Is it too early? Of course not. Exactly four weeks after Opening Night ’08-09, the NBA’s Most Valuable Player has to be Dwyane Wade.
Let’s start with numbers. Fourteen games in, Wade is averaging 28.5 points, 4.9 rebounds, 7.6 assists, 2.4 steals and 1.9 blocks. He ranks second in the League in scoring, less than a full point behind LeBron and well ahead of Chris Bosh, Dirk and Kobe, who round out the top five. He’s third in steals behind Chris Paul and J-Kidd. As a two-guard, he’s sixth in assists. And as a short two-guard, he’s seventh in blocks, ahead of notorious brick walls Elton Brand, Tim Duncan and Emeka Okafor.
Next, team success. The Miami Heat are 7-7 after last night’s loss to the Rockets and sit #12 in Dime’s most recent NBA Hit List power ranking. Doesn’t sound like the typical resume of an MVP, but consider the whole picture. The Heat aren’t that good. I’m one to talk, because going into the season I admittedly overrated them by saying their best-case scenario was an Eastern Conference Finals bid. But after seeing them play a few times, I see the flaws. Mike Beasley is good, but he’s still learning. Same for Mario Chalmers. Shawn Marion, as much as I love his game and have advocated for him over the years, looks like he’s running on fumes. Miami also has no big man to speak of (unless you’re a big Joel Anthony fan), no dead-eye shooter (unless you’re a big Daequan Cook fan), a rookie coach, and honestly have no reason being near .500 were it not for one guy: D-Wade.
Finally, let’s talk impact. How many people had written D-Wade off before this season? The new Converse ads weren’t drawn from thin air. Before the Olympics, Wade had all but fallen off the public plane in terms of elite-level NBA superstars, and even after he turned in an MVP-like performance for the Redeem Team in Beijing, was given no better than a cautious, wait-and-see disclaimer as the season approached. Now? Anyone who’s seen a Miami game can see Wade is better than he’s ever been. He’s stronger, got more spring in his step, his jumper is more reliable (OK, maybe not so much beyond the arc), and if the game is close in the fourth quarter, it’s almost guaranteed that he’ll take over and at the very least give his team a good chance to win. The Cavs have played some good basketball this year without LeBron on the court (thanks to Mo Williams), and the Lakers have dominated with Kobe playing the background, and that tells me no one is more important to his team than Wade.
I can see how this will end, though. Back in 2006, Kobe did everything he could to carry a Lakers team that barely made the playoffs, and lost in the MVP voting to Steve Nash. Because Miami is not gonna win 50 games and take a high seed in the East, no matter what kind of insane numbers Wade posts, he’ll ultimately fall short to LeBron or Kobe or CP. But on my ballot, if I had to turn it in today, D-Wade gets checked off #1.