What Does Dwyane Wade's Ailing Playoffs Mean for 2014 Offseason?

John Friel@@JohnFtheheatgodAnalyst IJune 24, 2013

Jun 20, 2013; Miami, FL, USA; Miami Heat shooting guard Dwyane Wade (3) celebrates after defeating the San Antonio Spurs in game seven in the 2013 NBA Finals at American Airlines Arena. Miami Heat won 95-88 to win the NBA Championship. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

2006 Dwyane Wade was not necessary to win the 2013 NBA title. Neither was the 2011 Wade who quietly averaged 27 points per game in a now-infamous series with the Dallas Mavericks.

All the Miami Heat needed from Wade was for him to be Dwyane Wade when it counted. It's why the coaching staff stuck it out with their perennial All-Star shooting guard, despite the numbers obviously telling them that the team was better when LeBron James was out on the court with three shooters and either Chris Andersen or Chris Bosh.

Even with the catcalls from the rafters hooting and hollering for a Wade benching or less playing time for the former NBA Finals MVP, Dwyane continued to start, continued to play heavy minutes and continued to play the minutes that were of the most significance.

There was deceivingly brilliant basketball being played by the Heat this postseason. The brilliance coming in brief stretches during Game 6 against the Indiana Pacers and Game 2 against the San Antonio Spurs. The deceit being that some of the Heat's best runs came with Wade on the bench.

Wait, weren't we past this lack of chemistry thing? Not this narrative again.

But it was staring us right in the face. The Heat were going on these tremendous runs of basketball when LeBron was running with a lineup that had floor-spacers in the form of three shooters and a cleanup man that was usually Chris Andersen.

It looked like Cleveland, but with far more talent. Mo Williams, Delonte West and Sasha Pavlovic turned into Mario Chalmers, Ray Allen and Shane Battier—three players who have stepped up in big-time situations before.

Zach Lowe of Grantland came up with some disturbing figures prior to Miami's Game 7 win that supported this idea of the Heat being a better team with either LeBron or Dwyane playing, not both. The Heat scored 131.7 points per 100 possessions when LeBron was on the floor without Wade, while only 100.8 with both.

Hold on, it gets even more perplexing. That shooting trio I was talking about with LeBron? It was a plus-50 in 68 minutes.

Obviously, the Heat are going to be a better team with LeBron and Dwyane when they're either working together and moving off the ball or they're making their mid-range jumpers. When they're not, the Spurs, or any opponent for that matter, is inclined to pack the paint and allow those two, especially Dwyane, to shoot those low-percentage looks to their heart's content.

Also obvious is the fact that those two are going to have more room to work with in the interior when one of them is off the court. There's going to be a lot more space on the floor when three of your teammates are sharpshooters who have gained notoriety as lethal shooters who can go on significant, devastatingly impressive runs.

With LeBron and Dwyane on the floor together?

Make them shoot and hope they miss. Of course, they're both going to be on the floor at the same time when crunch time comes around. This Heat coaching staff is a firm believer in having the best players out on the floor in the greatest times of need.

It nearly backfired.

His reinsertion late in Game 6 nearly resulted in a tremendous disaster, but the faith that was instilled into him by his coaches and teammates that allowed him to play at least 34 minutes in all but one game, albeit on a balky knee, allowed him to come through when needed most.

Wade had his low moments in the Heat's series against the Chicago Bulls; he had 18 points on 13 shots, six assists and five rebounds in a three-point win to close out the series. He struggled throughout the following series with the Indiana Pacers; he had 21 points on 16 shots and nine rebounds in a 23-point Game 7 victory.

Against the San Antonio Spurs, where he failed to score more than 17 points in the first three games? A 23-point, 10-rebound output in the championship-clinching victory, which featured Wade making a slew of the mid-range jumpers that he was bricking for a majority of the series.

Wade also dropped 32 points, six rebounds, six steals and four assists in a crucial Game 4 road victory. He would follow that up with 25 points and 10 assists, although it came in a losing effort.

For his moments of greatness, there were his moments of futility and frustration.

Even after a decade of observing his consistent greatness and excellence that has vaulted him into the discussion of one of the top three 2-guards of all time, his most faithful of followers were questioning whether he had enough in the tank, or knees, to give LeBron the support he needed.

The Heat aren't back-to-back champions without him.

