Kobe Bryant vs. Dwyane Wade Statistical Comparison

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A while back I wrote a post comparing Kobe Bryant’s best 4 consecutive seasons to Michael Jordan from 1990-93 with a pace adjustment to try to make the contrast a little more even. For what it was worth, to me, the most interesting aspect was that Kobe came out closer in points and efficiency than I expected, and Jordan’s major advantage was in possession retention / creation – in that he got more steals and rebounds and had fewer turnovers. A couple readers were offended by a statement I made in that post wherein I basically said that Kobe Bryant was unquestionably better than Dwyane Wade. They thought I was buying into the hype and ignoring the stats that held Wade higher than Kobe. That’s a fair point, so I’m doing a comparison of the two right here, right now.

Per Game Shooting Advanced
Player FGA 3PA FTA ORB TRB AST STL BLK TOV PTS FG% 3P% FT% TS% eFG%
Kobe Bryant 21.8 4.3 8.6 1.2 5.8 5.2 1.7 0.5 3.1 28.5 .456 .342 .843 .559 .489
Dwyane Wade 18.0 1.8 8.6 1.3 5.1 6.1 1.8 1.0 3.5 24.7 .489 .289 .767 .567 .503
Ray Allen 17.5 6.4 4.7 1.2 4.7 4.1 1.3 0.2 2.5 22.4 .447 .397 .893 .572 .520
Provided by Basketball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 7/3/2013.

The above table shows per game numbers for the three best shooting guards since 1998 ages 22-31 (Wade’s full career so far).  I don’t see any special need to make a pace correction when these three played in basically the same era. I threw in Ray Allen because the more I looked at all the numbers, the more I thought Ray would provide a nice counterpoint to the small efficiency advantage that Wade enjoys over Bryant.

The basics are that Kobe gives almost three more minutes per game and four more points per game (he also stayed a lot healthier and gave 90 more total games over that ten year span).  The other stuff comes out pretty even.  Wade has almost 1 more assist, and Kobe has almost one more rebound.  Steals are basically even.  Wade has 1/2 a block more but also gives the ball away more by about 1/2 a turnover.

The big difference I think people read into Wade and Kobe is the shooting efficiency.  Wade’s field goal percentage is 4.3% better than Bryant’s.  That’s huge.  Except that it isn’t, because when three point shooting is factored into effective field goal percentage, that advantage slips to 1.4%.  And when three point shooting and free throw shooting are both factored into true shooting percentage, Wade’s edge drops all the way down to 0.8%.  So basically, what the average fan or “analyst” sees as a 4.3% efficiency advantage to Wade is actually only a 0.8% advantage.  Compare that to the 1.7% eFG% and 0.5% TS edge that Ray Allen holds over Wade with only a 2.3 point per game difference in scoring.  Would you really call Allen a superior scorer to Wade?  If not then you probably wouldn’t consider Wade a better scorer than Bryant.  Throw in the fact that Kobe enjoys a 2.7% turnover rate advantage, and the efficiency difference isn’t looking like quite the divide that it was made out to be.

Quick aside – True Shooting percentage is not really a shooting percentage.  It is a points per shot estimate.  Essentially the stats say that Kobe scores 1.12 pts per shot, Wade scores 1.13 pts per shot, and Allen scores 1.14 pts per shot.  That’s a legit difference, but when Bryant is able to get shots up so easily with his size and skillset while the other two have to fight so hard to get shots off (either working with the dribble or running off screens), you see the huge difference in total points scored.

Now in terms of per minute production, it’s true that Wade’s production comes closer to Bryant’s in the same minutes, but Kobe still maintains a scoring edge and a turnover edge and a rebounding edge, AND if Wade played more minutes, who’s to say he’d play them as well?  Maybe there’s a reason his minutes per game are under 37.  With his smaller size, energy draining defensive style, and lack of a reliable jump shot, shorter minutes may be a necessary product of Wade’s style of play.  We can argue whether or not Wade’s game is more statistically efficient than Bryant’s, but there’s no way to argue that it is more energy efficient.

I’m not even going to put the metrics up here, but suffice it to say that Kobe shows better in Win Share Per Minute and WAY better in total Win Share, while Wade comes out almost 1 point better in PER.  Of course PER is a per minute measure, and as we’ve covered, Kobe gives way more minutes.  So unless Wade’s back up shooting guard also has a better PER than Bryant, that advantage is overblown.

Last point.  I’m not a Kobe homer.  I’m a Celtics fan with a Michael Jordan tattoo on my right shoulder.  If anything my instinct ought to be to rundown Bryant in my posts.  But the truth is I believe Kobe is one of the all time greatest players in the league.  I don’t know exactly where to rank him, but I’d say top 5 guards ever and probably top 10-15 players ever, maybe higher.  If the stats seem to indicate that this isn’t true, the least I can do is to examine the stats themselves or the parameters of the measurement (timeframe / ages / eras) to see why he doesn’t stack up.  If he’s just not that good and we’ve all been fooled by his style and volume of shots taken, I’ll gladly report those results.  That’s not what I’ve found so far on the instances when I take a deeper look.

