Many were surprised at Dwyane Wade’s decision to call this season his last. That’s because while D-Wade was no longer the Wade of old, the old Wade was still a very productive and effective basketball player. Despite that, Wade had made up his mind: the 2018-19 season would be his “Last Dance”.
Even before the 2018-19 season began, there were speculations regarding Dwyane Wade’s future. In fact, he was one of the last significant free agents of last summer to sign with a team. When he finally decided that he would return to the Miami Heat, Wade labeled it as his “Last Dance” or his final NBA season and in every stop he made, he traded jerseys with players from the opposite team.
Wade was Miami’s first franchise superstar and he’s been here for each of the three NBA titles the Heat have won. When LeBron James and Chris Bosh joined the Heat in 2010, Wade took a backseat and gladly shared the limelight with his two fellow All-Stars just so the Heat would win NBA titles.
After LeBron James returned to Cleveland, Wade also decided to play for his hometown Chicago Bulls. The reunion didn’t last long and Wade would end up joining LeBron James in Cleveland the following season. But as Cleveland struggled, Wade found himself returning to Miami. It was destiny perhaps that time would lead D-Wade back to where it all began. And then he decided this was where it will end as well.
Dirk is Another Story
Wade is retiring along with another first ballot Hall of Famer in Dirk Nowitzki. But great as Dirk is as a player and great as a person he is, he has lost the competitive edge that made him the prototype of today’s unicorns. Yes, Nowitzki was the first unicorn. He revolutionized the power forward position and created what we now call the Stretch Four. But at 40, Nowitzki no longer has the power to bang with the young bigs nor the quickness to keep up with them. In short, he had become more of a liability than an asset on the court.
Nowitzki had some fantastic scoring games at the end of the season. But when you look at him this year, he only averaged 7.3 points and 3.0 rebounds with a PER of 9.70, More importantly, Dirk could no longer keep up defensively and his body language was no longer the same.
As for Wade, he added much more value to the Heat this season than Nowitzki. With Dion Waiters and Goran Dragic injured most of the season, Wade was Miami’s second leading scorer behind Josh Richardson. Not only that, there were games when they went to Wade down the stretch and the veteran was still able to deliver in the clutch.
So Much More To Give
Remember when Kobe Bryant scored 60 points in his final NBA games? Well D-Wade didn’t score that much but he netted a triple-double in his swansong performance. Wade played 36 minutes and scored 25 points, grabbed 11 rebounds and issued 10 assists and although the Heat lost and that was a no-bearing game, it reminded us that Wade still had so much more to give.
Wade finished the season averaging 15.0 points, 4.0 rebounds and 4.2 assists per game. He shot the ball at 43.3% from the floor. 33.33% from behind the three point line and 70.8% from the foul line. Of course, that stat line is a far cry from his career average of 22-4-5 but hey, for a 37 year old who played just 26.2 minutes per game, Wade’s numbers are pretty impressive.
Don’t forget that Miami was in the hunt for the playoffs up until the last couple of games. That means that almost all of the 72 games he played this season had bearing so every point he scored this year was just as valuable. Wade’s PER this season was ranked 100th in the league. With the NBA being a 30-team league and you consider the starting unit for each team has five players, Wade is theoretically #100 out of 150 starters, meaning he could have easily been a starter in another team if he chose to continue playing. But he’s D-Wade and he sets different standards for himself.
On His Own Terms
This was bound to happen soon anyway. And while Wade still had plenty more to give as an individual, he knows better than anybody that his time is already up. Sure, he can still put up the numbers and he can always provide leadership. But the championship window has closed for him. The reason why they play in the NBA is to win NBA titles more than anything else. Wade doesn’t just know that. He values that as much as he values himself.
Wade’s departure won’t leave behind a salary cap enough to sign a player at least as good as he is but it gives Miami the opportunity to start over again immediately. When you take a look at the Miami roster, only four players are signed beyond next season and these are Josh Richardson, Dion Waiters, Justise Winslow and Bam Adebayo. So after the 2019-20 season, Miami can do an overhaul. What D-Wade did was help the team speed up their rebuild, so the Heat can rise again sooner.
Lastly, it isn’t always the case that one can go out on his own terms. Some players end up getting hurt and are forced to retire. Some lose their value or competitive edge and are no longer signed by their teams. Paul Pierce, great as he is, played his last game without scoring a single point. The point is this: Wade knows he can still play and he can still give it to the opposition. Sure, Dwyane Wade could have easily changed his storyline to “one more last dance” and play at least one more season. But he knows his time is already up and it’s the right time to give the keys to the city to the young guns. Sure, these players are going to miss him when training camp begins but after next season, they’ll realize that Wade only made them better.