He continued to take the same shots he was missing throughout the series in the decisive Game 7 against the San Antonio Spurs, but we were too mesmerized by the shots falling in to rush to our keyboards and question Wade's compatibility with a player with a similar skill set in LeBron.

There were a couple of "NO, NO, NO, YESSSSS" moments on those shots. And although he was missing those mid-range looks and turning the ball over with reckless abandon at times, Wade proved in three consecutive closeout games this postseason that he can still be Dwyane Wade when he wants to be.

For how long now is the question this offseason.

For the second consecutive season, the Heat have ended up having to carry Wade to the finish line—long enough for him to get his knees in working order to vault his team to enough victories to secure a title. It's also the second consecutive postseason where Wade has had his knee drained, with this year's coming a day before Game 7 of the NBA Finals.

There would have been a lot more questions being asked if the Heat had lost Game 7. Had Wade not finally started to consistently hit his mid-range jumpers. Had LeBron James and Ray Allen not hit threes at the end of regulation in Game 6. Had Manu Ginobili and Kawhi Leonard not split a pair of free throws in the final minute of the same game.

A lot of ifs, what-could-haves and what-should-haves occurred in the final moments of both Games 6 and 7.

Had those breaks gone a different way, although the Spurs had quite a few of their own in the first few games of the series, then we're probably questioning just what the Heat are going to do with a Wade who clearly has not been the same player we once knew.

There was a time when Wade had Game 5s against San Antonio on a nightly basis.

Having LeBron James and Chris Bosh to share the spotlight obviously plays a factor in the decreased role, but it's also clear that he is not capable of lifting teams as he once could, specifically late in the season when the long haul of the regular season and the grueling, unforgiving postseason have taken their toll.

Wade's postseason totals were as low as they have ever been.

He averaged a mere 16 points (nearly five less than what he was garnering in the regular season) on 46 percent shooting, along with five boards and five assists. Great numbers for nearly every player in the league, but underwhelming for a player of Wade's caliber.

But you know what my favorite part about this team is, which should be the favorite characteristic of every basketball-loving fanatic?

It's the faith that each player and each coach has for each other. It's why Mike Miller was able to start four NBA Finals games, despite playing 59 regular-season games and averaging 15 minutes. It's why Chris Andersen was able to continue wreaking havoc under the rim in Games 6 and 7, despite not registering a single minute in Games 4 and 5.

The same goes for Shane Battier—benched because of his struggles against Indiana and brought back because of Miller's lack of offensive production upon being inserted in the starting lineup.

It's the same for every player from LeBron to Jarvis Varnado. Egos checked at the door, replaced with a stay-ready mentality in every individual and a strong sense of camaraderie as a team. Each player is aware of his role on the team and each player is content with that role because of the ultimate achievement that comes with staying ready and loving your brother.

Wade will never lose that amongst his teammates and coaches.

He's going to be in Miami for a long, long time. It's not just because of loyalty. It's because he has a role on this team that cannot be matched by any other player—as a 10-year veteran of the Heat system, a three-year veteran of the Big Three and being an all-around veteran that seemingly always finds his way in the most crucial of moments.

Meet savvy veteran Dwyane Wade.

There will be questions surrounding what will happen in the summer of 2014 when he, LeBron and Bosh will have their opt-out clauses in play. It's tough to say what will happen then (can we at least allow the parade to take place?) when there's still another season to play before we even begin concerning ourselves with the summer of 2014.

Those three will be left with a few options.

They can all continue to be pleased with the results they are getting and opt back in by taking even more severe paycuts than they originally took when first coming together. Or one could grow weary of sharing the spotlight. Or a player could possibly miss his heavier stat lines.

At the moment, however, Wade is a member of the Miami Heat, and there is still an offseason, a regular season and a postseason to play. The Big Three isn't thinking about it, since two championships and three finals appearances in three years is actually a pretty solid result.

So, no, at the moment nobody is contemplating leaving the team when they're still looking at their reflection on Larry O'Brien's shiny, golden dome.

Can we at least get out of the 2013 offseason first? Even with Wade's injuries obviously playing a role in his decreased production in the past two offseasons, he has consistently and continually proven to his doubters and naysayers that he can still be 2006 Finals MVP or even 2011 NBA Finals Wade when need be.

And we're not about to argue with results.


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