Can Wade still bring the Heat?
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Put on your blindfold.

Now look.

Below are the stats of an unnamed NBA player during a recent four-game stretch:

Game 1: 18 points, three rebounds, two assists

Game 2: 11 points, five rebounds, seven assists

Game 3: 11 points, five rebounds, four assists

Game 4: 15 points, eight rebounds, six assists

Get a good look? Now name that player. Here are your choices:

A. Kirk Hinrich

B. Jeremy Lin

C. Jameer Nelson

D. Rajon Rondo

E. Dwyane Wade

If you average those stats together, you'll have a player who averages 13.8 ppg, 5.3 rpg and 4.8 apg. Given that information, it sounds like we're dealing with a slightly above average NBA point guard.

The 13.8 ppg is right on par with Rajon Rondo's 13.5 ppg season average but the assists numbers are too low. We can rule him out.

On the other hand the 13.8 ppg seems too high for Hinrich (6.3 ppg) so we can cross him off the list as well. That leaves Nelson (15.2 ppg, 7.2 apg, 3.8 rpg) and Lin (12.2 ppg, 6.1 apg, 3.9 rpg) as the most likely culprits.

That's what logic would tell you. In reality, those stats belong to Wade, a surefire Hall of Famer with a career scoring average of almost 25 ppg.

That just doesn't seem right, does it?

Now, look at Wade's box score from Thursday night's game against the Los Angeles Lakers: 27 points, four rebounds, five assists.

That's more like it.

In his prime, Wade would post numbers like that on a nightly basis. Nowadays, it's become more of a guessing game.

The only thing that's been consistent about Wade this season has been his inconsistency. Check out this schizophrenic stretch he had in mid-November:

November 11 at Memphis: eight points, eight rebounds, three assists

November 12 at Houston: 19 points, six rebounds, seven assists

November 14 at L.A. Clippers: six points, three rebounds, six assists

November 21 vs. Milwaukee: 28 points, three rebounds, four assists

That's fine if you're Lin or Nelson but when fantasy owners draft a superstar, they're expecting that player to perform on a high level every night. And Wade simply hasn't done that this season.

Maybe we should have seen this decline coming. Wade's scoring average fell by more than three ppg last season (25.5 ppg in 2010-11, just 22.1 ppg in 2011-12) and he almost missed the season opener in October after undergoing knee surgery in the offseason.

At age 31, Wade is the oldest member of Miami's Big Three and also the most fragile. In 10 NBA seasons, Wade has missed 130 games due to injury. Chris Bosh and LeBron James entered the league at the same time as Wade and have only missed 113 games combined.

As Wade's struggles have escalated, his behavior on the court has become increasingly erratic. This week he and head coach Erik Spoelstra had tension after Wade was benched for the fourth quarter of Monday's loss at Utah. A few weeks before that, Wade took some of his frustration out by kicking Charlotte guard Ramon Sessions in the groin. That incident led to a one-game suspension for Wade.

It would appear that Wade, known as one of the coolest customers in the NBA throughout his career, is finally unraveling.

So is this the end of Wade's reign of dominance?

Well, not quite. Keep in mind that when the Heat decided to assemble its Big Three in the summer of 2010, they were making a conscious decision to sacrifice their individual stats in favor of winning a championship. The reduction in points and field goal attempts per game was to be expected. Even LeBron, the undisputed best player on the planet, hasn't been immune to the Big Three effect. Take a look:

Before the Big Three (2009-10)

Bosh: 24 ppg, 16.5 field goal attempts per game

James: 29.7 ppg, 20.1 field goal attempts per game

Wade: 26.6 ppg, 19.6 field goal attempts per game

2012-13 season

Bosh: 17.5 ppg, 12.4 field goal attempts per game

James: 26.3 ppg, 18.5 field goal attempts per game

Wade: 20.1 ppg, 14.9 field goal attempts per game

Certainly Wade isn't as explosive as he was earlier in his career. Multiple knee surgeries and 630 games of wear and tear will do that to a player. But that doesn't mean you should ignore him in fantasy.

Wade's scoring average, though lower than it's been in a long time, is still the ninth-highest in the NBA. He's also top ten in the league in free throw attempts per game (6.1) and his turnover rate is lower than ever (just 2.4 turnovers per game in 2012-13).

Wade has never been a particularly good shooter, mostly relying on his quick burst to the hoop and his ability to finish around the rim. This season, however, he's actually shown improvement in that area of his game. Wade's 50.6 overall field goal percentage is a career-high as is his 35 percent success rate from three-point distance.

As usual, his rebounding has been outstanding (tied for sixth among guards at 4.6 rpg) and only three guards (Eric Bledsoe, Vince Carter and Danny Green) have contributed more blocks this season than Wade has (25).

Is this the same Wade who led the NBA in scoring back in 2008-09? Definitely not. But I'd still take the 2013 version of Wade over almost any other guard in the league.




Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Jesse Pantuosco at jpantuosco@sportsnetwork.com.

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