by Maurice Bobb / @ReeseReport

Don’t worry, Dwyane Wade didn’t drop one spot in our rankings this year as some sort of penalty for his heated exchange with NBA Commissioner David Stern during the lockout meeting. In fact, we loved the passion. And no, Flash didn’t get bumped in the rankings because he didn’t win the 2011 NBA Championship as the ringleader of the highly favored Heatles. The reason he went from No. 4 last year to No. 5 this year is simple: One player got that much better and proved that he deserved a promotion into the Top 5. So as much as it pained us to do it, Wade had to acquiesce his position on this list.

But No. 5 is no consolation prize. Not by a long shot.

As a Top 5 player in the world, Wade still makes the grade as an elite player and superstar that a franchise can hang its hat on and here’s two key reasons why:Dwyane Wade

1. Wade is still an elite scorer.

With his poetic collection of stutter steps, swoops and glides, Wade gets to the basket at will, shaking opponents on D with that patented staccato footwork, slicing to the rim with the certainty of an object caught in a magnetic field’s line of force. The only player in recent memory who could match Flash’s ability to get to the rack, Allen Iverson, is no longer lacing ‘em up for the L. And when Miami needed buckets in the postseason, Wade got ‘em to the tune of 24.5 ppg, good for the sixth best average in the postseason.

2. Wade is still an elite defender.

We all know he was robbed of his rightful place on the NBA All Defensive First Team. Not only is Wade’s perimeter defense (on ball and off the ball) top notch, his ability to protect the rim is uncanny. Remember when he got all Alonzo Mourning on Dallas during the Finals and denied Tyson Chandler at the rim for a dunk? How many 6-4 guards you know that could do that? Not surprisingly, Wade averaged 1.1 blocks a contest all season and 1.3 during the postseason. Wade is also one of the best in the League at getting a steal when his team needs it most.

A two-way player with a maniacal killer instinct? That’s Wade. But if Wade is so great, why is he at the bottom of the top five?

Here’s where things get tricky.

While Wade is clearly the Alpha Male of the Heat, his own teammate, LeBron James, is considered the better individual player. Confusing? Of course it is.

This is easy to understand, though: During the ’11-12 season, James will further establish himself in Miami and Wade’s reign as the King of South Beach will begin to wane. How can we be so sure? It’s already happening.

After Flash allowed James and Chris Bosh to ride shotgun last year, his numbers took a small hit, dropping to 25.5 ppg down from 26.6 ppg and 4.6 apg down from 6.5 apg. And even though he jumped in field goal percentage to 50 percent from 47 percent the previous year and his rebounds jumped from 4.8 to 6.4, James led the team in all those same categories (except rebounding led by Bosh at a meager 8.3 per) and had a legitimate MVP caliber season.

Additionally, Wade has a long history of injuries and his penchant for journeying into the lane with reckless abandon doesn’t bode well for his long-term durability.

Still, I can’t think of any team that wouldn’t ride or die with a player who can single-handedly take over a game anytime he wants to when healthy. Seriously, Wade is a one-man wrecking crew. He can’t be stopped—when he’s healthy.

Dallas may have shocked the world last season for the title, but I’d bet the farm that Miami will be right back in the mix for the O’Brien trophy next season and Wade will be more than instrumental in making that happen.

SLAMonline Top 50 Players 2011
Rank Player Team Position Pos. Rank
50 Luol Deng Bulls SF 8
49 Andrew Bogut Bucks C 7
48 Ray Allen Celtics SG 9
47 Marc Gasol Grizzlies C 6
46 David West Hornets PF 15
45 Kevin Martin Rockets SG 8
44 Andrew Bynum Lakers C 5
43 Brandon Jennings Bucks PG 11
42 Lamar Odom Lakers PF 14
41 Gerald Wallace Blazers SF 7
40 Brook Lopez Nets C 4
39 Joakim Noah Bulls C 3
38 Carlos Boozer Bulls PF 13
37 Kevin Garnett Celtics PF 12
36 Eric Gordon Clippers SG 7
35 Tony Parker Spurs PG 10
34 Andre Iguodala 76ers SG 6
33 Al Jefferson Jazz PF 11
32 Al Horford Hawks C 2
31 Stephen Curry Warriors PG 9
30 Tim Duncan Spurs PF 10
29 Josh Smith Hawks PF 9
28 Manu Ginobili Spurs SG 5
27 Tyreke Evans Kings PG 8
26 Rudy Gay Grizzlies SF 6
25 John Wall Wizards PG 7
24 Danny Granger Pacers SF 5
23 Monta Ellis Warriors SG 4
22 Joe Johnson Hawks SG 3
21 Paul Pierce Celtics SF 4
20 Steve Nash Suns PG 6
19 Zach Randolph Grizzlies PF 8
18 LaMarcus Aldridge Blazers PF 7
17 Chris Bosh Heat PF 6
16 Kevin Love TWolves PF 5
15 Rajon Rondo Celtics PG 5
14 Blake Griffin Clippers PF 4
13 Pau Gasol Lakers PF 3
12 Russell Westbrook Thunder PG 4
11 Amar’e Stoudemire Knicks PF 2
10 Deron Williams Nets PG 3
9 Carmelo Anthony Knicks SF 3
8 Chris Paul Hornets PG 2
7 Dirk Nowitzki Mavs PF 1
6 Dwight Howard Magic C 1
5 Dwyane Wade Heat SG 2

• Rankings are based solely on projected ’11-12 performance.
• Contributors to this list include: Maurice Bobb, Shannon Booher, David Cassilo, Bryan Crawford, Sandy Dover, Adam Figman, Jon Jaques, Eldon Khorshidi, Ryne Nelson, Doobie Okon, Ben Osborne, Quinn Peterson, Dave Schnur, Abe Schwadron, Dan Shapiro, Irv Soonachan, Todd Spehr, Tzvi Twersky, Yaron Weitzman, DeMarco Williams and Ben York.
• Want more of the SLAMonline Top 50? Check out the archive.