Friday, September 7, 2012

Kevin Durant & LeBron James: Did the Road to Gold Determine Who's Best In the World?

Kevin Durant & LeBron James photo from

LeBron James vs. Kevin Durant? The 2012 Olympics only added fuel to the debate of who's 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.

B.I.W. After the Gold
Before the gold medal game vs. Spain, LeBron and Durant were tied for the lead on Team USA in estimated wins produced at the 2012 Olympics. After the gold medal game, they were separated by 32 thousandths of an estimated win produced - with Durant in the lead.

The spreadsheet below lists the estimated wins produced from the box score of the 2012 Olympic gold medal game against Spain.

Eight Minutes
On a per-minute basis, LeBron and Durant were equals. LeBron's foul trouble, however, limited him to 8 less minutes on the floor than Durant and he used those extra 8 minutes to produce the extra 32 thousandths of an estimated win produced more than LeBron for Team USA.

Durant finished the 2012 Olympics with 2.93 est. wins produced for Team USA. LeBron finished with 2.898 est. wins produced. Durant played 338.2 minutes for Team USA and LeBron played 330.2 minutes. If LeBron had those 8 minutes back, he would've squeezed by Durant to lead Team USA in est. wins produced. Looks like Durant and LeBron will have to go another round in the Finals to settle this.

The spreadsheet below lists the est. wins produced for each player on Team USA for the exhibition games and the 2012 Olympics.

Wade Remains the Gold Standard for B.I.W.
Knee surgery forced Dwyane Wade to miss the 2012 Olympics, but his 2008 performance remains the gold standard for Team USA. Wade produced an est. 4.1 wins in 2008 compared to Durant and LeBron's 2.9 est. wins in 2012.

The B.I.W. started with Wade and, for now, it still ends with him.

The spreadsheet below lists the estimated wins produced by Team USA in the 2008 exhibition games and Olympics.

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