As has been the case for most of Wade’s career, people are doubting him. With Wade approaching 31-years-old and in his 10th season in the league, analysts and fans alike are ready to write off the former Finals MVP and league-scoring champ.
While I personally feel it’s quite ludicrous to write off a guy who is just one of 12 players in the NBA currently averaging 20 or more points and who showcased his explosiveness against the Pacers in the playoffs not seven months ago, people will look to his uneven play this year as a sign of his decline.
Wade is averaging career lows in assists, rebounds and steals and his 20.2 points per game average are the worst since his rookie season. Not to mention, he is coming off the third knee surgery of his career.
With that in mind, it’s natural to see why people are saying his best days are behind him.
Although I believe Wade is still truly an elite player and can rip off a 30 or 40-point performance on any given night, at 30-years-old, there is no doubt he needs to transform his game if he wants to remain at a high level.
Here is how Wade can reinvent himself to remain a NBA superstar.
Develop a Real Three-Point Shot
Dwyane Wade has never been a good three-point shooter. His highest mark from beyond the arc was in 2008-09 when he shot 31.7 percent. Wade is a career 29.1 percent shooter from the perimeter.
After nine-plus seasons in the NBA, Wade has developed a very well-rounded game. He’s been an excellent finisher at the rim, rebounds and passes superbly and plays exceptional defense against players of all positions.
The primary aspect of his game that he’s lacked is the long ball. Superstars with similar games to Wade, such as Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant, have set the blueprint for prolonging their careers by adding the three-point dimension to their repertoires.
Jordan, who played 15 seasons in the NBA, and Bryant, who is in his 17th season, added the perimeter game in order to extend their time in the league. While both of them played above the rim for the first part of their careers, they learned to play below it to remain stars.
Wade has relied heavily on his high-flying abilities and freakish athleticism to be a top-5 player in the league year in and year out. However, being on the wrong side of 30 and suffering multiple knee injuries, it is fair to say Wade isn’t as athletic as he once was and doesn’t have the same explosiveness.
Of course, he can still finish at the rim very effectively and throw down some fierce dunks, but we won’t be seeing those poster-worthy slams from him as he continues to age.
It’s time he develops a consistent three-point shot. With LeBron James acting as the team’s primary slasher and Chris Bosh being both a post up and jump shooting threat, Wade could wreak havoc if defenders had to worry about him knocking down the long ball.
The three-point shot would keep Wade’s stats on an All-Star level and allow him to have a much more balanced offensive game.
Improve His 16-23 Foot Jumper
Dwyane Wade’s strength is around the rim, as well as his shot from the 10-15 foot area, but his numbers began to fall off in the 16-23 foot range.
While we all know he makes a living with his pump fake jump shot move from just in front of the perimeter, he doesn’t consistently knock down baskets in that range. According to HoopData, Wade has only shot above 38 percent from 16-23 feet just twice in the last seven years (including this season).
Wade depends on his shot from 3-9 feet, where he has shot an average of nearly 50 percent over the last seven seasons.
As Wade gets older and his athleticism starts to disintegrate, he won’t be nearly as successful around the basket. A better shot from both the perimeter and right around it will certainly help prolong his career.
This season, Wade is averaging 42 percent from 16-23 feet, which is an improvement, but he is still living at the rim, where he is making 77 percent of his field goals this year.
That will work for now, but as we’ve begun to witness, Wade doesn’t always win the battle at the basket anymore.
Player Better Without the Ball
Dwyane Wade could lengthen his career if he learns to play without the ball.
Wade has always been a ball-dominant player, where the offense runs through him exclusively. With the Miami Heat bringing in an equally ball-dominant player in LeBron James, Wade hasn’t had the ball in his hands nearly as much as he used to.
So, Wade could benefit from incorporating off-the-ball movement to his game. Richard Hamilton and Ray Allen are examples of players that have been very successful at making plays happen by moving effectively without the ball.
Wade could learn a thing or two from Allen, whose offseason conditioning regimen allows him to have the energy to run all around the court and away from defenders in order to get free for open jumpers.
Wade tends to stand around the perimeter when James is acting as point guard. Instead, Wade could use his speed to run around defenders and have teammates to set him picks in order to get open jumpers.
If Wade integrated the long ball, moving without the ball would be even more helpful to his game and make his shot that much more dangerous.
As Wade enters his twilight years, expanding his shot range and moving without the ball will be very valuable in maintaining his status as a NBA superstar.