Why Dwyane Wade Hasn't Become Overrated
Through 32 games, Wade is on pace to finish with his second-worst scoring season, third-worst rebounding season and worst passing season.
However, those numbers tell far from the full story.
Wade is still very much an elite player.
Wade's total output is down from past years not because he's no longer great, but rather because of new team circumstances.
Due to the addition of Ray Allen this offseason, the 2012-13 Miami Heat feature the best collection of scorers Wade has every played with.
The Heat's need for him to be a prolific scorer has never been lower, which is why he's only taking 14.9 shots per game when his career average is 18.1.
What the Heat do need from Wade is to be efficient when he puts the ball up, and that's exactly what he's done. In fact, Wade is on pace to finish with the highest shooting percentage of his career (50.4 percent).
That's because Wade is playing incredibly smart basketball by picking the right times to attack instead of forcing his shot.
Wade's performance against the Atlanta Hawks in December is just one of the examples from this season in which Wade was able to have a significant impact on the game scoring-wise while not dominating the ball and still setting up his teammates.
Even though Wade is having to once again adjust to a smaller role, as his usage rate has declined for the fourth consecutive season (according to Hoopdata), he's still been the NBA's third-most efficient shooting guard this season with a 22.50 PER.
Also, due to the caliber of his teammates and presumably coach Erik Spoelstra's desire to keep him fresh for the postseason, Wade is only playing 33.2 minutes per game this season.
So, his numbers are understandably declining. But it's not as if Wade is producing far less when on the court compared to years past.
According to Basketball-Reference, Wade is averaging 4.9 rebounds per 36 minutes this season, which matches exactly his per-36-minute career average.
And while his assist numbers this season per 36 minutes fall short of his career average, it's a bit unfair to Wade to compare much of the past with now, considering he had much more distributing responsibility prior to LeBron coming to South Beach.
What would be more indicative of Wade's decline is if he were dishing out fewer assists than he has the previous two seasons with LBJ. Unfortunately for Wade's detractors, though, Wade is averaging 4.7 assists per 36 minutes this year after averaging 4.4 in 2009-10 and 5.0 last season.
Also, Wade's basic statistics ignore his defensive presence. Take a look at how many points the Heat allow per 100 possessions when Wade is on the court compared to when he's not, according to 82games.
Wade is one of the game's premier perimeter defenders, and as the chart suggests, the Heat rely on that ability greatly.
He is once again on pace to finish as the league's top blocking guard, and he displayed that skill particularly well in an early season matchup against the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Take a look at how Wade was able to regroup and block a potentially game-winning shot from Jeremy Pargo.
Still, the desire by many to pronounce Wade as no longer elite remains. To be fair, the reasoning behind that argument is clear.
At age 30, Wade is getting older, so naturally his athletic superiority over his opponents is in decline.
However, he hasn't let it affect his game to the extent many seem to think and is still playing two-way basketball better than almost anyone in the game today. His statistics aren't as flashy as they've been in year's past, so this seems to go unnoticed.
Wade was recently asked if he ever missed being the go-to guy, which is when he was able to log such incredible numbers.
From ESPN's Brian Windhorst:
Before the Heat left on this trip, Wade was asked if he missed the days of taking 20 to 25 shots a game. The days before James and Bosh and being relegated to the third option some nights. Wade's response: "Every day."
Though Wade misses that responsibility, he doesn't act on that feeling. You won't see Wade jacking up shots due to being frustrated with his role. He understands what type of play this team needs from him in order to win.
And that's one of the primary reasons the Heat sit atop the Eastern Conference right now.
Wade deserves a substantial amount of credit for his play this season, not criticism.
No. With how often many seem to want to bury this guy, Wade is underrated.
Note: Statistics are accurate as of January 15.
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