The longtime Miami Heat superstar is putting up career lows in field goal percentage, effective field goal percentage and true shooting percentage, while his scoring average and PER are at their lowest rates since his rookie season 12 years ago.
However, that doesn’t mean Wade is still not a really good player— just one slowly in decline, now 10 days after his 34th birthday. That’s natural for someone who’s played over 35,000 career minutes, if you include the postseason. Wade is actually healthier than he has been in years, an unexpected constant for the injury-riddled Heat.
NBA teams, now more than ever, are resting veteran star players to keep them more fresh for the stretch run and the playoffs. Yet Wade has played in 43 of Miami’s 46 games this season and sat out the back end of just one of its eight back-to-backs to date. Before playing in his most recent second game of a back-to-back, Tuesday’s 100-98 win in Brooklyn, Wade sat out their most recent one on Jan. 20 against Washington.
“He’s healthy. We’re not overthinking it,” Miami head coach Erik Spoelstra told SheridanHoops regarding not resting Wade. “He’s put a lot of work into it, he’s healthy, he’s been able to play back-to-backs. In years past, he hasn’t been healthy.”
While Spoelstra did not admit this, injuries to core Heat players not named Dwyane Wade may be making it more difficult to give him some rest. The trio of Hassan Whiteside, Luol Deng and Goran Dragic have missed a combined 21 games. The quintet of Dragic, Wade, Deng, Chris Bosh and Whiteside have only played 331 minutes together, per Basketball-Reference, an average of only 7.2 minutes per game.
For comparison’s sake, San Antonio’s starting five of Tony Parker, Danny Green, Kawhi Leonard, LaMarcus Aldridge and Tim Duncan have played 452 minutes together. Oklahoma City’s lineup of Russell Westbrook, Andre Roberson, Kevin Durant, Serge Ibaka and Steven Adams have logged 512 minutes together.
Furthermore, resting Wade would also be a good idea given his numbers on zero days of rest. Despite a vintage, masterful performance on Tuesday— 27 points, 11 in the fourth quarter, on 11-of-22 shooting to go with eight assists— Wade has typically struggled on no rest.
|Wade Rest Splits||Games||Minutes||FG %||Points||Assists||Reb||True Shooting||Usage||O Rating||D Rating|
Wade’s field goal percentage is nearly 10 percentage points better when he has even just one day of rest as opposed to none. When he’s had two days of rest, he’s been phenomenal.
“This is me. As I said earlier in the season, this is me playing healthy,” Wade said. “I mean, no one is 100 percent healthy in this league at this time, but I can do some of the things that I want on the court.”
Miami is still heavily reliant on Wade. He’s fifth in the league in usage rate, but Spoelstra realizes that what the Heat are trying to do offensively just isn’t working. Tuesday was the first time that the team cracked 90 points in six games. Miami is 29th in the league in scoring and pace and 26th in offensive efficiency.
To remedy that, Spoelstra said he wants the offense to get across halfcourt quickly and start its sets earlier in the shot clock.
“We have to make a conscious effort of getting the ball up the court and getting into our action so we could utilize the personnel that we have,” he said.
That personnel includes Dragic— who will soon return from a nagging calf injury— who excelled in a fast-paced, frenetic offense during his tenure in Phoenix.
“We have to play to his strength and before, we weren’t really playing to his strength,” Bosh told SheridanHoops. “We’re working on it.”
Bosh said that up until a couple of days ago, Miami didn’t even have enough healthy bodies to install Spoelstra’s offensive tweaks in practice. Better managing the shot clock, putting pressure on opposing defenses and regaining aggressiveness are things the team needs to do in order to again reach the upper echelon of the Eastern Conference.
Whatever Miami wishes to accomplish offensively, none of it will happen unless Wade is the focal point. And so Wade is now even more committed to keep himself on the court, which begins with how he takes care of himself off it.
“What he’s done this year is that he’s continued to stay active in the weight room, even if it’s the day after a game or an off day,” longtime teammate Udonis Haslem told SheridanHoops. “It’s easy to sit around, relax, sit in bed and watch TV all day. But if you commit an hour out of your day and go into the weight room, and continue to get that body strong, it’ll reduce the risk of injury.”
When you get older, you need to commit more to take care of your body, Haslem said. Dragic said that Wade comes to the team facility an hour before practice to do just that.
“As you get older, It becomes more and more important to take your days off and hit that weight room and continue to work on your core, your hips, your glutes, so many small, little muscles that we tend to ignore,” Haslem said.
On the other hand, Wade’s motivation to stay healthy is something Bosh said that D-Wade simply could not ignore.
Miami looks like its in good shape to avoid the lottery, but the health of Wade and his teammates will go a long way toward deciding home court in the first round and seeding.
“You deal with a lot of injuries and guys in and out of the lineup. We’re not the only team that’s dealing with it,” Spoelstra said. “So our approach is no excuses. Each one of us can come up with a myriad of them. Nobody cares, including myself.”
So whoever is on the court for Miami, Spoelstra wants them to play with better pace and continue to play top level defense (the team is second in scoring defense, eighth in efficiency).
“We’ve got to understand what helps us win,” Wade said.
Just like the last dozen years, what helps the Miami Heat win is a healthy and effective Dwyane Wade. Though he’s not as good as he once was, he’ll always be a huge key to the team’s ultimate success.
Shlomo Sprung is a national columnist for SheridanHoops who focuses on analytics, profiles and features. He is also the web editor of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle. A 2011 graduate of Columbia University’s Journalism School, he has previously worked for the New York Knicks, The Sporting News, Business Insider and other publications. Follow him on Twitter.