Would a Third NBA Title Make Dwyane Wade Third-Best Shooting Guard of All Time?

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Would a Third NBA Title Make Dwyane Wade Third-Best Shooting Guard of All Time?
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

While talk surrounding the legacy of LeBron James ramps up with each passing playoff game, it's important to remember that Dwyane Wade's got plenty riding on an NBA Finals matchup with the San Antonio Spurs

Wade and the Miami Heat are seeking their third NBA title since 2006, and it was the shooting guard's arrival in 2003 that signaled a paradigm shift down on South Beach. 

The Heat missed the playoffs in the two years prior to Wade's arrival, but have only failed to qualify once since the Marquette product started donning red and black. 

Of late, it's been common practice to bash Wade for his lack of productivity. Granted, some of the criticism has been warranted, as the nine-time All-Star has averaged 14.3 points (on 44.8 percent shooting), 4.8 rebounds and 4.7 assists per game during the 2013 postseason. 

And, as is often the case in the sports world, shortsightedness has reigned supreme. Wade is now slowly fading out of his prime, and has been criticized for lackluster play in a supporting role. 

However, it's important to remember that while Wade may be slowly declining, his glory years were awe-inspiring. 

Wade averaged 24 points per game or more every season from 2004-05 to 2010-11, and he hasn't averaged fewer than 20 points since his rookie season (16.2 points per game). 

In addition, Wade won the league's scoring title in 2008-09, averaging 30.2 points per game on 49.1 percent shooting. 

But that's not all. For his career, Wade is averaging 24.7 points, 6.1 assists, 5.1 rebounds, 1.8 steals and one block per game. 

According to Basketball-Reference, Wade is one of seven players to post those totals for a single season, and he's done so three times. The other members of that exclusive club? LeBron James (nine times), Larry Bird (five times), Michael Jordan (three times), Rick Barry (two times), Clyde Drexler (once) and Gary Payton (once). 

There's little debating at this point that Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant are the two greatest shooting guards the NBA has ever seen. 

But after those two legendary names, there remains a murky gray area. 

Wade has stout competition for the coveted third spot, and it comes primarily from Jerry West and George Gervin. Cases could be made for the likes of Drexler, Reggie Miller, Allen Iverson and Earl Monroe, but for the sake of this argument, we'll stick to West and Gervin

 

Scoring 

Wade's scoring numbers have been nothing to sneer at. The aforementioned 24.7 points per game solidify Wade as a legit scorer, and what's notable are the innovative routes he's taken to rack up points. 

What helps Wade's cause are his unique athleticism and top-notch scoring instincts, which have earned him the label as one of the game's most creative shot-makers. 

From a pure scoring perspective, however, West and Gervin give Wade a run for his money. 

The Logo averaged 30 points per game or more four times over the course of his career, and averaged 20 points or more in 13 of his 14 seasons, all with the Los Angeles Lakers

However, West was not as nearly as efficient a player as Wade has been to this point. For his career, Wade is shooting 48.9 percent from the floor, a superior mark to West's 47.4 percent. 

Another point of emphasis is that Wade's career PER is sitting at a robust 25.5, while West's is slightly lower at 22.9. 

Then there's Gervin.

One of the most skilled scorers the game has ever seen, Gervin tops both Wade and West in terms of raw scoring ability. 

Gervin won four scoring titles over the course of his career, and along with Jordan, Iverson and Wilt Chamberlain, is the only player in league history to have compiled at least four. 

Gervin's career scoring average in the NBA settled at 26.2 points per game, more than two points per game better than the mark Wade has posted to date. 

It should also be noted that Gervin shot a stronger 51.1 percent from the field, which reaffirms the belief that his shooting and scoring abilities are superior to those of Wade and West. 

 

Championships

When talking titles, Wade is ahead of the pack. Wade already has two rings and a Finals MVP to his name, and is on the cusp of a third should the Heat knock off the Spurs.  

While it will be argued that Wade transformed into a second option upon James' arrival, he's thrived in a role that would take many superstars serious time to adjust to. For that, he should be commended. 

Conversely, West captured only one championship during his tenure in Los Angeles, doing so with the famed 1972 Lakers. 

Gervin was showered with personal accolades, but was never able to secure an NBA or ABA title. In fact, the Iceman never made an appearance in the finals over his 13 professional seasons with the Virginia Squires, San Antonio Spurs and Chicago Bulls

The primary determinant when it comes to evaluating prosperity at the pro level, Wade has a clear edge in the championship department. 

 

Conclusion

Wade may not be the most pure shooting guard to ever play the position, but he's one of the rare individuals who's been able to redefine what being a 2-guard encompasses. 

It's inevitable that West will go down in NBA lore as a more prominent figure, particularly because his smooth left-handed dribble is immortalized as the league's logo. 

But, there's no denying that Flash has entered immortal territory with his dominant play on both sides of the ball over the last decade. Aesthetically and statistically, there are few players whose games are comparable to Wade's in his prime. 

While criticism has bombarded him from all angles lately, Wade's place in history as the third-greatest shooting guard ever will be cemented with a third title. 

Note: All statistics courtesy of Basketball-Reference unless noted otherwise. 

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