Dwyane Wade's Resurgence More Critical Than Ever to Miami Heat

Stephen Babb@@StephenBabbFeatured ColumnistJuly 16, 2014

There's been talk aplenty about what Chris Bosh will mean to the Miami Heat this season, but this franchise's heart and soul remains Dwyane Wade.

The organization announced on Tuesday that it had re-signed the 32-year-old, officially bringing back two-thirds of its once great Big Three.

Per ESPN.com's Brian Windhorst, "The Heat did not disclose terms of the deal, but sources said Wade received a two-year, $31.1 million deal with a player option for the second year. Wade also received a no-trade clause in his contract, sources told ESPN.com's Marc Stein."

Wade also became the latest player to accept a steep pay-cut, doing his part to offer Miami the financial flexibility it needs to improve its roster in the wake of LeBron James' departure to Cleveland.

Windhorst reports that, "The sources said Wade took about an $11 million pay cut over two years from the deal he opted out of, which was for two years and $42 million."

The All-Star shooting guard released a statement discussing the return (via Windhorst):

I am proud to have spent every single day of my career as a member of the Miami Heat and to have brought three championship titles to this great city. I've been here through the good times and the hard times. I have confidence in the Miami Heat organization and the team they are building. To all the Heat fans, in Miami and around the world, I know you will continue to show support for our team.

While team president Pat Riley has done an admirable job of keeping most of this team intact, Wade may be the most pivotal puzzle piece of all. Before even considering what he can—and must—mean to this team on the floor, it's worth noting that there's something to the fact he's "been here through the good times and the hard times."

Forget about X's and O's for a moment. 

Wade preserves a winning culture. He maintains continuity. He ensures that this team will retain some semblance of championship confidence and accountability. Even if he isn't the most demonstrative leader, his calm and collected presence is one of those intangibles Miami couldn't have done without next season.

To be sure, however, Wade's presence alone is a necessary but insufficient condition for Miami's success.

He has to do more than show up.

As USA Today's Jeff Zillgitt notes:

With James gone, there will be more responsibility on Wade to contribute on both ends of the floor. Miami might not be able give Wade the same number of games off as last season, when he played in 54. Monitoring Wade's minutes while getting maximum production will be coach Erik Spoelstra's challenge.

More responsibility, more minutes, more touches. All without any guarantee that Wade can return to the kind of form that typified him during the pre-LeBron era. Back in 2009-10, Wade attempted 19.6 field-goal attempts per contest. A year earlier, he posted a career-high 22 attempts per game.

In contrast, last season he shot the ball just 14.1 times per game—the lowest mark since his rookie year.

He also averaged a career-low 32.9 minutes last season.

In short, Wade's contributions decreased dramatically on account of James adopting an ever-more featured role. The need to preserve Wade for the postseason also factored into the reduced action, a move that seemingly paid off in the 2014 Eastern Conference Finals, when Wade averaged a super-efficient 19.8 points per game.

Trending usage aside, there are reasons to be optimistic about Wade's ability to again carry the Heat. 

The first is that he made 54.5 percent of his field-goal attempts last season, a career-best performance. He also continued to rebound and distribute the ball at a high level, at least commensurate with his playing time. Wade's shot selection and decision-making have evolved in time, allowing him to pack maximum punch when he's on the floor.

Moreover, Wade will have more help than he did in the early-to-mid 2000s. Remember that Bosh wasn't around back then, and he's poised to become an even more-utilized weapon.

ESPN.com's Tom Haberstroh explains:

Next season figures to be much different for Bosh. Bosh is set to be the focal point of the Heat's offense, a role he hasn't been assigned since he left Toronto. Last season he averaged just 12.1 field goal attempts per game, and his usage rate (percentage of team possessions used either by field goal, free throw or turnover) was its lowest in about a decade (22.6 percent).

"You know, I'm not the same player that I was when I was 25, the last time I got to [be the No. 1 option], Bosh said according to Haberstroh. "I'm more mature, my game is more mature and I can do a bunch of things on and off the court to fully maximize this team's potential."

There's little doubt Bosh will take some of the pressure off of Wade. All the same, there's little substitute for Wade's playmaking ability. Even if Bosh expands his game still further, Wade's ability to collapse the defense means the ball will often remain in his hands. 

That doesn't necessarily mean Miami needs him to put up 22 shots per game again. Wade's ability to facilitate offense for his teammates is every bit as important as his penchant for scoring. Without James and his point-forward prowess around, passing may even be Wade's first priority.

So perhaps we should stop talking about a return to form—and start talking about reinvention.

Hardwood Paroxysm's Noam Schiller observes, "The Dwyane who ferociously assaulted the rim and created havoc defensively en route to three titles is gone, and Wade’s next few years may not bear any title-shaped fruit, but there is still much basketball left for him to give."

The big unknown is what that basketball will look like.

After spending four years as the second option in every meaningful respect, we know more touches and handling are in order. We also know Wade is best-equipped to replace James' ability to initiate offense.

To the extent we can translate those knowns into predictions, it's safe to say the next iteration of Dwyane Wade may look a lot like a point guard—more so even than ostensible floor generals Mario Chalmers and Norris Cole.

Call it a resurgence. Call it a rebirth.

Just don't call it the end of Dwyane Wade.


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