Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Heat-Lakers: Glazing The Donut And Looking Ahead

A lot has been made about the Miami Heat's lack of size in the paint and I've received several comments, like this one, stating that bigger teams will be able to exploit Miami's donut to their advantage. Do the Heat need more size up front to stop teams from trying to play them out like that groupie tried to play Rakim on Eric B. Is President?

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 box score statistics contributed to their team's performance. An average player produces an estimated 0.100 wins per 48 minutes (EWP48), a star player produces 0.200+ EWP48 and a superstar produces 0.300+ EWP48. More information on these stats can be found at the following links:

The first thing I did to investigate this issue was use data from basketball-reference.com to calculate the average lbs/inch for each Heat opponent (see figures below).

Every team has a higher lbs/inch ratio than the Heat except for Orlando and if you omit Rashard Lewis, then their average lbs/inch moves from 2.87 to 2.93 and they become bigger than the Heat, too. The Heat big men average 2.91 lbs/in. Their opponents in the first 10 games average 3.01 lbs/in. Despite the size disadvantage, the Heat have managed to limit opposing big men to an average of 0.084 WP48 (see figures below).

But the Heat have played some bad teams, so let's limit the analysis to above average big men Miami has played (average WP48 > 0.100).

Under those conditions, the first thing that happens is the Celtics fall out of the sample because their big men have only managed to produce a sub-par average of 0.080 WP48 so far this season. Against the Heat, the Celtics big men only produced an average of 0.025 EWP48. Boston centers produced 0.096 EWP48 but their power forwards only produced -0.068 EWP48. The problem with the Celtics was that Miami allowed their perimeter players to be extremely productive in both losses with an average of 0.233 EWP48.

Let's shift the focus back to teams with above average big men. The list of Heat opponents with above average big men includes Orlando, Utah, Toronto and New Orleans. As the figure below illustrates, the Heat have struggled against above average big men.

Miami's played four of its 10 games against teams with above average big men and have lost an estimated 1.2 wins to those teams. The Heat have only lost 1.7 EWP against big men all season, so the other four teams' big men have only managed to produce 0.5 EWP in six games.

The question that started this post was a comment stating that the Heat need more size to handle the big men of the Lakers and Celtics. I've already addressed the Celtics - they're big men aren't necessarily a problem. What about the Lakers?

The Lakers big men currently produce an average of 0.233 WP48, which is better than any team the Heat have faced so far. Miami is 2-2 in four games against above average big men, including a 26-point blowout of the Magic (which have the most productive big men the Heat have faced so far). Will Miami overcome their current disadvantage against the Lakers in the paint or will L.A. glaze the Miami donut on Christmas Day?

If the Lakers big men produced 0.233 EWP48 against the Heat, then Miami would need to average 0.178 EWP48 across the other three positions (PG, SG, SF) to win the game. The Heat currently average 0.173 EWP48 across those positions.

So, if Miami holds the Lakers big men slightly below their average or the Heat perimeter players produce above their average, then they could beat L.A.

Remember, the Heat have been holding above average big men to 0.146 EWP48.

But the Lakers have some players with reputations as good perimeter defenders, too.

I can't wait until December 25th.

The WP48 stats used for this article were powered by Nerd Numbers. The EWP48 numbers were taken from the Heat Produced page.

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