What Dwyane Wade Brings to Cavaliers' Championship Pursuit

Greg Swartz@@CavsGregBRCleveland Cavaliers Lead WriterSeptember 26, 2017

CHICAGO, IL - DECEMBER 2: Dwyane Wade #3 of the Chicago Bulls handles the ball during the game against LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers on December 2, 2016 at the United Center in Chicago, Illinois. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2016 NBAE (Photo by David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images)
David Sherman/Getty Images

LeBron James didn't beat around the bush when expressing his desire to bring Dwyane Wade to the Cleveland Cavaliers.

"I would love to have D-Wade a part of this team," James said during media day Monday. "I think he brings another championship pedigree, championship DNA. He brings another playmaker to the team who can get guys involved, can make plays and also has a great basketball mind."

Three years and nearly three months after James left Wade and the Miami Heat to join the Cavs, the superstar pair will soon be reunited, according to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski.

Signing Wade is a no-brainer for Cleveland, as it could use the 12-time All-Star as its starting shooting guard or as a premier sixth man. His fit isn't ideal, however, which could create a collection of challenges for head coach Tyronn Lue.

Flash in Superman City

Let's start with the pros.

It's Dwyane freaking Wade. He's James' closest friend in the league, a three-time NBA champion who put up 18.3 points in less than 30 minutes a game with the Chicago Bulls at age 35.

With Kyrie Irving on the Boston Celtics and Isaiah Thomas likely out until January, the Cavs need reliable scoring behind James and Kevin Love. Derrick Rose helps, but Kyle Korver, Jae Crowder, Channing Frye and even a shoot-first JR Smith need to be set up before they score to best utilize their skill sets.

In an 82-game season, Wade will help keep James' minutes low and takes offensive pressure to create and score away from the 32-year old.

While James tried for years to mentor Irving and crack his protective shell, he'll have to worry about no such thing with Wade.

Members of the same 2003 draft class, Wade and James spent four years together in Miami and have infamously vacationed together with their families over the offseason. Of all the teammates James has played alongside during his 12 straight playoff runs, no one has been by his side more than Wade:

This will almost surely be James' most enjoyable season in Cleveland. Going from a roster with Alex Kirk, A.J. Price and Lou Amundson in 2014-15 to this juggernaut topped off with Wade not only makes things easier for James, but it should help keep him more relaxed during his 15th year.

Reasons for Concern

Anyone expecting the James/Wade duo of 2010-14 may be setting themselves up for disappointment.

James will be 33 in December, and Wade turns 36 in January. We may not see quite as many no-look alley-oops as the Miami days, which is OK.

What is concerning is Wade's defense (or lack thereof) and woeful outside shooting. If he starts in place of Smith, it'll hurt Cleveland's spacing and three-point attack.

Wade connected on just 31.0 percent of his threes last season and was slightly worse on catch-and-shoot attempts (30.9 percent). Combined with Rose (20.5 percent on catch-and-shoot threes in 2016-17), that starting backcourt combined barely topped Irving's success on such opportunities (48.2 percent).

Playing next to James creates a bevy of open shots. As good as Wade is at getting to the basket, he needs to start hitting those long-range looks from James at a better clip.

Defensively, Wade made the Bulls slightly worse in the regular season (plus-2.0 points per 100 possessions). Meanwhile, ESPN's defensive real plus-minus put him 40th overall among shooting guards (minus-0.46)

Once a strong defender and tremendous shot-blocker for his size, Wade's play on that side of the ball slipped noticeably last season. Although age isn't on his side, some believe a return to a championship contender should help.

"Wade can still provide offense but didn't show much willingness to defend last year," one NBA scout told Bleacher Report. "Could have been the team he was on and situation."

Going from sharing a backcourt with Rajon Rondo on an eighth-seeded Bulls team to making a Finals run next to James should coax the best effort out of Wade, or at least as much as his body will allow.

Effect on the Rotation

Wade's best role on this team would be to run the second unit, as he could operate with the ball in his hands without having to share with James, Love and Rose/Thomas.

If Lue can't convince him of such a demotion, it would mean the first benching for Smith with the Cavs. While Smith is the better fit with the starting unit, he doesn't seem to mind playing second fiddle to Wade.

"As long as we win, I don't care, honestly," Smith said. "If anything, it prolongs my career. I don't have to do as much, I ain't got to chase as many defenders around. Instead of me playing 18 years, I can get to 20, 21 years."

Ben Margot/Associated Press

Cleveland also has Kyle Korver and Iman Shumpert at shooting guard. While Korver shot 48.5 percent on his threes with the Cavs last season, the addition of Wade may bump Shumpert from the rotation altogether.

"I'm assuming they will start [Wade] with D-Rose, LeBron, Love and Tristan Thompson," the NBA scout said. "[Jae] Crowder and JR will probably end up playing more minutes, which I think needs to happen. Then we'll see how Wade's ego handles that. I think he'll be fine with LeBron there. They will have good depth, so low minutes for Wade early will be beneficial for a playoff run."

What about the Warriors?

Wade may not be able to guard Stephen Curry or Klay Thompson, but he does put more pressure on them to work harder on defense.

A lack of depth killed the Cavs' chances in the 2015 Finals and hurt them this past summer. While Cleveland's best reserve was 37-year-old Richard Jefferson just three months ago, the possibility of having a bench of Wade, Crowder, Rose and Jeff Green is far more appealing.

When the Warriors go small, the Cavs can attempt to match with a Thomas-Wade-Smith-Crowder-James lineup that gives Cleveland three wing defenders and two ball-handling shot-creators in the backcourt.

Nam Y. Huh/Associated Press

More importantly, the Cavaliers can try to dictate the tempo and use Wade and James' half-court expertise to break down the defense and find open shooters.

"If Cleveland tries to run with them, I don't think they can keep up," said the NBA scout in reference to the age differences in both rotations. "If they can slow them down and make them play in the half court, then maybe. That's proven tough to do."

"[Wade] makes them better, but not enough to get past the Warriors," a second NBA scout told Bleacher Report.

The signing of Wade doesn't move the Cavs to the top of the NBA's power rankings, but it does give Lue and Co. more options and overall depth.

Wade and James have made the Finals all four times as teammates. Expect them to make a fifth trip in June.

Greg Swartz is the Cleveland Cavaliers' lead writer for Bleacher Report. Stats provided by NBA.com and Basketball Reference unless otherwise noted. All quotes obtained firsthand.

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