Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Heat Produced: The Winning Numbers from the Weekend Were 30-10-50

LeBron James (33 points, 10 rebounds), Chris Bosh (31 points, 12 rebounds) and Dwyane Wade (30 points, 11 rebounds) return to the state of Ohio tonight after becoming the second trio in NBA history to have each player score more than 30 points and grab more than 10 rebounds, and it can be argued their feat was more impressive than the one pulled off by Wayne Embry (37 points, 13 rebounds), Jack Twyman (32 points, 17 rebounds), and a rookie Oscar Robertson (31 points, 11 rebounds) for Ohio's original NBA team, the Cincinnati Royals, 50 years ago.

Based on statistical projections from WhatIfSports.com and this formula, the Cincinnati Royals averaged an estimated 121 possessions per game in 1961. Obviously, the more possessions a team has in a game, the more opportunities there will be to score points and grab rebounds. There were only an estimated 97 possessions in the Rockets-Heat game on Sunday. So the Three Kings pulled off the same feat as two Hall-of-Famers and a five-time All-Star in 24 less possessions — that's more than one quarter of basketball in an average NBA game this season!

As impressive as the Three Kings' performance was against the Rockets, their performance against the 76ers was even more impressive if you look at all of the box-score stats and not just points and rebounds. Wins Produced is a statistical model that does just that and the Heat Produced Page was updated with the wins produced stats from weekend wins over the Philadelphia 76ers and Houston Rockets.

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 and wins. An average player produces an estimated 0.100 wins per 48 minutes (Est.WP48), a star player produces 0.200+ Est.WP48 and a superstar produces 0.300+ Est.WP48. More information on these stats can be found at the following links:

LeBron James (0.462 estimated Wins Produced), Chris Bosh (0.243 est.WP) and Dwyane Wade (0.168 est.WP) combined to produce an estimated 0.873 wins in their historic game against the Rockets but they were even better against the 76ers on Friday night when they combined to produce an estimated 1.158 wins.

Spreadsheets for the 76ers and Rockets games provide the estimated wins produced from the box-score stats.

In the 76ers and Rockets games, all Three Kings produced more than 0.200 est.WP48. It was the 16th and 17th time this season they've done that and second time they've done it to the Sixers. As illustrated in this spreadsheet, thirteen teams have seen 3-star performances from Wade, LeBron and Bosh this season — Rockets, 76ers (twice), Hawks (twice), Spurs, Grizzlies, Wizards, Kings, Pistons (twice), Bucks, Knicks, Warriors, Suns and Nets (twice). The Suns avoided a second 3-star game when LeBron produced 0.599 est.WP48 and Bosh produced 0.456 est.WP48 but Wade missed the match-up on 12/23/10 with an injury.

LeBron, Wade and Bosh have each produced more than 0.300 est.WP48 five times this season against the Hawks, Grizzlies, Kings, Bucks and Suns (see this spreadsheet for details).

While only two of the Three Kings' "300+" games have come in the last two weeks, they're all averaging nearly 0.300 est.WP48 over the last eight games with Wade leading the way.
  • Dwyane Wade — 0.352 est.WP48
  • LeBron James — 0.311 est.WP48
  • Chris Bosh — 0.298 est.WP48

When the Three Kings all produce like great players, it gets scary for the rest of the NBA because the role players have also started to play better. Over the last eight games, the Heat have outplayed opponents at all five positions, as illustrated in this spreadsheet.

For those who don't think the Heat will continue to play like they have over the last eight games (seven of which were against teams with +0.500 records), then consider this — lineups with the Three Kings have played like a 78-win team this season with an efficiency differential of +14.3 (see this spreadsheet). Efficiency differential is simply the points scored per possession minus the points allowed per possession. 

The Heat have only played lineups with all Three Kings together on the floor for 50 percent of the season. When Coach Erik Spoelstra tightens the rotation in the playoffs, those minutes on the floor together will increase. For example, in the last game against the Bulls in Chicago, Spoelstra only used an eight-player rotation with the Three Kings on the floor together for 65 percent of the game. That extra 15 percent would increase the Heat's expectation of winning from 48 percent to 61 percent this season against the seventh-toughest schedule in the NBA, according to nbastuffer.com.

The average Heat opponent has had an efficiency differential of +0.29, which translates to a 41-win team. The New York Knicks currently have a +0.3 efficiency differential and would be the team's first round match-up if the playoffs started today. With the Three Kings giving the team a 61 percent expectation of winning when on the floor together, the Knicks would have to hold the other Heat lineups to an efficiency differential of -27. As the spreadsheet referenced above indicates, lineups without LeBron, Bosh or Wade still have an efficiency differential of -19 and Spoelstra's not likely to use any of those lineups if all  unless the game's a blowout or there's a significant injury.

Of course, the Knicks will probably be the weakest team the Heat face in the playoffs. Tougher competition and home-court advantage will make it harder for the lineups with all Three Kings to maintain that +14.3 efficiency differential but it's a two-way street.

The challenge facing the  NBA elite is to stop Wade, LeBron and Bosh. If they continue to play the way they have over the last eight games, then it could prove to be Mission:Impossible.

This my friends, is gonna be fun...

You can find all of the Estimated Wins Produced stats for the Miami Heat this season on the Heat Produced page.

Unless referenced otherwise, original game data used for this post was taken from popcornmachine.net and nba.com.

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