Despite all the questions about Dwyane Wade‘s status as an elite player and the litany of injuries in recent times, he is still a quintessential piece of the Miami Heat puzzle and the current regular season is proving just that. This season alone, Wade has already missed seven games, including Monday night’s overtime thriller against Atlanta, due to his knees. And in those games, Miami are 4-3 compared to 17-3 with him, conceding more than 103 points, which is six points more than the team average of 97 points per game.
Having Wade in the lineup allows Miami to share the workload and gives opposing defenses yet another problem to worry about other than LeBron James or Chris Bosh and so on. That in turn creates space for others to work with and exploit as proven by the improved shooting accuracy when Flash is on the court; 50.8 percent overall and 37.3 percent from 3-point range without Wade, compared to 52 percent and 39.8 percent with him — per 100 possessions. (NBA.com)
Wade’s biggest impact is felt mostly on the defensive end as Miami concedes nearly three points less per 100 possessions with him on the floor than they do without him. In addition to this, opponents’ second-chance points, points off turnovers are also reduced. And thanks to his outstanding timing and athleticism, the greatest shot blocking guard (6’4” or less) helps Miami deny up to four less points in the paint while he is helping out defensively.
Erik Spoelstra and the Heat organization are being extremely cautious with their handling of the prized gem in the Miami, by resting him against the “lesser” teams (with the exception of Atlanta, all teams have losing records), which is smart because it means they are looking at the bigger Larry O’Brien Trophy-sized picture.
The preliminary results of the rest can already be seen through the way Wade is able to put together big performances. However, more so than his scoring totals, it’s the way that he has been getting there i.e. with dunks and vintage, stupidly acrobatic finishes at the basket.
Plus, when he is sitting out games, Wade is still part taking in intense work out sessions which is arguably harder than an actual game since he is in the weight room and training facilities near enough 24/7. Nonetheless, it seems to be paying off after the All-Star won NBA Player of the Week honours in the Eastern Conference this past week after averaging 26.3 points and shot at least 56 percent. This included a big game against Indiana where he put on a 32 point masterclass.
LeBron James was clearly impressed by the performance, stating that, “When he’s able to move, he’s one of the best in our game. When you see him get multiple dunks in games, multiple post-ups. I mean, he took 25 shots tonight, so he’s feeling great. I don’t remember the last time one of our players took 25 shots. But for him to shoot 15-for-25 was huge. His aggressiveness tonight was an indication that his knee, obviously it’s not 100 percent, but it was feeling good.”
Miami can win games without Dwyane Wade, but by no means are they a better team without his 20 points, five rebounds and five assists per game. And against some of the better teams in the NBA, he often is the difference maker.