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9 Responses to “Kobe Bryant vs. Dwyane Wade Statistical Comparison”

  1. BRS Says:

    Totally unfair to start the comparison using Wade’s rookie year. His jump from year 1 to year 2 was astronomical. I’m sure that if you simply used first nine years of each career, Kobe’s numbers drop significantly because it would include a couple of seasons where he was young, learning, and not playing as much. I don’t want to accuse anyone of cherry-picking the numbers, but either excluding a rookie season, or using something like each players’ top 5 seasons so that you can compare each players’ peak years would make the analogy much more fair. Otherwise, this is flawed because Kobe had 5 years in the league by age 22. You’re also overvaluing usage by saying that Kobe gets shot off more easily. You are basically saying that less selfish players should be penalized for playing that brand of basketball. It is pretty clear from Wade’s peak years that he could score at a prodigious rate when you look at 05-06, 06-07, 08-09, and 09-10. Just saying that the argument can always swing in the other direction. Better to say I like the way one plays better than the other and leave it at that.

    • jpalumbo Says:

      Those are all fair points. I actually don’t like the one the player better than the other. I just wanted to make a cogent argument why Kobe might be considered Wade’s equal or better statistically.

      Not sure why I should discount Wade’s rookie year. Not Kobe’s fault Wade came into the league at age 22 or that he didn’t start out great right away. I certainly could pick and choose certain seasons or stretches of each player’s career to help or hinder an argument for either one but by using Wade’s entire career and Kobe at the same ages, that seems pretty fair to me. Kobe spent 4 years learning the game in the NBA while Wade was in the college.

      I’m not saying anything about usage. Their usage is actually equal. Kobe just plays more, and I’m positing that he’s able to play longer minutes because his game requires less energy to get shots off. Which could be wrong, but it does kind of follow that being willing and able to take jumpers conserves energy that needing to drive spends. It doesn’t really speak to selfishness one way or the other. Wade does have more assists, but he also dominates the ball more (or did prior to James dominating the ball for his team). Ball domination isn’t necessarily a sign of team-first play. It also leads to a similar increase in turnovers.

      A case can be made for Wade, but David Thorpe, Prof. Berri, and John Hollinger have done that plenty. I’m trying to use a different lens and focus more on box score stats and simpler efficiency markers to see if we can justify Bryant’s popular ranking ahead of Wade with something other than “5 (rings) is a bigger number than 3″.

  2. BRS Says:

    All very fair points. I respect the fact that you realize the argument between Wade and Bryant is the most relevant among all of these silly arguments that float around. The argument is real but it’s impossible to say which statistical analysis is most accurate. The truth is that it really comes down to what you see and what you prefer, assuming you are a real fan. If you don’t really understand the game and what direction the numbers point you toward, then the media is going to drive a lot of your perception. I think that’s the biggest reason why Kobe is considered far and away the better player. Other than that, the two players are probably even, with Kobe having a higher consistency of excellence and Dwyane having the better statistical peak.

    • jpalumbo Says:

      There was a pretty loud player / GM near-consensus that Kobe was the best player in the game for a number of years that probably fueled the media opinion as well. Thanks a lot for contributing your views on this topic.

      • boyer Says:

        Actually listening to the media would tell us that Kobe isn’t that good. The same thing is happening to Westbrook. And we all saw how both of their teams completely fell apart without each of them. Looking at these stats is interesting, but that’s about it, it tells us very little as to what is really happening on the court.

      • jpalumbo Says:

        Yeah that’s the limitation of examining stats without context.

  3. Kyle Johnson Says:

    This isn’t a very fair article. You could tell on everything you were leaning in Kobe’s direction. In another comment you said it’s not Kobe’s fault Wade came in after college when he was actually 21 (not 22), its not wades fault Kobe was a bench player for his first few years. The more minutes argument is a very bias one because they play on different teams, different situations, and different playing styles. it would make more sense to bring in metrics than to lean things in your own chosen direction because wade holds advantages in many of them. Wade didn’t dominate the ball more then Kobe it is just different playing styles which lead to more wade assists. If wade played 3 more minutes it wouldn’t effect him that’s the most bias argument I have ever heard. I would also rather have a player that makes his teammates better not one that admits he isn’t easy to play with and doesn’t adjust like Wade with Lebron. Since 2003 Dwyane 3 championships Kobe 2 championships if you want to use time frames.

    • jpalumbo Says:

      Yes, I definitely approached this article from a biased perspective. I set out specifically to try to show that the statistical differences in terms of efficiency are overblown and that an argument could be made for Bryant. If I wanted to show that Wade was better I would have changed the criteria.

      But I don’t think I was tragically unfair or anything. I give LeBron the same age-based advantage as I do Bryant when making comparisons to Jordan, and MJ is my boy. I think it’s only fair to select a similar span of years. If you think omitting Wade’s rookie year and starting them both at age 23 is better, that’s fine.

      Thanks for reading and contributing to the conversation.

  4. The NBA Heizenberg Principle – Bias in Basketball Blogging | Double Dribble Says:

    […] comparing Dwyane Wade and Kobe Bryant I omitted Kobe’s first few years (Wade’s first year came at age 22) and also […]

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