Miami Parties Like Its 1999

The Pareto Principle tells us that 80% of output is created by 20% of the population. Although I am not sure how widely this principle applies, it certainly appears to work in the NBA. The top 20% of players in Wins Produced do create about 80% of the league’s wins.

Given that each team employs about 15 players, the top three players on each team represent 20% of the roster. Last year the team with the best top three, the Phoenix Suns, received 52.3 wins from Shawn Marion, Steve Nash, and Amare Stoudemire. These three combined for a WP48 (Wins Produced per 48 minutes) of 0.300.

The Miami Heat, champions in 2006, appear to be making every effort to assemble a top three that more than matches the Phoenix Suns. With the signing of Anfernee Hardaway, the Heat now have a formidable top 20%. It starts with Shaquille O’Neal, who has a WP48 of 0.428. Alonzo Mourning, comes next, posting a mark of 0.268. And now Anfernee “Penny” Hardaway has been signed, and he brings a WP48 of 0.230. Combined these three players have an average mark of 0.319. Even if the remaining roster is merely average – which in this case means the non-stars offer a WP48 of 0.042 (see the Super-Star post for details behind the 0.042 number)– the Heat should still easily pass the 60 win mark.

Okay, some people might be running to Jason Chandler’s Win Score site to see if there was something they missed. Were Shaq, Alonzo, and Hardaway that productive in 2006-07?

Hmmm…. No. These numbers are taken from the 1999-00 season. Apparently the Heat are ready in 2007-08 to party like it is 1999. For that season, Shaq produced 28.2 wins for the LA Lakers to lead all players. Mourning led all players on the Heat with 15.4 wins. And Hardaway produced 10.8 wins for the Phoenix Suns. So seven years ago the combination of O’Neal, Mourning, and Hardaway would clearly be a favorite to win an NBA title.

But seven years have now passed and it’s hard to see the Heat contending for the title this next season. Consider what happened to this team in 2005-06 and 2006-07.

Table One: The Miami Heat in 05-06 and 06-07

In 2005-06 the Heat were led in wins by Dwyane Wade. Wade was hurt last season, so although his per-minute numbers were virtually the same, his overall wins production declined. Wade’s injury, though, was not the real problem for this team.

In 2005-06 the Heat received 18.9 wins from Shaq, Alonzo, Gary Payton, and Antoine Walker. These four players combined to post a 0.119 WP48.

Last year, like Wade, Shaq was hurt. But even when he played he was a but a shadow of himself. Still, unlike the other three senior citizens on the squad the entire season, O’Neal was still above average. Mourning, Payton, and Walker were each below average. And when we look at the combined output of these four ancient players we see only 0.7 wins and a WP48 of 0.006.

Now typically player performance does not change much from year to year. There is one big exception to this general rule. If the player’s physical skills change – due to injury and/or age – we can expect performance to be different.

And we can see this when we review the career performances of Hardaway.

Table Two: The Career of Anfernee Hardaway

Across the first seven years of his career he produced 72.5 wins with a WP48 of 0.218. Remember, an average player has a WP48 of 0.100. A team of average players would win 41 games (obviously). Clearly if all the players on a team posted a WP48 of 0.200 the team would be perfect, or at least be expected to win all its games. In sum, Hardaway was pretty damn good early in his career (although not quite a Super-Star).

Hardaway only played four games in 2000-01. And the injury that cost him much of the 2001-02 campaign clearly left him a different player. In his last six years Hardaway only produced 11.7 wins and posted a WP48 of 0.076.

Hardaway did not play last season. He claims that now he is healthy and that his knees feel like they did before his injury. But he is now 36 years old, and even with healthy knees, one has to suspect that the Penny we saw across his first seven seasons is now a thing of the past. And if that is true, the Heat are in a bit of trouble since it looks like Hardaway might be taking the place of Eddie Jones, a senior citizen who actually played quite well for Miami last year.

The good news is that Penny will fit in quite nicely with the other senior citizens on this roster. Each night these players can prepare with tales of yesterday. Unfortunately when these veterans take the floor we can expect today’s players to be a bit harder to beat than the ones faced in 1999.

So assuming the fountain of youth is not actually found in Florida, we can expect the 2007-08 campaign to end in defeat (unless Miami is so bad that it misses the playoffs and yet wins its last game of the regular season). When that happens, one suspects many of the senior citizens on this team to call it a day (even if Riley said on Monday he is staying for three more years).

Unfortunately there is not much on this team beyond Wade. This suggests that Heat might be morphing into the East Coast Lakers, where a great shooting guard amazes the crowd each night but wins remain hard to come by.

– DJ

Our research on the NBA was summarized HERE.

Wins Produced and Win Score are Discussed in the Following Posts

Simple Models of Player Performance

Wins Produced vs. Win Score

What Wins Produced Says and What It Does Not Say

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