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Dwyane Wade

Since he exploded on the world stage at the Olympics this past summer, expectations for the return of Dwyane Wade’s top-five-in-the-NBA game ratcheted up. 21 games into the season later, Wade is not only meeting these high expectations, he’s exceeding them.

After scoring 41 points to help beat the Charlotte Bobcats last night, Wade pushed his league-leading scoring average up to 29.5 points a game. Not only that, but he’s shooting almost 50 percent in the process (.499). Most importantly, Wade’s return to greatness is helping lift the Miami Heat off the cellar floor of the Eastern Conference. The Heat are currently 12-9, 3 wins away from equaling last season’s win total.

Naturally, the key to Wade’s resurgence — besides being one of the best young players in the league — is his health. After the Heat won their Championship in 2006 — thanks in large part to a feast of a series at the free throw line for Wade — the man they call Flash, the man who single-handedly keeps Nike’s Converse brand relevant faced a litany of injuries leading to questions about his durability and whether or not he could return to his high level of play.

It’s safe to say these worries have been addressed and because of that, Wade again looks like one of the five best players in the NBA. This point was punctuated quite loudly last night when Flash dropped 41 points on the Charlotte Hornets Bobcats, including this absolute monster jam over Emeka Okafor, a noted shot blocker:

If these signs are correct and Wade is truly back, where does he rank among the LeBrons, CP3s and Kobes of the world? Considering the fact that — besides Kobe — he’s the only member of the NBA’s “new guard” to win a championship, he belongs right beside, if not above, the NBA’s young elite.

As for the Heat, is Wade’s play going to be enough to get them back to the playoffs? Probably, especially when you consider it’s the Eastern Conference we’re talking about — seven teams out of fifteen are above .500.

Miami is among them.

Does Flash have enough help to get back to the NBA Finals and get yet another ring before LeBron gets his first? No, probably not, but if Wade keeps playing this way, the MVP race just got a lot tighter.