Here we go again. Another season underway and the Dwyane Wade doubt machine is in full force. There are plenty of grumblings about Wade and his balky knees and the rest he’s requiring. And with the team off to a better than previous seasons start, there are questions about whether the Heat need Wade at all to win another championship.
Don’t believe the hype. Wade is needed more this year than in years past. And they are going to need him in the playoffs. Although a hobbled Wade was enough to push the Heat over the top in last season’s playoffs, that probably won’t be enough this year.
The NBA has become a league divided. It seems that half of the league is pursuing 2013-14 glory, while the other half is seeking a high draft pick in 2014. This brand of roster tanking has allowed the greatest contenders to the Heat’s throne to upgrade their rosters significantly on the cheap this offseason.
The addition of Luis Scola plugged up a weakness in their line-up. Combine this with the continued maturation of Paul George and the Pacers red-hot start, and there are actually people that believe Indiana is the team to beat. Without a healthy Wade, they may be right.
Looking back on the 2012-13 Eastern Conference Finals, the Heat won when Wade played decent basketball. If he’s healthy for this year’s playoffs, I expect the Heat will be incredibly difficult to dethrone.
There is no arguing that this Heat team has its most formidable bench of the LeBron years. Ray Allen, Rashard Lewis and Chris Andersen all seem to have sipped from the Fountain of Youth. Norris Cole and Mario Chalmers are both playing solid ball at the point. Michael Beasley is looking like he may end up the best bench difference maker in the league. Oh, and there’s always the whole Greg Oden thing. So, it comes as no surprise that the Heat are able to win consistently in the regular season without Wade playing every night.
Here’s the thing, though. Regular season basketball isn’t playoff basketball. In the playoffs, every possession counts. And although Allen, Beasley, Chalmers, Cole and Bosh can pass as the focal point for possessions during the regular season, it won’t happen in the postseason, especially against the Pacers and the Western Conference champions.
Wade is the only player on the Heat that can truly spell LeBron in these series. And that’s only if he’s healthy. Wade needs his spring, and his quickness. As a matter of fact, during the small sample of this season’s games, Wade has been every bit as effective a distributor when in for LeBron as the king himself. Also, let’s not gloss over the intangibles. Wade is a beast. He is a champion. He provides edginess in the playoffs that LeBron doesn’t. He is a chaotic defender, who’s not afraid to get nasty. Wade will get under your skin, but only if he’s healthy.
If the Miami Heat are to win the championship this year, Dwyane Wade will be a key. There’s just no doubt about it.