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Miami Heat Check: Who Is the Best Player off the Bench?

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Miami Heat Check: Who Is the Best Player off the Bench?
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Lamar Odom, the candy lover from the Los Angeles Lakers, won the NBA's Sixth Man of the Year award on Wednesday for being the league's top reserve. At the request of reader Giovanni Valladares, the production of the NBA reserves is something that's been reported a few times during the season. Now seems like a good time for a final report on the Heat reserves since the top reserve in the NBA has been named.

The questions are simple:

  1. How have the Heat reserves performed as a group this season?
  2. Which reserve has been the most productive off the bench?


This article will use Win Score and Estimated Wins Produced, statistical models created by Professor David Berri from the Wages of Wins Journal, to measure how much a player's box score statistics contributed to their team's efficiency differential and wins. An average player produces an estimated 0.100 wins per 48 minutes (Est.WP48), a star player produces 0.200+ Est.WP48 and a superstar produces 0.300+ Est.WP48. More information on these stats can be found at the following links:

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

 

NBA stats in this article are powered by NerdNumbers.

The last time the bench rankings were reported on this blog (January 8), the Miami Heat had the fifth-most productive bench in the NBA, based on Wins Produced per 48 minutes (WP48). A month earlier, they had the second-best bench in the NBA by that measure. What kind of production did the Heat get from their reserves by the end of the season?

The Heat reserves finished the season ranked 14th with 0.059 WP48, which was a 21 percent decline from the 0.075 WP48 they were producing in January. Before explaining the decline, here's the final ranking of NBA reserves.

Five Most Productive Benches in the NBA (Team, Bench WP48, Reserves)

  1. Phoenix Suns 0.119
    Marcin Gortat, Jared Dudley, Josh Childress, Hakim Warrick, Gani Lawal, Aaron Brooks, Garret Siler, Mickael Pietrus, Zabian Dowdell
  2. Los Angeles Lakers 0.107
    Lamar Odom, Matt Barnes, Steve Blake, Shannon Brown, Devin Ebanks, Trey Johnson, Joe Smith, Theo Ratliff, Derrick Caracter, Luke Walton 
  3. Denver Nuggets 0.093
    J.R. Smith, Chris Andersen, Raymond Felton, Danilo Gallinari, Kosta Koufos, Gary Forbes, Timofey Mozgov, Melvin Ely, Al Harrington
  4. Chicago Bulls 0.090
    Taj Gibson, Kyle Korver, Keith Bogans, Omer Asik, Kurt Thomas, C.J. Watson, Rasual Butler, John Lucas, Brian Scalabrine
  5. Oklahoma City Thunder 0.085
    James Harden, Eric Maynor, Daequan Cook, Nazr Mohammed, Nick Collison, Royal Ivey, Cole Aldrich, Nate Robinson, Byron Mullens

In January, Odom led the most productive bench in the NBA to producing 0.133 WP48. By the end of the season, however, the Lakers' reserves finished second behind the Phoenix Suns bench led by Marcin Gortat. The production of the Lakers reserves declined by 20 percent in the second half of the season just like the Heat. For the Lakers, the decline of their bench production can be explained by losing Matt Barnes (0.209 WP48), their second-most productive reserve, to injury.

Is it the same story for the Heat? No, it isn't.

The injury to Udonis Haslem (0.124 Est. WP48) obviously hurt the Heat's bench production, but Mike Miller (0.135 Est. WP48 in second half of season) filled the void left by UD. As reported in January's ranking of the NBA benches, James Jones had the biggest decline of Heat reserves in the second half of the season, as illustrated in this spreadsheet.

Jones declined in every category of the box score in the second half of the season except getting to the line, as this spreadsheet illustrates. If Jones had maintained the same level of production in the second half of the season that he provided in the first half, then the Heat bench would have produced an estimated 0.076 WP48. That would have essentially been the same production the Heat got from the bench in January and would have ranked seventh in the NBA at the end of the season.

Fortunately for the Heat, Jones has gotten his production back on track so far in the playoffs with an estimated 0.163 WP48 vs. the Philadelphia 76ers. Without an improved Jones, the Heat have a better bench than the Celtics (ranked 28th) and the Hawks (ranked 24th). The Bulls and the Magic, however, do have more productive benches and Jones' production will be important if the Heat face one of those teams in the Eastern Conference Finals. Jones averaged an estimated -0.086 WP48 in seven games against those two teams this season.

Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images
James Jones was an efficient shooter off the bench for the Heat this season with an adjusted shooting percentage of 60 percent.

Jones was the sixth man* for the Heat in 14 games this season, which was second on the team to Joel Anthony, who was the sixth man in 16 games. Unlike Jones, Anthony has not been as productive in the playoffs. Anthony has produced an estimated -0.042 WP48 in the first three games against the Sixers. 
 

* For the purposes of this article, "sixth man" was defined as the first player subbed into the game. When players came off the bench simultaneously, the player with the most minutes played was credited as being the sixth man.

Of course, the Heat have been successful despite Joel's low production all season. He only averaged -0.023 WP48 (according to NerdNumbers.com) which ranked 27th among all sixth men, although many of his defensive contributions were not captured by the box score. The stats at the Heat Produced page take the production of opponents into account (and therefore measure defense somewhat). By those numbers, Anthony's production increases to an estimated 0.024 WP48.

Either way, the good thing for the Heat is that he was still more productive than the Celtics' sixth man, Glen "Big Baby" Davis, as this spreadsheet  illustrates.

Mike Miller made the third-most appearances as the Heat's sixth man this season with 12 games as the first reserve off the bench. Miller was also the most productive reserve with an estimated 0.110 WP48. He was expected to shoot much better than he has this season, but what he's lacked in shooting he's made up for in rebounding. If only he could stay healthy.

Jim McIsaac/Getty Images
The shooting was down for Mike Miller this season, but the rebounding was not.

Juwan Howard finished fourth on the team in sixth man appearances with 10 games as the first reserve off the bench. Howard doesn't have much left in his 16th season and he didn't offer much as a result. He only produced an estimated 0.007 WP48 this season.

Erick Dampier made eight sixth man appearances for the Heat this season. Dampier got 22 starts in 51 of the games he played and was the eight-most productive player on the Heat with an estimated 1.6 wins produced.

Haslem, Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Jamaal Magloire each made five appearances as the Heat's sixth man but neither of those players can really be considered for the Best Reserve of the Year award. Haslem and Magloire was the most productive player off the bench on a per-minute basis with an estimated 0.124 WP48 but he was hurt most of the season, Big Z played most of his games as a starter and Magloire only played in 18 games.

The last two reserves that need to be mentioned are Mario Chalmers and Eddie House, who each made three appearances as the Heat's sixth man this season.

Chalmers started 28 games and then lost his spot to a knee injury and Mike Bibby. Despite the challenges he faced this season from injury and the competition at his position, Chalmers was the most productive Heat player after LeBron James (17.5 estimated wins produced), Dwyane Wade (14.6 est. wins produced) and Chris Bosh (10.3 est. wins produced). Chalmers produced an estimated 3.2 wins this season and 0.096 est. WP48.

Who is the best Heat player off the bench?

Submit Vote vote to see results

House got off to a great start this season with an adjusted shooting percentage of 60.5 percent after the first five games. However, by the 10th game his shooting percentage had dropped to 48.5 percent! House was up and down with his shooting all season and ended with an adjusted shooting percentage of 50.5 percent and an estimated 0.065 WP48.

The table below summarizes the production of the Heat reserves. Who do you think has been the best player off the bench this season?

 

Summary of Production by Heat Reserves
(Average player produces 0.100 Est.WP48) 

Player GP as 6th Man MP Est.WP48 Est.WP
Joel Anthony 16 1463 0.024 0.7
James Jones 14 1548.7 0.051 1.6
Mike Miller 12 837.6 0.110 1.9
Juwan Howard 10 591.2 0.007 0.1
Erick Dampier 8 814.6 0.095 1.6
Zydrunas Ilguaskas 5 1145.2 0.076 1.8
Jamaal Magloire  5 157.3 0.292 1.0
Udonis Haslem  5 344.9 0.124 0.9
Mario Chalmers  3 1579.2 0.096 3.2
Eddie House  3 978 0.065 1.3

 

Unless specified otherwise, stats for Miami Heat players were taken from the Heat Produced page and other NBA stats were taken from NerdNumbers.com.

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