Today's NBA is headlined with efficiency, yet the Miami Heat's marquee player, Dwyane Wade, isn't exactly the poster boy of efficient shot-taking--especially late in a game. Is he dooming the Heat with his results over process heroics?
This postseason there was a lot of conversation about process versus results; whether the means justified the end. This was an especially pertinent conversation for the Miami Heat. In today’s NBA, you want efficient shots —3-pointers, short corner attempts, layups, free-throws—the best opportunities to maximize you points per possession, and Dwyane Wade midrange jumpers don’t exactly fit that bill. Yet Wade still takes them. Often. Actually, Wade’s coach Erik Spoelstra has been noted saying he’s going down with the ship with the S.S. Wade doing what he does—taking the shot in the clutch situation, even if it might be a bad look.
Who can knock Spoelstra? Wade has earned the respect and one of the loosest leashes in the league with his play.
In the regular season, in final minute of game, when the Heat are tied or behind by three or less (one possession), Wade has a 50.8 percent usage rate, up from 31.5 percent regularly (that’s high!), per NBA.com/Stats. So, when he gets the ball in the final ticks of a game, he want’s to be the one to take that bow—or, endure the pillory. Some view Wade’s late game theatrics as lionhearted, others as ill-advised pageantry. But which is it?
According to NBA.com/Stats, Wade played in 15 games in the 2015–2016 season that were decided by three points or less or tied in the closing minute (we’ll classify these moments as “uber clutch”). In these uber clutch moments, your eyes aren’t lying; Wade’s ball holding is antithetical to Brett Favre in the pocket. Wade accrued zero assists in the uber clutch moments mention above, but he shot with 100 percent accuracy at the line (5-of-5) and committed zero turnovers in such instances. Though, I wouldn’t get too carried away with the zero turnovers, they’re mostly a byproduct of Wade’s assisting goose egg. It’s much easier to not turnover the ball if you don’t ever wing any short corner passes, a la James Harden.
Minimum 10 uber clutch field goal attempts, Wade converts at 44.4 percent (8-of-18), the sixth-best mark in the league. Which is … not great. It’s not horrible, but it’s no reason to not defer for a better shot. But that isn’t the highly criticized Way of Wade. The Way of Wade is to accept or defer a screen at the top of the arc, sleuth around the adjacent bodies and rise up for a—often contested—midranger. (Below is Wade's uber clutch shot chart.)
(As you can see, Wade is elite when he can get to his spots.)
Miami has even gone as far as to draw up a 3-pointer for Wade, a 28. 4 percent career 3-point bricklayer; Wade launched four long-balls in the regulars season’s uber clutch moments. He missed all four of them. Contrasted with Luol Deng’s 1-of-1 and Joe Johnson’s 1-of-2 in such situations, and it makes you wonder why Wade attempted more 3s than both of them combined. It seems that the heart over history approach rules Miami’s late game plan of attack.
What makes Wade’s late-game antics even more bizarre is, that the other team knows what he’s going to do … He’s going to hold the ball, take a ball screen or try and ISO at the elbow. Meaning, teams often try and sneak a second defender on Wade, hoping he takes basketball’s most inefficient shot. And he usually still does. I guess the same argument could be made that Wade’s 44 percent uber clutch shot making is even more impressive, all things considered.
Shooting the ball over a defender when you’re an under-sized two-guard is hard. Doing with with a 60 seconds to go (or less), when teams are concentrated on stopping you, is harder. Doing all those things when the opposing team knows what you’re going to do is insane; through that lens: if you look at Wade’s 8-of-18 shooting in uber clutch moments, it doesn’t look that bad… Until you see that, sans Wade’s blunderbuss sniping (0-of-4 from 3), the Heat’s uber clutch 3-point figure was 50 percent on the season—that statistic would’ve been good for the second-best second best mark in the Association, only trailing the Golden State Warriors (53.8 percent)
So, although Wade’s clutch shooting is good, his Favreian ball holding could be costing the Heat precious points. But as long as coach Spo and Wade have each other, we might be seeing the heart over history approach until Wade rides off into the sunset.
But hey, sometimes it works.