After a slow start to the season, has Dwyane Wade bounced back to be better than ever?
At the start of 2013, Dwyane Wade appeared in danger of having permanently lost a step.
For a player like Wade, whose success is largely predicated on his athleticism, that seemed to spell doom for his prospects moving forward.
Fast forward three months later: The Miami Heat are riding a 25-game winning streak and Wade is turning in the most efficient shooting season of his 10-year career.
Now, instead of asking whether Wade will ever be the same player again, the question has become: Is Wade in the midst of a career-best season?
If you consider just his field-goal percentage, then yes, Wade has never been better. He's knocking down a career-high 51.9 percent of his shots this season, after only cracking 50 percent shooting for a season once before.
He's also posting a career-high effective field goal percentage of 52.8 percent, according to Basketball Reference, topping the 52.3 percent he posted back in 2010-11.
Field-goal percentage isn't the only measure of efficiency, however. To assess where Wade's 2012-13 season ranks among his all-time great years, I looked at where he stacked up in nine major statistical categories in each season of his career.
As you'll see below, I ranked Wade's seasons from 1-10 in terms of field-goal percentage, three-point field-goal percentage, free-throw percentage, points per game, total rebound rate (the percentage of available rebounds he grabbed while on the floor), assist rate (the same as total rebound rate, but for assists), steals rate, blocks rate and PER (all stats came from Basketball Reference).
In this case, the lower totals are better. Think of it like golf.
While Wade's field-goal percentage is at an all-time high in 2012-13, he's been comparatively lackluster in a majority of the other statistical categories featured here.
Wade's free-throw shooting percentage of .744 is at an all-time low, he's averaging his fewest points per game (22.2) since his rookie season and he's only knocking down 26.2 percent of his three-point attempts.
He's been strong on the glass and has been his typical ball-hawking self defensively, but it's not enough to hide the warts on this season's resume.
Compare Wade in 2012-13 to the Wade of 2008-09, for instance, when he lead the league in scoring (30.2 points per game) while shooting 49.1 percent from the field. Wade set career highs in three-point shooting percentage (.317), assists (7.5), steals (2.2) and blocks (1.3) per game that season, too.
With rookie Michael Beasley not quite living up to expectations, Wade put the Heat's fortunes squarely on his shoulders, guided the team to a 43-39 record (the third best in the Eastern Conference that year) and finished the regular season with a PER of 30.4. The 2008-09 season marked the only year in which Wade posted a PER above 30.
No matter how you cut it—per-game stats, advanced stats or the good old-fashioned "eye test"—the Wade of 2008-09 had a better season than this year's version. You can thank Wade's rocky start to the 2012-13 season for that.
I wanted to go one step further, though, to see where the Wade of the past few months would fall. While the early-season version of Wade brought his season stats down from legendary status, he's been simply phenomenal since the start of the Heat's win streak in February.
According to NBA.com/stats, Wade is averaging 22.6 points, 5.7 rebounds, 5.7 assists, 2.4 steals and 0.8 blocks per game since Feb. 1, the last time the Heat lost. He shot 53.2 percent from the field and 74.3 percent from the free-throw line during those 25 games, but only 11.1 percent from three-point range.
When you compare his per-game and advanced stats from this streak to those from seasons past, this year's version of Wade still doesn't quite stack up. His 2008-09 per-game averages of 30.2 points and 7.5 assists trump the 22.6 points and 5.7 assists per game he's managed during the Heat's 25-game streak.
His 5.7 rebounds and 2.4 steals per game during the streak would exceed his 2008-09 season totals of 5.0 rebounds and 2.2 steals per game, however.
Ultimately, Wade's slow start to the 2012-13 season prevents this from being the best season of his career, statistically speaking.
With the Heat riding the second-longest winning streak in NBA history and looking like a championship favorite, here's guessing that Wade wouldn't care one bit about where this season ranks among his best.