Now that the Heat is back on track with Sunday's win against Houston, let's take a minute to acknowledge something remarkable that has gone somewhat under-the-radar regarding LeBron James and Dwyane Wade:
### Wade is poised to post the highest shooting percentage by any shooting guard in the past 29 years and the highest of any starting shooting guard since the NBA implemented the three-point shot in 1979-80.
Wade is shooting 55.1 percent from the field --– something Michael Jordan never did over a full season. Jordan’s high: 53.9 in 1990-91.
And if he stays above 54 percent, it would be the highest by a shooting guard since Atlanta backup Mike Glenn shot 58.8 in 1984-85. The highest field-goal accuracy by a starting shooting guard in the three-point era was Otis Birdsong, at 54.5 percent in 1980-81.
What’s more, Wade is on pace to lead all shooting guard in accuracy for the fifth time in the past six seasons. (He was beaten out by Wilson Chandler in 2009-2010). Wade has topped 50 percent only once before – 52.1 last season.
Shooting 54 percent, let alone 55, “is something I’ve never done before, so it would be great,” he said. “I take pride in my field-goal percentage, have always cared about it. I was 49.6 percent in college. I wanted to be at 50. I try to take good shots.”
For perspective, only one other NBA guard has shot better than 50 percent this season: Phoenix's Goran Dragic at 50.8.
So what’s the biggest difference? Wade said he worked on his mid-range game and post game during the offseason, and the results are dramatic.
Consider that Wade is shooting 53 percent from 3 to 10 feet, well above his 46.4 career mark. From 10 to 16 feet, he’s at 47.5 percent, a huge jump from 38.1 in his career.
He’s shooting 55 percent when he posts up, up from 48 percent last season: “I’m pretty good on the post game. I added that. I didn’t have it in college.” He also has diversified his game by polishing his Eurostep move and adding a hook shot.
Wade has taken only one heave at the end of a quarter after shooting 17 over the past five seasons. Will he avoid those shots to keep his percentage high?
“I haven’t been in that position [to take them],” he said, with Wade usually on the bench at the end of the first and third quarters. “It depends on how I’m going. Sometimes, I’ll want to shoot. Sometimes, I’ll dribble it out.”
It also helps his percentage that he shoots three-pointers sparingly (he’s 9 for 27), after launching 243 in his final season playing without James. Wade noted the Heat already has enough three-point shooters without him lofting a lot of them. But Indiana coach Tom Crean, his friend and former coach at Marquette, said last summer that it’s a part of his game he will need to polish as he gets older.
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.”
### James stands at 56.9 percent from the field, even after shooting just 45 percent over the past six games. He needs an exceptional close to post the highest shooting percentage of any starting small forward (and better than any guard, for that matter) since the three-point shot was implemented.
Cedric Maxwell shot 58.8 percent for Boston in 1980-81 but attempted only one three-pointer. Conversely, James has attempted 240 and made 89, which would naturally drag down a high shooting percentage.
In the three-point shot era, 11 starting small forwards have shot at least 55 percent in a season. James seems likely to do it twice in a row, after shooting 56.5 percent last season.
For perspective, the highest Larry Bird ever shot in a season was 52.7, Scottie Pippen 52, Rick Barry 51, Alex English 54, Julius Erving 54.6, Chris Mullin 55.3. Dominique Wilkins, Elgin Baylor and John Havlicek never shot 50 percent.
“Do you realize his field goal percentage, literally since his first season, every year has gone up?” TNT’s Greg Anthony said. “That’s unbelievable. How can a perimeter player shoot 58 percent? When you’re the focal point of the defense, and you’re playing at an elite level, to shoot that high of a percentage is absurd.”
Right tackle Zach Strief, who declined an invitation to visit the Dolphins --- re-signed with New Orleans today. "Saints are his home," agent Ralph Cindrich explained of his decision not to pursue Miami.
Meanwhile, the Dolphins have expressed preliminary interest in Houston free agent right tackle Ryan Harris but no visit has been set up, according to Herald colleague Adam Beasley. Harris and Eric Winston are the top remaining right tackles available. The Dolphins instead might choose to draft one, potentially Notre Dame's Zach Martin at No. 19.
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