Breaking Down Dwyane Wade’s Shot Selection, Time To Do The Right Thing

Jun 9, 2013; Miami, FL, USA; Miami Heat shooting guard Dwyane Wade (3) lays the ball up ahead of San Antonio Spurs shooting guard Danny Green (4) in the second half during game two of the 2013 NBA Finals at the American Airlines Arena. Mandatory Credit: Larry W. Smith-EPA/Pool Photo-USA TODAY Sports

Dwyane Wade’s shot might be the most criticized in basketball. His shot selection, at times, is horrendous — both forced and ill-timed on occasion. Much has been made about Wade going to Target and purchasing a three-point shot, but last I checked, Target doesn’t sell three-point shots and I don’t know where else Wade can acquire one. The point I’m making? It’s the same point I made in this column about Wade playing fewer minutes, one does not simply “get” a three point shot. And so I move on. Unlike my last column about how to preserve Wade for the long-haul, this one is about what Wade should be doing with his minutes on the court.

Before we continue, I think it important to point this out: Expecting Wade to dramatically change this season is unrealistic and reckless. Wade, one of the greatest five or six two-guards in the history of the NBA, doesn’t need to change, turn into a J.R. Smith-level chucker or make any dramatic alterations to his game. Rather, focusing on his strengths while efficiently expanding on them is what all great players do (see LeBron James) and that is what this column is about.

And so we continue. Let’s start with Wade’s basic shot distribution. Below is a shot chart from NBA.com/Stats illustrating Wade’s attempted shots from the basic court zones. Wade attempted 1,093 total shots last season.

The blue represents where Wade shoots more than the league average — not his shots made, his shots attempted. Expectedly, Wade shoots more from mid-range and from under the rim than the league average. However, as the grey shading indicates, Wade shot a below-league-average amount in the paint. You would like to see more shots in the paint, but otherwise this doesn’t seem too bad.

However, when we take a look at the more advanced chart.

Now we are looking at the hot zones, showing where Wade takes most of his shots from specific locations on the court. Wade takes most of his shots around the key and in the post. That’s good. But he also takes many shots from that left elbow, otherwise known to Heat fans as the “Wade-chuck zone.” Combine that with his 26 shots from three just outside the left elbow and it is no surprise that the numbers back up Wade’s most infamous shooting spot.

Wade routinely passes up three-point shots. But when he does take them, he doesn’t take them from the best spots. He shoots most of his threes from the furthest possible location. On the other hand, the corners, the most efficient and closest three-point shot, are almost untouched. Wade took just nine threes from the corners last season. One way for Wade improve his three-point shot is by taking more efficient threes.

This chart shows that he doesn’t take as many shots from close the rim as one may hope. The first chart showed that he attempted 447 shots from under the rim, but Wade doesn’t take advantage of the zone just outside the layup and dunk area. This could be due to the fact that when Wade does get that close, he usually goes all the way to the rim for a layup or exciting dunk.

However, he took a ton of shots just outside that area in the post and around the key. Wade is considered one of the better post-up guards in the NBA this shows his dedication to the post. Still, you would like to see more shots from close. Imagine if Wade has a Tony Parker-like floater.

Most concerning is Wade’s tendency to go left. Opponents know that Wade likes to go left, they have since his rookie season. Wade hasn’t changed much from his rookie year, either. He still loves to go left and, in many ways, limits himself to that half of the court. Wade attempted 250 shots from the exclusively-left zones compared to 160 from the right.

If Wade was to go only left, that equals about 16 games-worth of shots from the left zones compared to 10 games-worth of shots from the right based on Wade’s 15.8 shot attempts per game.

We will see later that Wade shoots just as well going left or right. It is simply a preference for Wade, it’s his comfort zone. The result is that Wade is extremely predictable. His fast-twitch movements and super-star ability have given him the upper hand throughout his career, but if he wants to get better with age, it’s time for him to embrace going right.

Now, let’s take a look at Wade’s actual shot performance from the basic zones.

Not many surprises here. Wade shoots about average from mid-range and a Tyson Chandler-like 69.57 percent from under the basket. His only other green zone is in the left corner. However, his six shot attempts is a low sample size — as is his three from the opposite corner.

This basic zone tells us what we already know about Wade, the closer he gets to the hoop, the better he is. And it is a dramatic difference. Shooting a terrible 25.8 percent from three, a league-average 39 percent from mid-range, a good 46.19 percent in the paint and his best (and as we learned before, most often) from under the rim.

As I mentioned before, Wade shoots as well going right as he does going left. He made 100 of 250 shots going left, exactly 40 percent. Going right, he made 63 of 160 shots, 39.4 percent. What stands out in this final chart is that Wade is only relatively average from the post. Some of this could be due to his above-average quantity of shots from the post too, but 37 percent isn’t where he wants to be, especially being so terrible from long range.

Wade shoots just 42.50 percent from the “Wade-chuck zone.” No good. Maybe he should start chucking from the opposite elbow (I kid). Of course, Wade is still good in the paint. Getting in the paint more can only help. We might expect more pick-and-rolls between Wade and LeBron or Chris Bosh.

However, what this last chart illustrates is that, while many people want Wade to work on his three-point shot, he still has work to do in the post and mid-range. That’s what butters Wade’s bread but he hasn’t perfected it just yet. His goal should be about 45 percent from mid-range and 40 percent from the post. Wade is very good from these spots, but he has room to get better in specific areas and, again, he needs to go right more in order to become less predictable.

Small changes for one of the greatest to get even better.

Topics: Dwyane Wade, Miami Heat

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  • Jeffrey Gebeau

    Greatest five or six? Try three or four.
    If you put anyone besides Jordan, Bryant, or West in front of him, you have no business running a Heat site because you’ve clearly forgotten exactly who Wade is and the fact that James vs. Wade was a very legitimate debate until 2012 (when Wade voluntarily removed himself from the comparison by opting to defer to James).
    And if you compare the likes of Clyde Drexler or Allen Iverson to Wade, as you must be, because I can’t imagine who else would be in your top 5 or 6, then you deserve to be pelted to death with basketballs. Spend five minutes on a basketball reference site and you can clearly establish that Wade is at worst the fourth best ever to play his position, and there is a significant drop-off to between Wade or West and whomever you put at #5.

    • Wes Goldberg

      While I believe Wade to be the fourth best two guard of all time (Behind MJ, Kobe and West), I was writing from a general point of view that no matter what, he is in anyone’s top 5 or 6, considering where they rank Clyde Drexler and George Gervin. Even if I think Wade is the fourth greatest SG of all time, that still means he is in the top 5. You know what I mean? Maybe I should have made that more clear. Either way, thanks for the comment and I will ignore your hypothetical insults for the time being. Point of advice: Put a shirt on. Thanks!

      • cyberwizard

        Wade was the guy that rivaled Lebron in the east when their respective teams went head to head. Remember that game when Wade dunked/floored Anderson VerajOW and stepped over him. Both Wade and Bron scored over 40 that night. Clearly one of the most efficient players in NBA history, and as far as guards he has the been most efficient, even more efficient than Kobe. When you consider the gold medal(highest ppg), scoring crown, All-Star MVP, Finals MVP, and the 3 rings, you’re easily talking number THREE all-time shooting guard. Wade has taken a back seat to Lebron, but you can’t knock it since it has resulted in 2 more rings for Wade. Moreover, even with all of the articles about his injuries, Wade defies injury and had one of the best games in playoffs history with that 32 points, 6 steals performance on a tender knee. When Wade is 100% healthy, even at 31, he takes a back seat to no one in this league.

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