Dwyane Wade Is Flourishing In His New Role [Opinion]

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Dwyane Wade is hall of fame bound. He has won three championships and has been a perennial all-star. Now, after a disappointing year with the Chicago Bulls, Wade is thriving in his new role with the Cleveland Cavaliers. Wade started the first few games for the Cavaliers and had accepted a bench role, and he and the team are better for it. Dwyane knows he is 35-years-old and not the same player he once was, but he still knows he can help a team win.

Wade heard all the noise in the offseason. Everyone was saying he was done and washed up and should just retire. Him and the Cavaliers having a slow start only enhanced that noise. Luckily, Wade and the Cavaliers have turned it around. Cleveland has won 10 straight games and is third in the east. After a terrible start on defense, Cleveland has jumped from 30th in defensive efficiency to 25th, according to ESPN. They should get even better as the season goes on. The primary key to their turnaround is the return of their elite offense. Cleveland is now 4th in offensive efficiency. Their deadliest offensive lineups include Wade in bench units that are wrecking the league.

During the 10 game win streak, Wade is averaging 13.5 points, four assists, and 4.9 rebounds per game. These aren’t the numbers Wade used to put up when he was the “Flash,” but they are efficient. Wade is putting up these numbers in only 24.8 minutes per game and is shooting a reliable 42 percent from the field during this stretch. Dig deeper into the numbers, and you see the more significant impact Wade is having for the Cavs.

Wade ranks 33rd among all shooting guards in real plus-minus wins added. Doesn’t sound great, but considering the minutes he is playing, it’s clear he is having a positive impact when he is on the floor. Head coach Ty Lue has found lineups in which Wade can be efficient in. These lineups usually include LeBron and three other shooters on the floor. This gives Wade room to roll to the rim, cut, drive, and post up. His chemistry with LeBron from their Miami days is starting to show again. The deadliest lineup has been LeBron, Kyle Korver, Channing Frye, J.R Smith, and Wade. This lineup has a ridiculous +70.1 net rating, according to NBA.com, and should play more. Kevin Love can easily replace Frye in this lineup, and it’s just as deadly. A lot of the pieces can be replaced. Sometimes Jae Crowder replaces J.R. Smith. The two constants in these lineups are obviously Lebron and Wade.

Lebron is not surprising he is still the best player on the planet by far. Wade being this effective with all of these bench lineups has been surprising. He is just not doing on offense either. Wade has been a part of Cleveland’s best defensive lineups this season. Cleveland’s best defensive lineup that has played at least 20 minutes together includes Crowder, Lebron, Love, Smith, and Wade. This group has a ridiculous defensive rating of 132.9. Wade has seen his defense slip in recent years, but he looks re-energized in Cleveland. He can still turn it up when he wants too.

This speaks to the importance of fit. Last year, Wade was miserable on an average Chicago Bulls team. While he put up decent numbers for the Bulls, his impact wasn’t significant. This year, Wade’s traditional numbers are down, but his impact on the court is more meaningful. He is a role that fits the 35-year old version of him, not the player he once was. That player can still make a significant impact. It takes an unselfish player to make this sacrifice, and Wade is doing whatever it takes to help the team win.

Dwayne Wade celebrating after a dunk against the Atlanta Hawks
Featured image credit: Kevin C. Cox

For his career, Wade posts averages of 23 points, 5.6 assists and 4.8 rebounds per game. This year he has averages of 11.1 points, 3.9 assists, and 3.9 rebounds. May not seem like much, especially compared to his old numbers, but it’s clear Wade can still play!

Sometimes it’s the little things that can make a difference between winning and losing. Wade with his experience as grit is the master of the little things. He merely hustles when he is out on the court. Wade is fourth on the team in deflections per and loose balls recovered per game. These are not traditional stats, but they are stats that matter when deciding the outcome of the game.

Going forward, Wade will be necessary for the Cavs in their pursuit of a title. Cleveland is still chasing Detroit and Boston in the eastern conference standings, and they would like to get home court throughout the playoffs. They may not need it with the greatness of LeBron, but it would certainly help. To get there, and to get through the east, they will need Wade and his championship pedigree. The real test will come in the NBA finals if they have a rematch with the Golden State Warriors. This would be the fourth year in a row that these teams would meet in the finals. The question is can the Cavs defend the league’s most lethal offense. Can Wade hang in against the Warriors, especially on the defensive end. Time will tell on that front, but for now, Wade is helping the Cavs win. It’s a pretty good deal for a player who was bought out by his previous team.