After signing a three-year extension with the Cleveland Cavaliers last year, there were expectations that Dean Wade would be the stretch-big that could open up the offense. That never materialized, and Wade ended up struggling mightily all season — in part due to a shoulder injury mixed in. Now, he is on the outside looking in for rotation minutes this season.
Name: Dean Wade
2022-23 stats: 44 games played, 20.3 minutes per game, 4.7 points per game, 3.4 rebounds per game, 0.8 assists per game, 41.2% shooting percentage
To say it was a difficult year for Wade would be an understatement. Coming off a season where he shot 45.6% and demonstrated an ability to space the floor, Wade looked like a shell of himself following an injury suffered on Dec. 2 to the AC joint in his shoulder, never regaining his confidence after returning on Jan. 21. Pre-injury, Wade seemed to be doing fine. He was shooting 44% from the floor and 40.7% from three-point land. Post-injury? Those numbers fell to 38.1% and 31.1% respectively, so there was something not quite right with his shoulder.
Now, Wade is at a crossroads. His contract is looking more and more like trade fodder. The offense-stretching capability is still there, somewhere, but Wade is going to have to show it — and make the most of likely limited minutes. The Cavs brought in Georges Niang, who functionally plays the same role as Wade as the spacing power forward. Never mind the rebounding numbers (to which Wade is slightly better), Niang is a more willing and capable shooter. In the preseason, Wade has played with the backups deep into the second half — a sign of where he stands.
There are more people in the pecking order than last year when the Cavs (prematurely) bought out Kevin Love — paving the way for Wade to absorb all of those minutes. In those 12 games post-Love, Wade was 13-39 (33.3%) from the floor and 8-28 (28.6%) from deep in 16.6 minutes per game. Not great.
That being said, there is always a place for a stretch big in today’s NBA. Wade has shown he is capable of taking and making threes to bend offenses. He had a great game pre-injury against the New York Knicks, going 8-11 from the floor with 22 points while playing in high-leverage situations down the stretch.
Here he looks considerably more comfortable. The little up-fake and sidestep for a three was very Love-esque, and probably more of what the Cavs were expecting from Wade.
Wade will get a shot to show what he has in the tank. If Wade is unable to capitalize, or see the need for a bigger uptrad, the Cavs may be dangling him as part of a trade package either during the season or next offseason.