Sunday, August 12, 2012

LeBron James vs. Kevin Durant: Gold Medal Game Will Determine Who's Best In the World

LeBron James and Kevin Durant's production in the Olympics is neck-and-neck going into the gold medal game. Which player will leave London as the Best In the World (B.I.W.)?

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.

LeBron vs. Durant: B.I.W. Before the Gold
After five exhibition games and seven games in the 2012 Olympics, LeBron and Durant have each produced 2.6 est. wins produced. Coach Mike Kryzewzski has played them 300 minutes each so there's no real difference in their per-minute production, either.

LeBron's production for the 2012 USA men's basketball team is above average in every category of the box score except free throw shooting and shot-blocking. Durant's production is above average in every category except getting to the free throw line and offensive rebounding.

The spreadsheet below summarizes the wins produced stats estimated from the box scores for all players on Team USA (below average stats are in red).

Who Will Be B.I.W. After the Gold Medal Game?
Since Team USA already blew out Spain by 22 points in an exhibition game before the Olympics, the biggest thing on the line in the gold medal game is the title of Best In the World. Dwyane Wade was B.I.W at the 2008 Olympics and Kevin Durant was B.I.W. at the 2010 World Championships. Who will be B.I.W. after Team USA defeats Spain for the gold medal at the 2012 Olympics?

LeBron was the most productive player for Team USA in their last two games with 0.5 est. wins produced in 30 minutes (0.633 est.WP40) from a triple-double against Australia and 0.3 est. wins produced in 29 minutes (0.482 est.WP40) from 18 points, 7 rebounds and 7 assists vs. Argentina, so he's the favorite.

Chris Paul was the second-most productive player in the last game against Argentina with 0.3 est. wins produced in 26 minutes (0.472 est.WP40) from 10 points, 7 assists, 4 rebounds and 0 turnovers. CP3 is also right behind LeBron and Durant with 2.4 est. wins produced for Team USA this summer.

Durant hasn't been one of the most productive players for Team USA in the knockout round, but he was the second-most productive player in the last game of pool play against Argentina with 0.5 est. wins produced in 22 minutes (0.935 est.WP40) from 28 points on 8-10 shooting from 3-point range. CP3 was the most productive player in that game with 0.6 est. wins produced in 25 minutes (0.990 est.WP40) from 17 points, 7 assists, 3 steals and 0 turnovers.

To sum it all up:
  • LeBron has momentum on his side to bring the B.I.W. title back to Miami.
  • Durant is due for a big game in the knockout round but was just average in the the July 24th exhibition game against Spain.
  • CP3 is the dark horse, but he would have to be dominant while Durant and LeBron have slightly off games.

Enjoy the gold medal game. For history's sake, the spreadsheet below lists the estimated wins produced from the gold medal game against Spain in the 2008 Olympics when LeBron's HEAT teammates led the way. Also, checkout all the 2012 Team USA box scores.

Image of LeBron & Durant taken from

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