I spent so many years hating Dwyane Wade. It’s probably because the Heatles were the annual executioners of every Chicago Bulls playoff run, but my dislike for Wade goes back further than that, to when he leveraged a possibly crooked officiating crew to steal the 2006 Finals away from my beloved Dirk by shooting 87 free throws per game.
I had all the anti-Wade talking points ready to go anytime I heard his praise: he can’t shoot, he whines too much, and he relies too much on his athleticism to succeed. Now that I’ve been watching Wade night after night I can say I was correct on two of my three points. But what I missed watching Wade with a hater-hat on was the way he’s able to put his teammates in situations to succeed with his great vision and passing.
Thursday’s win over the Spurs was a total team effort as Jimmy Butler took the entire first half to gain the courage to dribble within arms reach of Kawhi Leonard. DWade lead the team with 20 points (nine of which came from the line), but his five assists were more indicative of the consistent positive impact he has on the court.
Wade is averaging just 3.4 assists per game this season, which is the lowest average of his career. He’s also assisting on just 19.2% of his team’s field goals, which is also a career low. While these stats seem to indicate Wade has slipped as a playmaker, they fail to account for playing alongside two ball dominant players. Per NBA.com, Wade is averaging the fewest touches per game and time of possession since 2013-14 (the earliest year that data is available). His average time of possession this year is a a massive 40 seconds less than his second lowest average in that time-frame.
When Wade has had the ball in his hand, he’s made the most of it. In the 262 minutes he’s logged without Rondo, Wade’s assist percentage shoots up to 24.1%. In 138 minutes without Rondo and Butler, Wade is responsible for 33.9% of team’s assists, per NBAWowy.com
Dwyane Wade nice assist to Taj Gibson. pic.twitter.com/KVgRjcWRa1— ⓂarcusD2.0 (@_MarcusD2_) December 9, 2016
Taj Gibson was the scorer on three of Wade’s five dimes in the win over San Antonio. Before completing this soul-sucking slam in the fourth quarter, Wade had hit Gibson for two pick and pop jumpers from the foul line in the first half. Wade and Taj have quickly developed nice on-court chemistry and it shows up in the stats; Wade has assisted Taj 19 times this season, the most of any Bull.
What makes Wade so effective as a passer is the combination of his intelligence and his status as a historically great scorer. Wade knows that when he attacks the basket he is going to garner a lot of attention. Even at this well-past-prime stage of his career, defenses will over-help to prevent Wade from making it to the rim. Wade has seen every defensive scheme ever crafted in the past 13 seasons and has developed impeccable timing and precision necessary to punish the extra help.
This is what differentiates Wade from Rondo as a playmaker. Rondo racks up his assists by throwing passes to moves ahead of the chess board. Wade simply takes advantage of what the defense gives him.