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Dwyane Wade and the 3 Point Shot: The Forgotten Years

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Most analysis begins and ends with Dwyane Wade's seeming inability to pose any sort of threat from beyond the arc. I wanted to dig a little deeper and examine Wade's overall history

Mike Ehrmann

Dwyane Wade will go down as one of the most prolific scorers in NBA history when his illustrious career comes to a close. His game has gradually evolved from his days as a precocious rookie point guard, to NBA scoring champion, and now as a crafty second option scorer (never bite on the pumpfake!).

One longstanding fault in Wade's game, however, has been his lack of 3 point shooting, a skill that has become more and more necessary as the NBA has evolved into a more perimeter-oriented affair. For his career, Dwyane shoots 29% from beyond the arc, on around 1.7 attempts a game. No way around that, it's pretty bad stuff. But those who have watched Dwyane throughout the years do remember a time he started firing three pointers with impunity.

Following, to be frank, one of the most horrendous individual three-point shooting seasons in NBA history (17% on exactly 1 attempt a game during the 2005-2006 season) the attempts crept up ever so slightly in the two injury-plagued seasons that would follow after Wade would lead the Miami Heat to an NBA title (and in his defense, he shot 37% from 3 in the 2006 postseason). Upon recovering from his injuries, Wade would post one of the most magnificent individual seasons from a perimeter player ever in 2008-2009 where he averaged 30.2 points per game on 49% shooting.

Something to consider here is that Dwyane fired 3.5 three pointers per game that season. At 32%, this would serve as the only season that he averaged over one make a game. Thanks to, we can examine the types of shots he was taking:


Dwyane Wade Shot Chart and Shot Distrubution: 2008-2009

Of the 278 threes Dwyane Wade shot, a whopping 223 of them were defined as "above the break" and he made around 34% of them, not far off from his overall numbers. Dwyane was worse on corners, shooting 25% from them on limited attempts.

I think those who can vividly remember Wade's days as a three-point shooter was that he would often pull up when shooting them, rather than spotting up ala James Jones. The numbers bare that out as 70% of Dwyane's made 3s for the 2008-2009 season were unassisted. Combine that with the limited overall attempts from the corners, and Wade's 3s mostly went something like this:


Dwyane's 2009-2010 season was essentially a slightly less efficient version of his prior one, still firing over 3 three pointers a game, hitting 30%. Still, despite the overall subpar numbers, Dwyane would have his moments:

Dwyane Wade 46 points (5/7 from 3) 4.25.10

Then came "The Decision" and many wondered how Wade and LeBron James would mesh. LeBron was used to playing with floor stretching guards (after the debacle that was the signing of Larry Hughes anyway) such as Anthony Parker, Daniel Gibson, and Delonte West. Would Wade improve?

Well, not quite. Wade still put up a marvelous first season with LeBron, averaging 25-6-4 on 50% shooting, but his three point shooting was pretty stagnant at 30.3% on 2.7 attempts:


Dwyane Wade Shot Chart and Shot Distrubution: 2010-2011

Dwyane made 63 three pointers in 2010-2011 and again, 66% of them were unassisted, even when playing with a playmaker as gifted as LeBron. His three point shooting would be worse in the first postseason of the Big Three era (26%), but there were still a few memorable makes: 

Then, they stopped.

Following a harrowing defeat at the hands of the Dallas Mavericks, much was made of LeBron's rededication to improving his game, as he came equipped with a post up game previously unseen the following year. Yet, Wade also made some notable shifts in his game to adapt to the team as well as increase his overall longevity in the NBA.

Over the next three seasons, Dwyane's three-point shooting attempts dwindled from 1.1 attempts, to 1, all the way to a paltry 0.6 this past season. Suddenly the threes Wade was once hoisting had been reassigned to Chris Bosh, who hardly ever creates his attempts off the dribble. In return, Wade's FG% increased from 50%, to 52%, to a rather absurd 54.5% from the field this past season.

People seem to forget the days of the Wade pull up three, maybe rightfully so, when analyzing the HEAT's limitations. Wade's seeming lack of three-point ability really compromised the HEAT's spacing in last year's NBA Finals as he wasn't able to cut to the rim and succeed in his midrange game as consistently due to nagging injuries. But Dwyane's issue is not that he can't make the shot, it's merely that he understands that's not the best shot for him to take. Tony Allen he is not.

Take a look at Russell Westbrook. Much is made of his inefficiency, and a lot of it stems from his unconscionable flinging of threes. Over the past three years, Westbrook has shot 32% from beyond the arc with the attempts increasing from 3.0, to 3.7, to 4.7 this year. In this past postseason it got worse, as he shot 5.3 threes and made 28% of them. The Thunder offense asks Westbrook to function much differently than Wade, and he's still an outstanding individual force who had a marvelous postseason but until he comes to the same realization that Wade did, his efficiency will continue to be ghastly. This shouldn't be the case for such an athletic marvel who can get to the rim at will.

Praise is now being heaped upon Wade and the team for the maintenance program established to prevent injuries from becoming a hinderance in May and June and Wade responded by eviscerating the Indiana Pacers. Most surprising is that he fired 13 three point attempts in the series, making a more than respectable 6 of them.

Could this mean the Wade three is coming back? Only time will tell, but whether we see them or not, a healthy Wade is poised to have a big series, and Miami will need every ounce of his greatness to beat San Antonio.