Coming off a 2012-13 campaign during which he battled persistent knee injuries for the second straight season, Wade has reached a point where he may need to reinvent himself.
The days of No. 3 getting to the basket at will and finishing with ease seem to be over. Wade's body just cannot handle that sort of excessive stress any longer.
That's why Wade needs to work on some things in training camp.
It's not that the 31-year-old isn't still productive. He averaged 21.2 points per game last year and shot a career-high 52.1 percent from the floor. However, those numbers dwindled during the playoffs, when Wade's knees really started barking. He posted 15.9 points per game off 45.7 percent shooting and tallied an ugly effective field-goal percentage of 45.7 percent. He also averaged only .108 win shares per 48 minutes, well below his lifetime postseason mark of .171.
Obviously, Wade is going to need to conserve some energy this time around. In a rapidly improving Eastern Conference, the Heat can't expect to win another championship with their 2-guard putting forth lackluster performances in the playoffs.
D-Wade will need to make some adjustments.
1. Develop a Consistent Three-Point Jump Shot
The main thing Wade must do to compensate for his loss of explosiveness is develop a three-point jump shot.
Sounds simple enough, right?
Well, it's easier said than done, even if the future Hall of Famer recently said to Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald that he wants to be able to "become Mike Miller and shoot a lot of threes."
Dwyane has tried integrating the three-pointer into his arsenal in the past with virtually no success.
As you can see, between 2008-09 and 2010-11, Wade attempted 727 triples, connecting on only 224 of them. That is a rather paltry 30.8 percent clip, and Wade himself must have realized that, hence the significant drop in long-distance tries in 2011-12 and 2012-13.
However, throughout those three seasons of failing to establish a consistent perimeter jumper, Wade was still able to get to the rim.
As a matter of fact, in 2008-09, Wade averaged 30.2 points per game to capture the scoring title. He shot 49.1 percent from the field overall, compiling a true shooting percentage of 57.4 percent. He was nearly as good the following two years, averaging 26.6 and 25.5 points a contest, respectively.
The drop-off didn't seriously begin until 2011-12, and that was also when Wade's knee injuries truly reared their ugly head.
The man known as "Flash" is at a point in his career where he needs to do something to rejuvenate himself. He must also find a way to preserve his body, and conjuring up a reliable three-point shot is the best method to make those things come to fruition.
It's not like D-Wade is incapable of knocking down trifectas, either.
He once drained four threes in a game against the Indiana Pacers last season.
The thing is, there is absolutely nothing wrong with Wade's form, which leads one to believe that he does have it in him to be adequate from downtown.
If Wade wants the latter half of his career to be fruitful, then he must add this new wrinkle to his game.
2. Tone Down Aggressiveness
This is going to sound strange, especially for a player like Wade who makes his living ferociously attacking the rim, but he is going to need to tone down his aggressiveness.
Now, notice that does not read tone down his assertiveness; it says tone down his aggressiveness. There is a difference.
Wade must curb the forcefulness with which he plays the game. Instead of trying to dunk over a defender, he should settle for a floater or a short jumper. If the defense collapses, he should kick the ball back out rather than try to maneuver through the trees or draw a foul.
Under normal circumstances, it would absolutely be best to let D-Wade attack as much as he wants, but these are not normal circumstances. Wade's knees are all but hanging on by a thread, and he needs to safeguard those knees as much as he possibly can.
If that means passing up a few shots during the regular season, then so be it.
This is not about how many games the Heat can win over 82 contests; this is about winning championships. It's also about Wade extending his career.
Of course, in order to successfully accomplish this, Wade is going to need to improve his game outside of the paint. That doesn't just mean three-pointers.
Take a look at Wade's shot chart from the 2012-13 season.
As you can see, when Wade was not getting dunks or layups, he was very average.
He shot under 40 percent from eight to 16 feet out, a number that he definitely must augment in 2013-14. The 65.3 percent clip he accumulated around the basket is outstanding, but due to his knees, he is not likely to replicate that this season.
Yes, Wade has spent a large portion of his 10-year career at the charity stripe. The veteran boasts a lifetime average of 8.6 free-throw attempts per game, but that cannot be the case in 2013-14. Wade must sacrifice some regular-season foul shots for the betterment of his playoff performance and for the benefit of his career long-term.
The fact is that while Wade is capable of slashing to the basket and generating points inside, his body can no longer manage that type of constant physical strain. Obviously, the closer you get to the rim, the more contact you are going to take and initiate. That is precisely why Wade must rein in his frequent assaults on the hoop and take more of a finesse approach.
3. Play More Conservative Defense
Wade has always been one of the best shot-blocking guards in the league. Many times, he challenges other—and frequently bigger—players at the rim. He has always been very adept at playing the passing lanes, as evidenced by the 1.8 steals he has averaged throughout his career.
Wade can't be doing that as much in 2013-14, however.
He has to play more judiciously and rely more on his teammates to provide help defensively for the same reasons that he must take it down a notch offensively.
It doesn't take a medical doctor to comprehend that when your knees start to go, your lateral quickness goes with them. D-Wade has been a fine defender in the decade he has been in this league, but part of the reason for that is his blend of size, strength and athleticism.
Well, Wade does not have the kind of athleticism he had even two or three years ago, and for that, he must compensate.
Fortunately, Wade still has an incredibly high basketball IQ. Because of that, his defense has not dropped off much at all.
Wade's performance on the defensive end of the floor actually improved as his career progressed. Also, let's not forget that the 2011-12 season was the lockout-shortened campaign, so the 2.9 defensive win shares that Dwyane posted that year are a bit skewed (the career-high defensive rating of 99 he recorded is concrete evidence of that).
However, there was a slight dip in his efficiency defensively in 2012-13. That isn't to say Wade was bad in that area last season. The 3.5 defensive win shares he tallied are hardly poor; they are actually pretty good. The thing is, you have to wonder how much of a factor Wade's bum knees played into the small decline and whether that drop in productivity will worsen in 2013-14.
That's where Wade needs to depend more on his teammates this year.
Fortunately for D-Wade, Miami is a very good defensive ballclub as a whole. The Heat ranked seventh in defensive efficiency in 2012-13, and while Wade certainly played a part in that, guys like LeBron James and Chris Bosh also helped bump that number up.
Miami is full of good team defenders and forces a lot of turnovers (it ranked fifth in that category last season), so Wade has the luxury of having a security blanket to cover him should he be a step slow.
Now, does this mean that the perennial All-Star should cease giving an effort on the defensive end? Of course not. However, it does mean he needs to be more careful and that he must understand that his teammates will be able to clean up his occasional messes.
So, instead of Wade putting too much pressure on his knees by going all out every defensive possession, he should relax and realize that he has a bunch of intelligent teammates who will pick him up.
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