Thursday, April 28, 2011

Thoughts on the South Beach Experiment Thus Far

Many moons, months, and possibly eons ago, I wrote about an experiment- the South Beach Case Study.  The SBCS is based on the unusual alignment of stars (I don't get the fixation with astronomy either; please bear with me) that occurred last summer.  LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh- the "Three Kings"- came together to give us NBA fanatics a real life case study that could give answers to our astronomically divine inquiring minds- give yourselves a round of applause for having both a divine inquiring basketball mind and the patience to keep reading after my unfortunate attempt at rhyming.
The kingly test subjects. 

"Three superstars of this caliber have never played together at their absolute peak…The big questions are: can two ball-dominant slashers, James and Wade, work together? Will the egos of the three amigos collide or will they remember the sacrifices they promised to make in order to play with each other? What happens to a superstar's stats when he isn't playing in a single superstar-centric offense anymore? Who takes the last shot, Wade or James? What about substitution patterns and minutes distributions? Will their careers be extended because they don't have to lift their teams alone anymore?"

What has been answered through 58 wins, 24 losses, and a first round series victory over a solid Philadelphia team that wrecked my prediction of the matchup being "Boston vs. Atlanta in '08" all over again?  For one- no, Philly didn't match up to their top-end talent-centric opponent like Atlanta did.  But beyond that, we've secured our answers to a few of the pertinent questions listed above.  Or at least, this season gave us some indications.

All three players saw more losses than gains in both raw numbers and advanced numbers when compared to last year's production.  Bosh took the biggest hit; he went from 24 points and 10.8 rebounds per game to 18.7 and 8.3 rebounds per game.  His rebound rate, PER, WS/48, and TS% all dropped.  He played .2 minutes per game more than last year.

Wade's points and assists went from 26.6 and 6.5 per game to 25.5 and 4.6 per game.  His rebounding went up significantly, while his TS% went up to 58.1 percent.  He played .9 minutes more per game.  James saw his scoring average drop three points per game and his assists average drop 1.6 assists per game.  He saw a dip in just about every other stat except rebounding.  He played .2 minutes per game less this year.      

 Bosh's offensive numbers going down should have been easy to guess.  He played on a middling-at-best team that needed his production to compete.  Going from the first option to the third option is a drastic drop, too.

James and Wade were the guys who shouldered some massive loads.  Each was Atlas last year, carrying the world on his shoulders (That's it, I'm playing "Intergalactic" by Beastie Boys before I go to bed). 

Suddenly, they could share.  Sparingly, they let old habits get in the way (though it surely happened, especially at the start). Sullenly, opposing wing defenders prepared to take the duo on.

The minutes didn't decrease, but it does seem like the workload may have.  By all accounts, all three players played the best defense of their respective careers this year, which helped Miami rank fifth in team defensive rating.  Bosh needn't create as much by himself, - sounds like a hopeless and draining task if we're having a dirty mind- instead being used as a finisher.  Wade's scoring efficiency increased, and he was able to play more consistent defense in more minutes per game.  To me, James saw the greatest benefits from the decreased workload.  He was more aggressive on the offensive glass, set picks, used different parts of the floor better, and successfully played off another primary ball-handling attacker after admirably handing him the reins sometimes. 

We can now see how stats, roles and workloads are affected.  Their egos seem to have remained in check for the most part.  Questions regarding last shots, longer careers and true chemistry won't be fully answered until the team is healthy, the season ends, Pay Riley constructs the team with fewer holes and, ultimately, the players decide to retire.

As the SBCS enters phase/round two, I'll be previewing Miami vs. Boston.

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