A fan wrote on Twitter earlier this week that Dwyane Wade would have retired with five championships (instead of the three he won in 2006, 2012 and 2013) if he had better knees. Wade responded to the tweet, adding that he’d have six.
Is he right?
The simplest argument in favor of Wade’s case is that LeBron James wouldn’t have left the Miami Heat if Wade’s performance hadn’t cratered the way it had during the 2014 NBA Finals. The 2006 Finals MVP scored just 15.2 points per game on 44 percent shooting in the 2014 Finals. He didn’t have his explosiveness; look at this Tiago Splitter block on Wade at the rim.
Would James have re-signed with the Heat in 2014 if Wade looked closer to his prime? Only James knows for sure. Despite all the messaging around his triumphant return to the Cleveland Cavaliers, James chose the best basketball decision. (Whether he did the same thing last year when he signed a four-year deal with the Los Angeles Lakers is another story.) Veteran members of the supporting cast, like Ray Allen and Shane Battier, didn’t play another NBA minute after those 2014 Finals. And the Cavaliers’ futility in the wake of James brought them Kyrie Irving.
Of course, injuries are a part of any team’s championship window “what-if” stories. What if Kevin Garnett hadn’t been out for the entire 2009 playoffs, and the Boston Celtics could’ve defended their 2008 title at full strength? What if Kendrick Perkins hadn’t been out for Game 7 of the 2010 NBA Finals, during a time when centers actually mattered?
Forget his knees, maybe Wade would have four rings today if he didn’t suffer a strained rib muscle in the 2005 Eastern Conference Finals.
Aside from injuries, we can also play the “what-if” game about personnel moves. Pat Riley drafted Patrick Beverley in the second round of the 2010 NBA Draft, but the Heat waived him before the start of the season. What if the Heat kept Beverley on the team instead of someone like Zydrunas Ilgauskas or Eddie House? What if the Heat didn’t bank on continued contention in the Big Three era on someone like Greg Oden or Michael Beasley panning out?