LeBron James and Dwyane Wade have been friends ever since the moment just four picks separated the two in the 2003 NBA Draft. That became even more apparent when James decided to join Wade’s Miami Heat team in 2010, where the two played alongside one another for four years. After No. 23 decided to come home, an eventual reunion seemed inevitable. The only question was where would the reunion between the two best friends be?
On Tuesday, that question was answered: The reunion would happen in Cleveland this season. After reports surfaced that Wade will sign with the Cavaliers for the veteran’s minimum of just one-year for $2.3 million, the news made shockwaves around the rest of the NBA.
Since James returned to the wine and gold in 2014, the front office has done their best in acquiring shooters not only to space the floor, but for James to find for wide-open threes while the defense is focused on the best basketball player in the world. Throughout his career, Wade hasn’t been known to be much of an outside shooter, knocking down just south of 29 percent of his shots from long distance in his 14-year career. Although he has struggled from long distance, Wade has been an average three-point shooter from both the corners, not only where the arc is at it’s shortest distance, but one where shooters who are alongside James seem to thrive.
As James’ teammate now, if Wade is counted on to knockdown a three, it will most likely be from one of the corners. Although it’s a very small sample size given the fact that he doesn’t like shooting the long ball, Wade shot 7-of-15 (46.7 percent) and 4-of-9 (44.4 percent) from the right corner last season. His game has changed quite a bit since, but the guard knocked down 13-of-41 (31.7 percent) from the left corner and 7-of-16 (43.8 percent) from the right corner during his four years with James in Miami from 2010-14.
Past his prime, the surefire future Hall of Famer still has plenty left in the tank to help the Cavs achieve their ultimate goal. Best case scenario, he can be the team’s third scoring option in crunch time when Isaiah Thomas is out, behind James and Kevin Love; worst case scenario, provide both postseason and Finals experience, and be a vocal leader; worse-worst case, Wade’s knees don’t allow him to do much and the Cavs waste less than $2 million.
Keep in mind, the best case is much more likely than the worst case. Wade isn’t who he once was, but he’s definitely an upgrade and will help the Cavs whether he’s in the starting lineup or comes off the bench. He also adds more depth to a much better overall roster this season as well, one that will future Derrick Rose and either Dwyane Wade or JR Smith leading the second unit when everyone is fully healthy.
In his first (and only) season with the Bulls last year, Wade averaged 18.3 points (fewest since his rookie season), 4.5 rebounds, 3.8 assists, and 1.4 steals per game while shooting 43.4 percent from the floor and 31 percent from beyond the arc in 29.9 minutes per game (lowest of career). He’s not much of a long range shooter, but his 31 percent mark was by far his best since he shot 30.6 percent from three-point range in 2010-11.
He struggled at times, but he was also on a below-average Chicago team as well. At this point in his career, Wade isn’t set up to lead a team to the playoffs by himself. Over his career, the guard has averaged 23.3 points, 4.8 rebounds, 5.7 assists, and 1.6 steals per game while shooting 43.4 percent from the field and 28.7 percent from long distance.
A shell of the player he once was, Wade still has plenty left in the tank. Given the depth that the Cavs have, head coach Tyronn Lue can limit his minutes and put Wade in different positions where he can showcase his ability to get to the basket the most. Like the past three seasons with James, the most important thing is being 100 percent healthy once the playoffs roll around in April. Given the talent and depth on the roster, Lue should be able to manage the minutes and do just that, especially after adding a guy like Wade.
Some may argue that Wade will struggle with a limited role, something he is not used to. But remember, Wade chose to sign with the Cavs for the veteran’s minimum. He could have gone to teams like the Spurs, Heat, or Thunder and not only received more money, but also had a bigger role. Instead, he chose James and the Cavs. He knows what he is getting himself into, it’s not like he was traded here and wasn’t given a choice.
For just $2.3 million, a salary that will only cost $1.5 million because the league will reimburse the remainder,1 adding a playmaker like Wade who not only has experience playing with James and plenty of playoff and Finals experience as well, will only mean good things for the wine and gold. The Cavs just added a 35-year-old who is a three-time NBA Champion, 12-time All-Star, and eight-time All-NBA talent for the veteran’s minimum. Back with his sidekick and best friend and with his career likely coming to an end sooner rather than later, this could be Wade’s last go-round.
While it is mostly due to Wade’s friendship with James, kudos to general manager Koby Altman for yet another impressive move to bolster the Cavs heading into the upcoming season.
- Thanks to WFNY’s Jacob Rosen for this information. [↩]