The assembly of Miami’s “superteam” brought together three of the best players in the league. LeBron James and Dwayne Wade had the two highest PERs in the league last year, and Chris Bosh was fourth. A team with the two best wings and the best big man (according to PER) should never lose, right?
The mirror image of these high PERs is high “usage rates” (USG%) an advanced statistic that measures the percent of a team’s possessions “used” by a player while on the court. Wade and James were one-two in USG%, and Bosh was tenth. Each was the top dog on their respective teams, and DWade and LeBron were the league’s top alphas.
Statistically, DWade had a USG% of 34.9%, LeBron had a USG% of 33.5%, and Bosh had a USG% of 28.7%. Among the sixteen playoff teams, only Melo, Kobe, and Durant, in addition to Dwade and LeBron, had USG% in excess of 30%. Perhaps not coincidentally, these are the players that are considered to be MVP candidates. Outside of these MVP-candidate superstars, the alphas of playoff teams typically range from 29% to 25%. The median for a team’s alpha is 28%.
The “beta” or second dog has a median of 24%, with seven teams exceeding 25% and the rest at 23-24%.
The “gamma” or third dog has a median of 22%, with seven teams exceeding 23% and the rest below 23%.
Based on last year’s USG%, DWade is Miami’s alpha, LeBron their beta, and Bosh their gamma. If this dog pack were to share the ball at playoff team median levels, DWade USG% would have to drop from 35% to 28%. He’d have to decrease his “alpha-ness” by 20%. LeBron would have to accept “beta-ness” and reduce his USG% from 33% to 24%, or decrease his “alpha-ness” by 28%. Bosh would have accept a drop from alpha dog to gamma dog, and reduce his USG% from 29% to 22%, a drop in “alpha-ness” of 23%. So three of the top four PER players in the league would have to decrease their “alpha-ness” by at least 20%.
The playoff team with the highest concentration of total USG% for its alpha, beta, and gamma players as a combination was Denver, which totaled 84%. Miami’s alpha dog pack totaled 96%. So if Miami were to equal the most concentrated playoff team, as a group they would have to reduce USG% by 12%. Under this scenario, DWade would drop to 30.5%, LeBron to 29.3%, and Bosh to 25.1%.
Generally, PER is roughly proportional to USG%: high PER players have high USG%. So Miami is asking these three top alphas in the league to effectively reduce their PERs by 12% to as much as 28%. LeBron’s PER could range from 22.4 (Manu Ginobli) to 27.4 (DWade). DWade’s PER could range from 22.4 (Manu Ginobli) to 24.6 (Tim Duncan). Bosh’s PER would be about 22.0 (David Lee). These are generally great but not superstar numbers.
If contending for an MVP requires a USG% above 32% – Dwade, LeBron, Melo, Kobe, and Durant were above this level last year – both LeBron and Dwade would fall short, even in the best scenario, in which they were about 30% each.
It will interesting to see how the alpha egos accept dropping out of the top spots in the league. What if LeBron drops to third or even twelth in the “PER race?” How would Dwade deal with dropping to seventh or twelfth in the league? How about Bosh dropping to fourteenth in PER, and dropping statistically to the eighth best big man in the league? What if none of them put up MVP numbers (>32% USG%)?
It will be interesting to see how these alphas meld on the court. If they are as dominant as expected, I imagine that the PER sacrifice will not be a problem. But if dominance expectations are not met, alpha ego flare ups might make great blog fodder!