It’s an age-old tale in the NBA: a former superstar struggles to find their footing as father time takes its toll and in turn robs them of the otherworldly skills that made them superstars in the first place. Everyone from Derrick Rose to Allen Iverson and Kobe Bryant to Shawn Kemp.
This phenomenon generally affects guards or wings that relied too heavily on their explosiveness and athleticism. It takes incredible sacrifice to reshape your game in a way that agrees with your body.
In the 2017-2018 season, we have seen both the good and the bad of this.
When Dwyane Wade signed as a free agent with his hometown Chicago Bulls, no one knew how well he would pair with All-Star Jimmy Butler. Instead of finding a way to mesh Wade’s old-man game with Butler’s overall play, Wade experimented with three-point shooting and never found a way to work with Butler.
The Bulls became dreary to watch and finished with a mediocre 41 wins. Somehow, a clearly diminished Wade had a higher usage rate than the spry Butler.
Impressively, Wade’s first season with the Cleveland Cavaliers has been nothing like his lone Chicago season. After a bumpy start to the season, the Cavs have gotten on a roll.
It’s no coincidence their winnings ways came after Wade began coming off the bench. At 36, Wade has found new life leading the second unit.
In contrast, Wade’s banana boat buddy Carmelo Anthony is struggling to find his way with the Oklahoma City Thunder. Melo laughed about coming off the bench in his introductory press conference, but perhaps he should consider the switch.
Melo can still get buckets, but cannot blow by people anymore and prefers to hold the ball and stall the offense. He has never been one to sacrifice his touches and isolations, but he might need to find new ways to navigate the floor with his aging body.
Many had hoped Melo would resemble his Olympic alter ego with the Thunder, relying on spot-up shooting, but has only doubled down on his worst tendencies. Without making a change, he might find himself in an inescapable place of being unplayable.