As Dwyane Wade addressed the Chicago media for the first time, the feeling of somber happiness was certainly prevalent. The Chicago native had always dreamed of coming home playing in front of his hometown fans. The Chicago boy grew up watching Jordan, and entered the league at a time when the Bulls were rebuilding.
But Wade is a Miami man, having spent over a decade playing in South Beach. Wade was honest about his heartache over leaving the city he’s called home for so long. Off the court, this is a hard move for Wade, and one that will hurt many fans in many places. But on the court, Wade should feel right at home in a situation that should feel more familiar for his career.
— Bulls Report (@bulls_fanly) August 17, 2016
In Miami, Wade was a lone wolf for his first NBA season, but found his groove when the team acquired Shaquille O’Neal from the Lakers. The two gelled immediately, giving Wade another alpha-male on the team that wanted to win as badly as he did, creating a devastating combo that would lead to the Heat’s first NBA Championship in 2006. Wade was excellent, scoring efficiently and wreaking havoc on defenses as a premier shooting guard that could rely on a fading star in O’Neal to prop up the rest of the team.
The departure of O’Neal took Wade to new heights statistically, as he pulled an average Miami team throughout the years of rebuilding. But while Wade lit it up, the team on the floor suffered. The Heat stalled and Wade carried the burden of the franchise alone.
That changed in 2010, when Wade linked with Chris Bosh and LeBron James in the formation of a formidable ‘Big Three’ in a line-up that would devastate the league and catapult Wade and the Heat to two more NBA Championships. Wade’s numbers went down, however, in contrast to the commanding presence of Wade with Shaq.
This Big Three would push Wade down to a supporting role – with James the kingpin – but Wade flourished. The departure of James left an impact in Miami, with Wade preferring to stay the aging Wade of the Miami years, but with no other superstar on the roster. Hassan Whiteside and Goran Dragic, along with veterans in Joe Johnson and Luol Deng, provided some leadership, but the Heat relied heavily on D-Wade to carry the bulk again, like he had done after the championship in 2006.
Wade’s usage skyrocketed in his last two seasons in Miami, jumping to 34.7 and 31.6 minutes, up from an average of 29.3 in the James and Bosh years in Miami. But his PER suffered, regardless. Wade had some of the most efficient years of his career with James and Bosh in tow, averaging a win share of 8.9 in the four years of the Big Three, but saw just a 3.5 and 4.9 in his last two campaigns in Miami.
The extra burden on Wade took its toll, with Wade willing the Heat to a playoff win over Charlotte seemingly on his own. The Heat overcame a 3-2 deficit thanks largely to Wade’s contribution. Even against Toronto, it took a herculean effort from ‘Flash’ to keep Miami competitive as the Heat pushed the series to seven games.
While Wade’s ultimate decision to leave the Heat hinged more on money and respect than the efforts on the floor, his move into the Bulls set-up is something Wade should feel at home with.
In young Chicago star Jimmy Butler, Wade has the dynamic he’s missed for two seasons without James and the injured Chris Bosh. Butler provides the dominant personality in addition to Wade that can help carry Chicago, and provide Wade an opportunity to be more efficient and work more in support.
— Sports Illustrated (@SInow) August 19, 2016
Butler’s far from the game-changing force that James is, but his game mirrors LeBron’s impact, providing a forceful defensive prescence and electric offense reminiscent of a young Wade. While Chicago may not run through the competition the way Miami’s Big Three did, the Bulls provide Wade with some relief on scoring and defense, as Butler and Rajon Rondo can defend the best two backcourt players, with Wade being able to do what he wants on the other end.
Wade is in the twilight of his career, there’s no doubt. But in Chicago, Wade will have the opportunity to play in a scheme that takes a burden off of his shoulders. The Bulls may not contend the way Wade is used to, but the veteran can get back to the role that brought him the greatest success in Miami.