Entering the 2013-14 NBA season, the biggest question weighing on the minds of most sane Heat fans wasn’t Michael Beasley’s defense or Greg Oden’s durability. Last year’s playoffs exposed the fragility of Dwyane Wade’s knees in a way that announced his thirtysomething years.
Thus far, Wade is on pace to lead all shooting guards in Field Goal Percentage at 55%, and second place Goran Dragic – at an impressive 50.8% – isn’t even close. Wade missed significant time to tune his body, but spent it wisely tuning his game to emphasize strategy over pure speed.
Dwyane Wade is the Heat’s biggest X-factor come playoff time. During last year’s Eastern Conference Finals, he provided the spark (when healthy) that overcame Indiana’s size and fierce competitive streak.
This year, Coach Erik Spoelstra (no doubt after consultations with his Rileyness) began a “maintenance program” just as the San Antonio Spurs have done for countless years now to extend Tim Duncan’s career. After much grousing by fans about missing the superstar at games, the results are in: D-Wade is playing more efficiently than any other shooting guard in the NBA!
Wade’s Shooting Percentage is Unprecedented For a Shooting Guard
The next time you hear any woman say size doesn’t matter – tell her firmly that she’s never played basketball. The top 250 seasons for Field Goal Percentage according to basketball-reference.com all belong to Fowards and Centers. In fact, that last time a Guard led the NBA in shooting percentage it was 1948, before the NBA was the NBA!
As you can see below, Dwyane Wade is the top 2 point shot percentage shooter narrowly edging out Indiana’s Lance Stephenson. Unlike Lance who attempts 3 three point shots per game and the other top 5 in this list, Wade isn’t lobbing multiple 3 point basket attempts per game, only averaging 3 attempts in every 4 games.
Sitting high up in the upper bowl, looking across the Miami Heat bench and straight across the baseline, I get a unique perspective on why Dwyane Wade focuses so exclusively on the painted area and midrange for his scoring.
Wade is the King of the baseline
Many of Flash’s scores come running from sideline to sideline along the baseline area. Often crossing underneath the basket, Wade nimbly runs his defenders into and out of the painted area.
Basketball is a game of spaces, and Wade thrives in the 18′ from the basket spot along both sides of the baseline. Consider that the angle these drives to the basket take creates a measure of tactical surprise – Centers are often working with their back to the basket, and looking at top of the key activity. Baseline attacks take advantage of Wade’s speed vs. the Center’s need to turn his body to defend the basket.
Possessing the basketball ball under the basket is analogous to having the puck behind the net in hockey. In both cases, you cannot make a scoring attempt, and in the hands of most players it’s a gray area where the goal is an additional defender.
However, in the hands of a master such as Wayne Gretzky or a Dwyane Wade, the only place on the floor where you Cannot score becomes the most potent place To score.
Averaging 5 assists per game this year, and 6 for his career, D-Wade has always found his teammates. The baseline provides a pivot point in the visual triangle for him – ie. a place where he can pass to either side of the floor once his shoulders are squared under the rim, facing the top of the key.
Using the court geometry in this way means that he isn’t limited to passing only to the baseline he’s facing or from his outside arm to the top of the key.
Speaking of arms, Dwyane Wade, stands only 6′ 4″ tall, but his wingspan is 6′ 10″ which he’s used to become the #1 shot blocking guard over the years. Under the basket, those long arms act like Wayne Gretzky’s stick to poke the shot in past waves of potential basket guardians.
Dwyane Wade has finally returned to full heath in 2014, and he’s playing intelligent basketball within a well defined game plan.