Steve Mitchell / USA TODAY Sports
Dwyane Wade is widely regarded as the gold standard among LeBron James’ teammates. Injuries may have robbed him of his stardom towards the end of their time together with the Miami Heat, the 2011 version of Wade that was still in his prime has held the title of “best LeBron teammate” largely without debate ever since then.
But Anthony Davis is making a serious run at the throne. He is averaging nearly 30 points per game on just under 58 percent shooting while playing his typically stellar defense, but more importantly, his playing style as a big man fits more naturally alongside James’ than Wade’s did. When Kendrick Perkins mentioned that on Twitter during Game 2 of the NBA Finals, Wade himself even agreed.
As dominant as the James-Wade pairing was in Miami, their skill sets were undeniably redundant. Neither was ever considered to be an elite shooter, and both thrived as playmaking ball-handlers. Over time, the two figured it out. Wade became one of the greatest cutters in NBA history to take advantage of LeBron’s passing. The two made each other better in transition. But the fit couldn’t be as natural as the traditional “ball-handler-plus-big” pairing that James and Davis represent.
Davis’ shooting has allowed him and James to coexist without cramping the floor for the other. Their pick-and-roll together, while used sparsely, is among the most dominant in basketball when properly spaced. James and Wade did well together defensively in a hyper-aggressive trapping scheme, but Davis and LeBron have taken things to a new level with the amount of ground they cover as help defenders.
Whether Davis, currently, is a better player at his peak than Wade was is debatable. He’s making a compelling argument this postseason, but Wade won a championship without LeBron. Without seeing the rest of Davis’ prime, measuring the two against one another doesn’t seem entirely fair. But having seen how both coexist with LeBron, it seems fairly obvious that Davis is the better fit in that specific role. Even Wade can admit it.