What started as a noticeable decline in his level of play during the semifinal round of the Eastern Conference playoffs last year against the Indiana Pacers has carried over into this season as one of its more hotly contested debates.
Whether it be through criticism from the reputably frank Charles Barkley or Monta Ellis recently stating he is just as good as Wade, the poignant question we've all been wrestling with for some time now is this: Is Dwyane Wade still a superstar?
Between lingering health issues, decreased minutes, his decision to permanently defer to LeBron James and adjustments he's made to his game to accommodate the aging process, dominance isn't exactly the first word that comes to mind when Wade's name is now brought up.
Instead, we have come to wonder aloud how much of his current popularity is due to a reputation primarily built off of his past and an increased visibility, the success of which is arguably more attributable to his teammate(s).
There is really no better platform to measure this argument on than the looming All-Star Game, an event that, on one level, is intended to validate the game's greatest players while also doubling as a source of gratitude for its fans in the form of a popularity contest.
As a result, we can already pencil in Wade for another starting nod.
But on the lone basis of validation, would we be so quick to say his play has merited a ninth consecutive All-Star bid?
Let's take a look at both sides of the argument.
Why He Doesn't
1. His numbers are on the decline.
Thanks to John Hollinger, the most objective way we have of measuring a player's overall level of production on the court is through their player efficiency rating.
Currently, Wade's P.E.R. is at plus-22.58, which is ranked 11th in the league. That means there are 10 other players in the league with a better efficiency rating than Wade.
So, even if you want to excuse his drop in points to his reduction of FG attempts per game (he's averaging 15.4 a game), clearly he hasn't been able to compensate through other areas of his game.
As such, it becomes more explainable why LeBron leads the team in points, rebounds and assists despite playing alongside another "superstar" on his team.
Yet we're left at a loss for words as to why someone with the 11th-best efficiency ranking would undeniably merit a spot on the All-Star team, much less among the starting 10 best players of the league.
2. He's looked subpar in losses.
Wade has played in only 26 of Miami's 30 games this season. In 19 of its wins, he averaged 22.7 points on .54 FG percentage shooting. But in seven of its eight losses, he averaged 14.7 points on .40 FG percentage shooting.
In other words, when the Heat have been at its weakest this season, he's always been part of the problem.
Meanwhile, they've only lost one of the four games he's missed, a stat that is much more incriminating when you consider how successful Miami was last year without Wade in the lineup.
Perhaps that has something to do with his inconsistency.
3. His ego has become a liability.
And while he recently acknowledged that being angry helps him channel some of the lost athleticism he used to have, we often see it in a more unflattering light, such as arguing for calls with refs while his team is left reeling on the defensive end.
Recently, though, the conversation on Wade's star-laden temper tantrums have manifested in a much grimmer way.
From barking at his coach during last year's playoffs to being accused of committing dirty plays, it may be for the greater good of Wade, the Heat and the league if his ego was brought back to Earth for a day.
Why He Does
1. His numbers are still better than his competition.
The only other two shooting guards worthy of an All-Star bid in the Eastern Conference are Paul George and Monta Ellis.
Then, when you get past the on-court production and simply compare resumes, it's really no contest.
Wade is an NBA Finals MVP, 2009 scoring champion, two-time NBA champion, 2006 Sportsman of the Year and a two-time member of the all-NBA team.
And beyond a 2007 Most Improved Player award by Ellis, both have yet to even add an All-Star nod to their credentials.
2. Wade's perseverance continues to transcend his flaws.
When Wade first stepped into the league, teams could only hope to contain him by giving him space to shoot the outside jumper, the only perceived weakness in his game at the time.
He also has been working with a shooting coach to ensure that the percentage continues to rise.
In short, Wade has always done whatever was needed to persevere and take his success to the next level, a mindset he was just as willing to showcase regarding his personal life over the summer as he has all these years on a basketball court.
People, much less fans, respond to that kind of perseverance.
At the end of the day, the best way to stop them from talking about you in December and January is to have them continue talking about you in late May and June.
And whether you like him or not, they usually do.
Although a 2006-2009 version of Dwyane is far more deserving of an All-Star bid than the one we see now, he still is head and shoulders above the other shooting guards in the Eastern Conference.
Furthermore, he has made it a staple of his career to torment those foolish enough not to give him the benefit of the doubt.
Maybe it's time we stopped judging this book by its cover.
He is an author, after all.
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