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World Domination: Kevin Durant Is Leading Team USA to The World Championship

Reservoir GodCorrespondent IISeptember 5, 2010

World Domination: Kevin Durant Is Leading Team USA to The World Championship

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    The face of Team USAJasper Juinen/Getty Images

    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.

Arachnophobia: Why FIBA Should Fear The Durantula At The World Championships

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    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.

    Player (Year) EWP40
    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: What The World Needs Now Is Love

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    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.

    Comparing Kevin Love to the Average Center

    All stats are per 40 minutes (category leader in bold)
    Points Per Shot = (points-free throws)/shot attempts
    Adjusted Shooting Percentage = Points-per-shot divided by two
    Net Possessions = Rebounds+Steals-Turnovers
    Win Score = PTS+REB+STL+½*BLK+½*AST–FGA–½*FTA–TO–½*PF

    Statistic

    Average Center
    in Team USA Game

    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%
    Shot Attempts 14.0 20.8 8.8 8.5
    Free Throw Attempts 4.3 3.1 0.8 3.1
    Points Scored 14.9 28.5 8.8 11.5
    Rebounds 12.5 25.4 11.7 11.5
    Steals 1.1 2.3 0.4 0.0
    Turnovers 3.6 4.6 2.1 1.5
    Net Possessions 10.0 23.1 10.0 10.0
    Blocked Shots 1.2 0.0 0.8 3.8
    Assists 1.7 4.6 0.8 2.3
    Personal Fouls 4.8 4.6 5.0 6.9
    Win Score 7.7 29.2 7.9 11.2
    EWP40 0.100 0.956 0.117 0.246
    Minutes Played
    For Team USA

    52 96 52

    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.

Derrick Rose: Leading the National Guard Corps

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    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.

    Comparing Team USA Guards in the Preliminary Round

    All stats are per 40 minutes (leaders in bold)
    Points Per Shot = (points-free throws)/shot attempts
    Adjusted Shooting Percentage = Points-per-shot divided by two
    Net Possessions = Rebounds+Steals-Turnovers
    Win Score = PTS+REB+STL+½*BLK+½*AST–FGA–½*FTA–TO–½*PF

    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
    Shot Attempts 12.1 10.8 12.7 15.7 12.6 15.6
    Free Throw Attempts 3.5 2.4 6.5 2.2 4.8 0.0
    Points Scored 13.9 14.6 17.1 22.2 17.8 17.8
    Rebounds 4.0 4.5 3.3 3.0 3.9 7.4
    Steals 2.0 3.1 2.5 2.2 1.7 1.5
    Turnovers 3.1 3.8 2.2 1.7 3.5 3.7
    Net Possessions 2.9 3.8 3.6 3.5 2.2 5.2
    Blocked Shots 0.1 0.3 0.0 0.0 0.9 0.0
    Assists 3.6 3.8 5.1 0.4 4.3 9.6
    Personal Fouls 3.3 2.4 2.9 3.5 1.7 5.2
    Win Score 3.2 7.3 5.8 7.4 6.7 9.6
    EWP40 0.100 0.265 0.205 0.269 0.241 0.358
    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.

Mama Said Knock You Out: What To Expect From Team USA In the Knock-Out Rounds

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    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.

Recap: Chauncey Billups & Kevin Love's Cremation Of The Croatians

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    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.

    Team USA vs. Croatia Recap

      Team USA Croatia
    Most Productive Player Chauncey Billups, G 
    (0.551 EWP40, 0.289 EWP)
    Marko Popovic, G
    (0.373 EWP40, 0.205 EWP)
    Honorable Mentions

    Kevin Love, C
    (0.880 EWP40, 0.286 EWP)

    Kevin Durant, F
    (0.526 EWP40, 0.276 EWP) 

    Bojan Bogdanovic, F
    (0.197 EWP40, 0.133 EWP)

    Luka Zoric, C
    (0.033 EWP40, 0.014 EWP)

    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

Recap: Goran Dragic Has Another Tragic Night Against Derrick Rose

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    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). 

     

    Team USA vs. Slovenia Recap

      Team USA Slovenia
    Most Productive Player Kevin Durant, F
    (0.811 EWP40, 0.466 EWP)
    Samo Udrih, G
    (0.237 EWP40, 0.131 EWP)
    Honorable Mentions

    Kevin Love, C
    (1.144 EWP40, 0.372 EWP)

    Derrick Rose, G
    (0.568 EWP40, 0.312 EWP)

    Stephen Curry, G
    (0.751 EWP40, 0.131 EWP)

    Hasan Rizvic, C
    (0.434 EWP40, 0.098 EWP)

    Goran Jagodnik, F
    (0.293 EWP40, 0.088 EWP)

    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

Recap: Team USA V. Brazil Was Not As Close As It Seemed

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    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.

     

    Team USA vs. Brazil Recap

      Team USA Brazil
    Most Productive Player Derrick Rose, G
    (0.400 EWP40, 0.320 EWP)
    Alex Garcia, G
    (0.248 EWP40, 0.199 EWP)
    Honorable Mentions

    Kevin Durant, F
    (0.230 EWP40, 0.224 EWP)

    Kevin Love, C
    (0.179 EWP40, 0.022 EWP)

    Marcus Vinicius, F
    (0.223 EWP40, 0.156 EWP)

    Tiago Splitter, C
    (0.232 EWP40, 0.174 EWP)

    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

Recap: Kevin Love & Tyson Chandler Are The Centers Of Attention Against Iran

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    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.

    Team USA vs. Iran Recap

     Team USAIran
    Most Productive PlayerKevin Love, C
    (1.433 EWP40, 0.394 EWP)
    Saman Veisi, G
    (0.378 EWP40, 0.264 EWP)
    Honorable Mentions

    Tyson Chandler, C
    (0.936 EWP40, 0.304 EWP)

    Derrick Rose, G
    (0.570 EWP40, 0.299 EWP)

    Kevin Durant, F
    (0.326 EWP40, 0.163 EWP)

    Mohammad Hassanzadeh, F
    (0.635 EWP40, 0.048 EWP)
    Least Productive PlayerRudy Gay, F
    (-0.058 EWP40, -0.028 EWP)
    Hamed Hadadi, C
    (-0.466 EWP40, -0.396 EWP)
    Est. Wins Produced1.597-0.597

Recap: Eric Gordon Shoots Tunisia's Lights Out

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    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.

    Team USA vs. Tunisia Recap

     Team USATunisia
    Most Productive PlayerEric Gordon, G
    (0.700 EWP40, 0.437 EWP)
    Macrran Ben Romdhane, F
    (0.453 EWP40, 0.295 EWP)
    Honorable Mentions

    Kevin Durant, F
    (0.429 EWP40, 0.193 EWP)

    Tyson Chandler, C
    (0.512 EWP40, 0.192 EWP)

    Marouan Kechrid, G
    (0.181 EWP40, 0.145 EWP)

    Mohamed Ghyaza, C
    (0.108 EWP40, 0.027 EWP)

    Least Productive PlayerDerrick Rose, G
    (-0.364 EWP40, -0.191 EWP)
    Mohamed Dhifallah, G
    (-0.620 EWP40, -0.419 EWP)
    Est. Wins Produced1.439-0.439

Can The World Withstand The Best Shot From Kevin Durant & Team USA Every Night?

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    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.

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