Friday, May 24, 2013

Dwyane Wade: Best SG in the NBA by the Numbers

How does Dwyane Wade end up 3rd Team All-NBA? Rarely touted, forever doubted seems to be his NBA legacy. A look at the numbers from the boxscore shows Wade was the most productive shooting guard in the NBA this season, despite struggling with rehab from knee surgery and bone bruises.

Kobe Bryant, James Harden and Wade were the top 3 shooting guards in voting for the 2013 All-NBA team. That makes sense. The Houston Rockets, Miami HEAT and LA Lakers led the NBA in production from the shooting guard position this season, based on stats from

The spreadsheet below ranks all teams by the Win Score per 48 minutes (WS48) they produced at SG this season. Win Score is a stat created by sports economist David Berri to measure NBA players' production. The simple formula is PTS - SHOTS - FTA/2 + OFF.REBS + AST/2 - TOV + DEF.REBS/2 + STL + BLK/2 - PF/2. See the HEAT Produced Page for more information.

What doesn't make sense about the media's All-NBA voting is Wade finishing 3rd among shooting guards despite being the most productive SG in the NBA. Wade only received 145 points in the voting but produced an 8.7 WS48 this season, higher than Kobe's 7.3 WS48 (521 points in All-NBA voting) and Harden's 8.2 WS48 (253 points in All-NBA voting).

Of course, most of the media doesn't use an "advanced stat" like WS48 to measure player production and that's why Wade got underrated. 

Kobe had better numbers than Wade in 8 of 22 traditional stats tracked at (per 36 minutes) - games, starts, minutes played, shots made, shot attempts, defensive rebounds, assists and points. 

Harden had better numbers than Wade in 9 of 22 traditional stats - age, games, starts, 3-pointers, 3-point attempts, 3-point shooting percentage, free throws made, free throw attempts and free throw shooting percentage.

Wade's advantage in traditional stats came in 6 areas - overall shooting percentage from the floor, offensive rebounds, total rebounds (tied with Kobe), steals, blocks and turnovers. To make it even plainer, Wade's advantages over Harden and Kobe were shooting efficiency and defense. Defense was an especially big advantage for Wade. ranked Wade 85th in points allowed per defensive play, Kobe 151st and Harden 322nd. Simply put, Wade was a better defender in the HEAT system, than Harden or Kobe were in the Rockets' or Lakers' systems, and his play on both ends of the floor limited his opponents' production at a far greater rate than Kobe or Harden's play did.

The HEAT led the NBA in lowest production allowed at SG this season at just 1.6 WS48. The Rockets finished 10th at 3.4 WS48 and the Lakers finished 22nd at 4.2 WS48. Since Wade, Harden and Kobe played the majority of minutes at SG for their teams, it's reasonable to assume they played a significant role in the defensive system their teams played against opposing SGs. *For any Kobe fans who want to use the excuse that he defended a lot of point guards this season, the Lakers ranked 17th in production allowed at PG with a 5.4 WS48.* 

The spreadsheet below ranks each NBA team by the production allowed at SG this season.

After combining Wade, Kobe and Harden's own WS48 numbers, with their teammates' and their opponents' numbers, each player's wins produced can be estimated and it becomes clear that Wade was the most productive SG in the NBA.

Wade produced an estimated 11.7 wins this season, Harden produced an estimated 11.7 wins in nearly 600 more minutes played than Wade and Kobe produced an estimated 10.8 wins in over 600 more minutes played than Wade.

The difference becomes even clearer when analyzed on a per minute basis. Wade produced 0.235 estimated wins per 48 minutes (est.WP48) which means he increased the HEAT's chance of winning by 24% every 48 minutes he was on the court. That's 2.4 times more productive than the average SG.

The average player only increases their team's chance of winning by 10% every 48 minutes. The logic is simple - an average team wins 50% of its games and there are 5 players on the court for 48 minutes of an NBA game. See the HEAT Produced Page for more details.

Harden produced 0.188 est.WP48 that increased the Rockets chances of winning by 19% per 48 minutes, which is good but falls well short of the Wade standard. Kobe produced 0.172 est.WP48 and increased the Lakers chances of winning by 17% per 48 minutes, which is great for a 34 year-old but falls way short of the Wade standard set at 31 coming off knee surgery.

This is the brilliance of Wade that gets underrated. Even during a season where the media proclaimed he was falling off, he still gave his team a 5-7% better chance of winning than the 2 SGs the media claimed were better than him at his position.

Rarely touted, forever doubted. That's the legacy of Dwyane Tyrone Wade.

The spreadsheet below compares the stats of Wade, Harden and Kobe this season.

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