Dwyane Wade's Scoring Doesn't Mean His Doubters Are Wrong

Josh BenjaminCorrespondent IDecember 14, 2012

MIAMI, FL - DECEMBER 10: Dwyane Wade #3 of the Miami Heat greets the crowd during a game against the Atlanta Hawks at American Airlines Arena on December 10, 2012 in Miami, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

There is no doubt that this season has been something of an off-year for Miami Heat guard and leader Dwyane Wade.

He doesn't seem to be demanding the ball as much, thus the drop in scoring, and his defense has not been as pesky as usual.

Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News went so far as to compare the eight-time All-Star to a subway turnstile, regarding his defensive game.

Now, before we go any further, let's have a look at Wade's stats on the season.

Through 17 games played, he is averaging 19.8 points and just 3.8 rebounds per game, to go with 1.2 steals. For a shooting guard, those are not bad numbers at all.

However, his scoring is the lowest since his rookie year—when he averaged 16.2 points—and his rebounding and steals are also career lows.

As was mentioned before, these numbers are not at all bad. Just the same, they are low enough to lend Wade's doubters credibility.

Figuring out why Wade's numbers have dropped this season is also puzzling. In watching him, it's hard to tell what exactly the issue is. It could very well be that he wants to save energy for the stretch run.

Wade has two fine teammates in LeBron James and Chris Bosh—not to mention others in Ray Allen and Shane Battier—and it isn't worth playing too hard and getting seriously injured when Miami is already so talented and in contention.

If not that, perhaps Wade is already masking some sort of injury (such as his previously injured left foot).

This would explain why he's moving slower and not his usual explosive self. Maybe he's just being the ultimate team player in fighting the pain and doing the best that he can. Wade is too young at just 30 years old to already be on such a hard decline, so a lingering pain could easily be the reason for his drop in production.

Unfortunately, fans, that is not the case. As much as I hate to admit it, Wade's slowdown this year is for one reason and one alone: The man has gotten too comfortable having LeBron James as a teammate.

Look at it this way—Wade is attempting just 15 shots per game this season, whereas James has attempted just under 19. Wade has clearly let James take over as team leader, which would thus explain why he is not demanding the ball as often as he did before.

It would be hard to blame Wade if this were indeed the case.

James is the ultimate superstar, who can do it all—from scoring to rebounding to passing to playing great defense. If you had that type of teammate, wouldn't you be inclined to let him be in charge?

Regardless of why Wade's production has dropped, he needs to turn things around immediately. Miami has already been blown out by the rival New York Knicks twice this season, and it has even lost to the lowly Washington Wizards.

The Heat are tied for second place in the Eastern Conference with the Atlanta Hawks, a team that has played some great basketball of late and are a true threat to win the Southeast Division this season.

The tide can shift in Miami's favor, however, if Wade can find his old luster and share leadership duties with James, as opposed to just ceding them to him.

Yes, this approach may have helped during a playoff run, but the Heat need their other star over the course of the regular season as well, so that the team can consistently be at or near the top of the standings.

Wade must dig deep and rekindle his desire to be great—then the Heat can start playing like the defending champions that they are. They look like an even better team than last year, and Miami needs its star guard to help lead the pack.

Otherwise, they are just a bunch of talent on paper, one with a guard seemingly on the decline. And, as a result, Wade will have proved his doubters to be right.