The 2022-23 campaign was a step back for Cleveland Cavaliers forward Dean Wade.
Wade came into this now-past season freshly extended, and his three-year deal was well-deserved. He had his share of nice moments in the two seasons prior when opportunities came for him, and in his fourth year to come with Cleveland, him building on those years seemed reasonable.
He did start out the season hot, too, and filled in as a spot starter in the early going well. Whether he was starting or coming off the bench Wade did give Cleveland a defensive and catch-and-shoot boost, as he connected on 41.1 percent of his then-3.4 three-point attempts per contest in his first 17 appearances. He had 6.4 points and 4.1 rebounds in 24.1 minutes per outing in that span, which included nine starts.
Unfortunately, Wade would then miss an extended period of contests from early December through mid-to-late January because of an AC joint sprain in his shoulder, and when he came back, he just didn’t have the same success.
In his last 27 appearances in the regular season, he had 3.6 points per game, and hit only 31.0 percent of his deep attempts. His minutes-share then decreased to 17.9 minutes on average, which had some to do with his lower splits, and he had several DNPs in March.
Some of that had to do with his shooting/offensive woes, though, and Wade was reportedly still dealing with some soreness regarding the shoulder injury even after he returned. Heading into next season, one could foresee him being much more ready to contribute offensively as a shooter, and he could very well be a regular rotational player, it’d seem.
Even having said that, with the issues in the back half of this season for him, and with others in the fold, it begs the question whether Wade will have his share of opportunities and in the process, bounce back.
Wade is aiming for redemption in the 2023-24 season for the Cavs, but will he have a real shot?
Wade started the season off so well and then had the aforementioned shoulder ailment, and he just didn’t have the same success from there.
In the closing portion of the season, he wasn’t nearly as effective as an off-ball contributor, either, and wasn’t frankly viable in the playoffs, albeit with not many minutes. He had 11 in total in Cleveland’s disappointing first round series loss to the New York Knicks.
Those caveats aside, Wade has established himself as a competent defensive forward for the Cavaliers in recent seasons, and if he stays healthy next season, he can still be a valuable rotational piece. He’s athletic enough to defend a number of wings and forwards, and is a consistent team defensive player in terms of his positioning.
He didn’t play as many minutes as some others, but excluding the likes of Isaiah Mobley (who was on a two-way deal), Dylan Windler and Sam Merrill (a combined eight appearances), Wade had the lowest defensive rating on the Cavs in the 2022-23 regular season. His net rating was tied with Evan Mobley at plus-6.5, which was tied for fifth-best.
There are still some matchups where Wade struggled on that end then, though, and for a role player, that’s to be expected, particularly with some minutes variance post-All-Star break. Also, whether it’s warranted or not, there are instances where confidence as a shooter does appear to be an issue with him.
Further, if and really, when Cleveland brings in a wing or two this offseason, whether it’s via free agency or trade, with Wade being somewhat limited offensively, it’s a bit difficult to forecast what the general outlook is for him for 2023-24. This is with Cedi Osman potentially still involved, Caris LeVert maybe back, and other external trade or free agency targets such as Royce O’Neale, Tim Hardaway Jr. and Donte DiVincenzo, among others, perhaps in the picture as well.
This isn’t saying Wade can’t bounce back, and the Cavs extended him before the 2022-23 season to keep him around. But with some injury concerns, considering his 2021-22 season ended before the closing stretch, and minutes at the 3/4 being unclear, him being a possible trade candidate as part of a package eventually wouldn’t seem so far-fetched.
That could be something to keep an eye on, at least.