Dwyane Wade doesn’t care about your opinion. Nor should he.
He clearly paid last year’s SLAM Top 50—where he was slotted at 32—no mind. Because apart from missing 20 games last season with a strained hamstring (D-Wade hasn’t played 70+ since ’10-11), dude still went out and averaged 21.5 a night, good for 11th in the League.
Klay Thompson and James Harden, the two shooting guards ahead of Wade on the scoring list, shot 46 and 44 percent from the field, respectively. Though he played far fewer minutes, Miami’s future Hall of Famer edged each of them at 47 percent.
Father Time is knocking on Flash’s door, but Wade still has more than a few tricks up his shooting sleeve. His off-the-dribble, mid-range game remains filthy; while he may have lost a step, he’s always been two or three ahead of any defender. His crossover still freezes the quickest guards in the L, and he when he penetrates, he still glides like a luxury car through traffic. Though Kyrie Irving has replaced him as the best 6-4 or under finisher, Wade can still launch, take contact and lay it in.
Facts only: Wade’s passing ability has always been somewhat underrated. When LeBron—arguably a top-three passer in the League—joined the Heat, Wade’s distributing skills were overshadowed. Remember: When he linked wit LBJ, his dimes per game dipped from 6.5 per game to 4.6 in a single year. Now, Wade’s APG are slightly up again—his 4.8 per outing in ’14-15 ranked third among 2-guards behind Harden’s 7.0 and Evan Turner’s 5.5. Expect Wade’s average to increase again as Miami regains a fully healthy—and lowkey dangerous—starting five.
The Heat were decimated with injuries last season. In addition to Wade’s 20 missed games, Josh McRoberts missed 65, Chris Anderson missed 22, Luol Deng missed 10, Hassan Whiteside missed 10, Udonis Haslem missed eight and Goran Dragic missed three. Chris Bosh dealt with life-threating blood clots in his lungs, which forced him to miss the final 38 games of the season.
But the Heat’s newly formed starting five of Dragic, Wade, Deng, Bosh and Whiteside is now injury-free and ready to go. If Wade can stay healthy (a huge ‘if’ for a player who has never gone 82), his game should continue to age nicely alongside such a talented and capable group of teammates. His pairing with Dragic—Miami’s best PG since Tim Hardaway—is especially intriguing. If Bosh is back to his usual self and Whiteside can continue to wreak havoc inside, Dragic and Wade could take a stab at Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan’s hold on the League’s third-best backcourt tandem.
In June, there was talk we might see Wade in a Cavs, Lakers or Bulls uniform this season. Luckily for Miami, the franchise retained its most decorated player when he agreed to a one-year, $20 million deal, which replaced his $16.1 million player option. The money is well deserved coming off his 10th season of 20-plus ppg and his 11th All-Star appearance.
South Beach is still Miami-Wade County, and there’s still plenty of bolt left in the Flash.
|SLAM Top 50 Players 2015|
Rankings are based on expected contribution in 2015-16—to players’ team, the NBA and the game.