While Dwyane Wade contemplates his basketball future, there are reports he may return to the Miami Heat. Does he fit there if he chooses to stay in the NBA?
That's a good question and his answer to whether not he's coming back? "In due time," Wade said, per Tim Reynolds of the Associated Press. "Time will tell."
Depending on Wade's frame of mind, a return may not be great news. As D-Wade gets older, there's an argument he's still got game. But, there's also an argument he's not the player he once was, likely not an NBA starter. His status as a professional baller these days have left his future in the game unclear and rumors are he's toying with the idea of retirement or playing in China. Both are realistic possibilities and honestly, it feels like each scenario has an equal shot of actually happening.
But, what if Wade returns to Miami? Can an argument be made the team is actually better off without him?
How Much Will Wade Play?
Team president Pat Riley told reporters, "I want him back as a player." So, there is a job waiting for Wade if he wants one. That said, some might question why Miami is holding a spot.
There is no shortage of guards in the Miami Heat locker room and somewhere around 40 percent of the team's salary is designated to names like Tyler Johnson, Dion Waiters, Wayne Ellington, Rodney McGruder, Josh Richardson and Derrick Jones Jr.. All be affected by his return.
In order to fit Wade into the structure of the team and still give him anything close to 20 minutes per game, Miami will have to take little bits of playing time from each of these potential guards, many of whom Riley feels are great players and solid contributors. As a result, what's likely to happen is the Heat either sit a lot of salary (no team loves to do that) or they sit a useful player (no team loves to do that either).
Is He Too Slow?
In Wade's short absence with the franchise, Miami actually became a faster team. Their game pace went up, scoring went up three points per game on average, the number of three-pointers increased, and everything moved more quickly.
The question is, at 36, can Wade keep up? In a small sample size, he proved he can. His return actually gave Miami another small boost. What about a longer one?
As Wade gets older, the Heat don't want to risk the odds that the numbers will fall back down to before he left. Clearly, Wade offers intangibles. He's an experienced leader and a cool cucumber under pressure. But, is the new Miami Heat ready to take a step towards something else and can Wade be part of that change over the long-grind of a full season? The team doesn't seem to have any doubt Wade can be useful in limited minutes, but how limited and how useful?
Where Would He Fit?
Knowing there's a chance his numbers aren't what they once were, his age will slow him down and he's taking away playing time from some potentially pretty good guards, where would Wade fit?
For starters, he shouldn't be a starter. At least half of the game he should be on the bench, playing the role as a backup point guard. Still, an argument can be made the Heat will need Wade's leadership, clutch-play, and off-the-bench minutes. In a perfect world, the team may choose to use him when the game is on the line or when they need a critical bucket. Keep him fresh enough that he doesn't come in cold, but when the game matters most and a play is there to be made on offense, Wade has proven he can make it.
Otherwise, the best role for Wade is that of a mentor. Give him a chance to retire as a member of the Miami Heat and usher in a new era of young players. If he's not comfortable with that, Miami might be best to let him move on.