Daily Thunder reader, commenter and professional scientist Andy Collard is an advanced basketball metrics expert. He’s going to be sharing some Thunder thoughts centered around advanced stats during the season and here he starts with a retrospective on KD’s historical performance in Turkey.
While watching KD hit those two 3 pointers in a row to start the second half of the FIBA finals, my first reaction was to flip out. After I finished yelling ecstatic profanities and then assuring my girlfriend that I didn’t have Tourette’s Syndrome, I got to wondering just how great his finals performance was. It was clear Durant was playing better than Danny Granger, Chauncy Billups and even Ersan Ilyasova, but I wanted to put KD’s performance in a larger context.
Over at Basketball Reference’s blog they had a great post of advanced stats for the 2010 US team, the Redeem Team and the 1994 US team, the last to win a World Championship. KD’s overall numbers stack up great compared to everyone there, save Reggie Miller, who went OFF during those 1994 world championships (61% FG, 53% 3pt, 95% FT for a true shooting percentage (TS%) of 83.7%… which is just unreal. Only Artis Gilmore has ever posted a TS% above even 70 for an NBA season).
I was more curious about the individual game performances, though, because as we saw the huge blowouts can mean so little after the first quarter and those stats are largely irrelevant. So I decided to use John Hollinger’s game score metric to quantify and put into context the sweetness of KD in the world championship. Hollinger’s game score is in effect a single-game replacement for his PER (player efficiency rating), because his formula is too complex to be used for a single game. The formula is:
Game Score = (PTS) + (0.4 x FGM) – (0.7 x FGA) – (0.4 x (FTA-FTM)) + ( 0.7 x OREB) + ( 0.3 x DREB) + STL + (0.7 xAST ) + (0.7 x BLK) – (0.4 x PF) – TO
As you can see the game score takes into account how much you score, how efficiently you score those points, and just about every other basic box score stat to estimate how dominant a single game is. It’s designed to be roughly the same scale as points per game, ie. a game score of 40 is amazing, 20 is good, 10 is ho-hum. There are also a few differences between FIBA and NBA basketball that I have to acknowledge. First, the stat takers are much more stingy about assists, which I decided to do nothing about. Second the games are eight minutes shorter. I wrestled whether or not to account for this, because KD played about 38 minutes in each of his impressive FIBA games anyway. Eventually I decided to multiply the FIBA game scores by 48/40, because the fact that he played all but 2 minutes of those games was one of the most impressive parts.
So I compiled a by-no-means comprehensive list of impressive single game performances in the World Championships, and decided to see where KD stacked up. I used the FIBA archives for all the data.
[table “27” not found /]
So what should we take away from these numbers? Well, the pessimist would say that Durant didn’t even have the most dominating performance in the tournament, which would in fact be true. Scola’s 37 points on 20 shots was a pretty amazing performance, especially against a super solid Brazilian front court. There’s no shame in KD not topping that. He does compare favorably to some of the most dominant performances of World Championships past. Its obviously hard to compare scenarios, with different teammates and opponents for each game, but based on these numbers, at least, Durant was on par or better than D. Wade, LeBron and Melo in their world championship quest 4 years ago.
The best thing I take away from this is how well KD played compared to his most dominant games of the ’09 season. He played two of his best games of the last year in the past two weeks, when it mattered most, on one of the biggest stages in the world. This was a huge contrast to his playoff performance, which, although courageous and relentless, definitely was never statistically strong or efficient. Durant showed us this time that he can and will perform in high pressure situations. I think that’s what really matters, and honestly, its pretty freaking sweet.