Why Wade Should Go West
In the aftermath of the Carmelo Anthony trade, Dwyane Wade finalized a buyout with the Chicago Bulls and finds himself on the open market. Wade is clearly in the latter part of his career and can no longer be the best player on a contender. His field goal percentage slipped to a career low of 43.4 last year, which was well below his 48.4 career percentage. While there was increased focus on his three-point shooting, it actually constituted only 15 percent of his shots down from 16 percent in his prime. The advanced stats bear out the decline as his effective field goal percentage and true shooting percentage were also career lows. In fact, the past 3 seasons have been three of his worst by both traditional and advanced methods of tracking. His teams have underperformed, his scoring, shooting, and assists were all down and his advanced stats were down across the board. Wade is at the stage of his career where he will need to be a supporting piece in order to win a championship.
While the previous paragraph makes it seem like Wade is washed up, he can still contribute. Once upon a time, shooting guard was one of the NBA’s marquee positions but now there are fewer and fewer game changers at the position. With Harden’s move to the point, the best point guard in the league last season likely comes down to DeMar DeRozan, Jimmy Butler, or Klay Thompson. In this environment, Wade can certainly claim a spot in the top 10-15 players at the position and could provide some crucial minutes for a team that balances his workload. Where should Wade go?
The primary criteria for Wade should be a quality team with a chance at the title so that knocks off the Miami Heat, Denver Nuggets, Milwaukee Bucks, Memphis Grizzlies, Dallas Mavericks, and Phoenix Suns. All of those teams have some space for a player like Wade and Miami would be a great reunion but there is no chance for him to get back to the Promised Land. While Miami is the sentimental pick, Wade would have a better chance to rehabilitate his career with the Mavericks or Suns. Both organizations have a great track record of rehabilitating older veterans with their medical (Phoenix) and coaching (Dallas) staffs. Memphis would give him the best shot at playing time on a playoff contender. Meanwhile, Milwaukee and Denver could use a veteran presence to help get them over the hump in their respective conferences and were teams that had pursued Wade last year in free agency.
- Oklahoma City Thunder
The Thunder emerged as a dark horse for Wade with the addition of Carmelo Anthony to the roster but it is truly difficult to see Wade playing on this team. Paul George, Russell Westbrook, and Carmelo Anthony all need the ball in their hands. That means fewer touches for Wade. Westbrook, Andre Roberson, and Steven Adams are not shooters. Wade is not going to improve the shaky spacing on this team. He could potentially head the second units but that role already seems like a perfect fit for one of the existing stars. The Thunder need 3-and-D players and that is a role Wade is simply not fit to play at this stage of his career.
- Houston Rockets
The Rockets have not gotten the buzz of some of the other super teams but Houston does check most of the necessary boxes. They could put shooting around him, are contending for a championship, and even have fellow banana boat friend Chris Paul on the roster. However, the Rockets are also loaded at the wing spots and already might have too many ball-handlers. This means Wade would add to an already crowded backcourt. On top of that, Wade simply does not fit the Moreyball paradigm, which likely means he will need to look elsewhere.
- Boston Celtics
Wade could definitely fit on the Celtics. He would provide a veteran leader for a team that will have to fill the leadership void left by Isaiah Thomas and Avery Bradley. Moreover, Coach Brad Stevens is a wizard and could certainly find ways to get around Wade’s lack of shooting. In addition, the Celtics may have leapfrogged the Cavaliers as top dogs in the Eastern Conference. Why so low then? The Celtics need defense. Wade is a subpar defender at this stage of his career. He can be lackadaisical and unengaged on defense, which is not going to work playing next to a limited defensive player like Kyrie Irving in the Boston backcourt. Lastly, the Celtics are already starting at least three new players so it seems unlikely they would want to shake up the roster any more in spite of the intriguing nature of Wade’s fit on the team.
- Cleveland Cavaliers
Cleveland is a heavy favorite to land Wade for obvious reasons. He is buddies with LeBron, they are a championship contender, and Cleveland has loads of shooting. That said, the fit is not as great as it seems. The Cavaliers, like the Celtics, need perimeter defenders. Wade is no longer a difference maker on that end and the combination of him and Thomas in the backcourt would hemorrhage points, particularly without a rim protector on the roster. Moreover, the Cavs run their offense through LeBron, which means Wade would need to spot up off the ball. While he can still attack closeouts, Wade is a career 28.7 percent shooter from beyond the arc. Coach Tyronn Lue would likely have him lead the second units during the regular season but Cleveland already has a crowded backcourt that includes JR Smith, Iman Shumpert, Isaiah Thomas, Derrick Rose, and Jose Calderon. Wade could help improve that group but his addition would not dramatically improve the Cavaliers’ title hopes.
- San Antonio Spurs
While the pull of LeBron is almost certainly going to be too much for Wade to resist, he should take his talents to San Antonio instead and start the second stage of his career in the Spurs machine. Here’s why:
Wade has a history of injury issues and has never played a full 82 game season. The Spurs love to rest veterans and have a history of prolonging their players’ careers (see Ginobili, Manu).
Wade needs an offense where he can have the ball and be surrounded by shooters. San Antonio historically loves to mix and match bench units and have a roster filled with shooting.
Wade can no longer be counted on as an elite perimeter defender. Last year, the Spurs fell all the way to second in points allowed per game and have been in the top-10 since 2011 when they traded George Hill for Leonard.
Wade wants to play for a contender. Who better than a Spurs team that had a 20 point lead in the first game of their series before Kawhi Leonard went down with an injury. The last time the Spurs missed the playoffs, Bill Clinton was starting his second term as president, Notorious B.I.G. was ruling the charts, the biggest story of the year was the death of Princess Diana, and the Rolling Stones were still touring. Clearly, whatever magic potion keeps Keith Richards alive has also powered decades of success for the Spurs under Coach Gregg Popovich.
An added bonus for Wade should be that if anyone can help him become a better shooter, it would be Spurs shooting specialist Chip Engelland.
Instead of rejoining LeBron and getting to replicate their last Heat season by losing to a better team in the NBA Finals, Wade should join the Spurs and sip from the fountain of youth that kept Ginobili and Tim Duncan playing into their 40’s.