Tuesday, February 22, 2011

All-Star Break Analysis, Pt.1: What Happened to 75 Wins?

There was a lot of hype surrounding the Miami Heat before the season started and the obvious question after the All-Star break is this, "How did they do living up to the hype?"

There were a few predictions hyped on this blog:
  1. Total wins for the season
  2. Consecutive wins during the season
  3. Attendance & playoff seed

The Heat Produced Page has been updated with all games before the All-Star break, so let's take a look at the stats and see how the Heat did. This article is the first in a three-part series that will evaluate how the team has measured up to the pre-season hype.

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 efficiency differential (points scored per possession minus points surrendered per possession) and wins. An average player produces 0.100 wins per 48 minutes (WP48), a star player produces 0.200+ WP48 and a superstar produces 0.300+ WP48. More information on these stats can be found at the following links:

What Happened to 75 Wins?
The most hyped prediction for the Heat this season was that they would win 70+ games. On this blog, they were predicted to win 75 games. What happened?

The story for the Heat falling short of winning 75 games starts with efficiency differential. A team that produces an efficiency differential of +13.7 points per 100 possessions would be expected to win 75 games and have 56 wins at the All-Star break. 

The Heat's efficiency differential this season is only +8.6 which translates to an expected 42 wins at the All-Star break, but the Heat players have just produced an estimated 40.9 wins this season. The table below illustrates the differences between what each player was expected to produce before the season started and their estimated wins produced this season (click HERE for the full-size version).

The only Heat players that have met or surpassed the expectations hyped on this blog in the pre-season are Dwyane Wade and the collection of role players (Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Mario Chalmers, James Jones, Eddie House, Erick Dampier, Joel Anthony, Jamaal Magloire, Jerry Stackhouse and Juwan Howard). The role players have produced an estimated 9.1 more wins than expected at the All-Star break while Wade has only produced 0.1 estimated wins less than predicted.

There are two big reasons why the Heat aren't on pace to win 75 games - the production of LeBron James and injuries.

Last season, LeBron produced a Win Score of 17.2 per 48 minutes. This season, he's only produced a Win Score of 13.9 per 48 minutes. The table below illustrates the differences between his production then and now.

As the table shows, LeBron's production has declined in every category except rebounding. This decline has resulted in about 5 less wins for the Heat, which accounts for half of the 10 wins they would need to be on a 75-win pace. 

Was this decline in LeBron's production foreseeable? Perhaps. Two-thirds of the decline in LeBron's production is tied to his decline in scoring and assists which could be caused by having the ball in his hands less this season. Of course, having the ball in his hands less shouldn't result in more turnovers, less blocks or more fouls so maybe the decline wasn't foreseeable. Let's move on.

Injuries are the second big reason the Heat aren't on pace to win 75 games. Even though Udonis Haslem and Mike Miller haven't performed at the level predicted in the pre-season, the 1,900+ minutes of playing time they've missed have cost the Heat an estimated eight wins. 

However, Ilgauskas, Chalmers and the bench have performed better than expected filling in for Haslem and Miller. A reduction in their minutes would cost the Heat an estimated three wins, so the net loss from Haslem and Miller's injuries has been an estimated five wins.

So, there you have it:
Less LeBron + Injuries = Less Than 75 Wins.

If LeBron had simply maintained his production from last season and Haslem and Miller didn't suffer freak injuries, then the Heat could be on pace to be just as good as predicted.


  1. Shouldn't preseason predictions always subtract a few wins for likely injuries? Very few teams go through a season without any significant injuries. When good teams suffer few injuries, they may put up surprising records, as the Spurs have this year. But going uninjured should be the surprise. Suffering injuries should be predictable.

  2. @Curious: I did factor in what I thought was reasonable time missed for injuries. Everyone has played more minutes than I projected except for Arroyo (who lost his starting job and his projection is still pretty close) and Miller and Haslem. There was no way to predict that Miller & Haslem would each play less than 1000 minutes this season when they were both expected to be major contributors.

    The other issue is that I was trying to predict the surprise. I wasn't trying to make the prediction with the highest likelihood of coming true. I wanted to make the greatest prediction that I thought the team could achieve.