Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Agent D3 Makes The Green Gang Look Like Mission Impossible

Dwyane Wade's new commercial for the Jordan Brand features him as a superspy on a mission to bring championship rings back to Miami. In the season opener at Boston, Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh made that mission look damn near impossible.

This article will use Win Score and Estimated Wins Produced, statistical models created by Professor David Berri from the Wages of Wins Journal, to measure how much a player's boxscore statistics contributed to their team's performance.  An average player produces an estimated 0.100 wins per 48 minutes (EWP48). More information on these stats can be found at the following links:

Game Recap
If you look at the game as a whole, the Heat were less productive with the Three Kings on the court. Wade, James and Bosh all posted productivity numbers in the negative range - that means they were reducing the Heat's likelihood of winning while on the floor. The figure below contains the Wins Produced analysis of the game's boxscore (the top two players and worst player for each team is highlighted) or you can view it HERE by clicking on the spreadsheet labeled @BOS-102610.

Bosh played as well as someone can probably expected to play in the first quarter for a team that only scored nine points.

LeBron and Wade made a good run in the third quarter when they finally started playing like superstars (0.538 WP48 for LeBron and 0.396 for Wade) and cut the Boston lead to six points. That run, which was single-handedly driven by LeBron, resulted in him ending the game with a plus/minus score of +1.

The top plus/minus scores for the Heat belonged to the five players on the floor for the last 3:43 of the third quarter. In addition to LeBron, that lineup included Zydrunas Ilgauskas (+17), Eddie House (0), James Jones (-2) and Udonis Haslem (-4). I don't know if it's a recipe for the future, but against Boston the best Heat lineup included LeBron, three shooters and a rugged rebounder.

As for the role players that pundits say aren't good enough, well, the game wouldn't have been as close as it was if it weren't for them. Carlos Arroyo was the only role player that failed to make a positive contribution (he was annihilated by Rondo the way LeBron and Wade were annihilated by Paul Pierce and Ray Allen). The rest of them managed to outplay the counterparts at their position.

Joel Anthony (0.431 EWP48) outplayed Shaquille O'Neal (0.068 EWP48) - who is DONE as a player. Any Celtics fans that were hoping the Big Shamrock would make a positive contribution to this season shouldn't forget the four shots he missed at the front of the rim when they view replays of his two highlight dunks. Zydrunas Ilgauskas (0.136 EWP48) outplayed Jermaine O'Neal (-0.350 EWP48) who STILL can't make a shot in Boston.

Udonis Haslem (0.340 EWP48) outplayed Big Baby (0.277 EWP48) as the primary big man off the bench. In fact, the Heat captain was the most productive player for Miami - continuing a trend that started in the pre-season.

I thought power forward would be the key matchup for Miami against Boston and that if Bosh could outplay Garnett then the Heat would win. Turns out that wasn't the case. In a race to the bottom, Bosh produced -0.056 EWP48 compared to Garnett's -0.069 EWP48. In my season preview, I asked which member of Boston's Fantastic Four would fade like the Invisible Woman and it turns out the answer was KG against Miami.

The Big Picture
Now, I want to talk about the Celtics. I think many fans like myself were too blinded by Kobe-hatred last year to realize what the Celtics have been doing to the game of basketball.  They are ruining it. Their junk defenses and fear of playing any ballhandler straight up for even a nanosecond produces butt-ugly basketball.

It was fun when they were beating the Lakers' brains in by 40 in game 6 of the 2008 Finals, but I didn't realize what the repercussions would be for that moment of pure indulgence.

The Lakers started doing the same thing. Jim Cleamons replicated what Tom Thibodeau implemented and by the time they played the rematch two years later, we had to witness one of the ugliest game sevens in NBA history. Yes, it was highly competitive. It was also basketball at one of its lowest forms - throw up a brick and crash the boards.

When Larry Brown built the 76ers to play that way with Allen Iverson, it was roundly criticized as ugly basketball (yet somehow Larry Brown teams "play the right way") but when the mystical Lakers & Celtics do the same thing it's supposed to be another chapter in the book of legends? Gimme a break.

Instead of trying to beautify the game with more stringent policies for technical fouls, the league should address the root problem. These junk defenses that slow the game down to a crawl and make every possession count. These junk defenses have been a problem for at least 15 years and it's time someone did something about it beyond the elimination of hand-checking. Make players play one-on-one defense. I think the league's talent-level and three-point shooting have improved enough that team's wouldn't be able to stop them by resorting to beating up opponents like the Bad Boys, Knicks and Pacers did. The 3-pt shooting is good enough today to make them pay. David Stern and Stu "Those Who Can't Coach, Administrate" Jackson might be surprised at how little time players have to complain in a much faster-paced game.

Don "I'm Too Bad To Even Coach In The League Anymore" Casey could concoct) making the game look like it's being played on quicksand instead of hardwood. LeBron, Wade and Bosh are trying to save the NBA from the horrendous play we saw in last year's Finals. You'd think the Commissioner would help them.

The Bigger Picture
Now that I'm done sounding like a bitter fan ranting about the Celtics, let's address the Miami Heat issues potentially exposed by this game. I think the big issues exposed by the loss are Heat coach Erik Spoelstra and the Heat point guards.

The Heat reserves played 39% of the minutes in this game while the Celtics reserves only played 27%. That suggests to me that there's some imbalance in the lineups. The TNT analysts reported during the game that Spoelstra's rotation is still a work in progress. I don't understand why that's the case. Granted, Wade didn't play in the pre-season but everyone else was available, so why doesn't he have a better grasp of who to play? But that's just a small issue.

The bigger issue I have is that the team was not ready to play that game and that doesn't make any sense to me. The Heat played the Celtics in the playoffs and they haven't changed since then - in fact, they're probably worse with Shaq and Jermaine O'Neal in the lineup instead of Kendrick Perkins. Why wasn't the team prepared to handle the Celtics defense? Thirty points in the first-half? I don't care if the team was just using scaled-down play calls, there's no reason for a team with two of last season's top four scorers to be held to just 30 points.

The other issue is the point guard position. Rondo singlehandedly out-produced the Heat point guards by a score of 0.227 EWP to -0.026 EWP and that includes minutes allocated to LeBron and Wade at point guard. Rondo can do that to a lot of teams, but it will definitely be something to keep an eye on as an Eastern Conference Finals matchup with Boston looms on the horizon.

Unless referenced otherwise, original game data for this post was taken from and

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