Evaluating the Messages Dwyane Wade Sent at the All-Star Break

Dwyane Wade sent his team a message during All-Star weekend:

“I’m in Miami,” he told a gaggle of reporters at All-Star weekend. “This is where I want to be.”

But he did not just leave it there. “I want to make sure,” he added, “that we do everything we can to make sure we build a winning program. We do that … I’m satisfied.”

In case there was any misinterpretation, a reporter asked if the Heat needed to add some pieces to entice him to stay.

“Yeah, we need to add pieces!” Wade said, busting into laughter at the obviousness of the situation. “Aint’ no question about that!”

Wade says the Heat have not had an elite roster in years. “We’re not one of the top teams in the League,” he explains. “You want to have an opportunity every year. You’re not Magic, you’re not Michael, you’re not Larry. You’re not going to win the championship every year. But you do want to have an opportunity to compete for that. I feel like we haven’t had the opportunity since ’06. I feel like, while I’m in my prime, before my prime leaves me in about four or five years, I want to make sure that I can give my all to the organization.”

So Wade’s message is…

  • he wants to play in Miami.
  • Miami needs help if it’s going to contend
  • he is currently in his prime, and he expects that prime to last four or five years.

It’s not possible to comment on Wade’s desire to stay or leave Miami. But the other two contentions can be addressed.

After 57 games the Heat have posted a 29-28 record.  If we turn to efficiency differential (offensive efficiency minus defensive efficiency), we see a mark of 1.5.  That mark is consistent with a team that would win about 31 of their first 57 games.  So the Heat’s record underestimates slightly the quality of this team.  If this team was a serious contender, though, it would need to be on pace to surpass 50 wins; and whether we look at won-loss record of the team’s differential it is clear that the Heat are not a serious contender.

When we turn to the productivity of the individual players – reported in Table One – we can see where the Heat come up short.

Table One: The Miami Heat after 57 games in 2009-10

The top player on the Heat is obviously Wade.  Wade has already produced 11.2 wins this season, or about one-third of the team’s totals.  After Wade, though, there isn’t much.  Quentin Richardson, Udonis Haslem, and Dorell Wright are each above average; and combined they have produced one more win than Wade.  After this trio, the remainder of the team is posting WP48 [Wins Produced per 48 minutes] marks below 0.100 (the mark of an average player).  That list of below average players include Rafer Alston, who is putting up numbers as a starter for the Heat similar to what he did in New Jersey. Alston is now 33 years of age, so despite the willingness of teams to place him in the starting line-up, it looks like the end is near for him.

When we look at all these numbers, it appears Wade’s argument has support.  Prior to the trade deadline there was much talk that help was on the way, and one player that was mentioned was Amare Stoudemire.  The addition of Stoudemire would have given the Heat two starting All-Stars.  But it doesn’t look like that move would have transformed the Heat into title contenders.

To see this point, let’s imagine the Heat replaced their current starting power forward – Michael Beasley – with Stoudemire.   Currently Stoudemire is posting a 0.142 WP48.  If the Heat had received this level of production from Beasley (current WP48 of 0.087), Miami could have expected to win about two more games at this point in the season.  Yes, Stoudemire is above average. But he’s not one of the top players in the game and therefore he wouldn’t have provided Wade with the help he desires.

What about Antawn Jamison?  Jamison posted a 0.108 WP48 [and he is very old].  That’s slightly more than Beasley and somewhat less than Stoudemire (the difference between Stoudemire and Jamison is not quite as great as some might think).  So again, this move doesn’t help much.

Okay, what about Carlos Boozer?  Boozer’ sWP48 is above 0.250.  Replacing Beasley with Boozer would net the Heat 6.1 additional wins after 57 games.  And that would be enough to transform the Heat into a 53 win team across an 82 game schedule.  So Boozer would have helped quite a bit, although the Heat still wouldn’t have been as good as LeBron James and the Cavaliers.

Now salary cap restrictions prevented the Heat from swapping Beasley directly for Stoudemire, Jamison, or Boozer.  This exercise, though, reveals that replacing one below average starter with an All-Star is not enough to transform the Heat into title contenders.  At least, that’s true if the All-Star isn’t named LeBron or CP3.

So the Heat – as currently assembled – definitely are not as good as Wade would like.  And it’s probably going to take more than one move to change that reality. 

Let me close by commenting on Wade’s last point.  Wade argues that he is currently in his prime, and his prime-time is going to last another four or five years.  Right now Wade is 28 years old.  In general, we start to see noticable declines in player performance when an NBA player approaches 30 years of age.  And by the time a player is 32 or 33 – as we see with Rafer Alston — typically their performance is not close to what we saw when a player was in his prime.  Of course, any individual player can defy these trends for a period of time (although not forever).  So it’s possible that Wade is correct.  But in general, one should expect a 28 year-old basketball player to offer less and less as he ages (BTW the peak is around 24 and 25, but the performance at 28 is not much different from the peak).

And Wade’s history suggests some red flags. In three of his first six seasons he failed to play more than 61 games.  Plus, he has never played 80 games in a season (and he is currently hurt again).  Given this injury history and his age, perhaps the Heat should be thinking about whether they want to commit significant dollars to Wade. Yes, Wade is the most productive shooting guard in the game.  But this is probably not going to be true throughout his next contract, a contract that will pay Wade like he is still the very best shooting guard.  So for the Heat – or any other team looking to sign Wade to a new contract – his age and injury history should be something to think about.  Again, it’s possible for Wade to defy these trends.  The history of the league – and his own history – suggests that Wade’s primetime might not be as long as he thinks.

- DJ

The WoW Journal Comments Policy

Our research on the NBA was summarized HERE.

The Technical Notes at wagesofwins.com provides substantially more information on the published research behind Wins Produced and Win Score

Wins Produced, Win Score, and PAWSmin are also 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

Introducing PAWSmin — and a Defense of Box Score Statistics

Finally, A Guide to Evaluating Models contains useful hints on how to interpret and evaluate statistical models.

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