NBA Top 50: Dwyane Wade (No. 6)

FanHouse's Tom Ziller argues his ranking of the
top 50 players in the NBA.

It might not seem like it, but Dwyane Wade's had a roller coaster career already, in just five NBA seasons. Thrust into the Miami vice with fellow rookie Stan Van Gundy in 2003-04, Wade finished third in the great R.O.Y. battle in modern history. In the next season, as a sophomore, he finished eighth in MVP voting. ! The next season brought an NBA championship. Two years later, Miami found itself in the tank with one of the worst records of the decade.

How long until that next upswing? If Wade has anything to do with it -- and returns from Beijing indicate he will -- it's not going to be too long.

One of the more amazing things about Wade's offensive game is its force. Everyone knows Wade can't shoot. He's a two-guard with a career three-point percentage below 26% ... and that's coming on almost no attempts -- imagine how low the clip would be if he had to shoot four a game. From the standard NBA guard shooting range, Wade is atrocious. He also happens to be vastly undersized by today's wing standards. His 6'4 stature is exactly why Miami drafted him (and for a time played him) as a point guard.

Yet Wade scores whenever he wants, and almost no one can stop him.

He has a few ways of doing this, the most obvious a "drill, baby, drill" philosophy of driving to the hoop. It's like Iverson on meth, watching Wade try to take over a game. He's simply relentless, no matter how many defenders you throw in his path, no matter how many times you knock him down. (Get up eight, right?) It's like someone turns his ignition at the tip and puts a brick on the gas pedal. The Heat haven't been particularly fast teams, but on offense a near-maniacal drive to drive has kept defenders panting for years.

This isn't to say Wade's completely reckless, that he'll attack to the detriment of a balanced attack. He's an amazing drop-off passer, probably the best non-PG at finding the open teammate in traffic. (Tracy McGrady has long been the king in this category, with LeBron and Iverson near the top as well.) And while Wade's insistence of driving the ball is expected, it's not exactly predictable. Wade's thesaurus of stutters, stops, misdirections, slides, dekes, hops, angles, rotations ... it should be required reading for every prospective guard in the world. There's no pattern, no tells. That forces the opposition to lunge and hack, and that gets Wade to the line 10 times a game. That makes babies. That wins games.

So, will Miami bounce back? By all accounts, Wade is healthy. Shawn Marion might slip a bit, but he's still an extraordinary player. Udonis Haslem is as about as good as post defenders come. Michael Beasley, Mario Chalmers ... it's up to you.

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