Dwyane Wade is back to work and we are asking to change him.
It’s been almost two months since Game 7 of the NBA Finals. Since then, Wade underwent shock treatment for his knee and has gotten back to work in the gym. Questions about whether or not he will be ready for the regular season have been asked. And why not? After all, the Miami Heat super star clearly struggled with his health during the postseason and acknowledged how much his knee bothered him last season. Since that final win to secure a championship, Wade has given his knee proper rest.
But he is finally read to hit the hardwood. Wade spoke at his fantasy camp Friday:
“I’ll be coming in prepared and ready, but I won’t be ready for opening night,” Wade said. “I’ll be ready for opening night when opening night gets here. I have a good amount of time.”
There is little doubt that Wade will be ready to go for the regular season. Regardless, Wade’s recurring knee issues has become an issue for the whole team. LeBron James and Chris Bosh will have unquestionable roles in the Heat’s quest to win a third straight championship, but everything could rest on Wade’s shaky knees.
Questioning if the Heat will make the playoffs is silly. So we won’t do that and act on the assumption (and fact) that Miami will make the playoffs. So now I ask the question, should Miami play Wade fewer minutes in an attempt to save him for the postseason?
Looking back at last year, Wade had one of his best regular seasons. In 34.7 minutes per game, he averaged 21.2 points on 52 percent shooting. He looked quick and acrobatic and rarely seemed limited by his 31-year-old knees.
But the post season was an entirely different story. In fact, it was kind of weird. Wade’s knees became an issue as early as the first round against the Milwaukee Bucks. Wade got it together in the NBA Finals against the San Antonio Spurs, but for the majority of the post season, it seemed like every step for Wade was something he struggled with. His points per game dropped nearly five points, to 15.9 PPG.
To fix this, many people have suggested that Wade should rely more on his jump shot. Let’s ignore, for a second, that a player cannot simply become a better jump shooter. Turning Wade into a jump shooter would not only limit what he is so good at — post moves and cutting — but also would be redundant of someone already on the roster.
Ray Allen, one of the greatest shooters the NBA has ever known, comes off the bench for the Heat every game. Why would the Heat ask Wade to stop doing what he does so well (and made him one of the greatest shooting guards to ever play the game) when it has a proven and deadly shooter that it can play at any time.
To be clear, Wade needs to improve upon his jump shot, especially from longer distances, in order to eliminate the spacing problems presented when he is on the floor. Wade has acknowledged this and said he would work on it this offseason. Wade recently told USA Today that he wants to be more consistent, and that’s is all he needs to be. Not deadly. Consistent so that teams respect him from that distance.
“The older you get, the less you want to go inside and get banged around, so I want to be more of a consistent outside shooter.”
When the theory is that players become better shooters as their career goes on, Wade had his poorest three-point shooting performance of his career last season, shooting just 25.8 percent from the distance.
Wade wasn’t feeling it from three all season, and averaged exactly one attempt per game from beyond the stripe all season. It became expected and almost novelty that when Wade was open from the distance, he would decline the open shot and either pass or try to get closer to the rim.
Often, this ended up with Wade positioning from about 15 feet away from the basket and taking a contested fade away. The San Antonio Spurs almost used this to a deadly effect in the finals.
Wade’s three-point shooting struggles is nothing new. But Wade’s submission to his struggles is. His 1.0 three-point attempts per game is by far the lowest average since his NBA Finals MVP season in 2006-2007.
In fact, when people say Wade looked like a younger Wade last season, they were more correct than they might have known. Before that championship year, Wade averaged 0.9, 0.6 and 1.0 three-point attempts in his first three NBA seasons.
Wade’s three-point shooting struggles might seem new because he is coming off a three-year stretch that can only be described as an anomaly. Between 2008 and 2011, Wade was actually a legitimate three-point threat. He averaged .317, .300 and .306 shooting while averaging 3.5, 3.2 and 2.7 attempts from the stripe in those three seasons respectively.
But after the Heat lost to the Dallas Mavericks in the 2011 NBA Finals, he suddenly pulled back from pulling up beyond the arc. His attempts per game were cut to 1.1 per game and his average dropped to .268. Those numbers only got worse last season.
A lot of that dip has to do with Erik Spoelstra’s radical change to the offense the next season to move LeBron and Wade to the post more and rely more on the role players surrounding them to hit jump shots.
However this is basketball. And this is Wade. If he wanted to take more three-point shots he would. Just like LeBron has added to his game, many expected and hoped Wade would. But he hasn’t. Some of that is attributed to him having spend two months in the offseason to rest his knees rather than work on his game.
To get back to Allen, the answer may not be in forcing a three-point shot on Wade, but to force (ask?) him to take fewer minutes and play Allen more in an effort to save Wade for the postseason.
Wade averaged 34.7 minutes per game last season while Allen, who was promised starters minutes when he signed last summer, played 25.8 minutes per game (still a lot for any bench player). If the Heat gave Allen five of Wade’s minutes a night, then both Wade and Allen could conceivably play about 30 minutes each per game.
In an 82-game season, that would save Wade from playing the equivalent of about 8.5 games during the regular season. That isn’t including the random games in which Spoelstra might decide to rest his starters.
Playing Allen more would also help alleviate the spacing problems Miami faces when Wade is on the floor. If Allen struggles with the added minutes, the Heat could also play Norris Cole more at the 2-guard spot. Of course, who gets Mike Miller’s minutes will become a question too. But it is expected that James Jones and Rashard Lewis could each see more playing time next season.
Giving Miller’s minutes to the already-deep Heat bench and then playing Allen as a spell for Wade, while still playing Allen with Wade during certain portions of the game, provides a more realistic solution than Wade simply crafting a three-point shot from three blocks of wood planks and wool.
One final point. When LeBron was in Cleveland and in his first year in Miami, he roamed the wing and settled for too many jump shots when “we” said he should play more in the post. Then he develops his post game and becomes a robotically efficient demon monster that wins two MVP’s and his first two championships.
Wade survives in the low post and makes a living from efficient play in the paint — he is coming off, by far, his most efficient shooting season in which he shot 52.1 percent from the floor despite his very poor three-point shooting numbers. (LeBron shot 56.5 percent from the floor last season, and that’s including his 40.6 percent three-point shooting year.)
We asked LeBron to change for the better and he did. Yet we are asking Wade to make the opposite transition into a jump shooter. Why? Because it is the easiest solution. But that solution would present more problems — such as inefficient offense — and would take Wade from the best post-up guard in the NBA to an average-at-best jump shooter.
That doesn’t sound like something that wins a third-straight championship.