NBA General Managers seem to think so.
In the GM survey that was released earlier today, NBA executives were asked who they thought the best shooting guard in the league is. Wade was listed second (behind Kobe Bryant), receiving 23.3% of the vote. This is down from the 40.7% of the vote Wade received last season when he still ranked below Bryant.
What stands out to me here isn’t that Wade ranks below Kobe. They’re two of the best players in the world and there can be a reasonable difference of opinion on who you think is better. People have their preferences and tend to value different things.
What stands out is that with both players one year older — and Wade still in his prime — GM’s seem to think that Wade is losing ground in comparison to Kobe; that Wade’s stock seems to be falling at a rate disproportionate to his game.
Last season wasn’t Wade’s best season as a pro but he was still excellent. His per-36 minute averages were right in line with what he produced the season before even if his per game averages dipped slightly. From an efficiency stand point, he posted a higher PER, assist rate, and a lower turnover rate last year than the season before and did it all while maintaining a usage rate that’s only shade below his career norms.
If his box-score stats suffered, it was more about him pulling back some in order to give LeBron more freedom rather than any real slippage in his game. Wade understood, like everyone else, that the Heat would need LeBron at his best to reach their goals and then adjusted his game to help make it happen. He worked more off the ball, picked his spots, and seemed content to lay-low throughout games for longer stretches and then pounce when his team needed him.
I’m sure playing with LeBron James also hurts the way he’s perceived. Even if Wade isn’t actually doing less, LeBron’s other worldly talent makes it seem like he is. They play such similar styles that one can’t help but think if LeBron is controlling the game from the wing that Wade can’t be. Add in the fact that LeBron is the MVP of the league, Finals MVP, and won an Olympic gold medal over the summer only adds to the divergent opinions towards the Heat’s two best players.
Wade also played the majority of last season dealing with several nagging physical issues. He missed 17 regular season games, including 8 of the Heat’s final 15, with injuries ranging from a dislocated finger to ankle, foot, and knee troubles. Heading into the playoffs and throughout the entire post-season, Wade did not look like his normal self and was only able to conjure up his usual brilliance occasionally.
And maybe that’s really the issue here. The lasting images of Wade coming off of last season are of him not being Dwyane Wade. We have memories of him lacking explosion when going to the rim and settling for more jumpers.We recall his first step not being the same and his finishing ability suffering because of it.
But Dwayne Wade isn’t some broken down has been. He needed surgery on his knee and had it during the off-season. He’s on pace to return on time to start the season fully healthy. When the regular season starts we’re likely to see a different Wade than the one that finished the playoffs gutting through games and getting his knee drained.
There’s a recency bias that exists in sports. Too many times we fall victim to the idea that the most recent best thing is the best thing ever. We end up thinking that the way something just was is the way it will be moving forward. With Dwyane Wade, I think we’re going to see rather quickly that all the GM’s that see him precipitously falling in comparison to his peers got it wrong.
For NBA GM’s, it certainly wouldn’t be the first time.