Why the NBA Has Brushed off Dwyane Wade Way Too Early
You would think Dwyane Wade's clout might endure a bit better than this. After slogging through a below-average (for him) playoffs en route to a championship, Wade has fallen down to No. 8 in ESPN's NBA Player Rankings. This after a season in which the off-guard tumbled down to third-team All-NBA—an explainable decline, given that he had missed 16 games and his minutes had been cut some.
But it was surprising to see Wade ranked below, say, Kobe Bryant, a player who posted lesser efficiency numbers and hasn't been past the second round of the playoffs these past two seasons. The Heat are probably smart to give Wade abbreviated playing time, as he is injury-prone, but we can chalk up his No. 8 standing to the decrease in status that comes with Ginobilification.
Simply put, despite being third among all players in PER, Wade will find credit hard to come by at 33 minutes per night.
I believe that we over-adjust for the difference between a 37-minute-per-night starter and guys whose per-game totals hover around the low 30s. It feels much like the gap between "starter" and "bench," a distinction that prevents James Harden (or anyone, for that matter) from getting an All-Star spot to go along with his Sixth Man award.
Wade's status was eroded by another phenomenon last year, though: LeBron James became unanimously recognized as his team's best player. Some of this was attributable to the career-best shooting efficiency James claimed, but it was also how LeBron did it. He plied his trade in the post, just as critics and admirers alike had been asking him to do for years.
James could not get that recognition without playoffs (and ultimately NBA Finals) success, though. With the season on the brink, James offered his greatest-ever performance against Boston as Wade struggled on the periphery of history.
Then, in the Finals, LeBron easily claimed MVP. The story of redemption revolved around James. Wade had already won a title, after all. Also, the entire country had not loathed Wade at one point.
A year ago, our last memory of D-Wade was of the best player in the 2011 Finals. The triumph was Dirk's to savor, but Nowitzki's best work had come in the preceding rounds. It was not a ludicrous notion to believe that Wade was the best player on his team, if not the league.
LeBron's coronation has rendered Wade less relevant. The knee issues, followed by knee surgery, disappeared Wade from an Olympic showing as James claimed another award in a banner year. It has caused many to doubt Wade's durability.
I'm not of that camp so much, or at least, I believe that rumors of Wade's demise have been greatly exaggerated. Even if Wade declines a little, he's doing so from a high place. Wade has been Top Three in PER these past four seasons.
While I understand why many are ready to accept D-Wade's drop-off, I would remind them that he's merely 30 years old. The guy's a shooting guard, not a running back. Michael Jordan won three titles after age 30, and Kobe Bryant has won two.
There's a reasonable expectation that Wade will continue to be himself for around three more seasons. This means that Dwyane Wade will continue to be one of the league's best players.
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