Sunday, August 28, 2011

LeBron James vs. Dwight Howard

It doesn't make sense to trade LeBron James for Dwight Howard after the two-time MVP outplayed the three-time Defensive Player of the Year head-to-head last season.

This article will use Win Score and Estimated Wins Produced, statistical models created by sports economist David Berri from the Wages of Wins Journal, to measure how much a player's box score statistics contributed to their team's wins. An average player produces 0.100 estimated 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:

Simple Models of Player Performance
Wins Produced vs. Win Score
What Wins Produced Says and What It Does Not Say
Introducing PAWSmin — and a Defense of Box Score Statistics

The Sun-Sentinel ran a blog series called “Keep or Kick” for each player on the Heat roster and the last player reviewed was LeBron James. There’s really no argument for kicking LeBron to the curb:
  • He was the most productive Heat player in the regular season with an estimated 17.5 wins produced from 54% shooting efficiency, 33.1 points, 9.2 rebounds and 8.7 assists per 48 minutes.
  • He was the second-most productive member of the Heat in the playoffs with an estimated 3.7 wins produced from 51% shooting efficiency, 25.9 points, 9.1 rebounds and 6.4 assists per 48 minutes.

You don’t kick that type of production to the curb for anyone, not even Dwight Howard. Especially since LeBron outplayed Dwight head-to-head last season. The King produced more estimated wins overall and per-minute than D12 in four games against the Magic last season. This spreadsheet shows LeBron posted better numbers in shooting efficiency and volume, scoring, assists and fouls.

Most of the talk about trading LeBron for Dwight is driven by three beliefs:
  1. LeBron choked in the Finals against the Mavericks,
  2. LeBron and Dwyane Wade have redundant skills and
  3. The Heat need a center.

Here are three response to those three misguided beliefs:
  1. LeBron's performance in the 2011 Finals was underwhelming, but Dwight's performance in the 2009 Finals was more disappointing than the performance of Rashard Lewis so trading the two doesn't necessarily solve the issue of superstars coming up short when a title is on the line. Disclaimer: I don't believe LeBron came up short. I believe the Mavs played like hockey goons.
  2. LeBron and Wade had a lot of good games together for two players with redundant skill sets.
  3. Do the Heat need a center? Well, the team did not have a hole in the middle when the season started. The keys to the Heat's production at center are Udonis Haslem and Chris Bosh. A healthy UD makes it possible for head coach Erik Spoelstra to play Bosh in the middle where he was productive last season.

This spreadsheet lists the HEAT production at center in every game. Opponents outplayed the HEAT 53 times in 103 games last season. A healthy Haslem should help Bosh reduce that number, but Sam Dalembert would be nice, too.


  1. youre in denial bro. lebron DID choke in the finals, he was very underwhelming. Lebron and Wade DO have similar skillsets, and good game in march against milwaukee or in the first round against philly doesnt change that. Hell even a good game against aging celtics in the 2nd round dont change it.

    #3: Chris bosh isnt a center, he's barely heavy enough to hold down the 4spot and he sometimes gets pushed around, centers will crush him, itll be a layup line (Wade cant always save the day at the rim, look at the 08-09 team, when beasley would check in and the center would come out the defense suffered badly)

    I personally think they should trade Lebron for Howard instead of Wade for Howard for 2 reasons: Wade comes up big in the biggest of games and is a proven champion whereas lebron doesnt, and the statistical differences between the 2 are minimal (the brady vs manning or montana vs marino argument).

    (only 2 players that can put up a 30+ PER, only 2 leagueleading scorers to shoot 50% from the field as a perimeter player (both did it last year, thats jordanesque, and both are DPOY candidates that can athletically dominate... lebron is more talented but wade has better instincts and speed/quickness)

    2nd reason is because of the age and value reasoning: Lebron can land you howard straightup, whereas wade would take bosh to land howard due to the age difference and the perception of lebron as superman due to his physical size and gifts.

    3rd reason is sentimental: Wade IS the miami heat

    4th reason is: Wade has proven he can win a championship with a dominant center as his sidekick, and by the time wade ages a bit and his game is reduced Howards offensive game should be developed to the point of being a Lakers-Shaq-like (poormans) offensive force that can be the #1 on a champion (thats if wades falloff even does happen, it happened with kobe and 99% of others but jordan lasted til 35 and wade's size and athleticism and work ethic is similar to jordans, not saying he's jordan cuz he's not and no one ever will be)

    Wade has proven he can win a championship with a dominant center. i wouldnt even keep bosh eitehr, send him along with lebron to orlando and have the magic throw in nelson and jrich, get a real TEAM in miami and duke it out with orlando in the ECF (wade-howard vs lebron-bosh? STUPENDOUS!) and then kobe-gasol lakers in the finals.

    that wojuld be my dream anyways.

  2. @liam:

    No denial here. LeBron played well enough for the Heat to win if Wade was healthy and I believe that's how Spo drew it up.

    I never said Wade & LeBron don't have similar skill sets. The problem is that haters think two players with similar skill sets can't be successful on the same team. It's nonsense. Jordan & Pippen had the same skill set and won six titles.

    Bosh sure has very productive games for someone who isn't a center. The numbers speak for themselves. When Bosh played center the HEAT allowed 3 more points per 100 possessions but scored 8.6 more points per 100 possessions. Those offensive & defensive numbers would translate to a 77-win pace.

    By the way, PER gets no respect on this blog. As for Howard, like I illustrated in the blog - he already came up short vs. Gasol. I'd rather have LeBron.

  3. Yeah, Wade came up huge in the Chicago series and in the Finals. He was Finals MVP. No, wait a minute, it was LBJ who locked down Rose and closed out the Chicago series as well as the Boston series. Then in the Finals LBJ was the best player in game 1. Then Wade celebrated prematurely in game 2 and couldn't hit a shot after he drew the ire of the entire Mavs team.

  4. Also Wade was bounced out of the first round every year since the championship. How is that coming up big? LBJ had a crew of terrible teammates that he took to the finals in 07. 29 of 30. LBJ hit multiple game winners in his first series. LBJ played great in the Boston series, did everything in the Chicago series, and still had to guard out of his position in the Finals. That's a lot of expended energy. His Heat teammates needed to step up more than they did. He looked gassed.

  5. @VMX:

    You're absolutely right about LeBron in the Chicago series, but Wade was the most productive player in Game 1 of the Finals (see

    As for Game 2, Wade celebrated WITH LeBron, who didn't hit a shot the entire 4th quarter.

    I don't want this to turn into a Wade vs. LBJ debate, though. I think they both played their roles until Wade got hurt. At that point, they probably needed to switch roles but it didn't seem like they were ready for that.

  6. @Unknown:

    I agree with you about LeBron's teammates in Cleveland, see Wade had worse teammates after 2007, however.

    I don't agree with the argument that LeBron expended a lot of energy and was gassed in the Finals. He played 40+ minutes in every series and guarded the other team's best player. It wasn't a problem in those series and I don't believe it was a problem in the Finals, either. I think LeBron did enough for the Heat to win if Wade was healthy.