Dwyane Wade will sign a one-year deal with the Cleveland Cavaliers once he clears waivers, but his addition isn’t a big help.
Dwyane Wade is not the player he used to be. Adrian Wojnarowski reported the Cleveland Cavaliers’ signing, which reunites Wade with LeBron James. The duo last played together in 2014 before LeBron decided to return to the Cavaliers. Since then, James has gotten better. Wade has been slowly regressing. And I’m going to say it now: he doesn’t make the Cavaliers favorites against the Golden State Warriors.
Wade spent last season with the Chicago Bulls after the Heat decided not to re-sign him. He appeared in 60 games, registered the fewest minutes of his career (29.9) and played relatively well as the complement to Jimmy Butler. Wade averaged 18.3 points — the lowest since his rookie year — while shooting 43.4 percent from the field. Chicago barely made the postseason with a 41-41 record and got matched up with the Boston Celtics in the first round, a series that took a turn for the worse after Rajon Rondo got injured, believe it or not.
The Bulls dealt Butler to the Minnesota Timberwolves on draft night and let Rondo sign with the New Orleans Pelicans, thus raising the white flag and starting their rebuild. Wade, who was already the old man in the locker room, had no business being on a roster that’s going to struggle to crack 30 wins. Chicago, who wanted to go young, bought out the 35-year-old.
Once news of that broke, only three destinations really seemed likely: Cleveland, Oklahoma City or Houston. They all have two things in common. The first is that each franchise has a banana boat member, and the Thunder were late to the party because they didn’t acquire Carmelo Anthony until Saturday. The second is they’re all solid teams. Houston and Cleveland are contenders, and OKC has quietly built a team that, on paper, is one of the best in the conference. We still have to see how the Thunder and Rockets will fare, and Wade’s choice to go to the Cavaliers made sense because their path to the Finals is going to be much easier. LeBron James and Isaiah Thomas are there to bear most of the load, which means that Wade wouldn’t have to worry about straining himself during the regular season to make a difference. The only issue is that this is a different Flash.
If this were late 2000s Dwyane Wade, Cleveland would be a legitimate threat to Golden State. It’s not. (And that’s really sad to me because that iteration of Wade was incredible and a lot of younger NBA fans don’t know just how great he used to be.) He’ll give you anywhere from 15-18 points a night, which isn’t bad, but Wade also creates a ton of spacing issues and is going to get exposed on defense because the Cavaliers are atrocious on that end. In this NBA, having guards who can’t shoot and can’t defend isn’t a great combination.
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I will, however, give Wade credit. He’s never been a voluminous three-point shooter because that isn’t his game. With Chicago last season, he attempted 145 triples in 60 games, converting at a rate of 31.0 percent. From what he used to be like, that’s decent. I also want to acknowledge the chance that Wade could surprise us and become a true sniper this year. If Jason Kidd can do it, anyone can.
Until this summer, Cleveland’s front office did a solid job surrounding LeBron (and Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving) with three-and-D guys. Those kinds of role players can fit alongside James with no problems, but that hasn’t been the case this offseason. Outside of Wade, Thomas and Jae Crowder, the Cavaliers other additions were Jeff Green, Jose Calderon and Derrick Rose. Once we start talking about the worst defenders in the league, the latter three are in the conversation. And what makes it worse is that — from those three — Calderon is the only consistent shooting threat. It’s appalling to me that Cleveland didn’t make a conscious effort to address their issues this offseason. When your team is as porous as a sponge on defense, you go out and get guys who can improve that end.
Jae Crowder is the only one. But he can’t make up for the deficiencies of not one, not two, not three, not four, but five teammates. And I’ll make it six if you want to include J.R. Smith, who can be a solid defender at times (see the 2016 Finals) but suffers from the worst possible case of John Wall-itis. That brings me back to Wade.
Don’t get me wrong — Dwyane Wade is still a good NBA player. However, at this point, the name surpasses the skill. And it seems like the Cavaliers are getting as many recognizable players they can to try and beat the Warriors, who remain arguably the most talented team ever constructed. As I said in the beginning, if we turn back the clock to 2009-10ish, a team with Wade, Rose and LeBron would be just absurd. We’re not at that point. And it’s important to remember that only LeBron has remained the same since then. Of course, it’s expected for someone in their mid-30s not to be as good as when they were 10 years younger, and Wade has seemed to come to grips with his mortality a bit. A lot of the time, we as fans put aside how detrimental a player can be to his team once he’s unable to defend or shoot or make an impact outside of strategically picking his scoring spots. I’m probably going to be like that with Thomas or LeBron. Wade is there.
At the time of this writing, there are 20 days until the NBA season starts. James and Love are guaranteed starters, and I feel comfortable throwing Tristan Thompson in there. Once Thomas gets healthy, he’ll also have the starting job. RealGM’s visual depth chart has Crowder starting at the two, and that’s bizarre given how most of his minutes were in the frontcourt. Wade and J.R. are going to battle for minutes at shooting guard and I, as a coach, would feel safer starting Wade because of one reason — spacing. If he were to come off the bench, you’re looking at Rose, Wade and Jeff Green occupying three of your five spots. It’s hard to create a court that small. Having Smith run with the backups alleviates that problem.
Cleveland has made a lot of moves this summer but hasn’t gotten significantly better. Dwyane Wade, because of his limitations, doesn’t put the Cavaliers over the edge. Until he proves us otherwise, he’s not a reliable shooter, and Cleveland’s defense isn’t going to help themselves this year. I know that everyone is elated to have Wade and LeBron reunited, but the days of the Flying Death Machine are gone.
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