Dwyane Wade is back.
The future Hall of Famer announced in a video posted to his Twitter account Sunday night that he will return to the Heat for “one last dance,” his 16th and final season in the NBA before retiring.
This will help the Heat. After all, Wade was the only Heat player to finish last season’s five-game playoff run with a positive plus-minus while leading the team to its only playoff victory in Game 2 in Philadelphia with 28 points in 26 minutes.
But at 36 years old, how much will Wade really help the Heat this season?
“This decision is bigger than the game of basketball,” Wade said in the video posted Sunday night. “This decision don’t have nothing to do with the talent I have in my body. Yeah, I’m not as quick as I used to be. Yeah, I don’t jump as high as I used to. Yeah, I don’t. Yeah, I don’t. Yeah, I don’t.
“But there are things in this game that I have that I can write a book on, that I can still do and I can still accomplish with the right organization, with the right individuals, with the right coach and in the right situation.”
That situation is one Wade and the Heat will have to figure out together this season because it’s different than the one he jumped into after being traded to Miami in February. The biggest difference is a healthy Dion Waiters.
While it’s still unknown whether Waiters will be ready for the Sept. 25 start of training camp, he’s expected to return and play as Miami’s starting shooting guard this year after undergoing season-ending ankle surgery in January before Wade returned to the Heat.
That shouldn’t matter much because Wade played in a bench role last season, and he’ll likely be a reserve again this year. But a healthy Waiters is another player coach Erik Spoelstra must consider when he’s figuring out how to divide the game’s 48 minutes at shooting guard.
It’s a crowded position. Josh Richardson, Tyler Johnson, Rodney McGruder, Derrick Jones Jr., Wayne Ellington, Waiters and Wade are all players under guaranteed contracts who could realistically be used at shooting guard for the Heat this season.
One way Spoelstra could find playing time for all these players is by using them at different positions.
Richardson (started at small forward last season), Jones and McGruder are players who have proven they can be effective at small forward, and Johnson is again expected to continue to get most of his minutes as Miami’s primary backup point guard.
That leaves Waiters, Wade and Ellington as the Heat’s options at shooting guard. Wade averaged 22.9 minutes of playing time in 21 regular-season games with Miami last season, and that number should remain about the same playing behind Waiters.
There are some that believe Wade’s presence doesn’t make the Heat better, though. According to a formula used by ESPN NBA writer Kevin Pelton, Miami’s is projected to win 1.4 fewer games with Wade.
“The fact that [Wade] will be taking playing time from guys who are effective players,” Pelton said when asked to explain that projection. “Last year, there was a clear fit for him after the Waiters injury. This year with Waiters back in the lineup, he’s probably taking minutes from Wayne Ellington, Tyler Johnson. Those are guys who project more effective than he does just at this stage of his career. Obviously, the aging factor is weighed pretty heavily given where he is.”
But the Heat believes Wade makes them a better team. And Wade believes he makes the Heat a better team.
That’s all that matters right now. The details will be ironed out when training camp begins next week.
“I still see a player who can contribute heavily if he really wants to,” Heat president Pat Riley said to reporters in July. “If he plays, he’s going to want to do that. We don’t want him back as a place-mat holder or somebody who’s going to be a veteran in the locker room. Dwyane is a great player, a great talent. He’s not the same guy he was in 2006, but he can be a very good player for us and can make a big difference for us. We want him back as a guy that realizes if this is going to be his last year or whatever, we want this to be his best year ever.”