Breaking Down Dwyane Wade's Resurgence

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Breaking Down Dwyane Wade's Resurgence
Nathaniel S. Butler/Getty Images

Since his less than enthusiastic remarks of being the "setup man" in postgame comments following a bad loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder at the end of January, Dwyane Wade is rolling.

So are the Miami Heat.

The Heat are 4-1 in February, with Wade scoring 22, 30, 14 and 19 on nearly 63 percent shooting. According to Bleacher Report's Ethan J. Skolnick, Wade and Erik Spoelstra discussed those remarks and re-engineered Wade's role on offense:

And since Wade spoke of being just a “setup man” in the offense, Spoelstra has met with him, designing a different offensive package for him, one that has allowed the 10-time All-Star to operate more with the ball at the center of the floor, especially when he’s leading the second unit.

A lot of that redesign has Wade in a more natural role that mimics what he did before the Big Three, using him in more pick-and-rolls and isolation situations.

His runs with the second unit give him the freedom to play without co-star LeBron James, putting the ball in his hands more often.

All of this has helped him get back in rhythm after a six-game stretch in which he missed four straight and struggled on offense in the two he played.

In January, Wade's usage rate—which measures the percent of a team's offensive possessions that a player uses while on the courtwas 23.3 percent in nine games.

Jason DeCrow/Associated Press

That's now 26.7 percent in four games this month. His assist numbers per possession have been better too.

When the Heat are at their best, James is facilitating, shooters are knocking down three-pointers, Chris Bosh is stretching the defense and Wade is cutting and wreaking havoc off the ball. 

Spoelstra and the Heat use somewhat of a clockmaker theory, in which the Heat's offense operates within the aforementioned framework.

That's not to say that Spoelstra won't call plays from the sideline or that the Heat don't use a series of finely executed designs, but the Heat are best when they get out in transition or semi-transition. That's when the athleticism takes over and the framework functions best.

However, Wade can get rusty when missing games due to his knee rehab. Spoelstra installed some plays that mimicked these things to help Wade get his groove back.

This play shows the action (various screens and passing) going on to the left side of the court with Wade alone on the right. Mario Chalmers passes to James, who knows immediately that Wade is cutting along the baseline. It's a nice way to manufacture movement and points for Wade.

(Aside: It also engages the strengths of both players—LeBron's strong-armed passing and Wade's well-timed cutting and finishing—really well. Spoelstra doesn't get enough credit for things like this.)

Here is the play again, this time against the Utah Jazz:

Against the New York Knicks, we saw a noticeable uptick in Wade's opportunities as the handler in the pick-and-roll.

A lot of those plays were between him and Chris Andersen on the second unit. Against a weak Knicks defense, it was a good way to get Wade going and get points from the second unit. 

Those are all of Wade's scoring pick-and-rolls from the Knicks game in order. You can watch him get more comfortable as the game goes on. The first two plays are a little messy, with Wade going wide and avoiding the heart of the defense.

Then you watch him snake the pick-and-roll and kick it out to Norris Cole. Then you get the hop-step that said "Wade has his bounce back."

I'll conclude with this point: Wade is still among the best players in the league when healthy. He doesn't need much help being that, but he does need opportunities. That's where Spoelstra (and James to a different degree) comes in. Still, the most important factor is how Wade's knee feels. If that ball-and-socket joint isn't up to snuff, none of this stuff works as well.

Wade might not like being the setup man, but Spoelstra seems more than happy to be.

 

Statistics via NBA.com/Stats unless otherwise noted. Stats accurate as of Feb. 9, 2014. Follow Wes @wcgoldberg.

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