Too Much of a Good Thing?
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SECAUCUS, NJ, Feb. 9, 2007 -- Kobe Bryant, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. Of the players that didn't have an entire country voting for them, they were the three most popular All-Star selections. They were all MVP candidates last season and they're all likely to be candidates by the end of this season as well.

Along with Steve Nash, Dirk Nowitzki and Gilbert Arenas, they're three of the best players in the game right now. Nash and Nowitzki, of course, are two very unique players. Agent Zero, of course, is one unique individual.

So, I want to focus on Kobe, LeBron and D-Wade, the three superstars in this league that you can probably most-easily compare. They (especially with Shaq out for 39 of the Heat's 49 games thus far) have very similar roles on their teams. They're not point guards, but they control the ball. They're the only three players in the league averaging at least 25.0 points, 5.0 rebounds and 5.0 assists per game.

And there's one more reason to put these three under the collective spotlight. Wade's Heat visit James' Cavs tonight (8 p.m. ET, ESPN), riding a five-game winning streak and looking to get back to .500 for the first time since they were 3-3. On Sunday, Bryant's Lakers finish their eight-game road trip in Cleveland (3:30 p.m. ET, ABC).

With Kobe, there has always (at least since Shaq left) been the question of how many shots he should be taking and whether a big scoring night from the Lakers' star player was good for the Lakers. That's certainly been less of an issue for LeBron and D-Wade, but it's an interesting question nonetheless.

So let's just start by seeing what percentage of their team's offense these guys account for this season...

PLAYER PPG TM PPG PCT.
Kobe Bryant 28.8 103.9 27.7
LeBron James 26.3 95.8 27.5
Dwyane Wade 28.8 96.6 29.8

So, at quick glance, we see that Wade accounts for a greater percentage of his team's points scored. For curiosity's sake, let's throw assists into the mix (multiplying them times 2.16, since the average field goal made in the league this year has been worth about 2.16 points).

PLAYER PPG APG*2.16 TM PPG PCT.
Kobe Bryant 28.8 11.88 103.9 39.2
LeBron James 26.3 12.96 95.8 41.0
Dwyane Wade 28.8 17.28 96.6 47.7

So, when we add the baskets that they've assisted on, we see that Wade has factored for almost half of the Heat's points. It's probably even closer to 50 percent if you were to add free throws that his teammates made after receiving a pass from No. 3.

A look at the standings in relation to the table above shows us that, with our three superstars, the less they are a part of the offense, the more successful their team is. Does that mean that if Wade didn't handle the ball as much, the Heat would have won more games? Probably not. But, it makes me want to take a look at his (and the Heat's numbers from last season).

Using the same math (the assist factor was about 2.16 last season as well), I figured that Wade accounted for only 41.7 percent of the Heat's offense last season. From this, you might draw the conclusion that the Heat have been missing both Shaquille O'Neal and Jason Williams this season.

For further inspection, let's take a look at Wade's numbers in wins vs. losses this season...

PPG APG*2.16 TM PPG PCT.
Wins 31.0 18.14 102.2 48.1
Losses 26.1 15.98 91.2 46.1

This seems to contradict our previous "less is more" theory when it comes to Wade and the Heat. And looking at it in the opposite direction, I find that whenever Wade accounts for 50 percent or more of his team's offense this season, they're 9-3. It's a small sample size, but it's enough to convince me that any thoughts of Wade needing to handle the ball less aren't valid.

Of course, most of that data comes from games where Shaq was on the shelf. And now, he's back in the lineup. So, we may have to revisit this again at the end of the season.

Looking at the LeBron and the Cavs, they are just 3-5 when he accounts for 50 percent or more of their offense. Taking it even further, they're just 10-16 (.385) when he accounts for 40 percent or more and 16-5 (.762) when he accounts for less than 40 percent, not including the two games he missed this season (they won both of those, by the way).

This seems to support Brian Windhorst of the Akron Beacon Journal's argument that the Cavs need more motion in their offense. If we dig a little deeper, we see that when the Cavs have a assist-field goal ratio of .600 or higher, they're 12-4, corroborating Windhorst's theory. When they move the ball around, they're a better team.

On to Kobe and the Lakers. Believe it or not, Bryant has accounted for 50 percent or more (using our PTS + 2.16*AST formula) of his team's offense only four times this season. They're 3-1 in those games.

When he has accounted for 40 percent or more, the Lakers are 12-5 (.706). When he has accounted for 30 percent or less (not including the four games he's missed), they're 2-4 (.333).

Taking a look at the Lakers assist-field goal numbers, we find that the Lakers are 17-6 (.739) when their ratio is .600 or above. And only once this season have the Lakers recorded an assist-field goal ratio less than .400 (as opposed to 12 times for Cleveland). That was their triple-OT loss to Charlotte in which Kobe scored 58 points.

Conclusion?

Different strokes for different folks. For the Lakers and Cavs, it seems like they're better when the offense isn't Kobe or LeBron-heavy. For the Heat, they need D-Wade to be D-Wade. That may change a bit with Shaq back, but if we look back at the 2006 Finals, we see that Wade accounted for 47.8 percent of their offense in the four games that they won.

Of course, we're only looking at one side of the ball here and at fairly small sample sizes, but hopefully the above is some food for thought as you watch three of the best players in the game.

Questions or comments? Get at me.