Dwyane Wade’s Farewell Tour: Miami’s Star of the Past Could Help Their Future

    Dwyane Wade is officially on his farewell tour. Wade’s farewell will close the most transformative era in Miami Heat history. They have only missed the

    September 20, 2018

    Dwyane Wade is officially on his farewell tour.

    Wade’s farewell will close the most transformative era in Miami Heat history. They have only missed the playoffs twice in Wade’s 14 seasons with the franchise. The Heat are one of four teams to win multiple titles since 2000. Wade is a first-ballot Hall of Famer that will get the full star treatment during the upcoming season. A statue is guaranteed. Wade probably would like a playoff run as part of his sendoff, but that will require Miami’s young players to take a step forward.

    Wade was almost never part of the Heat. He was highly regarded as part of a star-studded group in the 2003 draft class alongside LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Carmelo Anthony, but it was Detroit’s (now colossal) miss drafting Darko Milicic that allowed Wade to fall to Miami. He quickly became a big-time scoring machine, averaging 24.1 points per game in his second season. In fact, he was so good that Shaquille O’Neal cited Wade as one of the reasons he requested a trade to Miami. O’Neal was able to deliver on his famous promise to bring a championship to South Beach, but he wouldn’t have done it without Wade.

     

    After yielding to O’Neal for most of the playoffs, Wade took over in the 2006 NBA Finals. He averaged 34.7 points per game en route to a 4-2 series win and a Finals MVP trophy, capped by his 36-point, 10-rebound effort in the decisive Game 6. Despite Wade becoming a perennial All-Star, Miami was never able to recapture the magic of the 2006 season with him and O’Neal. But even after a 15-67 season, Wade stayed on to deliver back-to-back playoff campaigns before helping engineer the free agency heist of the decade.

     

    The Heat wouldn’t have pulled this off without Wade. With all three stars — Wade, LeBron and Chris Bosh — wanting to play together, Wade’s commitment to South Beach drove his fellow draft class members to Miami instead of a different destination. He recruited both LeBron and Bosh and willingly took a step back from his role as franchise star, allowing James to lift Finals MVP trophies and capture back-to-back league MVP awards.

    Miami’s championship run with Wade, James and Bosh seems like an eternity ago. Wade was a centerpiece of Miami’s success in the last two decades. Now, the franchise icon will be tasked with helping build the team’s young core on the floor to develop the next contender in Miami.

    The biggest key for Miami’s success is Justise Winslow. After a fantastic championship run with Duke in the 2015 NCAA tournament, where he averaged 14.3 points and 9.3 rebounds per game while canning 50.9 percent of his shots, Winslow inexplicably fell to the Heat with the 10th pick. After making the All-Rookie Second Team, Winslow has been underwhelming in three NBA seasons. His improvement as a three-point shooter is encouraging, but Winslow needs to become a reliable scoring option and take big steps on the defensive end.

    Josh Richardson stands to gain the most from Wade’s presence. After serving as a utility role player off the bench for the majority of two seasons, Richardson exploded as a starter last season. He averaged 12.9 points per game and provided a solid outside scoring threat. He has the tools to be an excellent defender and should develop a well-rounded offensive game under Wade’s guidance.

    Miami almost lucked out with Donovan Mitchell at the 2017 NBA Draft, but got a pretty decent player in Edrice “Bam” Adebayo instead. He fits the role of a modern NBA center who can run the floor and play above the rim. Adebayo will need a frontcourt mate that can stretch the floor, making Kelly Olynyk and James Johnson valuable rotation pieces for Miami. In limited minutes, Adebayo was a wrecking ball on both ends of the floor. He converted on 50 percent of his shots, all of which came within 10 feet of the hoop. His percentage at the rim should improve in his second season. With Richardson and Winslow providing solid offense from the perimeter, Adebayo should see his production increase.

    Miami’s cap sheet and future draft assets are mostly intact with the summer of 2020 as a likely goal to make a big splash in free agency. Even with Winslow likely on a decent extension, the Heat will likely be armed with multiple max salary slots and a trio of young talent in Richardson, Winslow and Adebayo. Whether or not that trio is appealing enough for a big-time star will determine Miami’s plan.

    Heading into the 2018-19 season, Miami has a good mix of experienced veterans and young talent and should compete for a playoff spot in a weaker Eastern conference. Goran Dragic and Hassan Whiteside will be leading the charge, but Winslow and Richardson should fit in as starters. Adebayo should feature heavily on the second unit with some opportunities to start. Wade will likely be on some sort of management program with an attempt to preserve him for the postseason. If he can get back to his 2016 form (he averaged 21.4 points per game on 46.9 percent shooting), Miami can create some noise in the Eastern Conference playoffs.

    The breakup between Wade and Miami was sour. Wade got the big contract he wanted in Chicago, but was never able to find his old form. His Cleveland tenure was a disaster and he eventually found himself back in Miami. Heat fans were obviously disappointed to see Wade depart the way he did and their reaction to his return tells the whole story.

     

    Wade will be taking on a different role this season. His impact on Miami’s young players will be just as important as his box score contributions. Most importantly, Wade and the Heat have the opportunity to cap off his storied career the right way.

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