Rumors of their demise have been greatly exaggerated.
San Antonio Spurs’ guard Manu Ginobili and Miami Heat guard Dwyane Wade aren’t the same players they used to be a couple of years ago. Hell, they’re not even the same players they were at this point last year. But that last sentence is actually a good thing. Six combined championships, over 23 total NBA seasons and 22 playoff runs can take a serious toll on someone’s body. Especially two injury prone shooting guards.
But while the rumors of their decline were all the focus last year, these two consummate professionals have done everything they can to re-transform themselves and their games from old to vintage.
Per Basketball Reference, Manu Ginobili’s 2013 playoff run was a statistical disaster. Ginobili shot 39% from the field (second lowest of his playoff career), 30% from beyond the arch (second lowest of his playoff career), and 74% from the free throw line (career playoff low), all in route to 11.5 points per game through the playoffs. His worst since his rookie season when he came off the bench averaging 9.4 points for the 2003 NBA Champions.
Dwyane Wade’s playoff field goal percentages weren’t as ugly as Ginobili’s, but Wade’s production was on par with more of a sixth man role, instead of a superstar. Wade averaged 15.9 points (playoff career worst), 4.6 rebounds (second career lowest), and only shot a career low 3.6 free throws per playoff game. Dwyane Wade was still playing superstar minutes, but not producing to his old level. Game 2 of the 2013 NBA Finals is a great example of how Wade led the starting lineup in usage, but was the least efficient player on the floor offensively.
Though Ginobili has struggled at the rim, Manu is averaging nearly three more points per game compared to his 2013 playoff run, while playing only 24 minutes per game. His 39% shooting from beyond the arch is his second playoff career best. Per 36 minutes, Ginobili’s averaging 21 points, five rebounds and six assists. Numbers not seen since the 2011 Playoffs when Ginobili was in a starting role for the Spurs.
On the other side, Dwyane Wade has elevated his game back to 2012 standards. Though he’s not the athletic slasher he used to be, Wade has made it a point to be consistently good from everywhere on the floor, including hitting an occasional three pointer.
The Way of Wade this postseason has been all about the midrange. Per Basketball Reference, Wade’s 53% 2-Point Field Goal Percentage is his best since 2009-10, when Wade shot 64% from inside the arch. And while Wade continues to not draw many shooting fouls these days, he is knocking them down at an 80% rate, and hitting three pointers (or the one three point attempt he averages per game) at 40%. As Bill Simmons would affectionately say, Wade seems to finally be discovering his “old man” game.
While Wade and Ginobili will never be their uber-athletic selves for an entire series, their sacrifices to prolong their career are not going unnoticed. Whether it’s stricter dieting and exercise for Ginobili, or less slashing and more time off for Wade, the two future Hall of Famers have done everything they can to increase their productivity and longevity. They Euro stepped through every last fan and analyst clamoring for their retirement or salary paycuts all the way to a another consecutive Finals appearance.