2011 NBA Playoff Predictions: Will LeBron James or Dwyane Wade Be Miami's MVP?
Miami has experimented with both superstars in late-game situations, and both of them have struggled at times. LeBron assumed the role in the beginning of the year with minimal success.
Lately, the ball has been put in Wade's hands in closing situations with LeBron setting screens for him to free up his wing partner.
The Heat have finally seemed to find an offensive system that works more consistently, and at the right time, with the playoffs less than a week away.
However, the postseason is a whole different beast. Depending on certain matchups and situations, either Wade or James could have plays designed for them in the final seconds of nail-biter games.
With high expectations and reputations at stake, there is no telling what kind of tricks the duo might pull out of the bag.
That raises the question, who will be Miami's MVP in the postseason? While LeBron has received more credit than his buddy as the regular season MVP as far as the Heat go, Wade is the one with the Finals MVP under his belt.
So with two big-time performers, who will emerge as Miami's most valuable player in this year's postseason?
The Case for Dwyane Wade
Can you make a case for Dwyane Wade without mentioning his 2006 Finals MVP performance? Yes, it's repeatedly talked about, but it's worthy of being repeated.
Wade delivered one of the finest championship performances in the history of the league when he averaged 34.7 points, 7.8 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 2.7 steals per game. He led the Heat back from an 0-2 deficit and ensured the franchise's lone title.
While Wade has only been in championship contention in two out of his seven full seasons in the league (2005, 2006), he has showed his ability to be clutch in the playoffs since his rookie year.
In Wade's first-ever playoff appearance of his career, he hit a game-winning shot in Game 1 of Miami's first round series against the Charlotte Hornets.
Not to mention, he posterized a then All-Star in Jermaine O'Neal in the Heat's second-round series against Indiana and helped a young Miami team take two games from the first-seed Pacers.
Although the Heat were eliminated in both series, Wade averaged 29 points against Atlanta and 33 points against Boston. He provided stellar individual performances, while willing his team to victory in several of the games with minimal help.
The point is Wade has shown a knack for taking his team on his back in the playoffs time and time again. He remains poised and ready under the pressure of the playoffs. He stays in attack mode, draws fouls and simply finds ways to get wins for his team in big games.
Nothing is more noteworthy than in Game 3 of the NBA Finals when Miami was down 13 with just over six minutes left in the game.
Miami was down 0-2 in the series, and it appeared all but over for the Heat. Then, in a flash, Wade single-handedly brought the Heat back from the deep end and secured the win with his 42 points and 13 boards.
Wade is fully capable of repeating that type of success in this year's playoffs, which is a prime reason why he could be Miami's MVP.
The Case for LeBron James
A lot of people look to LeBron James' 2007 playoff performance when he led the Cavaliers to the Finals at the young age of 22.
In LeBron's greatest playoff effort of his career, he brought Cleveland back from an 0-2 deficit against the Detroit Pistons in the Eastern Conference Finals with four straight victories. In the first two games of the series, James averaged a human 14.5 points per game.
Over the next four games, King James went on to average a staggering 31.5 points, highlighted by James 48-point, 9-rebound and 7-assist effort in Game 5.
Much like Wade against the Mavericks in the 2006 Finals, LeBron willed his team to victory against the bigger, badder Pistons. It was a truly astonishing performance for a 22-year-old.
James will also forever be remember for his famous game-winning three-pointer against Orlando in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals two years ago.
With the Cavs down two points and only one second left in regulation, James sunk an off-balance buzzer-beater three-pointer to win the game. It's recognized as the biggest shot of his career so far.
Despite the big moments that LeBron has had, he is still viewed as a choke artist in the playoffs by many people.
A lot of people say he quit on the Cavaliers in last year's second round matchup against the Celtics. Some people might argue that he never had the proper supporting cast to enable the Cavs to win a championship.
Regardless of the case, LeBron has not won a ring despite leading the Cavs to 60-win seasons in each of the last two seasons.
However, LeBron still has the uncanny ability to take over a playoff game at any moment due to his talent level. He has solid playoff experience and is extremely motivated to prove his doubters wrong.
