Though he’s ceded control of most of the offense to LeBron James, Dwyane Wade is still extraordinarily effective when the Heat put the ball in his hands and ask him to go to work. However, rather than isolating from the top of the key as he did in years past, he’s transitioned over the last few seasons to doing most of his damage out of the post and in pick-and-rolls.
LeBron’s post game gets the attention of the public and most of the ink from the scribes, but Wade has become quite a force on the block himself. In the lockout-shortened 2011-12 season, Wade was one of the best post-up players in the league, registering 0.92 points per play on 196 post-ups (not including passes to spot-up shooters or cutters), per mySynergySports. That total was good enough to place him 39th in the league.
This season, small sample caveats acknowledged, he’s taken a step forward. Though he’s registering fewer post-up plays per game, he’s also taking 2.2 fewer total shots per game this season, so post-ups represent a slightly larger portion of his total plays. He’s improved his field goal percentage slightly on these plays and has drawn fouls more often while essentially keeping his turnovers static.
The modest bumps in conversion rate have shot him up from 39th in PPP last season to 5th this year. While acknowledging that the difference between 0.92 and 1.0 PPP isn’t all that large in the grand scheme of things, we can still determine that Wade has been one of the best post-up players in the league over the last two seasons.
Wade has been particularly effective this season from the left block, where the majority (61.7% this season) of his post-up plays have originated. He’s shooting 50% from the left block as opposed to 45.8% from the right, has drawn shooting fouls 8% more often from the left than the right block, and has a 1.8:1 foul to turnover ratio from the left side compared to 1:1 from the right.
While many of his post-ups on the right block come via being freed up by a cross screen (usually from LeBron or Chris Bosh), Wade prefers to set up early on the left block or else dribble himself into post position after catching on the wing or in the corner. Once there, he has a solid variety of moves he goes to, but two favorites.
First, there’s the Jordanesque turnaround fadeaway that every post-up guard who has ever existed has in his arsenal. He’ll back his man down for a couple dribbles, dip his shoulder in one direction and then quickly spin, fade in the other direction and shoot it over the outstretched arms of his defender.
My personal favorite of his moves is when he uses his body to bully into the middle of the lane before using a half-hook shot that almost looks like he’s shot-putting the ball into the basket. Wade is big by shooting guard standards, and any move where he uses his size to his advantage is going to be better than one where he freely gives up that advantage by fading away.
Similar to the leaps he’s made in the post, Wade has taken a step forward this season on pick-and-rolls. His shooting percentage is up 4.2 points and he’s drawn fouls 6% more often than last season. Each of those advancements helps mitigate his slight increase in turnovers, leading to an overall bump from 0.89 PPP in 2011-12 to 0.98 this season, the latter figure placing him 7th in the league. Again, it is safe to say that Wade is one of the best pick-and-roll players in the league.
Because of Wade’s attacking style, his favorite and best pick-and-roll partner is Bosh. The lanky forward/center’s ability to nail mid-range jump shots off the pick-and-pop often keeps the defense from blitzing Wade as he comes off the screen. Because Bosh is such a good mid-range shooter, he often draws “stay attached” coverage on pick-and-rolls (where Bosh’s man, rather than hedging to cut off Wade’s driving lane, will stick with Bosh to deny him the ball for a jumper), which leaves Wade to beat his man into the lane and challenge sliding help defenders once he gets to the rim. He’s shooting 66.8% on shots in the restricted area this season, 6.9% better than the league average and up 2.1% from last season, per NBA.com.
Wade has such excellent body control that he’s able to contort himself around help defenders who slide into his way, and his aggressive mentality, strength and momentum often dissuade them from doing so anyway. He’s as fearless a finisher as there is in the NBA, and when he gets a full head of steam coming around a pick, most often he’s either going to finish at the rim or draw a foul.
Even in situations where both defenders do chase him around a screen, he’s athletic and creative enough to finish over both of them. Additionally, this kind of coverage creates a situation where either A. Bosh is open for a jumper or rolling to the rim or B. a help defender crashes down from the corner to cut off Bosh’s roll, leaving someone like Ray Allen or Shane Battier open for the closest 3-pointer on the court, which is what happens below. (Wade just puts up a running floater off the glass rather than swinging it cross court to Allen)
Of course, there’s also the ever-dangerous Wade/LeBron pick-and-roll, which is just about impossible to stop. Wade turning the corner is tough enough, but having to deal with LeBron rolling to the rim at the same time, or in a scenario that’s possibly even worse for the defense, getting the ball on a half-roll to the nail where he can shoot, drive or dish, is basically unfair. In the video linked above, Wade finishes with a floater from the back of the lane, an area from which he shoots 3.7% better than league average. In all, he’s 170-for-288 on shots inside the lane this season, 59%. If he gets where he wants to go, he’s going to score more often than not.
Wade may not be the go-to guy of his team anymore, and his numbers may be down across the board, but that doesn’t necessarily mean we should think less of his offensive capabilities. Based on the chatter surrounding Wade this season, with a lot of whispers about how he’s “no longer the same,” you’d think he’d have dropped off much more than he actually has. Though his defense this season has left something to be desired, he’s still a force to be reckoned with on offense.