As the Miami Heat embarked on their journey to their second championship in franchise history, you couldn’t help but notice that 2006 Finals MVP Dwyane Wade didn’t appear to be in his usual MVP form.
It was doubtful that Wade had lost his luster; he had just averaged 27 points per game in the 2011 Finals, and that was against a zone defense which is instituted to stop players with his style of play.
No, it wasn’t due to a decline in his play in the slightest. Wade was simply making bad decisions, not thinking correctly and not making the plays you’d usually see from him, which only made it tougher for the Heat considering Chris Bosh was dealing with his fair share of injuries. Dwyane’s lack of his usual stellar play could be attributed to the increased support put on his shoulders with Bosh out of the picture, as well as injuries that had hampered him all season.
For the first time in three years, Wade dealt with ailments throughout the season and ended up missing 17 games. While none of the injuries were significant, they were more of a nagging nuisance than anything; lingering and interrupting Wade’s usual lift and ability to attack the rim. It showed up prominently against Boston, where the Celtics threw constant double-teams at Dwyane. Without being perfectly healthy, Wade couldn’t best the stingy defense of the Celtics.
Wade averaging a solid 22.8 points, 5.2 rebounds and 4.3 assists per, but shot only 46 percent from the field, the lowest field-goal percentage he’s had in the postseason since 2009.
Accompanying the injuries, Wade was also adjusting to his new role as a second-option. As it was widely publicized, Wade gave the reins to James. Not just because he thought the team would be best with him at the helm, but also to further James’ legacy as a primary option who is the clear-cut leader of his team. So on top of injuries, Wade was also adjusting to a brand-new role as a second-option for the first time since his rookie season.
The offseason couldn’t have come soon enough for Wade. Draining his knee in between games in the second-round, Wade would have surgery on his knee immediately after the NBA Finals, causing him to miss the Olympics. Since the surgery, Wade is reportedly on track for the predicted return and will be ready for the Heat’s season opener against the Boston Celtics on October 30th.
Wade averaged 22.1 points, 4.8 rebounds and 4.6 assists per last year; the lowest amount of points per game he’s averaged since his rookie year. However, he also shot .497 from the field, which was the second highest percentage he’s shot from the field in his career. He also played a mere 33.2 minutes per on account of the injuries and the increased amount of support from the likes of Shane Battier and Mario Chalmers.
Chalk the 2011-’12 season as a down season according to Wade’s standards. With career averages of 25.2 points, 6.2 assists and 5.1 rebounds per, you expect only the greatest from a perennial MVP candidate and a former Finals MVP. However, as we saw last year, even the likes of Dwyane Wade can struggle when faced with adversity in the form of injuries and making significant adjustments.
Still, with the rest he’s garnering, the improvement in his knee and the confidence of winning a second championship in only nine years, Wade may end up having one of his most efficient seasons of his career. We have all seen what Dwyane is capable off when healthy and even though he’s turning 31-years-old in January, there’s no doubt that he still has the talent that has flowed through his veins since he first burst on the scenes.
Also, with the possibility that he ends up working with a shooting coach, Wade could end up prolonging his career. If he can somehow add some more arc and consistency to his jumper, Wade can become more reliant on the jumper that has escaped him since wrist injuries began taking over in 2007. Most importantly, it means that Wade won’t have to sacrifice his body on nearly possession and can stretch the floor and pass himself off as a consistent dual-threat.
It would be similar to what Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant did later in their career’s. Realizing that they didn’t have the same explosive ability they had when they were younger, Jordan and Bryant both worked religiously on their jumpers with the idea of being able to heavily rely on their mid-range game, as opposed to their formerly comfortable game of constantly attacking the rim. We may just see the same for Wade, as he misses more dunks because of his lack of lift.
What we also may see outside of an improved jumper and hops is LeBron possibly deferring to Dwyane more in the regular season, in order to give him confidence heading into the postseason. Rather than stripping himself of his title as the Heat’s leader and adjusting to a new role heading into the playoffs, Wade would be able to head into the playoffs with the confidence he usually possesses when heading into the second season.
The 2011-’12 season was a growing process for everyone. LeBron began to finally realize what type of player he was made of, Chris Bosh may have just found himself a starting position at center and Dwyane rightfully took a backseat for the better of his team. Because he proved to be mature, he’s going to end up reaping the benefits of being a quality teammate by possibly having a more increased role this season.
With the fact that he’s healthy in tow, his chemistry with James and Bosh at an all-time high and two superb perimeter players in Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis joining the team, Wade should find himself having one of the most efficient seasons of his career if his knee doesn’t bother him and if he can begin to redevelop that jumper which aided him so many times early on in his NBA career.