Dwyane Wade is almost undoubtedly one of the 5 or 6 greatest shooting guards of all-time. He has 3 championships on his resume, a Finals MVP, 12 All-Star appearances and 8 All-NBA team selections. He is probably the Miami Heat's greatest ever player.
But with his wobbly knees and lack of a jump shot, father time has finally caught up to number 3.
Ever since the 2013 championship season, there have been major concerns around Wade's health and how his high energy game would fare as his career prolonged. Ever since around 2012, he hasn't been at his best. He has shown signs of rust, which were largely covered up by LeBron James in his tenure with the Heat. But now that LeBron has left, the winning culture has evaporated and Wade has had to take the reigns of the offense again, those concerns are creeping right back into the spotlight.
Since LeBron's departure, Wade has actually managed to string together a decent run of health. But what he has sacrificed for this health, has been his play.
Wade's game has almost always been about flying to the rim, breaking out into transition, being a defensive menace, chasing blocks and using his 'Flash' like speed and large body for a shooting guard to zoom past and overpower anyone who guards him. In an attempt to conserve his body, Wade has adjusted his game. Something that he should be commended for, not enough veterans do this. Some veterans just don't realize that they can no longer play up to their old standard, using their old ways. A classic example of this is the 2015-16 version of Kobe Bryant.
Wade's game is one that looks out of place in the modern day NBA. He brings Miami's pace down to a mere 96 possessions per game (26th in the league), holds the ball for long stretches at a time (4th in usage percentage) and prefers to execute quirky pull-ups than get on his bike and run, like Erik Spoelstra wants his team to do.
That last point is interesting. Do the Heat actually want to run? I think so. Look at that roster, it's full of guys that are better in a fast paced environment. Goran Dragic, Hassan Whiteside, Amar'e Stoudemire, Justice Winslow just to name a few. You could even throw in Tyler Johnson and second round pick Josh Richardson, who has started to break out in recent games. So yes, this team is built to run. Since the All-Star break, the Heat have actually begun to embrace this style of play. They have bumped their pace up to 100 possessions per game and it has proved successful. Miami have been on a tear recently, winning 6 of their last 8, coming to within a game of the third seed. They have stated to the media that they adjusted due to the absence of Chris Bosh. But this type of play can't stop once Bosh re-enters the lineup. Bosh is another who likes the faced paced environment. Just remember that the Heat won championships pushing the pace with a small ball lineup, consisting of Bosh at center. To be successful, they cannot go back to their old ways.
To me, Wade holds this team back from that style. As mentioned, he loves pulling off weird veteran moves, instead of running a spread pick and roll, he'll weave his way down the lane before dribbling back out for a contested 18 footer.
He holds this team back from what they need to become. Many have laughed off the Goran Dragic, 5 year, $90 million deal he signed last year as Dragic's play hasn't lived up to the money thus far, with only 13 points and 5 assists. Many Miami fans have flirted with the idea of trading away Dragic for cap space. But a deeper dive into the numbers reveals that Dragic is one of the Heat's most important, most effective players, with a net rating of +8.2 per 100 possessions. Compare this to his backcourt mate Wade, who has a -6.2 net rating. That is quite some contrast, especially when you consider that of the 1800 minutes Dragic has played this year, Wade has played in two thirds of them. Meaning, in the 600 minutes without Wade, Dragic must make up the 14 point gap in net rating. Proving, once and for all, that a Dragic controlled offense is better for the Heat.
With Dragic in the lineup, the Heat look like a more conservative version of the 2013-14 Suns, but with more talent. An extremely exciting team that was the definition of a pace and space team, completely based around Goran Dragic and spread pick and roll action. Dragic running down hill with Hassan Whiteside rolling to the basket, Chris Bosh, Justice Winslow and Joe Johnson spotting up around him his truly frightening. Dragic is the type of player that can do anything in that situation, he can get straight to the rim, pull up for a Slovenian jumper or dish to any of the multiple, talented options around him.
With Wade on the court, he demands the ball, once again, he is fourth in the league in usage rate. Dragic barely touches the ball when Wade is on the floor, he is reduced to a below average spot up shooter. Wade's defendants will argue that Wade can do the same stuff as Dragic in pick and roll and that Dragic is just more suited to the off-ball role than the comically bad three point shooter that Wade is. Firstly, I have a solution for Dwyane Wade's poor three point shooting at the end of the article, that may or may not be in the headline and secondly, it would be great if Wade attacked more through pick and roll like Dragic. Absolutely fantastic! However, if you believe this, you clearly have missed my points with this article. Wade doesn't want to do this anymore, he wants to conserve his deteriorating body and if he can do this, why hasn't he done it yet?
For those of you that will say that Wade runs enough pick and roll, he runs it just 34% of the time and is not effective at it in any form, ranking in the 69th (haha...) percentile, which isn't anything spectacular. If he runs it enough, why doesn't Hassan Whiteside do this more than 19% of the time? Outside of an average hook shot, there is nothing else Whiteside can do offensively. Why not involve him and make him a rim-running threat, just like Detroit does with Andre Drummond, allow him to be apart of the offense, using his athletic, large body as a lob threat. Use that threat to open up the rest of the floor! If it works for Stan van Gundy, with a similar player, it should work for you.
So what's the solution? The Heat aren't going to trade Wade and they shouldn't. As much as I've slagged off Wade in this article, he is far too talented, far too big a piece of this franchise and far too big a chip to throw out in the free agency recruitment period to give up. Plus, the only teams that could use Wade are title contenders with next to no assets, so you would basically be giving up your franchise's greatest ever player for two dimes on the dollar. I believe there is a perfect place and a way to use Wade's services in a more effective way. I believe that place is to use him as your sixth man.
I can already hear that weird Dwyane Wade shrine/temple blog yelling in my ear that THIS IS THE MOST DISRESPECTFUL PIECE OF BULLSHIT I HAVE EVER READ, but he doesn't even have to lose any minutes for this to have my desired effect.
All you need to do is to stagger Wade and Dragic's minutes. The easy way to describe the Heat's problem in the backcourt is that they have two guys that need the ball in their hands to be effective at the same time. It was the same problem I had with the Ty Lawson trade to Houston. The less time these two spend with eachother, the better. So, insert a spot up shooter next to Dragic in the starting lineup (hell, that could even be Joe Johnson) and you really have something. Now, you can run just like they have been since the All-Star break, with spread pick and rolls galore. Every play could be initiated with Hassan Whiteside giving a ball screen to Dragic and letting the magic unfold from there. You then have Dragic running down hill, a spot up shooter getting an open three, Hassan Whiteside getting lobs, whoever you run at small forward getting an open look and Chris Bosh doing whatever he wants to do too.
If Wade wants to extend his career even further, this is the ideal way to do it. Have him rest his wobbly knees on the bench, coming in for short spurts when Dragic is out of the game and giving his all for 20 minutes a night. This could help extend his career by another 2 or 3 years if it goes to plan. It also opens up the thought of saving Wade for the playoffs. Hell, if you felt like it, after resting Wade for 82 games, you could throw him back in the starting lineup come playoff time, just so you know he'll be fresh.
This is something Miami have to at least consider. Not necessarily implement, I may be wrong, I have been known to be wrong, but at least give it a long thought coach Spoelstra.