Dwyane Wade: The Most Important Player? (Click Image to Enlarge)

As stated in an earlier study, the Heat lose when they don’t shoot well. It sounds obvious, but a team like the Celtics or Lakers still win games when they don’t shoot well. I used to think that Bosh playing well was the key to Miami victories, but it seems more like Dwyane Wade is the X-factor. His field goal percentage is more than 100 points or ten percentage points lower in losses than in wins. He gets to the line at the same rate, but his FT% is over 79 points lower. He even averages almost one and a half more turnovers in losses than he does in wins. Although Lebron and Chris Bosh also shoot significantly worse in Miami losses, the other aspects of their respective games are not materially different in wins and losses.

Click Table to Enlarge

This table suggests that generally, Wade’s overall play, and specifically his shooting, is the difference in Miami wins and losses. This conclusion is also evident when watching the Heat play; Wade has had some mind-boggling turnovers and questionable shot selection at different points of the season.

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How To Beat The Miami Heat (Click Image to Enlarge)

Based on the table below and the Heat games I have seen, here’s how to beat the Heat:
When the Heat are offense it usually doesn’t matter who they’re playing; either they’re making their shots or not.  They shoot 49.8% in their wins vs 43.2% in their losses, and from three they shoot 40.8% in their wins and 30.2% in losses.  The opposing defense can affect the Heat offense by playing great team defense (the Celtics); play any other way on defense(relying on one or two good defenders) and you lose.
Ball movement is the key to an opposing offense beating the Heat defense; they have several good on-ball defenders.  In their losses, 62% of the opposing teams field goals are assisted compared to 55% in their wins.  If your teams plays an isolation offense revolving around one player, they no chance against the Heat D. 
Looking at these stats, there’s no wonder the Heat haven’t beaten the Bulls or Celtics this season.


The NBA: A New Era May Be Upon Us. (Click Image to Enlarge)

I constructed this graph to find out how long eras last in the NBA; and to find out the general state of the league, is it young or old. I’m counting an era as a period of time when a certain group of stars dominated the league. The 30-year sample size is somewhat small, but it still gives good insight. The chart works like this: if the average age is increasing from year to year, then a lot the same guys are probably in the top ten in scoring, and at the very least the leading scorers in the league are getting older. That means that the players coming into the league are not closing the talent gap with the older players as they age and/or the older players are aging well. Take a look the period from 1987-88 to1996-97 where the drafts were not as strong as the late 90s and early 2000s, and the older guys were all-time greats like Jordan,  Barkley, Magic, Bird, Olajuwon, Ewing, Robinson, Drexler, Malone, Stockton, among others.

The period from 2002-05 was one where the stars were getting younger; that is remarkable considering people don’t get younger. That means during that time period new, younger guys were finishing in the top ten in scoring for 4 seasons straight. That was a time when young guys like Carmelo, Lebron, Wade, and Bosh came into the league and old guys like Karl Malone were fading. That “era” lasted three seasons before players like Kevin Durant joined the leader scorer ranks.

The bottom line is that when the average age of the top ten scorers is increasing, the league’s stars are getting older and not being replaced fast enough by the incoming young players. When the average age is decreasing, the older guys are retiring and declining while the stars coming in are younger than past years and making almost immediate impact when they get to the league. The league’s best players, with the exception of Kobe Bryant, are at the beginning or middle of their prime. Rose, James, Wade, Durant, D. Howard, Carmelo and I know I’m forgetting someone. I think another era like the late 80s to the mid 90s is starting to shape up, with the best players being so young and the draft pool for the next couple of years being as weak as I’ve ever seen it.

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Kobe vs Lebron and Wade: Does He Play Differently Against Them? (Click Image to Enlarge)

How does Kobe’s game change when he plays against his closest peers, Lebron James and Dwyane Wade?  The table above attempts to answer the question, and all stats are on a per 36 minute basis.  I’ll start with Wade.  Kobe is record is 7-7 against Wade; Kobe takes almost two shots less per game, and when playing against Wade his field goal percentage barely changes.  His rebounds decrease by 1.6 and assists and steals don’t really change much.  It seems that Kobe plays a less aggressive game when he plays Wade; the rebounding and shot taking numbers are evidence of that.  A plausible reason could be that he guards Wade for much of the game and becomes slightly less effective in the other parts of his game. 

Kobe is 5-9 against Lebron in their head-to-head match-ups.  It seems that Kobe puts more effort into the Lebron games than in the Wade games.  His field goal attempts increase slightly, but he is less effective.  His FG% against Lebron is .410 vs .456 against the rest of the league.  Even though he takes fewer three pointers against Lebron’s teams, his two-point field goal attempts seem to be either long-range shots or high degree of difficulty shots.  His FG% on two point shots is .446 against Lebron and .491 against the rest of the league; a big difference.
The numbers seem to indicate that Kobe plays with more aggression against Lebron, but as it seems most times when Kobe is extra aggressive, he forces the issue and doesn’t play at his most efficient level.

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Kobe’s Shot Selection, Driving Ability, and Shooting Ability Compared to MJ, Bron, and D-Wade.

The adjacent tables represent the ten best and ten worst 2-point shooting percentages among Kobe, MJ, Bron, and Wade.  I am using 2-point shooting percentage as a crude proxy for Shot Selection, Driving Ability, and Shooting Ability and it holds up pretty well. 

First, a look at the top ten table. Five of the ten were Michael Jordan’s prime years when his shooting ability and shot selection were improving and he still had incredible driving ability.  Four of the ten were Lebron; his driving ability overwhelmingly overshadows his suspect jump shooting and average to above average jump-shot selection. The remaining one was D-Wade of 2010-11.  No surprise there; Lebron helps Wade’s shot quality immensely with the attention he draws.  Notice no Kobe in the top ten.

Now for the more interesting bottom ten.  Bryant has five of the bottom ten seasons; his poor shot selection has overshadowed his great driving ability and good mid-range game.  All the rest of the bottom ten, including Kobe’s first two years in the league, are a result of youth, rustiness, or old age.  Lebron’s rookie year is on this list because he had no jump-shot at all and typical rookie shot selection.  Kobe’s first two years are this list because he has always had poor shot selection; combine that with a still-developing jump-shot and you have a poor 2-point shooting percentage.  Jordan’s seasons on this list are pretty obvious too.  You have his second year in the league, his comeback year in 1994-95, and his Wizards years of 2001-03.  His comeback years were marred by his still good, but declining jump-shot and his almost non-existent driving ability when he was with the Wizards.

In this stat, Kobe does not compare favorably with these guys, but I would still choose him over Lebron and Wade.

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