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D-Wade, One-Man Offense

Posted by Neil Paine on December 11, 2008

Okay, so that title isn't entirely true -- as we saw during his rare semi-healthy stretches last season, even Wade can't carry an offense to decency by himself. But how about the Miami guard's performance so far this season? Currently, Dwyane Wade is taking 33% of the Heat's shots when he's on the court, which ranks 2nd in the league among qualified players (behind Tony Parker, who has played 10 fewer games than D-Wade).

That's not even the extent of Wade's importance to the Heat offense, though. As Miami's primary ball-handler, Wade is also 5th among qualified players in assist rate, the % of teammate buckets assisted while one the floor. Furthermore, according to Bob Chaikin's "touches" metric, Wade touches the ball from a realistic attacking position on the court 2.1 times every minute, which ties him with Parker behind Chris Paul and Deron Williams (none of whom are scoring as much as Wade). Oh, and his .506 FTA/FGA ratio ranks 6th among qualified guards, so he gets to the line 10.5 times per game, 3rd-best in the league behind Dwight Howard and Devin Harris.

Add it all up, and Wade is using a full 37% of the Heat's possessions when he's in the game. Not only is that easily the best mark in the NBA this year (Parker is a distant 2nd with 35.1%, and LeBron James is 3rd at 33.6%), it's actually tracking to be the top possession % season of all-time! Here are the previous top 10 seasons since 1973-74 in possession %:

Player          Year    G       Min     %Pos
Kobe Bryant     2006    80      3276    36.5
Michael Jordan  1987    82      3281    35.9
Allen Iverson   2002    60      2622    35.8
Allen Iverson   2006    72      3103    35.1
Dwyane Wade     2007    51      1931    35.0
Allen Iverson   2005    75      3174    34.9
Allen Iverson   2004    48      2040    34.7
Michael Jordan  2002    60      2092    34.6
Tracy McGrady   2007    71      2539    34.4
Jermaine O'Neal 2005    44      1530    34.4

Wade's current rate would top Bryant's amazing 2005-06 season as the highest-workload offensive season in the NBA since 1974, and what's even more remarkable is the fact that Wade is doing it at such a high level of efficiency. Let's look at the translated offensive ratings of the players above (plus Wade), to get a feel for just how good D-Wade has been so far this season despite the huge offensive responsibility:

Player          Year    %Pos   tORtg
Dwyane Wade     2009    37.0   115.7
Kobe Bryant     2006    36.5   115.0
Michael Jordan  1987    35.9   115.7
Allen Iverson   2002    35.8   103.5
Allen Iverson   2006    35.1   112.4
Dwyane Wade     2007    35.0   113.5
Allen Iverson   2005    34.9   106.8
Allen Iverson   2004    34.7   100.2
Michael Jordan  2002    34.6   101.6
Tracy McGrady   2007    34.4   106.8
Jermaine O'Neal 2005    34.4   102.9

In the years that we can calculate this stat, nobody has ever taken on 37% of their team's possessions, and only MJ has used more than 35% with an efficiency level as high as Wade has posted this season. It's still early, and with Wade you never know when the injury bug will bite, but he's put on an incredible show so far this year in Miami.

6 Responses to “D-Wade, One-Man Offense”

  1. Jason J Says:

    Neil, Do you think it's a good thing to have a player, even an incredibly efficient one, supplying such a large percentage of his team's offense? I have to think that a guy like Jordan putting up similar numbers in 1987 and then finding success (50 wins and trip to round 2) in 1988, when he was able to cut back on personally dominating the decion-making (a little), may be telling. We can't run the actual usage, but we saw similar things with Wilt whose two championships came when he took a much smaller role in the offense than he did while averaging 35 - 50 points early in his Phila days.

    What Wade is doing is very impressive, but I'm not sure it's something that others haven't been capable of in the past so much as something that wasn't the best way to win.

  2. Neil Paine Says:

    That's a good point -- "usage rate" is not merely measuring the ability to create shots, but also on some level a conscious decision by the coaching staff to filter all of the offense through a specific player. Spoelstra is clearly running almost everything through Wade, while a different, better team (the Cavs and Lakers, who have comparable superstars) would tend to be more balanced. More balance is always better... For instance, in the Bulls' 6 championship years, Jordan only used more than 31.4% of their possessions once ('93). That said, today's officiating makes it harder to go "Jordan Rules" on an opponent's top star... As we all saw in the '06 Finals, Wade was able to do something good with the ball on a ridiculous % of Miami's possessions -- everyone knew it was coming, and Dallas still couldn't stop it.

  3. Mike G Says:

    The Bulls didn't start winning because Jordan shot less; he shot less because the other Bulls became better.
    Wilt was a head case; traded (for very little) to a much better team, he assumed a different role. He didn't average 40 and 25, but he was the only player who could avg 25-25-6, and he did; which was quite enough.

    If Wade merely shoots less by choice, someone else has to step up and do more scoring. Wade currently shoots (TS%) ~.055 better than the rest of his team. Would someone else shoot better by getting more shots? It's possible, not usual.

    The Cavs and Lakers aren't just more balanced, they're better: Not just one superstar and role players. Wade brings his team 'up' to mediocrity. Like early Jordan and Wilt (and Garnett) before him.

  4. ag Says:

    It's very early in the season. It is highly possible that both his oRTG and usage will decrease. The efficiency is very impressive to say the least though..

  5. Stevie Says:

    He has been awesome.

    Actually it was 1998 that MJ used alot more of his offenses possessions (the year Pippen missed 40 games with injury).

  6. vi da Says:

    [...]I didn't know what to feel. It was like I was happy and sad at the same time. I was also numb, because I lost some teammates I care for dearly. But I was happy that if it was anybody, it was Shaquille O'Neal.[...]