If Dwyane Wade Is in Decline, Show Me Where to Sign Up
Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
In a season that began with suggestions that Wade is starting to lose his athletic ability, the 31-year-old has responded by shooting better than he ever has from the field.
While he may not be finishing with the same explosion as he did at 25, Wade is driving this career-best field-goal percentage by converting 74.7 percent of his shots at the rim, according to Hoopdata.com.
The net result has been a league-best record of 60-16 for Miami through Monday, and a No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference that was clinched way back on March 29.
So while Wade may not return from a right knee injury until the playoffs begin—as Michael Wallace of ESPN.com reported on Monday—he has earned that opportunity to rest by the work he's already put in.
When he does step onto the postseason floor, Wade's maturing game will continue to combine with both James and Bosh to make Miami's Big Three more effective than they ever have been together.
Each of Miami's Big Three have all sacrificed scoring for the greater good
To simply suggest that the decline in Wade's scoring output is indicative of diminishing skills drastically overlooks what has actually developed with the Miami Heat in 2012-13.
LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Wade have now blended their talents to form the most cohesive unit we've seen since the Big Three joined forces during the summer of 2010.
In an attempt to play a team-oriented brand of winning basketball, none of the Heat superstars are scoring with the frequency they once did.
At 21.3 and 16.7 points respectively, both Wade and Bosh have posted their lowest scoring average since breaking into the league as rookies. The 26.9 points that James has averaged, on his way to a fourth MVP, is also the third-lowest total of his 10-year career.
The Heat have improved their winning percentage collectively to .789 along the way, as compared to .697 in 2011-12 and .707 in '10-11.
Wade is shooting better than he ever has from the floor in 2012-13
Wade has never shot above 50 percent from the floor until this season.
More importantly, he has achieved this career-best mark of 52.1 percent while Bosh and James have also enjoyed career years shooting the basketball alongside him.
Though his game may be changing, Wade remains among the most effective scoring weapons in the NBA. This level of increasing efficiency suggests as much, while directly refuting the notion that Wade is on the decline.
Dwyane Wade has quietly improved his effectiveness on shots at the rim
He might not be finishing with the same electricity he did six years ago, but Wade is still getting to the basket whenever he wants.
Two of those points came on this play, where he navigated through a Pacers defense that leads the league in opponent field goal percentage at 41.7.
Though he didn't dunk, he did help himself improve to 74.7 percent on shots at the rim this season as compared to a 66 percent rate in 2011-12.
Resting Wade's 31-year-old body at this point is luxury of winning
Listed as day-to-day since re-aggravating his knee on March 29, only Wade truly knows if he could play right now.
What we have all known for a couple weeks, however, is that he simply doesn't need to.
The Heat's magic number to clinch the NBA's top overall seed is now down to two, and any combination of a San Antonio Spurs loss and Heat win equaling two will earn that spot for Miami.
The Spurs begin their first of five remaining games on Wednesday and the Heat play six more starting on Tuesday. Chances are good that Miami can accomplish this last regular season goal while resting Wade for the playoffs.
When the Heat's quest for that ultimate goal begins in earnest, chances are also good that Wade will be ready to do what he's always done throughout his career.
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