We have seen a lot out of James lately, as he has been building momentum for the postseason. In Miami's victory over Boston last Sunday, James put on an MVP performance with his 27 points and domination on both sides of the ball.
If he plays with that type of aggression and sets the tone on defense in the playoffs, he might just become Miami's MVP.
Dwyane Wade's Playoff Statistics
Here is a glance at Wade's career numbers in the postseason over the last seven years.
Playoff History: Wade has made the playoffs seven (including this year) times out of eight. His lone time missing the playoffs was in the 2007-2008 season.
Playoff Games: 66
Field Goal: 48%
Career High: 46 vs. Boston on 4/25/10 in Miami's Game 4 victory in the East first round series.
Playoff Awards: 2006 NBA Finals MVP
LeBron James Playoff Statistics
Here is a glance at LBJ's career numbers in the postseason over the last seven years.
Playoff History: James has made the playoffs six (including this year) times out of eight. His missed the postseason in the first two years of his career.
Playoff Games: 71
Field Goal: 46%
Career High: 49 vs. Orlando on 5/20/09 in Cleveland's Game 1 loss in the Eastern Conference Finals.
Conclusion: Dwyane Wade Will Assume Role as Playoff MVP
Both players excel at what they do, and both players have experienced success in the playoffs. However, Dwyane Wade has elevated his game to a different level in the playoffs.
LeBron has had several great moments in his playoff career, but has never been able to get his team over the hump. Some people might say that he is a choke artist, while other people would say that he never had a talented enough supporting cast to take the Cavaliers to championship glory.
Regardless of the case, LeBron has no ring on his finger. Wade won a title in just his third year in the NBA and with minimal previous postseason experience.
He made the Heat just the third team in NBA history to come back from an 0-2 deficit in the NBA Finals due to his outstanding performance. His all-around game, tenacity and never-say-die attitude is unique.
Wade offers all the intangibles that are necessary for a team that is planning on a deep playoff run.
While LeBron has better playoff numbers in almost every statistical category besides field goal percentage, he simply hasn't got it done the way Wade has off paper.
And the way that the Heat have been running their offense lately would suggest Wade will be the man in the postseason.
Since the Heat have finally changed their offensive sets, so there is less isolation and more off-the-ball movement, the team has become significantly more efficient on offense.
While it was mainly James handling the ball and having plays drawn up for him in late-game situations earlier in the year, it has shifted to Wade seeing the ball in decisive moments.
LeBron now sets down screens and pick and rolls in order to free up his superstar counterpart to create offense. Since LeBron has started moving without the ball in his hands, Miami's offense rarely becomes dull like it did in the beginning of the year.
James and Wade are used to being the focal points of their team's offenses and dominating the ball at all times. Now that they have paired up, they have to share the ball and be effective even without being the primary threat on every possession.
Since Wade has taken a bigger role as the late-game guy, the Heat have dramatically improved.
In addition to that, it's Wade defense that really makes him the likely choice to be the most valuable in the playoffs.
This is not to say that King James isn't a great defender, because he clearly is. However, Wade's defensive prowess has outshined LeBron's this season.
Wade has shown an excellent ability to shut down the league's top scorers. A prime example is Wade's defense on Kobe Bryant in Miami's two victories over the Lakers this year. But, Wade has made so many additional plays on defense this year that solidify this stance.
Even when Wade struggles on offense (which is rare), he makes his presence felt on defense like nobody else. On Sunday against Boston, Wade only had 14 points, but had a crucial block on Ray Allen that could have brought the Celtics within seven points, and ultimately preserved the game for Miami.
Wade is simply relentless on defense. He pursues his opponent all the way down the court and has great timing when it comes to blocks and steals.
Wade will be impressive on both sides of the ball in the playoffs, but his defense will bring him over the top. LeBron will also be stellar on both sides of the ball, but it will be Wade's late-game clutchness and experience with adversity that will separate him from James.
With a solid team finally around him, Wade will take all of that passion and hunger from previous playoff disappointment and unleash it over the next couple of months.
Wade has proven he can be the best player on the floor in the playoffs, and showcased his ability to take over a series single-handedly. LeBron will have his moments, but will ultimately take a back seat to Wade in the 2011 playoffs.
At the end of the day, Wade is the one with the Finals MVP award.