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Dwyane Wade – older and healthier – could give Heat an edge in NBA Finals

Jun 5, 2014, 4:55 PM EDT

Michael Beasley, Dwyane Wade, Udonis Haslem Michael Beasley, Dwyane Wade, Udonis Haslem

As the final buzzer sounded in Game 7 of the 2013 NBA Finals and the Miami Heat clinched their second straight championship, Dwyane Wade immediately sprinted to Tim Duncan and congratulated him on a well-fought series.

Later, Wade explained his admiration for the Spurs star.

“At his age, if I can still do that, man I’d have had a hell of a career,” Wade said.

Wade, six year’s Duncan’s junior, doesn’t need to wait until he’s Duncan’s age to understand the challenges of competing with declining athleticism. The 32-year-old Wade has experienced a career full of knee injuries.

He hobbled through last year’s playoffs and had his knee drained before coming up big in Game 7. But in sum, Wade had an unspectacular postseason.

Which was nothing new.

For a few years, Wade had been slipping in the playoffs. It appeared likely he’d have increasing trouble persevering deep into the postseason as his career continued.

But this season, he’s bucked the trend. Whether your catch-all stat of choice is PER or win shares per 48 minutes, Wade has reversed a three-year decline in playoff productivity:

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When LeBron James signed with the Heat, who already had Wade and Chris Bosh, the narrative said LeBron needed superstar teammates to win a championship because he couldn’t do it on his own. And that might be true. LeBron never won a title with the Cavaliers, though he also hadn’t yet developed into peak form in Cleveland.

Much more true: Wade needed help to win another title.

Since leading the Heat to the 2006 championship, Wade hadn’t won another playoff series until LeBron and Bosh arrived. He was still a great player, but all those postseason games were taking their toll, especially considering his physical style of play.

This year, through rest and intensive training, Wade tried to re-set his clock. He played just 54 games and a career-low 32.9 minutes per game in them.

The goal all along was to ensure he peaked at the right moment – and he is.

Round to round in the playoffs, his production has increased.

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These Spurs might be Miami’s toughest Finals competition yet in the Big Three era – and that includes the Mavericks who beat the Heat in 2011. Yes, Wade needs LeBron and Bosh. But they need Wade, too.

They have him.

After a year of careful planning – when it not long ago seemed he would never reverse his postseason slide – Wade is back in the NBA Finals, healthy and primed to excel.

  1. antistratfordian - Jun 5, 2014 at 5:08 PM

    People don’t realize it, but last year was the worst the Big 3 had ever played together in the playoffs. Even worse than 2011. Here are their combined playoff PERs since 2011:

    2011: 68.4
    2012: 72.0
    2013: 63.6
    2014: 71.4

    If your prediction of this series is based on the performance last year’s Heat, you’re going to be in for a big surprise.

    • loubearkane - Jun 5, 2014 at 5:46 PM

      Heat are not as deep as previous years and Lebron is going to have to expel a lot of energy defending K.Y. Leonard

      • sellahh - Jun 5, 2014 at 6:14 PM

        PER is like the dumbest stat ever.

      • kinggw - Jun 5, 2014 at 6:56 PM

        I doubt Lebron is going to “expel a lot of energy” on a guy who averages 13 ppg. Leonard is good, but it seems some of you want the Spurs to beat the Heat so badly you’re making Leonard out to be something he’s not. He’s a good defender, but he’s not going to be able to shutdown Lebron and he’s not all of a sudden going to start averaging 25 per game now.

      • loubearkane - Jun 5, 2014 at 7:50 PM

        I just wanted to say K.Y.

      • antistratfordian - Jun 6, 2014 at 5:04 AM

        The Heat are just as deep as they were last year, and deeper than they were in 2011 and 2012.

        And why would James have to expel a lot of energy to defend Leonard? Leonard is not some mammoth offensive player that LeBron has to worry about.

        Leonard is going to have his hands full on defense to be worrying too much about offense.

  2. miamiHeatlesnotBeatles - Jun 5, 2014 at 5:17 PM

    I think Wade and LBJ will go head 2 head for Finals MVP.

  3. reesesteel23 - Jun 5, 2014 at 5:44 PM

    He WILL give Heat an edge. Wade County!

  4. seattlesuperchronic - Jun 5, 2014 at 6:34 PM

    Enough with the jibba jabba! It’s time for some Finals action. Blah blah numbers, blah blah who has “the edge”. The best games of the year called by Breen, Jackson, Van Gundy and Doris Burke, life is good and I’m ready for some hoops!

    Anti will be shamelessly riding LeBron’s jock and cantonbound will be screaming from the rooftops how LeBron stinks. The Finals are upon us and everybody’s playing their role correctly. I’m ready for this series to start!

  5. dablakdrphil - Jun 5, 2014 at 6:35 PM

    This series is going to be so much fun just as a basketball fan period

    May the best team win…who am I kidding I hate the Spurs, lets go Heat

  6. timb12 - Jun 5, 2014 at 6:47 PM

    This year is up there with one of the Heat’s easiest paths to the finals. The Pacers all but collapsed and they went against the deteriorating Nets and the Jefferson-less Bobcats. The Heat would have made it to the finals regardless, but this year has definitely been easier than last year.

  7. m4a188 - Jun 5, 2014 at 9:02 PM

    Miami has a great chance to threepeat if Wade can play 35-40 minutes a game.

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