Becoming a Shooter Will Prolong Dwayne Wade's Miami Heat Career
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It has nothing to do with character issues or getting along with members of the team. The issue could even be a little more serious.
Dwayne Wade just isn't the same player he was in years past. He's starting to regress and it's taking place at a pretty quick rate.
It's hard to admit, and it's even more frustrating to watch, but it's the truth. Wade is the first big "star" of his draft class and generation to begin his decline.
He was once considered one of the top athletes in the league, but his athleticism is now slightly above average at best. He finds ways to the rim because of how crafty and smart he is, not because of any elite quickness or agility.
To be frank, Wade has lost a step.
We are still presented with plays that make our jaws drop, but there is a much bigger gap of time between them.
It would be dumb to think that Wade is blind to all of this too. He has to know that he's not quite the player that he used to be, so he's starting to do what's best for him.
He has begun to pace himself.
Trying to go all-out for every play will lead to an early retirement and that's probably something that he wants to avoid. Instead, he's resorted to playing a different kind of game, but we'll get to that later on.
So, the big question becomes what can he do to prolong playing at a high level for the rest of his career?
Well, the answer to that question is for him to become a shooter, but it's important to first look at how he got to where he is now.
Being Fun to Watch Can Sometimes Hurt
You can look at any sport for this one. When you repeatedly hit the ground, your body begins to wear down.
Whether it's a football player getting tackled or a hockey player going down to the ice, a body can only take so much.
In Wade's case, we're talking about how his relentless will to get to the rim ends has ended in him falling to the deck.
We've all seen how he does it.
Wade will get the ball on the wing and the Heat will run some sort of isolation set that puts him one-on-one with the defender. The sole purpose of this is for him to beat his defender and to get a good look at a shot.
Wade eventually puts a move on his guy and gets to the rim, only to be met with one or two help defenders.
This is the important part.
He'll pull off a ridiculous-looking Euro-step and evade the defenders, but it forces him to fall onto the ground in what looks like an awkward and uncomfortable way.
He has successfully and unsuccessfully executed these kinds of plays over and over again.
There always seems to be a common result, though: Wade ends up on the ground.
Now, there wasn't much concern about how his body would react to falling so much earlier in his career, but why?
Because it was so much fun to watch!
Only a handful of players can be put alongside his name when it comes to delivering a thrilling and exciting moment. He was full of them.
Still though, as his years of experience went up, so did his number of falls.
Try and think of a player in recent memory that's gone down as much as he has and it's really not easy to do.
Has he been a joy to watch? He absolutely has, but that doesn't mean that the joy didn't come at a cost.
We're Starting to See Him Slow Down This Year
Seeing him slow down is both forced and by choice.
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A 30-year-old sometimes struggles to make the same move that his 24-year-old self would have made because his body is past that point.
Wade also knows that hitting the ground might hurt a bit more at 30 than it did at 24.
The 2012-2013 season has seen Wade take his foot off of the pedal a bit, and it's already showing in his stat lines.
His 4.3 assists and 3.8 rebounds per game are both career lows.
Neither of those categories give a good representation of how a guard has physically slowed down much, so we'll keep going.
Wade has always been known for attacking the basket, but this season he's only averaging 5.7 free-throw attempts per game. A player gets the majority of his free-throw opportunities by being aggressive and driving to the hoop, but he's slowed down in that area.
Both his shot attempts and points per game are at their lowest since his rookie year as well.
You can absolutely credit a portion of those numbers declining to how much better his supporting cast is now, but you can't give them too much credit.
It appears as though his shots aren't coming at the rim, so where are they coming from?
Wade is also settling for more jump shots, a tactic most would consider a necessity at this point since his body cannot withstand the rigors of a perpetual rim-attack as well as it used to.
But while taking 47.7 percent of his shots outside of nine feet (compared to 43.9 last year) seems like a logical solution to preserve his physical well-being, he is connecting on just 35.7 percent of those attempts.
And that's a problem.
Only one conclusion can come from his poor shooting.
Wade needs to get better at it.
There is no point in shooting more perimeter shots if you're going to shoot a low percentage.
Somewhere in Dwayne Wade lies a jump shot. Now's the time for him to find it.
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Wade Wouldn't Be the First Athlete to Transform Into a Shooter
I want to preface this section by saying that Wade is clearly not of the same caliber as Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan, but he can take the same steps as those legends did.
Bryant and Jordan were two of the greatest athletes that ever played the game of basketball and they knew it.
Both made a living by getting to the hoop and dominating the game with their athleticism.
Both also made sure to change up their playing styles at the right time.
If you watched their careers then you saw the transformation take place as they were in their late 20's and early 30's.
Sure, they could still attack the rim, but that wasn't their only weapon.
All of the sudden Jordan developed a scary post game with an unstoppable turn around jump shot. Kobe started becoming a three-point threat and executed the baseline fadeaway better than anyone in the game.
These shots were taking place no closer than 10 feet from the rim and it started to save their bodies. Neither player had to take the constant punishment of going to the basket and it allowed them to prolong their careers in a way that many aren't able to.
Again, Wade isn't on the same level as Bryant and Jordan, but that doesn't mean that he can't replicate what they did.
Where Will He Go from Here?
Is Dwayne Wade actually slowing down or is he still at the top of his game?
It's impossible to know what exactly developing a jump shot will do for Dwayne Wade's career.
You can't accurately forecast a player's future, but one thing is for sure: Wade must become a better shooter if he hopes to maintain his star status and prolong his career with either the Heat or any club that he eventually plays for.
At this point, he is solely responsible for the future of his time in the NBA.
He can continue to slowly back off from being aggressive and struggle with shooting the ball efficiently.
Or he can work on his game and develop the shooting skills necessary to continue being an elite player, even when age has caught up to him.
He certainly has a lot of work to do, but Wade isn't the kind of player to doubt in this situation.
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