Nobody will question that the Miami Heat have a great team. With a star-studded core comprised of reigning league MVP LeBron James, and perennial all-stars Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, Miami has the firepower to match up with anyone. Toss in sharpshooter Ray Allen, point-man Mario Chalmers, and defensive specialist Shane Battier and you have a team that is built to go the distance. Outside of the core members that made Miami the back-to-back NBA champs the roster has seen some shuffling but this Heat group is still very much poised to defend their crown. However, in order to do so they will need a healthy Dwyane Wade, as he is crucial for success in Miami.
In 2006, at the age of 24, Dwyane Wade put his stamp on the NBA when he willed the Miami Heat to their first ever championship. He was awarded the finals most valuable player award, and was the fifth youngest player to achieve such a feat. The sky was the limit for a franchise that had become notorious for falling short.
Then a rash of injuries struck. Due to his slash-to-the-rim playing style, and a lack of consistent secondary scoring, Wade was forced to pick the slack which led to much more contact with bigger bodies in the key. The result of the increased impact on the all-star shooting guard’s body had him sustain various injuries that had him constantly in and out of the line-up. During the next four seasons Miami missed the playoffs once, and lost in the first round three times. Something had to change because a healthy Dwyane Wade was crucial for Miami’s success, and the wear and tear on his body was starting to add up. In the 2010-11 season, help arrived in the form of All-NBA forward LeBron James, and all-star forward Chris Bosh, and the rest is history.
Fast forward to this season where Miami currently sits second in the Eastern Conference, two games back of Indiana, who they lost to on Thursday night. The Heat, of course, are not too worried having already stamped their ticket for the post season by clinching their division. However, something they might want to be worried about is this season’s stockpile of injuries that continue to strike in bunches. Luckily, nothing has been too serious, but at the same time, talent aside, this year’s Miami squad is starting to look eerily similar to those injury-riddled seasons of the past.
Miami coach Erik Spoelstra has taken a page out of Gregg Popovich’s book by resting players at times this season. A smart move considering how much basketball his team has played over the previous three seasons, going to the finals and aiming to make it back there this year. No one can say for certain, but statistically it appears that Wade’s body may no longer be fit to push through the long NBA season, or at least not at the pace he once did. Though, still an all-star performer, his numbers for 2014 are down across the board, and his points per game are the lowest they have been since his rookie season. One might make the assumption that James and Bosh are picking up the scoring slack, but that is simply not the case as both players are scoring at an almost identical pace as last season, and, as a result Miami now sits outside the top 10 in team scoring. However, they are getting it done at the defensive end as they rank sixth overall in plus/minus.
The rise of the Pacers combined with Miami’s health uncertainties have basketball fans wondering if this is the year that someone dethrones the Heat, ruining their chances to join the Boston Celtics, Chicago Bulls, and Los Angeles Lakers as the only franchises to have ever completed the elusive three-peat. Whether they can get everyone healthy or not is the question, and only time will tell. But one thing is for certain and that is that a healthy Dwyane Wade is crucial for championship success in Miami.
Commentary by Kalen Skalesky