The face of Team USA
Kevin Durant leads the USA Basketball Men's National Team into the knock-out round of the FIBA World Championship tournament as the clear favorites with a superstar center, star guards and an undefeated record in the preliminary round.
Durant, Kevin Love and a squadron of star guards led by Derrick Rose were the most productive players for Team USA as they posted a 5-0 record in Group B.
This analysis was based on the metrics for estimating Wins Produced developed by Prof. David Berri of the Wages of Wins Journal to measure how much a player contributes to wins using boxscore statistics. There are two key stats output by these metrics - Estimated Wins Produced per 40 minutes (EWP40) and Estimated Wins Produced (EWP). Forty minutes is used because that's the length of a game in international competition. An average player provides 0.100 EWP40 and Durant, Love, Rose and the Team USA backcourt were way above average in the preliminary round.
All player stats can be found in this spreadsheet.
Kevin Durant's performance in the preliminary round was superhuman. He may not have gotten his powers from a radioactive spider but the Oklahoma City Thunder's friendly neighborhood Durantula swung into action on the world stage striking fear into the hearts of opposing forwards. He never produced less than 0.200 estimated wins per 40 minutes in any preliminary round game and he only produced less than 0.300 EWP40 in one game (average EWP40 is 0.100). Durant led Team USA with 1.3 estimated wins produced and was second in per-minute productivity with 0.437 EWP40 - that's four times better than the average forward in a Team USA game. He was so dominant, Durant's performance in the preliminary round exceeded the production of every forward from the Redeem Team.
|Kevin Durant (2010)||0.437|
|LeBron James, (2008)||0.372|
|Carmelo Anthony (2008)||0.258|
|Tayshaun Prince (2008)||0.127|
|Carlos Boozer (2008)||0.048|
Durant isn't just leading Team USA to a world championship. He's leading the way to the 2012 Olympic team.
If you're interested in more discussion of how Kevin Durant compares to the stars from the Redeem Team, then check out the Miami Heat Index blog.
Kevin Love was the second-most productive player for Team USA in the preliminary round despite playing the fewest minutes. What Team USA needs in the knock-out round is Love, but unfortunately it's the one thing there's just too little of from Coach Krzyzewski. Love produced an estimated 1.2 wins in just 52 minutes of playing time for an EWP40 of 0.956. That's almost twice as productive as Chris Bosh was in the 2008 Olympics (0.494 EWP40) and nearly 2.5 times more productive than Dwight Howard was for the Redeem Team (0.389 EWP40). The level of competition in the preliminary round of the World Championships may be lower than the Olympics, but Love has been destroying it at an unprecedented rate. The table below illustrates the difference in productivity between Love and the average center in a game against Team USA.
|Kevin Love||Lamar Odom||Tyson Chandler|
|Points Per Shot||0.91||1.30||1.00||1.27|
|Adj, Shooting Percentage||45.5%||64.8%||50.0%||63.6%|
|Free Throw Percentage||50.0%||50.0%||0.0%||25.0%|
|Free Throw Attempts||4.3||3.1||0.8||3.1|
Minutes Played |
For Team USA
Lamar Odom only led all USA centers in one category - minutes played. Love led was the best center for Team USA in every other category except turnovers and blocked shots. So why doesn't he get the lion's share of playing time? I don't know. Maybe Coach K is trying to keep up with the Kardashians.
The Team USA backcourt was well above average in the preliminary round. Every guard on the roster posted an EWP40 higher than 0.200 against the teams in Group B (that's twice as good as an average guard). The leader of this guard corps was Derrick Rose with an estimated 0.8 wins produced (third-highest total on Team USA) and 0.269 EWP40. Chauncey Billups and Stephen Curry were below average after seven exhibition games, so their performance improved greatly while the performance of Russell Westbrook and Eric Gordon (the most productive guards in exhibition games) decreased from a superstar level to that of an all-star. The table below illustrates the performance of Team USA guards in the preliminary round.
|Statistic||Avg. Guard in Team USA Game||Derrick Rose||Chauncey Billups||Eric Gordon||Russell Westbrook||Stephen Curry|
|Points Per Shot||0.95||1.23||0.91||1.31||1.17||1.14|
|Adjusted Shooting Percentage||47.5%||61.3%||45.7%||65.3%||58.6%||57.1%|
|Free Throw Percentage||68.4%||57.1%||83.3%||80.0%||63.6%||N/A|
|Free Throw Attempts||3.5||2.4||6.5||2.2||4.8||0.0|
|Minutes Played For Team USA||115||110||92||92||54|
|Est. Wins Produced||0.8||0.6||0.6||0.5||0.5|
Curry's turnaround from the least productive guard per-minute in exhibition games (-0.023 EWP40) to the most productive guard per-minute in the preliminary round was remarkable and mitigated the loss of Rajon Rondo. With Team USA placing such an emphasis on shooting, it's important that shooters like Curry and Gordon are productive while they're on the floor with point guards like Rose and Westbrook.
