The NBA’s 30 best go-to players (#2: Dwyane Wade)

10.27.09 8 years ago 38 Comments
(photo. Mannion)

(photo. Mannion)

Who do you want your offense to run through with everything on the line? Counting down 30th to 1st (one per team), I’ve ranked the League’s go-to guys…

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#2: DWYANE WADE, Miami Heat

They say Kobe is the closest thing to Jordan since Jordan. They might be right. But I can’t look at Dwyane Wade without seeing the closest thing to Young Jordan — the more explosive version who didn’t yet have that jumper at his command — that we’ve seen since Michael earned the nickname “Air.”

The parallels continue when you look at D-Wade’s current supporting cast; the one that isn’t fit to contend for a championship despite their leader being arguably the best player in the world. It’s too bad, because this past season, in which Miami fell short in the first round of the playoffs, happened to be the best run of Wade’s career — and that’s including ’06 when he won a championship and Finals MVP. Wade led the NBA in scoring at 30.2 points per game in ’08-09, along with 7.5 assists, 5.0 rebounds, 2.2 steals and 1.3 blocks. He had my vote for MVP, and I wouldn’t have been mad if he copped Defensive Player of the Year to go with it. Across the board, nobody was better and nobody carried a bigger load.

As simply as you can put it, Wade is Miami’s offense. And in crunch time, he’s the only one worth watching. The numbers don’t tell the whole story, but are impressive nonetheless. In “clutch time” last season, Wade was the League’s fourth-leading scorer (49.2 points per 48 minutes) and ranked seventh in assists (9.4 per 48). He was also fourth in clutch time blocks (4.9), the only guard in the NBA’s top 15 in that category. Wade was the third-leading scorer in the fourth quarter, and with 16 percent of his baskets in the fourth coming off assists, Chris Paul was the only player in the top 30 who had a lower percentage. In other words, nine times out of 10 Wade had to initiate his own offense, and even with the entire defense aware of that fact, he succeeded.

It helps that Wade has one of the best handles in the game, probably the best among non-point guards. His first step, ability to break through double teams and mastery of the hesitation make him next to impossible to keep out of the lane. And once he gets there, he can finish with a dunk, a reliable pull-up, or with circus shots that he hits too regularly for one person.

Then there’s the ability to get to the line. Wade ranked third behind Dwight Howard and Kevin Martin as the most prolific at getting free throws, averaging 9.8 per game and hitting 76 percent. Does he get a ton of superstar calls? Has he figured out how to flail and flop to coerce the refs? No question. But if it works and helps his team win games, Wade isn’t going to stop and you shouldn’t hold it against him. The object of the game is to take advantage of what you can within the rules, and Wade does that.

Off the top of my head, I can recall games last season against the Bulls, Nets, Jazz, Knicks, Suns, Kings, Magic, Warriors and Spurs that Wade basically won by himself. Certainly there are more than that, and to recount all the details and memorable moments would take too long anyway. He steps his game up in the most tense situations — please believe that if Miami had conquered Atlanta in the first round of the playoffs, they would have given Cleveland a competitive run simply because Wade wouldn’t let them go down meekly on a big stage against LeBron.

However, this year should be a repeat of last. Wade will own the highlight reels and the box scores, winning games on both ends of the floor and creating another portrait of what a go-to guy should be on every level. But even with his most Herculean effort, the Heat won’t be in a position to seriously contend for a championship. And it’ll be another one of those times when it’s frustrating for D-Wade to Be so much Like Mike.

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3. Paul Pierce
4. LeBron James
5. Tim Duncan
6. Dirk Nowitzki
7. Brandon Roy
8. Carmelo Anthony
9. Chris Paul
10. Deron Williams
11. Vince Carter
12. Joe Johnson
13. Danny Granger
14. Steve Nash
15. Kevin Durant
16. Gilbert Arenas
17. Derrick Rose
18. Chris Bosh
19. Andre Iguodala
20. Tracy McGrady
21. Baron Davis
22. Michael Redd
23. Devin Harris
24. Kevin Martin
25. Al Jefferson
26. O.J. Mayo
27. Stephen Jackson
28. Nate Robinson
29. Boris Diaw
30. Rip Hamilton

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