The Miami Heat aren't Dwyane Wade's team anymore (that distinction obviously belongs to LeBron James). However, that doesn't diminish Wade's value to this Heat team; Miami needs him to be playing at his best if they are to win another NBA championship this June.
Lost during James' historic season is the excellent campaign Wade is putting together.
Entering this season, much of the conversation about Wade dealt with whether or not he was still an elite player. Well, Wade has proved he's elite and a key to Miami's title repeat chances.
Wade's scoring output (21.0 points per game) seems to imply that he is falling off, as it was only two years ago that he averaged 25.5 points per contest. Actually, though, Wade's scoring decline reflects on how smartly he is playing.
Wade is scoring less, because he's shooting less. His 15.6 shots taken per game represents the fewest since his rookie season. Wade is shooting less not because he can no longer get his shot like he used to, but because with Miami having the most talented team in its franchise's history, he doesn't have to shoot it 20 times a game for them to win.
Wade has recognized what the Heat need from him, which is to get his teammates involved and to take the right shots, not the most shots.
He is shooting 50.5 percent this season, a career high, and that's far from a coincidence.
That type of offensive play is a big reason why the Heat have been so successful in the regular season, and if he keeps it up, that winning will continue into the start of summer.
Still, Wade's value to Miami doesn't solely stem from scoring.
It seems to go unnoticed at times that Wade is both an excellent passer (4.8 assists per game) and rebounder (4.9).
Those abilities are especially important for this Heat team.
Miami doesn't have a top-notch point guard. Its starter at the position, Mario Chalmers, averages merely 3.3 assists per game. The Heat need others to step up in the distribution of the ball, and Wade certainly does.
It's also not a secret that this Miami team lacks size, which has led to significant issues rebounding the ball. The Heat have to try and keep the rebounding differential as close to even as possible, and part of the way they are able to do that is Wade, the league's fifth best rebounding shooting guard.
That type of production can't be replicated by anyone on Miami, so a Wade injury or decline in level of play would be extremely detrimental to the Heat's chances of winning it all.
To prove that, let's examine how a decline in play from Wade affects the Heat. Check out Wade's statistics in Miami's wins and in Miami's losses.
Wade's averages in Miami wins: 22.6 points on 53.6 percent shooting, 5.1 rebounds, 5.2 assists, 1.0 blocks and 1.8 steals.
Wade's averages in Miami losses: 16.8 points on 41.8 percent shooting, 4.4 rebounds, 3.9 assists, .3 blocks and 1.2 steals.
Wade's win/loss splits are drastic, which just goes to show how he impacts the Heat's ability to win.
Going beyond just how Wade has played in Heat wins, let's take a look at how Miami plays when Wade really has it going.
Ponder the following statistics, from Hoopsstats.
When Wade scores 23 or more points, Miami is 25-9.
When Wade shoots better than 48.1 percent from the field, Miami is 31-6.
When Wade finishes with a 22 or higher efficiency recap, Miami is 28-8.
There's no getting around it: Miami has a lot of talent on this roster, but Wade, even though he is aging at 31 years old, is still their second most important player.
The Heat have shown at times this season, in the games Wade has missed due to injury, that they can win without him, But for the Heat to win big, for them to win it all in the postseason, when benches shorten and stars matter more than ever, they need Wade at his best.
Wade's a game-changing, series-changing and title-changing player. Even though LeBron is the best player on the planet right now, Wade's impact on the Heat's championship repeat chances can't be overlooked.
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