Dragon” as he transitions from afterthought to alpha dog. Remember, he is only 3 seasons removed from averaging 20.3 PPG, and he has consistently performed at a higher level in Miami when Wade has sat, due to a massive uptick in usage.

Tyler Johnson was paid, and now he must produce. The Heat were forced to match a 4-year, $50 million (!) contract offer for him when the Nets attempted to steal him away in restricted free agency. Is Johnson unproven? Absolutely. But armed with a big contract and a massive void in the Heat's guard rotation, Johnson is primed to produce. He averaged 8.7 PPG, 2.2 APG, 3.0 RPG last season in 24.0 MPG, but expect his numbers to increase with more experience, playing time, and opportunities to handle the ball.

The emergence of Josh Richardson was a breath of fresh air for Miami Heat fans worried about giving up two first round picks for Goran Dragic. Richardson, a 22 year old taken in the second round out of Tennessee, became a major role player for the Heat by the end of the year, moving past fellow reserve guard Gerald Green.  From February 24th on, he averaged 30.0 minutes a game and shot an amazing .507 including .535 from three, averaging 11.0 points, 2.8 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 1.0 steals, 0.7 blocks, and 0.9 turnovers.  His hot three point shooting died off in the playoffs, but he still hit a well-above average .370 from deep.

He won't hit the same crazy FG% next year, and he does very little as a rebounder and assister.  However, he'll likely start in place of Wade (as Johnson is better suited as a combo guard leading the bench unit), and get a lot more opportunities to shoot the ball.  He'll bring sneaky value in steals and blocks to go with a steady flow of threes, perhaps contending to be a coveted 1/1/1 fantasy producer in the three rare fantasy categories.

 

Takeaway #3: Jimmy Butler will still be a fantasy monster

I can’t pretend to know what is going on in Gar Forman’s mind. The Bulls were on the brink of a potential rebuild when they jettisoned franchise cornerstone Derrick Rose to the New York Knicks and let Joakim Noah and Pau Gasol walk in free agency. Jimmy Butler seemed destined to be traded for various draft picks and role players.

Cue a Gar Forman evil laugh.

Instead of taking the conventional path by retooling his depleted roster through small free agent pickups and draft selections, Forman decided to try to contend, signing Rajon Rondo and Dwyane Wade to two year deals worth $28 million and $47.5 million, respectively.  At least those don't actually qualify as massive overpays in this market.  The addition of Rondo and Wade, both stars past their primes, will certainly make the Bulls’ season interesting.  It remains to be seen if they'll be able to work together, since neither can shoot from deep. However, it will not affect the production of budding superstar Jimmy Butler.

Jimmy Butler averaged 20.9 PPG, 5.3 RPG, and 4.8 APG on 45.4% shooting last season in a breakout campaign for the underwhelming Bulls. He reportedly clashed with Derrick Rose, the superstar of yesteryear, over control of the locker room. To everyone’s relief, Rose was traded for Robin Lopez, Jerian Grant, and a bag of basketballs (damn autocorrect… meant to say Jose Calderon). That left Butler as the sole star, as no one on that roster can dispute Butler’s positive impact on the team. Rondo may try to be a dominant presence in the locker room, but expect Dwyane Wade, who has experience assuaging locker room concerns from his time in Miami, to smooth over all disagreements. Meanwhile, both players said Chicago remains Jimmy Butler’s team.

Look for coach Fred Hoiberg to stagger the minutes of Butler and Wade so they can both get a little bit of alpha-dog along time on the floor, look for Wade to defer to Butler when they share the floor, and look for Rajon Rondo to sling passes Butler's way whenever he gets a chance.  Butler will still get his numbers.

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