LeBron James' Dominance Is Masking Dwyane Wade's Greatness

Bryan Toporek@@btoporekFeatured ColumnistFebruary 21, 2013

MIAMI, FL - FEBRUARY 10: Dwyane Wade #3 and LeBron James #6 of the Miami Heat high five during a game against the Los Angeles Lakers at American Airlines Arena on February 10, 2013 in Miami, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Don't let LeBron James' dominance in the 2012-13 NBA season fool you: The Miami Heat remain much more than a one-man show. James may be drawing all of the headlines with his recent play, but Dwyane Wade has quietly been having a very strong year in Miami as well.

There's no faulting anyone who temporarily forgot about Wade. LeBron has been brilliant since the start of February, becoming the first player in NBA history to score at least 30 points and shoot 60 percent from the field in six straight games.

He's now shooting over 56 percent from the field on the season, efficiency that's nearly unprecedented for a high-usage superstar like James. But did you know that Wade is also shooting a career-high 50.5 percent from the field this season?

Wade has floated around the high-40s most years in terms of field-goal percentage, having even reached 50 percent in the first season of Miami's Big Three (he dipped to 49.7 percent in the 2011-12 season).

As a result of his decreased shot attempts (15.6, his lowest since his rookie season), Wade is averaging his fewest points per game (21.0) since his rookie season too.

That doesn't mean Wade hasn't been a major contributor for this season's Heat team, though.

He's one of only three players in the league, along with James and Oklahoma City's Kevin Durant, to be averaging at least 20 points, four rebounds and four assists per game while shooting 50 percent from the field.

Wade recovered from a slow start to the season and is now tied with Carmelo Anthony for seventh in the league in PER (23.8). He's also tied with Anthony for 11th in win shares (6.1).

Offseason surgery on his left knee caused Wade to look rusty at first in 2012-13. He averaged only 17.1 points, 4.8 assists and 4.5 rebounds per game on 46.6 shooting throughout November. 

A 3-of-13 shooting night in a loss to the New York Knicks on Dec. 6 caused NBA legend Charles Barkley to speculate that Wade was "starting to lose his athletic ability" (via to NBA.com). As if he wanted to immediately prove Barkley wrong, Wade stepped it up from there. He scored 26 points on 9-of-12 shooting in a 106-90 win against the New Orleans Hornets on Dec. 8.

Two nights later, he followed that up with another 26-point night on 11-of-13 shooting in a 101-92 win against the Atlanta Hawks. Throughout December, Wade averaged 22.1 points on 15.1 shot attempts per game while shooting 54.7 percent from the field.

He then began elevating the other aspects of his game in 2013.

Through Miami's first eight games of February, Wade averaged 22.3 points, 6.3 rebounds, 6.1 assists, 2.6 steals and 1.4 blocks per game, shooting 48.5 percent on 17 shots per game. He also went from drawing only 4.6 free-throw attempts per game in November to 7.3 per game in February.

It's pretty evident that Wade's knee limited his explosiveness through the first month of the season. With his knee bothering him, he wasn't able to drive to the basket and draw fouls as frequently as he otherwise would. 

In November, Wade attempted only two driving jump shot attempts and 11 driving layup attempts throughout the entire month, according to NBA.com. He relied more upon his fade-away jump shot, draining 5-of-8 of his attempts in November.

It's been an entirely different story in February. Through Miami's first eight games, he already attempted 11 driving jumpers, 13 driving layups and only four fade-away jump shots.

On the year, he's attempting nearly 40 percent of his shots less than five feet away from the basket. The chart below shows Wade's 2012-13 shot distribution, with nearly 50 percent of his attempts coming from close proximity to the basket.

This shot distribution is a good thing if the Heat hope to continue their winning ways.

Can Wade stay healthy and maintain this level of efficiency for the final two months of the season? With James establishing a new peak efficiency of his own, a healthy, productive Wade would give the Heat a one-two punch that no other NBA team could match.

In their third season together, Wade and James seem to have finally developed the on-court synergy that was so clearly missing at times in Year 1 of Miami's Big Three era.

James has dished 74 assists to Wade this season. Wade has paid James back by dishing 74 assists of his own to the reigning MVP (according to NBA.com). That's 20 more than Heat point guard Mario Chalmers has.

It might not be so much that Wade is hitting a new level in his 30s. Instead, it might simply be that he, James and Chris Bosh have only grown more comfortable with each other on the court. The three seem to have a greater understanding than ever of how to maximize each of their strengths.

Want proof? All three are shooting over 50 percent from the field in 2012-13. That's going to make the Heat an awfully tough out in the 2013 playoffs.


Note: All 2012-13 statistics are current through games played on Feb. 19.