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NBA Playoffs: Are Lakers, Mavs Better When Kobe, Dirk Shoot More? - Opposing Views

NBA Playoffs: Are Lakers, Mavs Better When Kobe, Dirk Shoot More?

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After this series of posts on volume and variance, a few people were wondering how some of these numbers would look in the playoffs. For this series I’ll examine the 12 best players since 1991 and their postseason performances. Who is the most consistent? Who scores 30 points most often? Perhaps most interestingly, how do these games affect team results? Is Los Angeles more likely to win if Kobe Bryant shoots the ball a lot?

Here are the 12 players involved in the proceedings:

Essentially, the perennial all-nba performers of the last 20 years, with the exceptions of point guards like Steve Nash and Gary Payton, and Allen Iverson and Tracy McGrady. Point guards were excluded because it was not their role to shoot, or score, on the level of the players examined here.

Due to the nature of the box score, it’s important to keep in mind this is primarily an exercise in offensive performance. Let’s start simple with a summary table of performance and variance, looking at points, True Shooting%, Field Goal% and Game Score, (the respective standard deviations are listed to the right of each column). Data updated through the second round of the 2011 playoffs. Click on the heading to sort by that category.

Playoff Variance
Pts
StDev
TS%
StDev
FG%
StDev
GmSc
StDev

Jordan 91-98
32.5
7.9
.558
10.2%
.479
9.7%
24.0
8.8

Barkley 91-96
26.3
9.2
.571
16.0%
.499
14.8%
23.1
11.4

Hakeem 91-97
27.5
7.7
.576
11.2%
.536
9.7%
23.1
8.3

LeBron 06-11
28.9
8.6
.562
10.8%
.460
11.4%
22.9
9.1

Wade 05-11
27.8
7.6
.576
13.7%
.485
11.9%
20.8
9.0

Duncan 99-07
24.0
7.3
.560
11.9%
.506
11.7%
20.2
8.5

Shaq 95-03
28.3
7.5
.569
10.3%
.518
10.8%
20.1
8.9

Dirk 01-11
25.6
8.2
.582
14.1%
.462
13.2%
20.0
9.2

Kobe 01-10
28.8
7.7
.548
10.9%
.452
9.5%
19.9
8.5

Robinson 91-98
23.2
6.9
.543
14.7%
.470
14.7%
19.5
8.4

Malone 91-01
26.7
6.5
.532
10.5%
.465
10.3%
19.4
7.8

Garnett 00-08
22.3
5.8
.525
11.6%
.471
9.7%
18.6
7.5

Remember, the regular season examination of high-volume in wing players suggested that it was better to be consistent on good teams and that high-variance, high-volume performances were better on weaker teams. Although let’s not forget that regardless of standard deviation, Michael Jordan is scoring at a significantly higher volume than the rest of the field.

Some quick observations: LeBron and Dirk — two players heavily criticized for perceived playoff failures — are two of the highest variance players in scoring and in Game Score (Game Score is a rough look at an overall game performance based on classic box score stats.) The difference between Dirk and LeBron here is that Nowitzki does it with high-variance shooting and James does it with shooting consistency in the ballpark of Karl Malone, Shaq and MJ.

On the flip side, Kevin Garnett is the most consistent player by both scoring and Game Score. Given how bad some of his teams were, it’s a piece of evidence supporting the notion that Garnett never forced the game to him and extended outside of his comfort zone. That might be an admirable quality, but even against defenses overloading on him, it might have behooved his teams upset chances to play a higher risk game.

As a start, we can check such a hypothesis by looking at team performance in good shooting games versus bad shooting games. Previously, good shooting games were defined as games with a TS% over 60%, and bad ones were under 50%. Let’s stick with that here:

“Good” Shooting
G’s > 60% TS
Frequency
Win%
difference

Dirk 01-11
50
44.2%
.720
.403

Wade 05-11
28
43.8%
.857
.440

Hakeem 91-97
35
41.7%
.543
-.049

Duncan 99-07
52
40.3%
.712
.062

Barkley 91-96
22
39.3%
.636
.166

LeBron 06-11
29
35.8%
.828
.328

Shaq 95-03
44
33.1%
.727
.154

Jordan 91-98
41
32.5%
.878
.184

Robinson 91-98
16
30.8%
.438
-.063

Kobe 01-10
45
30.4%
.778
.156

Malone 91-01
31
23.0%
.677
.187

Garnett 00-08
13
21.3%
.769
.353

Garnett hit the 60% mark with the least frequency of the group. His teams performed exceptionally well when he did shoot efficiently, and they didn’t drop off too much when he shot poorly. This supports the original idea of higher-variance performances on bad teams; KG probably wouldn’t have hurt Minnesota much if he forced his offense more.

Of particular interest are the three players still playing the 2011 playffs: Wade, James and Nowitzki. Their teams win significantly more when they shoot well, so much so that LeBron’s teams and Wade’s teams have win% approaching Michael Jordan‘s Bulls teams when MJ shot well.

Think about that for a second.

When Dwyane Wade shoots well, Miami has won at the rate of a 70-win team. When he doesn’t hit the 60% mark, a 34-win team. And he’s hit the mark in nearly half his playoff games, more than anyone on the list outside of Dirk Nowitzki. This further echoes the idea that Wade has been something special in the postseason.

“Bad” Shooting
G’s < 50% TS
Frequency
Win%
difference

Malone 91-01
51
37.8%
.431
-.164

Duncan 99-07
35
27.1%
.600
-.102

Garnett 00-08
21
34.4%
.429
-.096

Shaq 95-03
25
18.8%
.440
-.227

James 06-11
22
27.2%
.364
-.348

Kobe 01-10
48
32.4%
.458
-.312

Dirk 01-11
30
26.5%
.167
-.448

Wade 05-11
20
31.3%
.350
-.377

Hakeem 91-97
16
19.0%
.500
-.088

Barkley 91-96
17
30.4%
.353
-.262

Robinson 91-98
21
40.4%
.524
.072

Jordan 91-98
34
27.0%
.588
-.227

The converse drives home their importance even further. Dirk, Wade and James see their teams fall off the most when they shoot poorly. Wade and James see their teams fall apart, but for the Mavericks it’s even worse. Dallas is 5-25 when Dirk boasts a sub-50% TS%. Basically, Dallas has been absolutely hopeless if Dirk is off. (Note that Garnett’s team didn’t suffer much in his 21 bad shooting games.)

Ah, but what to make of someone like David Robinson? The Admiral, along with Wade (75.0%) and Dirk (70.8%) was one of three players with over 70% of his games (71.5%) in the extremes of shooting efficiency (over 60% or under 50% TS). Yet, Robinson’s shooting has almost no impact on his team, one way or the other. And he shot poorly more than anyone in the lot.

His rival centers — Hakeem and Shaq — rarely had bad shooting games. Curiously, the Rockets were slightly worse when Olajuwon was over 60% and under 50%. Make of that what you will. Just remember, Olajuwon rarely had bad shooting nights, often had good ones, and posted the second-best Game Score of the group behind Michael Jordan.

Part II will focus on high volume shooting games and take a closer look at performance based on Game Score.

Get more great analysis from ElGee over on BadPicks. Also, follow him on Twitter @ElGee.

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