April 13, 2009
They’d never admit it, but I doubt this is the first-round matchup the Atlanta Hawks were hoping for.
As we head into the final few days of the regular season, most of the playoff-bound teams still find themselves jockeying for final seeding. The Hawks and Miami Heat, however, are locked into the East’s 4th and 5th seeds and set for their best-of-seven showdown to kick off in Hotlanta shortly. Home-court advantage is always a nice bonus in the postseason, but something tells me the Hawks would at least consider trading theirs for the chance to instead face the 76ers, Bulls, or Pistons–not Dwyane Wade.
Be it the Hawks or the Cavaliers, nobody should want anything to do with this guy. His supporting cast isn’t great and his head coach is a playoff rookie, but there may not be a player in the league performing at a higher level than Wade is at the moment. He’s peaking at exactly the right time, and I worry he might be too much for the overall superior Hawks to handle.
Keep in mind this came against the New York Knicks (3rd-worst in points allowed at 108.3), but there’s no denying just how sick Wade’s performance was on Sunday night: 55 points (19-30 FG, 11-13 FT), 6 triples, 9 rebounds, 4 assists, 1 block. “It’s kind of ridiculous that you’re this good,” Knicks coach Mike D’Antoni told him towards the end of the game.
Yes, Wade has indeed been ridiculous this season; MVP ridiculous, though I still think LeBron James will ultimately get the nod. After two injury-riddled seasons in a row following the Heat’s 2006 championship, Wade has bounced back with the best overall season of his six-year career. He’ll finish as the league’s scoring champ and the only player to average at least 30 points per, and tops that feat off with rather filthy averages of 49% FG, 7.5 assists, 5 rebounds, 2.2 steals, 1.3 blocks, 1.1 triples, and nearly 10 free-throw attempts per. He’s also on course to play in all 82 regular-season games for the first time.
We’re big fans of the Atlanta Hawks here at ETB. Love that nucleus of Al Horford, Josh Smith, Marvin Williams, and Joe Johnson, and Mike Bibby has proven to be a nice veteran fit at point guard. They nearly pulled off one of the biggest upsets in NBA playoff history last year when, as the East’s unheralded and green-around-the-ears 8th seed, they took the eventual champion Boston Celtics to seven games. They finished last season as a sub-.500 team (37-45), and with two games to go are guaranteed at least 46 wins a year later.
They’re a better team than the one that nearly upended the Celtics. They’re deeper than the Miami Heat, their core has played together longer than Miami’s core, and they’re actually more playoff-tested than this version of the Miami Heat.
But they don’t have a Dwyane Wade, and they certainly won’t be getting the Dwyane Wade playoff whistles we all grew accustomed to hearing over and over again during the Heat’s ’06 postseason run. It all adds up to this being the most intriguing first-round series in the Eastern Conference; we’re rooting Hawks, but this Dwyane Wade character is one scary dude right now and is capable of winning this series all by himself.
Dwyane Wade Photo Credit: Icon SMI