Dwyane Wade has had a less-than-stellar debut for the Cavaliers through three games thus far. He’s shot 28 percent from the field, turned the ball over 2.7 times a game while only assisting 3.3 times per game. So, yeah, it’s not going well.
J.R. Smith openly was upset about his benching, and it turns out that he didn’t need to stay mad for long. At practice Monday, coach Tyronn Lue said that Wade will come off the bench moving forward:
Dwyane Wade is coming off the bench now for Cavs.— Jason Lloyd (@JasonLloydNBA) October 23, 2017
JR back in the starting lineup, Wade to run second unit. Lue said Wade asked for this. Ty also told him when camp started it was best fit— Joe Vardon (@joevardon) October 23, 2017
This was always the right basketball decision, and based on Vardon’s tweet above, Tyronn Lue always knew it. J.R. thrives when he’s next to LeBron and Wade is so much better suited as a secondary playmaker against bench units at this point at his career.
This is a huge and important step for the Cavaliers. Egos will have to be suppressed on a team with this much name recognition, and the fact that Wade approached Lue to suggest his own benching speaks well to his leadership.
Wade’s numbers won’t still this bad, especially if he’s playing as a de facto point guard for second units. His game just isn’t really built to be a fourth or fifth option, and that’s okay. This new role should help him find his niche in Cleveland, even with his diminished athleticism.
Meanwhile, this has long-term ramifications for how the Cavaliers will play, especially once Isaiah Thomas returns. Our friend David Zavac just wrote his treatise about how the Cavaliers seemed to be abandoning the three point shot, but once Isaiah Thomas returns, the Cavaliers will feature five players that have shot at least 40 percent from three-point range at least one season in their career. This team’s starting lineup should be flames on the offensive end.
Once Thomas returns, the bench will need to find its identity quickly. Wade and Derrick Rose didn’t play well together with the starters, and it’s hard to imagine that adding Jeff Green or Tristan Thompson to any of those two-man pairings would be helpful.
Obviously Lue won’t run out full five-man bench platoons often, so he should be able to stagger their minutes. Still, there will be an odd man out when playoff rotations get shorter - my guess is that it will be one of Wade or Rose and whoever gets cut won’t be too pleased.
In the meantime, once Rose returns to the starting lineup from injury, the Cavs should look more cohesive. This team was always going to need sacrifice and a subversion of egos in order to put their best lineup combinations on the floor, and it appears they’ve gotten it. Let’s see if they can make it worth Wade’s while.