CHARLOTTE -- The 2019 NBA All-Star Game will be the final one for Dwyane Wade, who is months away from riding off into the prismatic Miami sunset as one of the greatest players in the league’s history. He will go down as one of the best shooting guards of all-time, ranked somewhere behind Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant.
With Wade gearing up for his exit, the logical question is who is next? Who will carry on the legacy of great shooting guards?
When Wade entered the league in 2003, Bryant was the top two in the game. When Bryant debuted in 1996, Jordan was just a few years from calling it a career.
The answer to who’s next after Wade may have shared the stage at Bojangles Coliseum on Saturday at All-Star media day, but deciding who is complicated. The best choices either aren’t seen solely as shooting guards, or they haven’t accomplished enough to be considered the heir apparent.
James Harden certainly comes to mind first. The 2017-18 NBA MVP is clearly on his way to all-time greatness. But he plays more point guard than Wade, Jordan or Bryant ever did.
After Harden, there is a group of twos that should be in the mix. Klay Thompson of the Warriors is establishing a Hall of Fame career. Victor Oladipo was All-NBA and All-Defense last season. And Devin Booker of the Suns is just scratching the surface of his potential.
Then, there’s Bradley Beal of the Wizards. Beal wears No. 3 in part because he idolized Wade growing up. He is now a two-time All-Star and has some similarities to Wade in his game and his athletic build.
Wade was asked about the next generation of great shooting guards at media day and made an interesting point. He believes we will all know in due time who will take the mantle because that’s how the game has played out for generations.
“You don’t pass the torch, guys take the torch. Like, Kobe didn’t pass the torch to me. Ray Allen didn’t pass the torch to me,” Wade said.
“I’m not passing no torch to James or to Brad, they’re taking the torch. Them guys are unbelievable players.”
Beal, 25, is having a season that compares statistically to some of Wade’s NBA prime. Beal is averaging 25.1 points, 5.4 rebounds and 5.1 assists.
From age 23 through 30, Wade put up 26.2 points, 6.4 assists and 5.2 rebounds per game. Wade, though, had some years mixed in that are on a level Beal has yet to reach. He averaged 27 points or more three times, six assists or more six times and regularly averaged more than a steal and a block per game.
That’s not to mention Wade’s playoff numbers and the fact he won three NBA titles. Beal said it himself at media day, that he has “a long way to go.”
But Beal is on the short-list of best shooting guards in today’s game. And maybe he can be the one, or one of the players to someday inspire a new generation.
Wade, 37, has been around long enough to see the cycle of NBA history play out and knows guys like Beal, Harden, Oladipo, Thompson and Booker have a responsibility to follow the same lead others set for him.
“There is a bar that is set when you come in [to the league] and you try to reach that bar and hopefully get over it and set another standard and set another bar,” Wade said.
“Those guys do the same thing, they jump over it. That’s how our game continues to get great and continues to get better, so no passing no torch. They’re taking it.”
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