Can Dwyane Wade recapture some of his former magic?
Wade may be only 31 years old, but his body is essentially 40. This is a guy who has battled persistent, nagging knee injuries over the past couple of years; knee injuries that have become so problematic that he actually had to move his kneecap into place during the 2013 playoffs.
Clearly, the Heat have concerns about Wade's future. His knee issues will obviously affect essentially every aspect of his game, meaning that he may have to make some adjustments. It appears that Wade knows that as well as anybody, considering that he has been working with Michael Jordan's former trainer, Tim Grover.
Hopefully for D-Wade, he can reinvent himself to try and quell some of these biggest potential issues.
Let's get the obvious one out of the way.
Wade has balky knees, and just about every concern the Heat have for the 2-guard will come as a result of said knees.
Wade has endured bone bruises and tendinitis, the latter of which has to be more than a bit perturbing given all of the minutes he has logged over the course of his career.
Wade has played in four NBA Finals and two Olympics (2004 and 2008), meaning that there is plenty of extra mileage on his legs. Because of that, it's no surprise that his knees are beginning to give. Also, it means that these knee problems may not go away. They may linger or even worsen, and that's why D-Wade has to reinvent himself as a player.
You can see it whenever you watch D-Wade these days. He does not have the same explosiveness that made him such a dominant force during his prime, and it's as if he's walking on pins and needles every possession. One awkward landing, and he's grimacing and heading to the bench for treatment. That's why you don't see Wade attacking the basket as fearlessly and relentlessly as he once did; his body is simply no longer capable of handling that kind of physical stress.
Because Wade can't score around the rim as easily as he used to, it may be time for him to start developing a three-point shot, something he has never really possessed over the course of his 10-year career.
From 2008-09 through 2010-11, Wade became quite a bit brazen with his outside shot, taking a combined 727 triples during those three seasons. The result? An efficiency rate of 30.8 percent. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to tell you that that is not very good, and evidently, Wade realized that too. He kicked the habit in 2011-12, and since then, he has only attempted 122 treys, hitting them at a paltry 26.2 percent clip.
That needs to change if Wade wants to prolong his career.
That isn't to say that he needs to become Reggie Miller from beyond the arc, but he needs to at least transform himself into a respectable long-range shooter. If not, then all Wade will really have to depend upon is his mid-range jumper.
If Wade is able to conjure up some sort of a consistent shot from distance, he will not only add another weapon to his arsenal, but defenses will be more apt to play him tighter on the perimeter. That will provide him with a better opportunity to get a step on his defender and have a less-obstructed path to the cup.
It's not like D-Wade has poor form on his jumper, so it's hard to see why he can't at least develop into a decent threat from distance.
With unstable knees comes a loss of quickness, particularly laterally. While that loss of lateral movement may not hurt Wade too much on the offensive end, it could certainly hinder him defensively.
Wade has come to be known as one of the better perimeter defenders in the league. He has always possessed the combination of size, strength and athleticism to stay with anybody on the wing, but now, playing lockdown D may not be so simple for the perennial All-Star.
This is where the rest of the Heat's defense comes into play. Wade will likely need more help now than ever, if not for the fact that he is not as quick as he once was, then for the fact that he needs to pace himself throughout the regular season to conserve energy for the playoffs. The more effort Wade has to exert defensively, the more strain that gets put on his knees, and that could severely hamper Wade in the long run.
Wade will probably still be a serviceable defender regardless, as he has a very high basketball IQ and good instincts. Just don't expect him to have as many highlight-reel blocks as you're used to seeing, nor should you expect him to consistently shut anyone down at this stage. The future Hall of Famer would be better served picking his spots and getting assistance from his teammates.
Endurance isn't just a potential issue because of Wade's knees; it's due to the amount of minutes he has played throughout his career.
You have to wonder just how much Erik Spoelstra is going to have to monitor Wade's playing time the rest of the way. In his prime, he was someone who regularly played 37-39 minutes per game and showed absolutely no signs of slowing down once the playoffs rolled around. That is no longer the case.
The past two seasons, D-Wade has played under 35 minutes a contest, and in the 2012-13 postseason, he averaged 35.5 minutes per game, quite easily a career low. Now, obviously, that is still a fairly solid chunk of floor time, but it's a number that likely will—and should—decrease.
Can Wade's body withstand playing 35 minutes a night 82 games a year anymore? Spoelstra shouldn't want to find out. Instead, he should definitely limit his burn, possibly capping him at about 30 minutes per game. At the very least, Wade would be able to save enough energy to potentially resemble his prime-self in the playoffs.
That being said, given Wade's health at this point, even giving him a ceiling may not be enough to keep him completely afloat come May and June.