He came in fresh off a postseason in which his knees betrayed him, and he averaged just 15.9 points per game, the worst playoff scoring numbers of his career. (This marked the second straight postseason in which Wade's knees bothered him and hindered his play.) With Wade also requiring shock treatment on both of his knees in the offseason that kept him off a basketball court until August, many wondered whether the Miami Heat and its star player were in trouble.
Was Wade still capable of being an elite player, the No. 2 option on a team seeking a three-peat? Or was his body, at 31, breaking down and he no was longer able to be a star?
A little more than two months into the season and the Heat and Wade have answered those questions as well as they could have.
The Heat have managed Wade's health to perfection, instituting a maintenance plan that has held Wade out of one game in nearly every back-to-back situation Miami has had this season, as Dwyane continues to recover from the shock treatment (he's missed eight games).
The Heat understand that avoiding a setback with Wade's knees in the regular season is of paramount importance, much more important than winning a few extra games in November and December.
That plan has helped Wade to move extremely well and play some fantastic basketball. You know those talking heads, writers and fans that said before the season Wade wasn't elite anymore? They haven't been around much lately.
In the 33.4 minutes he plays per night, Wade is averaging 19.5 points (53.8 percent shooting from the floor), 4.9 rebounds and 4.9 assists. On the defensive end, no shooting guard averages more combined steals and blocks per game than Wade does (2.45).
As all those numbers suggest, Wade has been extremely efficient. It shouldn't come as a surprise that Wade's 22.74 PER ranks best among shooting guards and 11th overall.
As per usual, Wade has been a force near the basket, converting 67.1 percent his attempts within five feet of the hoop, according to NBA.com.
One of the key recent developments of Wade's game are his off-ball cuts to the basket; he has scored on 35-of-42 (83.3 percent) of his field-goal attempts after cuts this season, according to mySynergy Sports.
LeBron James recently spoke to Kirk Goldsberry of Grantland.com about the importance of Wade's cuts. "We figured out ways through the years to play without the ball. D-Wade makes great cuts into the lane," said James. "It definitely helps our team get paint points. Paint points are the easiest shots."
At the same time, Wade's jumper has been effective too; he's knocked down 24 of 50 shots from 10 to 14 feet away, 36 of 92 shots from 15 to 19 feet away and 14 of 30 shots from 20 to 24 feet away, according to NBA.com.
Wade has been instrumental to the Heat's success this year, constantly making big plays, even some that have gone under the radar.
Take Wade's performance in the Heat's biggest win of the season on Dec. 18 against the Indiana Pacers. Not only did he score a game-high 32 points, but in perhaps the most important sequence of the game, Wade out-leaped Roy Hibbert on a huge offensive rebounding opportunity for the Pacers center that instead resulted in the Heat having the ball and converting a monster three-pointer on the other end.
Watch the play below (it begins around the 5:00 mark):
And from a health perspective, Wade's metaphorical arrow continues to point up. Wade actually played in both games in the Heat's most recent back-to-back (Jan. 4 against the Orlando Magic and Jan. 5 against the Toronto Raptors). Wade also played in Miami's following game two nights later against the New Orleans Pelicans (his first three games in four nights sequence of the season), which would seemingly imply he's never felt better this season than he does now.
In regards to his health, Wade told Shandel Richardson of the South Florida Sun Sentinel after the Heat's win over the Pelicans that, "It is all positive, all good things."
It certainly has been "all good things" for Wade in 2013-14.
Thanks to a genius maintenance plan by the Heat, he's healthier than he was at the start of the season and has proven himself to still be one of the greatest players this game has to offer.
While whether or not Wade's 2013-14 season will ultimately be deemed a success will depend on how he performs in the postseason, it's hard to imagine how things could be going better for Dwyane to this point.