Life Without Flash: How Will the Loss of Dwyane Wade Impact the Heat?
Why He Left?
It’s difficult to envision life and basketball without Wade in Miami. He has been the heart and soul of this organization since being drafted 5th overall in the 2003 NBA Draft. He has helped raise three championship banners for the city and is undoubtedly a first ballot Hall of Famer. Now that we’ve had a few days to comprehend this league altering decision, let’s dig a little deeper into why it was made. So why exactly would he spurn the Heat and leave the only team he’s ever played for?
For starters, Wade felt underappreciated in Miami. In his 13 seasons, he has never been the highest paid player on the roster. He chose to take pay cuts in order to compete for championships and, with the championship window officially closed, Wade wants his money back.
It’s disappointing that Wade left Miami for $3.5 million more per year, but it made Wade feel terrible that he was Riley’s third option in free agency behind Kevin Durant and Hassan Whiteside. After all that Wade has given to the organization and the city of Miami, he should have been their first call when July 1st came around.
Wade also wants to bring a championship to Chicago: the city that raised and groomed him. The 34-year old only has 3-4 good years of basketball left in him, so his short-minded view is understandable. With Kevin Durant taking his talents to the bay area, there’s only a limited list of championship contenders. The Bulls are far from a championship contender with their current roster, but they are one piece away from competing with the Cavaliers.
Jimmy Butler is a top ten player in the league. Rajon Rondo is arguably the most unselfish and creative player out there. Robin Lopez and Taj Gibson are two proven big men who are consistently solid across the board. Nikola Mirotić, Doug McDermott, Jerian Grant, and Denzel Valentine are all young, talented prospects that can thrive with expanded roles. Adding a dominant scorer and playmaker in Wade can propel this team into the top quarter of the Eastern Conference. If they can add another talented big, I can almost guarantee they will be a top three team in the East.
Where do the Heat go from here?
Even with Wade out of the picture, Miami has a very talented roster for next season.
Everyone with knowledge of the situation expects Chris Bosh to be back and ready to play by opening night. The 11-time All-Star is still a top-25 player in the Association when healthy. In the 53 games he played in last season, he averaged 19.1 points, 7.4 rebounds, and 2.4 assists in only 33.5 minutes per game. As long as he can stay healthy and on the court, Bosh will continue to dominate opponents.
Hassan Whiteside really needs to prove why Miami handed him a 4-year, $98 million contract this offseason, and I think he will. With Wade’s terrible three-point shooting headed for the Windy City, the floor will be a lot more open for Whiteside to operate in the paint. He must continue to terrorize opponents down low with his incredible combination of size, strength, and length, both offensively and defensively.
I personally think Goran Dragic will benefit the most from Wade’s departure. As a huge fan of Dragic’s game, I noticed on the Suns that he was absolutely dominant when having the ball in his hands every play. When Phoenix decided to make their dominant duo of guards (Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe) into a three-headed monster by adding Isaiah Thomas, Dragic’s production fell rapidly.
He was then shipped off to Miami, but still never lived up to expectations because the ball was in Wade’s hands more than his. Now, Dragic is the only true court general on the roster, which is when he’s at his best. Even though Bosh and Whiteside are the two bigger names on the roster, Dragic will run the show.
The next two players I want to discuss are Rook One and Rook Two; well, not anymore. The two second year talents, Justise Winslow and Josh Richardson, have even bigger shoes to fill with Wade gone, especially Richardson. His ability to knock down threes is going to be a huge factor in Miami’s success this season.
Winslow’s defensive abilities have always been his strong suit, but his offensive game really needs to improve and expand. I expect him to be Miami’s X-factor this upcoming season. Without their leading scorer from last year, Winslow must continue driving to the hoop strong and knock down a decent percentage of this three pointers. Winslow should make a massive jump in between his freshman and sophomore years.
Style of Play?
Last season, Miami liked to space the court and share the ball. However, when the ball was in Wade’s hands, the offensive movement became stagnant. He would stand at the top of the key, dribbling, trying to make a move on his opponent. Everyone else would simply just be standing and watching. Wade is extremely efficient with this style because he is a very dominant isolation scorer. Unfortunately, when Wade found himself struggling, so did the rest of the team.
I actually expect their offense to be better this season without Wade. More ball movement, more spacing, more three-point shooting, and more low post scoring. Miami can now truly take advantage of all of the specialized pieces that they have.
What I mean by this is allowing Dragic to truly run the offense. Having Dragic run pick and rolls with Whiteside. Allowing Whiteside to post up and take advantage of his mismatches on the interior. Letting Bosh truly become a focal point in the offense by bodying smaller opponents or spotting up as a lethal three-point weapon. Even running numerous plays to get Richardson open from beyond the arc.
Miami has so many pieces that Spoelstra can take advantage of, and I fully expect him to. It is so obvious that a team is at its best with Dragic at the helm. Check out the staggering differences in individual and team efficiency when Dragic is truly running the offense.
Goran Dragic Production
What stood out the most in my opinion was the difference in individual usage rating. The 2% difference isn’t that significant, but Wade’s usage rating was 30.5% and Bosh’s was 23.2%. Why does Wade, the primary shooting guard, have a usage rating that is 8.4% higher than the primary point guard?
With Wade firmly out of the picture, Dragic’s usage rating should skyrocket and so should his production and efficiency.
Everyone in Miami is going to dearly miss Dwyane Wade. I even just ordered a D-Wade Bulls jersey; not because I like or agree with his decision, but because I have nothing except for respect for one of the true basketball greats of this generation. Miami is never going to “move on” from Wade, but rather push forward in an attempt to bring another championship down to South Beach. The Heat has the talent to be a contender in the East, but Spoelstra must push the right buttons and certain players must step up. This truly is a make or break season for Miami Heat basketball.