Is Dwyane Wade Still in His Prime?

Roy BurtonContributor IJanuary 28, 2013

MIAMI, FL - JANUARY 23:  Dwyane Wade #3 of the Miami Heat looks on during a game against the Toronto Raptors at American Airlines Arena on January 23, 2013 in Miami, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Dwyane Wade is the best shooting guard in the world whose name isn't Kobe Bryant.

Furthermore, not only is Wade a perennial All-Star, but he's also one of the 10 premier talents in the NBA—even at the age of 31.

However, is it fair to say that D-Wade is past his prime?

This much is certain: The days of Wade averaging 24 points per game—which he did for seven consecutive seasons earlier in his career—are over. Contrary to popular opinion, though, Wade's decision to scale back his offensive output is more so by choice than anything else.

Yes, the 6'4" guard has nagging injuries that have tarnished his "Flash" moniker quite a bit, but Wade's scoring average is down primarily because he takes fewer shots, thanks in large part to the presence of both LeBron James and Chris Bosh.

If Wade averaged the 19-20 attempts that he did in his prime, and if he made more of a point to attack the basket, he could easily put up 25 points per game. Wade still has one of the best Euro steps in the game today, and once he gets past his defender, his body control at the rim is phenomenal for a player of his size.

Miami is so reliant on Wade to be the Robin to James' Batman that it only makes sense for Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra to limit Wade's minutes whenever possible. If Wade is completely run down by the postseason, any chance that Miami has at a repeat goes right out of the window.

Over the past year-and-a-half, Wade is averaging just a shade over 33 minutes per game, and as one would expect, his production has fallen off a bit.

Lost in the midst of James' incredible season is the fact that Wade still has his fair share of moments. His 29-point, five-rebound, seven-assist performance against the Detroit Pistons on Jan. 25—a game that included a 17-point second-quarter outburst—was filled with flashbacks of D-Wade circa 2006. And that contest came just two days after a 35-point showing against the Toronto Raptors.

From all accounts, it appears as though the nine-year veteran is finally beginning to regain his legs from offseason knee surgery.

"I'm just getting healthier," Wade told the Associated Press (h/t USA Today) following the win over the Pistons. "I feel in a lot better shape than I was early in the year."

January has been a banner month for the Miami shooting guard. His monthly Offensive Rating (110.6) and Defensive Rating (96.6) are both at season highs and his assist-to-turnover ratio since the start of the New Year is a sparkling 2.07-to-1.

Because he has made it a point to be more judicious with his shot selection, his effective field-goal percentage of 52.0 percent is the highest mark of his career. Wade and James compete against each other every night to see who can shoot 50 percent from the floor and both players obsess over the box score in the locker room after games.

"We're both so conscious of wanting to shoot 50 percent, that sometimes you wish you had that Kobe (Bryant) thought, where you just don't care," said Wade while speaking to Ethan J. Skolnick of The Palm Beach Post. "It sucks at times, but it's who we are."

Who is Dwyane Wade? Well, he happens to be an elite player who is just a few Euro steps shy from his prime. It's amazing to think that someone who is averaging 20.7 PPG, 4.6 RPG and 4.6 APG on 50.8 percent shooting is on the downside of his career, but that's the case in Wade's World these days.

While his prime may be in the rear-view mirror, Wade is still better than the overwhelming majority of his peers and remains a must-see attraction any time the Miami Heat take the court.