Dwyane Wade Completes Historic NBA Shooting Season
Before the playoffs begin, before championship aspirations are fought for, before future planning is deliberated, let’s take a moment to acknowledge something truly remarkable that has quietly transpired in the midst of a largely torturous regular season. Dwyane Wade has completed a historic shooting year.
For a second consecutive season that started with questions about whether his skills were in serious decline, Wade has transcended the doubters, and the injuries, to accomplish the spectacular.
He shot 54.5% from the field in 2013-14.
How good is that?
Well… It represents the best shooting season for any shooting guard in the past 31 years. It represents the second best shooting season for any shooting guard who averaged double-digit points of all time. It represents the third best shooting season for any starting shooting guard of all time. And it represents the fourth best shooting season for any shooting guard of all time.
That bears repeating: Dwyane Wade just produced the best shooting season for any shooting guard in the past 31 years, and the fourth best in NBA history!
For perspective, the league has been around for 63 years. It was founded on June 6, 1946 (as the Basketball Association of America, or BBA, and adopted the name National Basketball Association, or NBA, on August 3, 1949).
You have to go all the way back to the 1983-84 season to find any shooting guard with a higher field goal percentage than Wade just produced, at which point you will come across two names: Rolando Blackman and Mike Glenn.
Blackman, a 6’6” starting shooting guard for the Dallas Mavericks, shot 54.6% from the field that year, averaging a career-best 22.4 points per game. He took an average of 16.3 shots per game, making 8.9 of them. Blackman’s field goal percentage edged out Wade’s by one one-thousandth of one percent, the equivalent of less than one missed Wade shot attempt. Wade missed his last shot of the regular season.
Glenn, a 6’2” reserve combo guard for the Atlanta Hawks, shot 56.3% from the field that year in a limited role. He made an average of just 3.9 shots on just 6.8 attempts per game, meeting the qualifying standard for statistical inclusion by just 12 made baskets. He averaged 8.4 points per game, and didn’t start a single one.
You have to go even further back, to the 1972-73 season, to find the only other shooting guard to produce a better shooting season than Wade just did. Matt Guokas, at 6’5”, shot 57.0% from the field in a mostly starting role for the Kansas City-Omaha Kings that year. He did it by converting an average of just 4.1 shots on just 7.2 attempts per game, meeting the qualifying standard for statistical inclusion by just five shot attempts. He averaged 9.1 points per game on the season.
That’s it! Wade’s shooting season trumps every shooting season of every other shooting guard in league history. In producing his 54.5% shooting, he converted an average of 7.7 shots on 14.1 attempts, en route to 19.0 points per game.
Michael Jordan never even came all that close – the highest he’s shot over a full season was 53.9% in 1990-91.
Kobe Bryant’s best season was 46.9% in 2001-02. In fact, Bryant’s best-ever shooting season trumped only one of Wade’s 11 seasons to date – Wade’s rookie season in 2003-04, the only year in which he technically played as a point guard, during which he shot 46.5%, and led his team to the second round of the playoffs after one of the more remarkable year-over-year and intra-season turnarounds in league history.
What’s more, Wade has now led all NBA shooting guards in accuracy for the fourth time in a row, and fifth time in the past six seasons. The only blip in that time span was when Ray Allen edged him out by one one-thousandth of one percent in 2009-10.
During his 11 total years in the league, Wade has finished first in shooting accuracy among shooting guards a whopping seven times. The other finishes: second twice, third once, and fourth once (during his injury plagued 2007-08 season). He has never finished below fourth.
But Wade’s accomplishment is even more impressive in the context of today’s NBA. No other shooting guard in recent history has come anywhere close to Wade’s shooting pace this season. In fact, only one other shooting guard has shot better than 50% from the field in the past seven years — Phoenix’s Goran Dragic, this season, at 50.5%.
This is the third year in which Wade has topped 50% during his career — he shot exactly that mark in 2010-11 and 52.1% in 2012-13.
The natural tendency might be to think that Wade benefited substantially from having played with LeBron James. But the facts tell a very different story. Wade logged 1,775 minutes on the season, of which only 1,161, or 65%, were played alongside James. Both Wade and James shot better than 50% from the floor in those 1,161 minutes, but, oddly, both shot better from the floor when they didn’t play together.
Another natural tendency might be to think he’s cherry-picking easier shots. But you’d be wrong for thinking that. Wade’s 14.1 shot attempts per game ranked him 38th in the league in that category, and 10th at his position. As time marches on, he’s moving progressively further away from the basket – he took the smallest allocation of his shot attempts from inside of five feet in the Big Three era this season, and replaced them with the biggest allocation of shot attempts from between 10 and 20 feet in the Big Three era.
So what’s been the biggest difference?
Wade said he worked on his mid-range game and post game during the offseason, and the results are dramatic.
He shot 50% from 5 to 14 feet, a massive jump from his 42% career mark prior to this season. From 15 to 24 feet, he shot 42%, a huge jump from 37% in his career. That has a lot to do with the types of looks he’s getting, and they’re not just open jumpers.
Believe it or not, Wade ranks as one of the most effective post-up weapons in the league. At 32 years old and plagued by nagging knee issues, Wade has quietly migrated to the post more than ever this season. In the Big Three’s first season together in 2010-11, Wade only sparingly went to the post, using it on 6% of his overall offense. As part of the continuing evolution of his game, Wade has made it a go-to option thanks to long hours with assistant coach David Fizdale. Now the post-up portion has more than doubled to 14% of his plays.
And even though the opposition knows it’s coming, teams still struggle to stop it. Get this: If it weren’t for his teammate James, Wade would own the NBA’s highest field goal percentage in the post. Wade shot 54% this season when he posted up: “I’m pretty good on the post game. I added that. I didn’t have it in college.”
Coach Erik Spoelstra said “the No. 1 factor” in Wade’s remarkable shooting percentage is his shot selection and “not settling” for bad ones: “Most players aren’t capable of that type of maturity. It becomes about them.”
Wade, always weary of historical milestones, is now shooting at 49.2% for his career.
That puts him at 133rd on the all-time NBA career shooting percentage list, a list dominated by big men, among players who have averaged at least double-figures for their careers, as well as 25th among players who have averaged at least 20 points per game for their careers.
Among shooting guards who have averaged at least 20 points per game for their careers, Wade is third all time, behind Jordan (49.7%) and George Gervin (51.1%), though Gervin had his best shooting seasons playing as a small forward.
“I take pride in my field-goal percentage, have always cared about it. I was 49.6% in college. I wanted to be at 50. I try to take good shots,” said Wade.
Wade’s career college mark was actually 49.4%. If he duplicates this season’s seemingly-incomprehensible pace, he’ll pass that mark next season, en route to a rounded 50% for his career. If he posts two consecutive such seasons, he’ll pass Jordan’s career mark as well.
All statistics contained in this post are based on the NBA’s own statistical database, and are subject to minimum qualifications for inclusion, where applicable. The minimum qualifying standard, by season, adopted by the NBA in compiling its database can be found here. These are the same qualifying standards utilized by all major sources of such statistical ranking.
There is only one player who can dispute the claim that Dwyane Wade just produced the second best shooting season by any shooting guard who averaged double digit points in NBA history: Walter Davis. Davis shot 56.1% and 56.3% in consecutive seasons in 1978-79 and 1979-80, as a small forward for the Phoenix Suns. He is listed as a forward for those seasons on all NBA statistics websites which delineate player positions by season, including the Suns’ official NBA.com website. He went on to play several seasons as a shooting guard thereafter, during which seasons his shooting percentages dropped substantially.