Friday, July 27, 2012

B.I.W: Kevin Durant Closes the Gap with LeBron James as the Games Begin


LeBron James and Kevin Durant ended Team USA's last exhibition game neck-and-neck for the title of Best In the World (B.I.W). Which one will claim the title when the Olympic games begin Sunday?

This article uses Estimated Wins Produced, a statistic created by sports economist David Berri. Since an average team's winning percentage is 0.500, an average player produces 0.100 est. wins per 40 minutes (est.WP40). A star player produces 0.200 est.WP40 and great players produce 0.300 est.WP40. See the HEAT Produced Page for more information on Est. Wins Produced.

Before the exhibition game against Argentina, LeBron ranked #1 on Team USA in est. wins produced while Durant ranked 5th and it looked like the Finals MVP was going to run away with the title Dwyane Wade held in 2008. But then...

Durant Strikes Back vs. Argentina
After being the least productive player vs. Great Britain, Durant blew up against Argentina. He was the most productive player on Team USA with 0.4 est. wins produced in 33 minutes (0.509 est.WP40) from 27 points, 90% shooting efficiency, 6 assists, 2 steals, 2 turnovers, 2 rebounds, 2 blocks and 4 fouls.

According to a John Schuhmann article for nba.com, Kobe Bryant had played poor offensively for Team USA since 2007. He broke out of his slump to be the 2nd most productive player vs. Argentina with 0.2 est. wins produced in 25 minutes (0.330 est.WP40) from 18 points, 63% shooting efficiency, 4 rebounds, 1 assist, 2 steals, 4 fouls and 0 turnovers.

LeBron was very unproductive against Argentina with -0.1 est. wins produced in 31 minutes (-0.088 est.WP40) from 15 points, 33% FT shooting and 3 turnovers. He also struggled against Argentina in the 2008 Olympics with just 0.014 est.WP40.

Deron Williams was the least productive player for Team USA with -0.2 est. wins produced in 19 minutes (-0.430 est.WP40). He was badly outplayed by the new Knicks PG, Pablo Prigioni, who led Argentina with 0.3 est. wins produced in 33 minutes (0.303 est.WP40). It'll be interesting to see if Prigioni can outplay DWill when the Knicks and Nets play next season.

The spreadsheet below lists the wins produced estimated from the box score for all players in the exhibition game against Argentina.


Return of the King vs. Spain


After his poor performance against Argentina, LeBron bounced back against Spain as if he knew he had to respond to Durant's performance in the last game. LeBron was the 2nd most productive player in the game with 0.3 est. wins produced in 28 minutes (0.446 est.WP40) from 25 points, 77% shooting efficiency, 7 assists, 2 steals, 2 turnovers, 3 rebounds and 3 fouls.

While LeBron was great in the garbage time of the 2nd half, Carmelo Anthony dominated the first half to blow the game open for Team USA. Melo produced 0.3 est. wins produced in 24 minutes (0.542 est.WP40) from 27 points, 83% shooting efficiency, 3 rebounds, 1 steal and 4 fouls.

With Melo and LeBron dominating the game at forward, Durant produced an average 0.105 est.WP40  despite the advantage he had on Rudy Fernandez (-0.304 est.WP40). His Thunder teammate, Russell Westbrook, was the least productive player for Team USA vs. Spain with -0.1 est. wins produced in 19 minutes (-0.279 est.WP40) from 9 points, 33% shooting efficiency, 2 fouls and 3 turnovers.

For all the talk about Team USA potentially struggling with Spain, they've outscored them by an average of 17.8 points in 4 games played from the 2008 Olympics to the 2012 exhibition game and shut them out with 4.0 est. wins produced to zero.

The spreadsheet below lists the wins produced estimated from the box score for all players in the 2012 exhibition game against Spain.


B.I.W. After Exhibition
LeBron produced 1.1 est. wins produced in 129.2 minutes over 5 exhibition games (0.339 est.WP40) and Durant produced 1.0 est. wins produced in 130.2 minutes (0.312 est.WP40). LeBron's been above average in every category except free throw shooting, defensive rebounding, turnovers and blocks. Durant's been above average in every category except free throw shooting, getting to the line and offensive rebounding. Of course, neither LeBron nor Durant is on pace to pass the 0.653 est.WP40 Wade produced in the 2008 Olympics.

Chris Paul is also in the mix for the title of B.I.W. with 0.9 est. wins produced and 0.399 est.WP40 (highest per 40-minute average on Team USA). The only player on Team USA that's outplayed the opponents at
their position more than CP3 on a per-minute basis (8.2 Position-Adjusted Win Score per 40 minutes) is Anthony Davis (9.3 PAWS40), but the rookie only played 27 minutes over the 5 exhibition games. See the HEAT Produced Page for more information on PAWS40.

Melo goes into the 2012 Olympics ranked 4th on Team USA with 0.6 est. wins produced. The most impressive thing about his production is that he spent the last 2 games backing up Tyson Chandler at center. I don't know if Melo's role as backup center is a reflection of the coaching staff's rumored disappointment with Kevin Love, but it doesn't make sense if that's the case.

Love's been almost 10 times as productive as the average center Team USA played in the exhibition games and leads the team in rebounds per 40 minutes. Love produced 0.250 est.WP40 in exhibition and was above average in every category except shot attempts, free throw attempts, scoring, blocks and fouls.

The spreadsheet below summarizes the wins produced stats estimated from the box scores for all players in the exhibition games.


Let the Games Begin
Team USA begins the Olympics playing France on July 29th at 9:30 AM on NBC. Team USA beat France by 31 points in an exhibition game before the 2010 FIBA World Championships. Tony Parker didn't play in that game,but 8 of the players from that France team are on the 2012 Olympic roster.

Chauncey Billups (17 points in 15 minutes, 1.017 est.WP40) and Durant (14 points in 23 minutes, 0.535 est.WP40) were the most productive players against France in 2010. CP3 and DWill will have a tougher matchup against Tony Parker than Billups had in 2010 against Parker's new teammate on the Spurs, Nando de Colo. 

Here's how CP3 & DWill matched up with Parker in the NBA:

Rudy Gay (0.460 est.WP40) and Lamar Odom (0.669 est.WP40) also had big games against France so LeBron and Melo should be able to do the same. Tyson Chandler was able to match Boris Diaw in 2010 and should be able to do the same in 2012 as long as he stays out of foul trouble. He averaged 8.5 fouls per 40 minutes in the 2012 exhibition games and 5.8 fouls per 40 minutes against Diaw in 2010.

The spreadsheet below lists the wins produced estimated from the box score for all players in the 2010 exhibition game against France.


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