Pivot Points: Dwyane Wade Is A Great Player, But Is He Overrated?

Hadarii JonesSenior Writer IDecember 16, 2009

SACRAMENTO, CA - DECEMBER 06:  Dwayne Wade #3 of the Miami Heat in action during their game against the Sacramento Kings at ARCO Arena on December 6, 2009 in Sacramento, California.  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.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

I knew that the task of carrying the Miami Heat through the NBA regular season would take a toll on Dwyane Wade, but I had no idea that the Heat would be stuck on the fringes of mediocrity.

In a year that has seen the Eastern Conference make a mockery of parity, Wade and his Heat team have been a prime example of that kind of mockery that's envelop in the conference as a whole.

Frankly, outside of the top four teams of Boston, Orlando, Atlanta, and Cleveland, the rest of the conference runs between mediocre and terrible, and the best that can be said about the Heat is they sit atop the mediocre scale.

The puzzling thing is, Wade is a bonafide superstar, but seems incapable of helping his team rise more than a few games above the .500 mark.

The general consensus is that Wade is faced with a lack of overall talent, and under the circumstances, he is putting forth as much effort as possible to keep his team above water.

I wonder if that same train of thought would work for Kobe Bryant or LeBron James if they had similar rosters, and were faced with the prospects of continuous mediocrity?

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What has become a popular scenario is to speculate what impact stars would have on different teams than their own, such as what would happen if James and Bryant were to switch teams.

Who thinks that either Cleveland or Los Angeles would be worse off with Wade instead of their current stars? For one, I do because there are elements of Wade's game that are not as evident as they once seemed.

During the Lakers-Heat game in which Bryant won on a circus shot, the announcers constantly questioned the effort of Wade on both ends of the floor.

They pointed out that Wade seemed to be going at half-speed and that his intensity level was extremely low for a game of that magnitude. I paid little attention until the announcers mentioned it for about the fifth time.

At first, I felt maybe the announcers were trying to find an angle to play to make their job more interesting, but bit by bit I started to notice subtle anomalies that could be attributed to Wade.

If he wasn't involved in a particular play he did seem to be moving up and down the court at half-speed, and he did act as if he would prefer to be anywhere besides Los Angeles at that point in time.

More obvious was his failure to get back on defense which left his teammates struggling to defend multiple players without the help of their team captain.

Wade approached all of this with a casual indifference that I can honestly say I had never before witnessed from him, and his performance in the final quarter seemed to prove my theory.

As we all know, that fourth quarter ended up being one for the ages, as Bryant and Wade dueled back and forth and almost point for point until the final buzzer sounded and the Lakers prevailed.

The only conclusion I could muster is that Wade was saving himself for the fourth quarter, but what about his teammates who had exerted so much energy to keep the Heat close while Wade struggled or saved himself for later?

None of his teammates could be considered world-beaters, but it's not like the Heat are without talent besides Wade. Jermaine O'Neal is not the player that he once was, but scanning the rest of the conference, he's still among the best at his position.

Injuries have robbed him of his former explosiveness, but he is still extremely skilled and still capable of stringing together big games.

Second-year player Michael Beasley is beginning to emerge as a viable second option for the Heat, and as the season has progressed, so has his confidence in his game.

Quentin Richardson and Udonis Haslem give the Heat two more players with multiple years of experience, and both are capable of playing solid and inspired basketball, which leads me to believe that the team may not be as bad as first thought.

There are teams scattered throughout the league that don't have the luxury of post players like O'Neal and Haslem, and possess no players like Wade yet are playing better than the Heat right now.

Until last night's blowout win over Toronto, Miami was in danger of falling into the middle of the non-descript teams that permeate the East and becoming lost in the shuffle of poor franchises.

They have lost six out of their last 20 games, and I have a problem seeing them moving up in the seedings, past any of the teams ahead of them.

Wade's legend was crafted during the Heat's magical run of 2006 which saw them coronated as champions, and Wade named Finals MVP, and has followed him since then.

The wins have been harder to come by, as every season since then has been marked by mediocrity, yet the perception of Wade as one of the league's best players lives on.

People will say that Bryant never managed much more than Wade when faced with similar circumstances, but Kobe's marginal teams of 2006-2007 reached the postseason, and the competition was much more elevated.

Likewise, James took a primarily weak Cleveland team all the way to the NBA Finals—in a conference where Wade can't seem to sneak past the second round.

Wade's 26.7 point per game average, along with five rebounds and six assists per game suggests the game of a superstar, and I would be hard pressed to argue with that reasoning.

However, the success of the Heat doesn't really uphold that reasoning and it may be premature to lift Wade to the same pinnacle at which Kobe and LeBron currently rest.

It may be more of an issue of intangibles because the reserved Wade doesn't seem to have the same aura of leadership that surrounds Bryant and James, and seems to be comfortable just going with the flow.

Or could it be that we have all been to quick to award Dwyane Wade a place at the top of the NBA hierarchy, that he may not really deserve?

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