Is Dwyane Wade becoming underrated?

20 Comments

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.

DeMarcus Cousins showing progress in recovery from Achilles tear

Getty Images
Leave a comment

One should be careful of reading much into player workout videos. Much like your mother’s life on Facebook, it’s an idealized version with all the grime wiped away, you only see the best images, and everything looks better than it actually is.

That said, DeMarcus Cousins seems to be moving well, coming off a torn Achilles.

As good as he looks, the Warriors can and will be patient for Cousin’s return. They don’t need him to win a lot of regular season games, they need him in the playoffs, and I doubt we see him before Christmas. They will be patient, whether he wants to be or not.

But if Cousins is 90 percent of his pre-injury self… well, we knew the Warriors were going to be better this season.

LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard work out together at UCLA

Instagram
1 Comment

The NBA rumor mill never stops, and all it takes is one photograph to send thousands to the trade machine to start working out deals they are convinced should happen.

A photograph like this one.

This was posted by Phil Handy, the former Cleveland assistant coach now in Toronto.

To answer your biggest question first, yes that is Cedi Osman on the left.

Oh, and Kevin Durant, LeBron James, and Kawhi Leonard in there, having all just worked out together.

Let this be a reminder of just how large Leonard’s hands are.

I could try to explain that the NBA’s elite players work out together some pretty much every summer, and that the UCLA run is constantly stacked. I could try to tell you this isn’t wildly out of the ordinary.

But that would take all the fun out of the speculation to come, so have at it. Try to figure out how many of those players were recruiting Osman for when he hits free agency.

Corey Maggette named Big3 MVP, Nancy Lieberman Coach of Year

Getty Images
Leave a comment

When you see Corey Maggette — even in a suit when he is at Staples Center to help do Clippers’ pregame/postgame analysis — your first thought is, “that man looks like he can still play.” The “gun show” is still something to behold.

Turns out, he can still play. Very well.

Maggette suited up in the Big3 this season (he was injured in his first game last weekend), is the captain that led Power to the championship game this Friday night, averaged 16.9 points (fourth in the league), 3.1 assists (fourth in the league), and for that was named league MVP on Tuesday. He earned the award for his leadership as much as his production, and with that he also was named the Big3’s Captain of the Year.

He just beat out David Hawkins of Tri-State for MVP, who averaged 16.8 points and 7.1 rebounds a game.

Power dominated the awards, with coach Nancy Lieberman winning Coach of the Year (in her first year with the league), and Chris “Birdman” Anderson won Defensive Player of the Year behind his 1.4 blocks per game and owning of the paint.

The “Too Hard to Gaurd” award went to Al Harrington, who led the Big3 averaging 18 points per game for Trilogy (last year’s champion). The man can still get buckets.

Biggest Trash Talker award went to Gary Payton of 3 Headed Monsters. We all should have seen that coming, but to win a trash talking award as a coach is still very impressive. He’s still got it.

4th Man of the Year went to Andre Emmet of 3’s Company. He has been the hottest player in the Big3 in recent weeks, averaging more than 20 points per game during the run, and if 3’s Company is going to upset Power in the championship game it will be because Emmet has another monster season.

The BIG Community Award went to Ricky Davis. Every Friday morning, in whatever city the Big3 was in that week, Davis (through the Ricky Davis Legacy Foundation) brought other players and coaches to visit homeless shelters and encampments throughout the city and deliver fresh produce and toiletries. It (along with the weekly youth programs the Big3 did weekly in each city) was a great bit of reaching out.

Just a reminder, the BIG3 championship night kicks off at 8 p.m. Friday night live on FOX, from Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn. The championship game will see Power — led by Corey Maggette and Glen Big Baby Davis — taking on 3’s Company (led by Andre Emmett, the hottest player in the league right now) for the title.

Channing Frye says young Lakers may not ‘truly understand what it’s like to play with’ LeBron

Getty Images
2 Comments

Channing Frye is in a unique position. He has played with LeBron James for years and helped bring a title to Cleveland with him. However, at the deadline he was sent to the rebuilding Lakers as part of the Larry Nance/Jordan Clarkson deal, so he also has played with Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball and the rest of the young Lakers’ core.

Those experiences inform Frye’s opinions when Erik García Gundersen of the USA Today’s LeBron Wire asked him how smoothly LeBron would fit with the Lakers.

“I’ll tell you this: (the young Lakers are) arguably the most talented group in the NBA. And I mean talented in terms of experience, years playing in the Western Conference and they’re overall position.

I think the thing they’re going to come to and I think a lot of guys are going to have to deal with this. There’s who you expect to be and then who you are when you play with LeBron. It’s two different things. I don’t know if they truly understand what it’s like to play with him because there is no room for mistakes. Because in all actuality, he could do it himself. He could lead a team to 40 wins by himself. I think for all of them they’re going to have to have a reality check, not only them but the people around them. There’s going to say, not a growing period, but a humility.”

Chris Bosh, Kevin Love and a host of other guys would be very happy to explain just how much players need to adapt to playing with LeBron. The Lakers established a style of play and a pecking order last season, and this summer that got blown up. It’s not starting from scratch, but it’s going to be an adjustment — and it can’t take too long in an unforgiving Western Conference.

The other thing Frye notes: The Lakers now have a target on their back. Last season they were interesting, this season teams will circle this game on their schedule. The Lakers are going to get the other team’s best shot every night. LeBron is used to this, for Ingram, Kyle Kuzma and the rest it will again be an adjustment.

The Lakers are an interesting experiment this season. It’s a one-season thing, they will go hard at other stars next summer (or at the trade deadline) and the roster will get shaken up again next summer. That doesn’t make this season any easier on the Lakers, their players, or Luke Walton. LeBron’s too good to let it all come apart, but the Meme team’s dynamic will be fascinating.