How Much Does Dwyane Wade Help Cleveland’s Championship Chances [Opinion]

As the Cleveland Cavaliers are giving it their best to close the gap between their team and the offensive juggernaut in Golden State this offseason, the NBA’s runner-up’s roster continues to improve. The latest addition to the team is Dwyane Wade, a 12-time All-Star shooting guard and one of LeBron’s closest friends. Signing Wade was a no-brainer for Cleveland, as they are desperately in need of more star power, even if Dwyane’s star is not shining as brightly as it did a few years ago. Whether the basketball team from Ohio decides to use him as a starting shooting guard or as a premier sixth man, the addition of a veteran like Dwyane Wade gives Cavs more firepower as they hope to yet again test themselves against Golden State next May.

Following his buyout agreement with the Chicago Bulls, Dwyane Wade signed a one-year contract with the Cleveland Cavaliers, putting ink to paper for a deal worth $2.3 million. As a result, they will now have an impressive (potential) starting lineup of Isaiah Thomas, Dwyane Wade, LeBron James, Kevin Love, and Tristan Thompson, with the likes of Derick Rose, J.R. Smith, Kyle Korver, Jae Crowder, Channing Fry, Richard Jefferson, Jeff Green, and Ante Zizic coming off the bench. A stacked team, no doubt, but how much of a true threat do these guys pose to Curry and Durant at this point? Is Wade really still good enough to give them a real chance against the four-headed offensive dragon of the Bay?

Photo of LeBron James and Dwyane Wade in Heat uniforms during the game three of the 2012 NBA Finals

There are many positives that come with introducing a player of Wade’s caliber to an NBA team. In Cavs’ particular case, the first thing that comes to mind is the chemistry he and James share. During a four-year stretch, LeBron and Dwyane formed the NBA’s most menacing duo that turned the Miami Heat into a legitimate force to be reckoned with.

Although they are older now, especially Wade who is now at an age of 35, these guys love playing together and it will be a blast to see how they mesh in the same uniform again. The players will also be looking to Wade for some guidance. Relying on his natural winner mentality, Wade will be looking to step into the role of a second-tier leader, filling some much-needed ranks behind LeBron James. Although the leadership Wade displayed in Chicago was questionable at times, I don’t see him having the same sort of issues with the Cavs due to James’ presence and, well, the lack of a certain Rajan Rondo also helps.

As far as sheer talent and basketball IQ go, it’s not hard to see what Wade brings to the table. Although he is definitely far from his prime, he still averaged 18 points per game last year. The three-time champion and former NBA Finals MVP will be desperately needed in crunch times of games, and his cool-hand mentality will unquestionably have a positive impact on the Cavaliers’ roster. Furthermore, Wade should be able to help keep James’ minutes lower and take some offensive pressure from the Cleveland’ key player. He is also a very solid playmaker and has proven that he’s still able to do some damage from the post if given an opportunity.

A picture of Dwyane Wade handling the ball during a Miami Heat game

However, there are some concerns with Wade’s introduction to this team, besides the natural concern for his health. As far as the tactical aspect of the game goes, Wade’s fit isn’t ideal with what the Cavaliers are running at the moment since their main offensive go-to play is letting LeBron take the ball, wait for a double team, and hit a free teammate with an accurate pass for a three-pointer. Wade connected on just 31 percent of his threes last season, and to make things even worse, he was slightly worse on catch-and-shoot attempts, which are the current crème de la crème of Cleveland’s offense.

Dwyane will definitely have to start hitting those long-range looks at a better rate if Tyrone Lou is planning on not changing the game plan significantly. However, keep in mind that their offensive repertoire could use some updates, so them going back to the drawing board in order to incorporate Dwyane into the flow might not be such a bad idea.

Another concerning aspect of Dwyane’s integration with the Cleveland Cavaliers’ roster is the veteran’s ability on defensive tasks. Although a lot of his struggles on that end could be attributed to his age, there’s no denying Wade’s evident lack of effort on defense last year. Fortunately for Cavs fans, his detachment from D looked to be a problem of a mental nature, not a result of a physical decline, so he should be able to turn the switch now in Cleveland.

Nonetheless, once a strong defender and a remarkable shot-blocker for his size, Wade is now referred to as the 40th shooting guard in terms of defensive real plus-minus. However, there is some sense in believing that Dwyane will improve on the defensive end now that he does not have to share the backcourt with Rajon Rondo on an eighth-seeded Bulls team. A return to a championship contender should help, but we’ll just have to wait and see to what extent.

So, how much closer does Wade’s addition bring the Cavs to Golden State? He certainly did not set them back, but the size of the gap he closed is quite debatable at this point. It all depends on your optimism. Since Wade is not a defensively minded reinforcement as Jeff Green or Jae Crowder, he will certainly not be able to guard Stephen Curry or Klay Thompson; however, he should be able to put more pressure on them to work harder on defense. Wade should also be the team’s most effective isolation player next to Thomas and James, which also helps out a lot when the pressure of the playoffs start to take effect.

Perhaps the most intriguing novelty Dwyane brings to the Cavs is a strong response to the GS’ Death ball lineup – when the Warriors go small with their lethal combination that has Iguodala at the five, the Cavs can attempt to match this with a lineup of Thomas-Wade-Smith-Crowder-James. While still not as effective as the Golden State’s formation, this does give Cleveland three wing defenders and three ball-handling shot-creators in the backcourt.

As I said a few times already, we’ll just have to see how Wade plays this season before we start making any real judgments. Unfortunately, we’ll need to see how much more his knees can take as well. While even the most optimistic fans are not expecting to see a revival of the 2010-14 James/Wade duo, Dwyane’s addition to this roster can prove to be a big step forward for Cleveland and LeBron’s hopes to make his Finals record a bit more balanced.

Personally, this reminds me of a situation from a while back when the Miami Heat team decided to add Shane Battier after the devastating loss to the underdog Dallas Mavericks, a decision that eventually resulted in two championships. So who knows, maybe in a year’s time, we’ll be talking about the move to bring Wade in as a decisive moment for the Cavs. I see this potentially happening if Wade is willing to put his ego in check and run the second unit off the bench, preserving his legs in the process and operating the play when James takes his breaks which will, hopefully, be able to last more than 30 seconds next season.

[Featured Image by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images]