Many believe that this deal was done as a favor to Wade, because Cleveland picked up three guards at the deadline. And it’s likely that Wade’s minutes would’ve been squeezed by these younger players.
The 36-year-old didn’t fit into Cleveland’s plans to get younger and more athletic. But he’s happy to be back in Miami, where he’s now spent 14 of his 15 professional seasons.
The Heat can really use Wade’s services right now as well. The team lost Dion Waiters to ankle surgery in late January. Waiters was having a solid season, averaging 14.3 PPG and 3.8 APG before being shut down for the year.
The team also has Wayne Ellington (11.2 PPG) playing backup two-guard. But they don’t have any depth at this position beyond Ellington.
Given that Miami (30-26) is currently sitting in seventh in the Eastern Conference, they’re a serious contender to make the playoffs. But nothing is a given right now, with the Philadelphia 76ers (28-25) and Detroit Pistons (27-27) also hunting for a postseason berth.
That said, let’s discuss if Wade furthers the team’s goals of making the playoffs, or if this is his last ride into the sunset of a Hall of Fame career.
Wade Brings Energy to Debut
Wade played his first game for Miami on Friday night. The 15-year veteran came off the bench amid chants of “We want Wade!” His first play involved getting a defensive rebound, then assisting to Hassan Whiteside’s dunk.
Nobody will describe Wade’s first performance back in town as efficient. He contributed 3 points, 2 boards, 2 assists, 2 blocks, and 2 steals in 22 minutes. But he did help them beat the Milwaukee Bucks 91-85.
“Great energy in the building,” Wade told ESPN. “When I went out to warm up, it was definitely a playoff atmosphere. The crowd was amazing. I missed this crowd.”
Whiteside also felt like the game against the Bucks had a different energy than a normal regular season contest.
“It felt like a playoff game,” said Whiteside, who grabbed 16 rebounds and scored 12 points. “The fans were in an uproar. It felt like a playoff game, and Miami was just rocking. It hadn’t felt like that in a while here.”
Wade is the Heat’s all-time leader in points, assists, steals, and games played. So it’s no wonder why Miami fans are excited to see him back in town.
He left the team for free agency after signing a big deal in Chicago. He then agreed to a buyout with the Bulls, before signing with Cleveland in the offseason. Now he’s back at the place where it all started.
Heat Coach Surprised to Have Wade Back
Head coach Eric Spoelstra has spent plenty of time with Wade, having coached him for years. And he was surprised when Miami president Pat Riley floated the possibility of bringing the 12-time All-Star back.
Riley mentioned how they could acquire both Luke Babbit and Dwayne. And the coach was actually puzzled at the latter mention.
“What?” asked Spoelstra. “Dwyane who?”
Riley continued to tell him that Wade could soon be available, given that Cleveland was planning to make some major moves.
“My only response was, ‘Let’s go, let’s do it.’ But it was probably not something any of us foresaw two weeks ago,” said Spoelstra. “Crazy things happen in this league, so it just absolutely felt like perfect timing for both parties, and it was actually surreal how quickly it came about.”
Wade Happy to be Back
Although Wade was playing on a contending team in Cleveland, his heart never left Miami. He was ecstatic to return home in the recent deal.
“I was telling [head coach] Spo after the game that I actually felt normal,” Wade explained. “He said he felt a little weird seeing me on the bench to start the game, but I actually felt normal. Once the game starts, it becomes a game and you get into it.”
Spoelstra liked what he saw from both Wade and the fans on Friday.
“Obviously it was special to have Dwyane back in uniform, back on our side in front of the home fans,” Spoelstra remarked. “It felt exactly the way it should. It felt normal. It felt like home. It felt like family. It felt all the things you came to expect with Dwyane.”
What Impact will Dwyane Wade Have for the 2018 Heat?
Wade is currently averaging a career-low in points (11.0) and minutes (23.2). He’s certainly not the same player he used to be. But even at 36, with 15 seasons’ worth of mileage, Wade is still a contributor who can serve as a serious offensive threat.
The Heat need more help at shooting guard with Waiters done for the season. And Wade comes back to his old team at the perfect time.
Nobody is expecting Wade and the Heat to suddenly go on a major hot streak. But he can at least help them secure a lower playoff seed.
Perhaps if everything goes right, Miami can move up in the East standings. They’re one game back of the 6th-seeded Indiana Pacers (31-25), and 1.5 games back of the 5th-seeded Milwaukee Bucks (31-24).
2018 Miami Heat Futures
According to our GTBets sportsbook, Miami currently has the 6th-best odds of winning the Eastern Conference championship. You can take a look at their odds of winning the East below:
- Cleveland +125
- Boston +200
- Toronto +375
- Milwaukee +1400
- Washington +1800
- Miami +4000
- Indiana +5000
There’s a big gap in odds between the Washington Wizards and Miami Heat. And this doesn’t figure to close any time soon, unless Miami can overtake the Wizards in the standings by a comfortable margin.
With 29 games left in the season, anything is possible. Assuming Wade really helps the Heat, maybe we’ll see them move up as high as 4th in the standings, which would give them home-court for a first-round playoff series.