Dwyane Wade's Historic Season Proves He's Still Elite NBA Star

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Dwyane Wade's Historic Season Proves He's Still Elite NBA Star
Issac Baldizon/Getty Images

Of the various things that have changed for the Miami Heat since 2010, Dwyane Wade's superstar status isn't one of them.

Flimsy knees have stifled his availability. LeBron James has rendered him a No. 2. The Miami Heat are no longer recognized as his team and his alone.

But despite all these changes, some of which are depicted as regressions, Wade's position among NBA stars remains unaltered. His rank and stock will fluctuate weekly—as is the case with almost everyone—but he still resides where he has always been: near the top.

For all Wade's current season is, one thing it's not is a renaissance. Flash isn't using 2013-14 to revive a moribund career. It was never even dying.

And this is not a campaign during which the 32-year-old is consigning himself to insignificance. Nothing could be further from the truth.

This season is a reminder, a token of the player, the superstar Wade still is. Using a unique blend of efficiency and later-career expansion, Wade's production is historic, matching and exceeding the productivity of all-time greats, pacing him toward more places in the record books.

 

Historical Shooting

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Washed up, broken-down superstars descending into permanent decline don't make history. Not in a good way.

Over-the-hill headliners play less and less and less, futilely fighting to have an impact, any impact, worth remembering and applauding.

Wade isn't engulfed in the same fruitless battle. He's instead averaging 19.4 points, 4.7 rebounds and 4.9 assists on a career-best 55 percent shooting, attaching himself to accolades Michael Jordan never could, according to the Miami Herald's Barry Jackson:

Wade is poised to post the highest shooting percentage by any shooting guard in the past 29 years and the highest of any starting shooting guard since the NBA implemented the three-point shot in 1979-80.

Wade is shooting 55.1 percent from the field --– something Michael Jordan never did over a full season. Jordan’s high: 53.9 in 1990-91.

And if he stays above 54 percent, it would be the highest by a shooting guard since Atlanta backup Mike Glenn shot 58.8 in 1984-85. The highest field-goal accuracy by a starting shooting guard in the three-point era was Otis Birdsong, at 54.5 percent in 1980-81.

So much for that decline.

Even by today's standards when players such as James and Kevin Durant continue to defy conventional efficiency wisdom, Wade's economic shooting is immaculate. He ranks eighth in field-goal percentage overall and third among all players attempting at least 10 shots per game behind only James (56.9) and Dwight Howard (58.9).

Oh, and he leads all shooting guards in conversion rate too. He's the only qualified player at his position shooting better than 50 percent from the floor. The closest 2-guard to his 55 percent clip is Marco Belinelli, who's knocking down 49.6 percent of his shots.

"I look down the line, I see people at this point that maybe average more than me, but they are averaging 42, 41 percent," Wade told Bleacher Report's Ethan Skolnick. "You know, I could do that. But I try to take good shots, and high-percentage shots."

While Wade attempts fewer three-pointers than most shooting guards—he's on pace to jack up a career-low 37 this season—his shooting percentages aren't bolstered by infrequent aggression. His 14.3 field-goal attempts per game rank in the top 10 at his position.

Jesse D. Garrabrant/Getty Images
Wade is shooting the lights out this season.

More impressively, a majority of his shots are coming away from the basket. At a time when mid-range jumpers are considered fool's gold, more than 51.5 percent of his shot attempts are originating outside of eight feet, according to NBA.com (subscription required), up from 49.1 percent last year. 

Shooting 55 percent is unheard of for guards, especially those on the wrong side of 32. Seriously, it's never been done. If Wade's present production holds, he'll become the first guard in NBA history aged 30 or older to shoot 55 percent or better from the floor while also attempting at least 14 shots per game.

All right, you got me. That's a bit misleading. Wade wouldn't just be the first guard over 30 to accomplish the feat—he would be the first guard ever to maintain that kind of balance between volume and efficiency. 

 

More History

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This isn't just a shooting thing. Wade's making history across the board.

Assuming his current numbers hold, Wade will finish 2013-14 averaging at least 19 points, 4.5 rebounds, 4.5 assists and 1.5 steals for the third time since turning 30. Only Larry Bird, Rick Barry, Clyde Drexler, Scottie Pippen and Gary Payton were able to reach such benchmarks three or more times after their 30th birthdays. They're all Hall of Famers, in case that matters to you (it should).

Only seven total players have ever eclipsed those benchmarks in a single season after turning 32. Of those six, Wade is the only one who will finish with a shooting percentage above 47. Payton checks in at second, having put in 46.7 percent of his shots during the 2001-02 campaign, more than eight percentage points lower than Wade's current mark.

Overall, this will be the eighth time Wade has gone for 19/4.5/4.5/1.5 in a single season. That's the second most among active players, behind only—you guessed it—James (11). And it's more than Kobe Bryant (seven).

Better still, Wade will officially join James, Jordan (eight), Drexler (nine) and Bird (10) as the only five players in NBA history to reach those touchstones eight or more times for their careers. Think about that.

One of only five players. Right alongside Jordan. Ahead of legends like Bryant and Magic Johnson, among so many others. 

Games don't come much more complete than Wade's. Few players have done what he's doing at his age. While he's supposed to be fending off a cruel and blatant downturn, he's instead making history. 

 

Continued Greatness

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Decline? What decline? 

The completely manufactured, totally contrived, utterly imaginary decline? 

Yeah, that decline. 

Wade isn't retreating into obscurity. He isn't getting worse. The aging champion does require more rest and relaxation, and he is changing, but he's not deteriorating. 

"This team has made me have to change as well," Wade explained to Skolnick. "Knowing that for me to be effective, and for me to get the most out of my ability, and to be able to be happy with my play, I have to make some adjustments."

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Adjusting is often mistaken for ineffectiveness or hopelessness. Players cannot dominate forever, something the NBA's fans can understand.

But in accepting that all careers must eventually come to an end, there's this expectation that the road out leads through demonstrative recessions. At some point, at a certain age, a player must become a shell of his former self.

Really, though, there is no formula for calculating when a player will devolve into something less than he has always been. There is no definitive age at which statuses plunge and stars fade. It's different for everyone.

Wade isn't there. Not yet. He's still great.

Historically great.

 

*Stats courtesy of Basketball-Reference unless otherwise attributed.


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