Posted by Neil Paine on June 30, 2010
It probably won't happen for salary-cap reasons (somebody who's considered a "max player" will have to take less than max money), but rumors swirled this week that prized free agents LeBron James and Chris Bosh would join Dwyane Wade in Miami after an alleged weekend "summit" in which the 3 stars met to discuss their (collective?) futures.
Whether it happens or not, I was wondering how unprecedented this would be in NBA history. We would see a guy who used 35.1% of team possessions when on the court last year (Wade) combine with a guy who used 34.0% (James) and a guy who used 28.1% (Bosh). Has anything like this ever happened outside of an Olympic setting? How would the chemistry work -- who would take the big shot? Would they trade it around? Who would be the Alpha Dog? Can you succeed with three Alpha Dogs?
Let's look to history, starting today with "Big Twos" that were formed (I'll look at "Big Threes" tomorrow). If Wade and James join forces, it would represent 2 teammates who had combined to use 69.2% of possessions the previous year... Has this ever happened before?
In a word, no. Here are the most combined possession %'s by a newly-formed "Big Two":
1. Michael Jordan & Jerry Stackhouse, 2003 Wizards
Previous Combined %Poss: 66.8% (Jordan - 34.6%; Stackhouse - 32.1%)
Previous Team Offensive Rating: 104.8
New Team Offensive Rating: 103.0
New Split of Possessions: 27% (Jordan) - 27% (Stackhouse)
Comparability to James-Wade: Low. Jordan was the GOAT, but was an aging shadow of his former self by 2003. Also, Stackhouse was never the player Wade/James are, and nobody would be coming off the bench in Miami's proposed situation.
2. Carmelo Anthony & Allen Iverson, 2007 Nuggets
Previous Combined %Poss: 65.3% (Iverson - 35.1%; Anthony - 30.2%)
Previous Team Offensive Rating: 105.5
New Team Offensive Rating: 107.6
New Split of Possessions: 32% (Anthony) - 27% (Iverson)
Comparability to James-Wade: Medium. Unlike the '03 Wizards, Carmelo and A.I. were actually both very good players at the time of the trade -- granted, Iverson was at the tail end of his prime, but still. However, Wade and James have both proven themselves more willing to share the rock than either Iverson or Anthony (Iverson's unwillingness to play more like a traditional PG was actually one of the biggest reasons Denver parted ways with him).
3. Tracy McGrady & Juwan Howard, 2004 Magic
Previous Combined %Poss: 59.5% (McGrady - 34.1%; Howard - 25.4%)
Previous Team Offensive Rating: 105.2
New Team Offensive Rating: 102.7
New Split of Possessions: 32% (McGrady) - 24% (Howard)
Comparability to James-Wade: Low. T-Mac was coming off a magnificent individual campaign, just like LeBron, but that's where the comparisons end. Howard is only on this list because the previous season, he was the leading scorer on a dreadful Nuggets team that went 17-65. Btw, if you're letting Juwan Howard take 25% of your possessions when on the floor, that's a pretty good sign that you won less than 20 games and/or took Nikoloz Tskitishvili 5th in the draft the summer before.
4. Allen Iverson & Keith Van Horn, 2003 76ers
Previous Combined %Poss: 58.7% (Iverson - 35.8%; Van Horn - 22.9%)
Previous Team Offensive Rating: 102.1
New Team Offensive Rating: 105.0
New Split of Possessions: 32% (Iverson) - 22% (Van Horn)
Comparability to James-Wade: Low. Like Wade, Iverson needed more help after a disappointing 1st-round exit vs. Boston. But there's a difference between Iverson and Wade's performance levels (Wade can actually maintain a high efficiency when he takes 35+% of possessions), and any comparison between LBJ and KVH isn't even worth breaking down.
5. Dominique Wilkins & Reggie Theus, 1989 Hawks
Previous Combined %Poss: 58.6% (Wilkins - 32.8%; Theus - 25.9%)
Previous Team Offensive Rating: 111.3
New Team Offensive Rating: 112.2
New Split of Possessions: 28% (Wilkins) - 23% (Theus)
Comparability to James-Wade: Medium-to-Low. Here's a legit case of two All-Stars being paired together in their primes: Wilkins was 29 in 1989 and had finished 6th in MVP voting the year before, while Theus was 31 but still an effective ballplayer. However, the similarities don't really go past that -- despite playing well in '89, the Hawks clearly didn't value Theus very much, because they left him unprotected in the expansion draft and Orlando scooped him up. Needless to say, that would not happen to James or Wade in this or any other universe.
Best of the Rest:
6. Dwyane Wade & Antoine Walker, 2006 Heat
7. Vince Carter & Jason Kidd, 2005 Nets
8. Hakeem Olajuwon & Charles Barkley, 1997 Rockets
9. Jerry Stackhouse & Clifford Robinson, 2002 Pistons
10. World B. Free & Purvis Short, 1981 Warriors
11. Paul Pierce & Ray Allen, 2008 Celtics
12. Karl Malone & Jeff Malone, 1991 Jazz
13. Moses Malone & Andrew Toney, 1983 76ers
14. Tracy McGrady & Yao Ming, 2005 Rockets
15. Dwyane Wade & Ricky Davis, 2008 Heat
16. Ray Williams & Bernard King, 1984 Knicks
17. LeBron James & Mo Williams, 2009 Cavs
18. Zach Randolph & Jamal Crawford, 2008 Knicks
19. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar & Gail Goodrich, 1976 Lakers
20. Allen Iverson & Derrick Coleman, 2002 76ers