Anything can happen in a single-elimination tournament like the knock-out rounds of the FIBA World Championships. Team USA enters as the favorite but not a guaranteed lock to win the trophy. Team USA had the best efficiency differential in the preliminary round: +30.9 points per 100 possessions but Turkey was right behind them with +29.8 points per 100 possessions, according to NBA.com's John Schuhmann. The good news is that an efficiency differential that high translates to an expected winning percentage well over 1.000, which is exactly what you want in a single elimination tournament - a statistical probability that you'll win every game. However, while that may make Team USA the favorite to advance to the championship game, it doesn't make them the favorite to win it. In fact the teams are so close that using Prof. Berri's Wins Model and Bill James' log5 method to predict the outcome of a game against Turkey only gives Team USA a 48.6% chance to win. Turkey has home-court advantage and the best defense from the preliminary round, so they will not be an easy out for any team in this tournament. Team USA was dominant in the preliminary round but may need to elevate its play to win the world championship. Do you think they can do it based on what they've done so far? Lets recap Team USA's preliminary round play before you decide.
Team USA cruised after limiting Croatia to just six points in the second quarter. Chauncey Billups provided some of that leadership pundits were talking about, Tyson Chandler's performance justified the Charlotte Bobcats' decision to trade him and Roko Ukic didn't inspire any confidence in the Toronto Raptors' front office.
|Most Productive Player||Chauncey Billups, G |
(0.551 EWP40, 0.289 EWP)
|Marko Popovic, G
(0.373 EWP40, 0.205 EWP)
Kevin Love, C
Kevin Durant, F
Bojan Bogdanovic, F
Luka Zoric, C
|Least Productive Player||Tyson Chandler, C |
(-0.299 EWP40, -0.082 EWP)
|Roko Ukic, G
(-0.361 EWP40, -0.298 EWP)
|Est. Wins Produced||1.404||-0.404|
Two easy victories in as many nights in the preliminary round, thanks to Durant, Love and Rose. Goran Dragic of the Phoenix Suns didn't get posterized in this game, but his 2-8 shooting almost won a brick-throwing contest with Eric Gordon (who shot 2-9).
|Most Productive Player||Kevin Durant, F |
(0.811 EWP40, 0.466 EWP)
|Samo Udrih, G
(0.237 EWP40, 0.131 EWP)
Kevin Love, C
Derrick Rose, G
Stephen Curry, G
Hasan Rizvic, C
Goran Jagodnik, F
|Least Productive Player||Eric Gordon, G |
(-0.353 EWP40, -0.168 EWP)
|Goran Dragic, G
(-0.338 EWP40, -0.169 EWP)
|Est Wins Produced||1.511||-0.511|
Despite the 70-68 score, the game against Brazil was not as close as it seemed and this probably would have been illustrated in overtime if Brazil made one of their last two shot attempts. Coach Krzyzewski said he discovered something about Team USA after that game. I think that "something" was that Durant and Rose showed up against the best competition and Andre Iguodala needed to his ankles after Leandro Barbosa broke them.
|Most Productive Player||Derrick Rose, G |
(0.400 EWP40, 0.320 EWP)
|Alex Garcia, G
(0.248 EWP40, 0.199 EWP)
Kevin Durant, F
Kevin Love, C
Marcus Vinicius, F
Tiago Splitter, C
|Least Productive Player||Russell Westbrook, G |
(-0.264 EWP40, -0.086 EWP)
|Guilherme Giovannoni F
(-0.182 EWP40, -0.086 EWP)
|Est. Wins Produced||0.633||0.367|
Team USA got back in touch with their dominant side against Iran as Love and Chandler dominated their star center, Hamed Hadadi. Only three Iranian players managed to get their productivity above zero.
|Most Productive Player||Kevin Love, C
(1.433 EWP40, 0.394 EWP)
|Saman Veisi, G
(0.378 EWP40, 0.264 EWP)
Tyson Chandler, C
Derrick Rose, G
Kevin Durant, F
|Mohammad Hassanzadeh, F
(0.635 EWP40, 0.048 EWP)
|Least Productive Player||Rudy Gay, F
(-0.058 EWP40, -0.028 EWP)
|Hamed Hadadi, C
(-0.466 EWP40, -0.396 EWP)
|Est. Wins Produced||1.597||-0.597|
Eric Gordon used the last game of the preliminary round to conduct a shooting clinic as he posted an adjusted shooting percentage of 90% against Tunisia.
|Most Productive Player||Eric Gordon, G
(0.700 EWP40, 0.437 EWP)
|Macrran Ben Romdhane, F
(0.453 EWP40, 0.295 EWP)
Kevin Durant, F
Tyson Chandler, C
Marouan Kechrid, G
Mohamed Ghyaza, C
|Least Productive Player||Derrick Rose, G
(-0.364 EWP40, -0.191 EWP)
|Mohamed Dhifallah, G
(-0.620 EWP40, -0.419 EWP)
|Est. Wins Produced||1.439||-0.439|
If Team USA advances deep into the knock-out round, then they will have to take each opponent's best shot in four games next week. With a defense that's surrendering less than 90.0 points per 100 possessions, Team USA should be able to counter any opponent's offense (the Charlotte Bobcats were the best defense in the NBA last season and gave up 102.8 points per 100 possessions). The question will be whether the scorers on the roster can follow Durant's lead and be at their best in four straight games. Remember, Durant hasn't posted less than 0.200 EWP40 in any game so far. If Eric Gordon, Rudy Gay and the other scorers on Team USA can do the same and Coach K gives Kevin Love more playing time, then they shouldn't have to worry about losing on any given night - even if they're up against a tough Turkey defense and raucous home crowd.