Dwyane Wade's at a career crossroads. His athleticism is clearly in decline, a conclusion based on observation, his reduced minutes, his reduced role and our basic knowledge of the human aging process. Wade's on the wrong side of 30 (is there ever a right side of 30?) and relies on a game that's predicated on the ability to split double-teams and get to the rim.
While it might seem to the casual observer that Dwyane Wade has not evolved much as a basketball player these past two seasons, he appears to be working on his game. According to Israel Gutierrez of ESPN.com, Wade has been working with a shooting coach:
"When I'm missing, I already know how and why I'm missing. I know that I don't have a lot of arc on my shot. So I know that me shooting on the way down is really fighting against the wind. For me, it was just to get somebody to come in, different than what I'm used to, a different voice."
What's intriguing about Wade's shooting coach is that the teacher remains a secret. D-Wade doesn't want to reveal the mystery man or woman until he knows that the methods are working. This is a pretty wise incentive plan if you ask me. Though it sounds like Nixon's secret plan to end the Vietnam War, there is some savvy in only giving publicity if the coach gets you results.
One way for Dwyane Wade to improve on his .291 career three-point percentage (.318 this season) could just be a matter of bad shot avoidance. Wade rarely takes distance shots, but when he does, they tend to be poor attempts. He's not inclined to shoot off-the-catch, even though that tends to yield a higher percentage than pull-up jumpers off the dribble.
Instead, Dwyane Wade hesitates, takes a dribble or two and attempts long bombs off balance and contested. The huge shot he missed in Game 4 of last year's Eastern Conference Finals comes to mind as a prime example. The Heat only needed two points to force another overtime. For some odd reason, Wade dribbled out the clock and slung an errant, ill-fated three:
There's no word on whether the mystery shooting coach will also coach D-Wade on his decisions. Perhaps that will come with age and maturity for the Heat shooting guard.
What we can speculate on is how an improved three-point shot would help Dwyane Wade and the Heat as a whole. D-Wade has found himself increasingly out of place in what Miami strives to do. Erik Spoelstra is constantly preaching the virtues of "space and pace," the idea that a stretched floor is harder for defenses to defend.
With his shaky three-point shooting, Wade—for all his offensive brilliance in other aspects—lets the defense off the hook. When LeBron wants to drive and Dwyane is at the perimeter, Wade's defender is content to sag off and block James' path to the hoop.
This concession was permissible back when Wade could get to the rim at near-will. As he ages, it will be increasingly difficult to involve him on offense. That is, if he fails to get better at the lone, odd, glaring weakness in his game.
The good news for Dwyane Wade is that players tend to get better at shooting as they age. There's still plenty of time for Wade to grow a three-point shot where none existed prior. Jason Kidd used to be "Ason" Kidd on account of his bad long-range shooting. This season, the elder statesman is knocking down an absurd .441 of his three-point tries. Necessity can be the mother of skill development. Look for Wade to get better in some aspects as he gets worse at others.