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Not the Way of Wade

USA Today Sports

USA Today Sports


Any half-observant basketball follower of the past few years will tell you that Dwyane Wade is no three-point shooter. It’s not a matter of him not taking threes in spite of shooting them well, or attempting them although he fails to connect consistently. Wade doesn’t shoot threes because he’s poor from that range and always has been. These Playoffs – as only these Playoffs can – have sung a different tune however, delivering timely threes from Wade out of the blue. These shots likely mean little out of the context of the individual games they were in, but they certainly beg the question: Is a step backwards the next of Wade’s career?

Wade’s long-range shooting marks over the course of his 10-year career gives little reason for optimism. His career clip stands at 28.9%, his high for a season being 31.7% in 2009. Strangely, this was also the year Wade attempted the most threes of any season prior and following. Normally, struggling three-point shooters will see their percentages increase with a lower volume of tries, not a higher output. 2008-09 was one of two seasons in which Wade attempted over three shots from downtown per-36 minutes, with the rest mostly falling in the 1.5 or fewer range. This season, Wade’ shot 28.1% from deep on just 32 shots. The statistics fall in line with what’s become common basketball knowledge, that Wade is far from a three-point marksman.

Yet, at times he’s looked like one in these Eastern Conference Finals.

Wade has attempted 10 threes in five games against the Indiana Pacers, hitting five of them. For the sake of context, Wade attempted nine in his previous nine playoff games this season and last year’s postseason combined.  These threes have been a relative shock to onlookers, mostly because they’ve been dropping at a terrific rate, even in a minuscule sample size. They’ve come in some pivotal moments, too. One buzzer-beating three came at the conclusion of Game 3′s third quarter, which helped widen the Heat’s small lead. In Game 5, Wade nailed two threes in the fourth quarter in Miami’s comeback effort that eventually fell short.

Does this recent surge in long distance shooting tell us something that we’ve been missing about Wade the three-point shooter? Well, no. This wouldn’t be the first time he went on a tear from downtown in the Playoffs that ended up being an anomaly.

In his 2006 championship run, Wade stroked it at 37.8% from long range on 1.6 looks a contest. The following regular season, Wade shot 26.6% from deep on 1.5 threes a night. In a first-round exit in 2010, Wade shot 7.4 threes a game at a 40.5% mark. That’s Kyle Korver, Ray Allen and Stephen Curry territory. Wade shot just 30.6% from three in the subsequent 2011 season on 2.7 shots per game. If Wade goes berserk from three in the conclusion of this series and possibly the NBA Finals, it still shouldn’t be taken with anything more than a pinch of salt. However, this doesn’t mean it’s not worth asking if Wade should work to become a more consistent and willing shooter from three.

His superb play in these Playoffs suggest otherwise, but Dwyane Wade is in fact aging, and his career is on the decline. It’s tough to say that about a guy who’s arguably a top ten player when healthy, but both can be true simultaneously. Superstars that best survive past their expiration date in the NBA are ones who adjust, who change their games. Names like Vince Carter and Jason Kidd come to mind in this respect. Wade may not have the body to play until he’s 35 or 36, but absolutely has the tools. He’s already begun switching up his offensive approach, taking fewer shots at the rim in the past two years than in seasons past. This probably won’t be enough as Wade’s athleticism continues to deteriorate however, which is in theory where the three-pointer steps in.

Whether or not this would ultimately be beneficial to Wade and his team shouldn’t be a question. Wade thrives in the pick and roll, on the offensive glass and cutting off the ball. Adding a three pointer to that mix would make Wade an even more diverse offensive player, a scary thought even if his other aspects somewhat whither away. Whether or not this is a possibility is the real mystery.

It’s not crazy to imagine Wade retiring once his key skills wear away. He has three rings (possibly four in a few weeks time) and is a surefire first ballot Hall-of-Famer. Spending the time to input this new ability, one that’s had little success in the past, may not be worth it in Wade’s mind. Even if he does try it, could he become an efficient shooter from deep? It’s hard to tell. It’s times like these when he looks the part, but when you factor in his decade spent in the league and the form on his jumper it’s easy to see how the experiment could fail.

Dwyane Wade is quickly approaching the crux of his post-prime basketball playing days, and with it comes a lot of questions. Does he adapt and extend his tenure further, or hang it up for good? Wade’s game remains at an elite level for now, but as it begins to fail him, where he takes it next could make a world of difference.

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