The veteran shooting guard reportedly reached a buyout agreement with the Chicago Bulls, and will likely join either the Cleveland Cavaliers, San Antonio Spurs, or Miami Heat, sources told ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski, who added the Oklahoma City Thunder could join the mix as well.
Of the bunch, Wojnarowski noted James and the Cavs are the "clear front-runner" to sign Wade, though he may take some time to decide.
Wade picked up his $23.8-million player option for the upcoming season just days before the team shipped off All-Star Jimmy Butler, signalling a change of direction. Apparently unwilling to waste the last years of his pro career with a rebuilding team, the 35-year-old agreed to give back about $8 million of his salary to part ways from his hometown club.
The three-time champion's list of top suitors is largely indicative of his desire to try to add to his ring count, as Cleveland, San Antonio, and OKC are expected to contend.
The Cavaliers have made three straight Finals appearances and swapped Kyrie Irving for a package centered on Isaiah Thomas and Jae Crowder this offseason. Adding Wade would give Cleveland more veteran leadership, scoring, and playmaking, which should give them a better shot at toppling the mighty Golden State Warriors. Plus, there's the Banana Boat connection of James and Wade, who won two titles together in South Beach.
The allure of the other two organizations is clear, with the Spurs being the Spurs and boasting Kawhi Leonard, LaMarcus Aldridge, and Rudy Gay. Over in OKC, Wade could join the newly assembled Big Three of Russell Westbrook, Paul George, and Carmelo Anthony.
Meanwhile, choosing the Heat figures to be a more sentimental option, since Miami drafted Wade in 2003 and enjoyed success with him over 13 years before his move to the Windy City last summer. Miami would reportedly bring Wade back if he accepted a bench role and $4.3-million deal.
Wade averaged 18.3 points, 4.5 rebounds, 3.8 assists, and 1.4 steals last season for the Bulls, who squeezed into the playoffs as the No. 8 seed.