If you have followed the career of Dean Wade with the Cleveland Cavaliers, you would know that over these past five seasons, he has been an integral piece to his team's success.
While there are multiple facts to point to that show his importance, often Wade gets unfairly criticized by fans and the local media as just another end-of-rotation role player. While a few commentators praise Wade for his talent, the forward's lack of emotion on the court and humble approach has often left him outside of the popular narratives.
Alongside Isaac Okoro, Wade has been pivotal in Cleveland's perimeter offense every year. His defense is usually outstanding and while some critics love to state that he does little for the team offensively, Wade continues to prove them wrong.
This season has been one of Wade's best, and the team likely would not have sustained their success without Darius Garland and Evan Mobley if Wade was not making the impact he did. Wade has started more games (29) this season than he had in any of the previous four. Additionally, he is averaging a career-high in minutes per game (22) and three-point percentage (40.4) on 3.9 attempts each night. His points per game is at 5.9 which is a smidge below his 2020-21 season average of 6. Wade does not try to take over games and score at will. He recognizes his role and puts himself in a position to benefit his teammates.
Dean Wade has become one of Cleveland's best defenders
Rebounding and defense are also getting better. Wade is averaging 4.5 boards a game. Through 37 games, Wade has grabbed 167 rebounds. He totaled 215 back in that 2020-21 season over 63 games. At this rate, Wade will easily surpass his production from earlier seasons, only further showcasing his development with the Cavs.
Before this year, Cavs head coach J.B. Bickerstaff seemingly ignored Wade on the bench, refusing to utilize the tall wing's potential. While he is not a number one option that can control an entire offense, Wade perfectly fits the mold of a tall defensive forward with floor-spacing talents. He has proven this even more this season, especially on the defensive end.
The key to having a good basketball team is good defense, and Wade has always been one of their best. Recently, BBall Index rated Wade as the best NBA on-ball defender in D-LEBRON (an advanced metric to measure impact beyond the scoreboard).
Wade was in the Cavs starting lineup going back to December 8. In the games since then, the Cavs went 15-7. He did not start earlier this week when Mobley returned from injury but still got 25 minutes of playing time, making the most of his time in action. The minutes for Wade have been much more consistent this season, too, and that has been a benefit to the team. In years past he might get 20 minutes one game and then ride the bench the next. By putting Wade into the nightly rotation, the young forward's confidence and understanding of the team's game plan have drastically improved. Maybe coach Bickerstaff has finally seen the light and understands Wade's value to his team.
There continue to be rumors circulating that Wade is on the trade block. There has been no official confirmation one way or another. That is a topic to discuss as the February 8 trade deadline approaches, but it does not change his influence with Cleveland.
For now, Cavs fans should respect and enjoy watching Dean Wade play on the court. It takes a team to win games, and Wade is a big part of Cleveland's success right now.