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Staticizing the departure of LeBron James and his replacement, Luol Deng

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Saying that LeBron James is leaving big shoes to fill is an understatement. Here, we are going to take a look at the statistical difference between what LeBron's departure means and how Deng may or may not fill that absence.

Dennis Wierzbicki-US PRESSWIRE

It's no secret that the Heat will miss their MVP LeBron James. But there seems to be much hope from the fan base across South Florida that the 2014-15 Miami Heat are going to be contenders in the Eastern Conference. So what we want to do here is take some advanced statistics from last year between LeBron James and his new replacement in Miami, Luol Deng.

James, clearly spent his entire year in Miami, while Deng split time between Chicago and Cleveland after he was traded for Andrew Bynum. So, the stats can have somewhat of an asterisk as we examine Deng, knowing his circumstances. Remember, this is simply an analysis, knowing that both James and Deng will be playing different roles with different rosters next year.

Player Efficiency Rating (PER)
Let's begin with the most notable and common evaluation of a player's worth, the PER. Player Efficiency Rating is the overall rating of a player's per-minute statistical production. The league average is 15.00 every season. Last year, LeBron James finished 2nd in the PER rankings in the entire NBA. He finished first the previous six seasons. James had a PER of 29.40 last year, while Kevin Durant had a 29.90.

On the other hand, Luol Deng finished with a 15.22 PER, slightly above the league average. And if you are questioning whether that is because of the change of scenery, Deng had a 15.12 PER in the previous season. Suffice to say, Deng doesn't make nearly the dent in the game that James does, and nor should we expect him to do so. The PER suggest that LeBron James makes nearly twice the impact on the game, when in the game, than Luol Deng does.

The Heat will sorely miss the productivity of LeBron and his efficiency.

Rebound (REBR) and Assist Rate (AST)
Another way to view their statistic impact are rebounds and assists, two very important categories in contributing to wins. Rebound Rate (REBR) is calculated as the percentage of missed shots that a player rebounds. Rebound Rate = (100 x (Rebounds x Team Minutes)) divided by [Player Minutes x (Team Rebounds + Opponent Rebounds)]. LeBron had a REBR of 11.5 and Deng was at 9.2. For reference: Michael Beasley had a 13.0 REBR. The REBR can be manipulated obviously by who you play alongside. It can be clear that when on the floor, certain guys give up rebounds and allow teammates to grab them for their own statistical gain. However, you can see the slight difference between James and Deng as rebounders.

The Assist Ratio (AST) is calculated as the percentage of a player's possessions that ends in an assist. Assist Ratio = (Assists x 100) divided by [(FGA + (FTA x 0.44) + Assists + Turnovers]. James had an AST of 20.6 and Deng was at 14.4. Clearly LeBron is more of a playmaker than Luol Deng and that will be sorely missed at times.

Usage Rate (USG)
This is probably one of the most compelling ways to see the difference between James and Deng. Usage Rate (USG) is calculated as the number of possessions a player uses per 40 minutes. Usage Rate = {[FGA + (FT Att. x 0.44) + (Ast x 0.33) + TO] x 40 x League Pace} divided by (Minutes x Team Pace). So basically, it's any possession that a player either shoots, assists or turns the ball over per 40 minutes. It's meant to calculate how much a player is being "used" in the offense.

Last year, James was 6th in the NBA in USG at 28.2. Luol Deng? He ranked 103rd in the NBA at 20.3. That's a huge difference. That means there were 97 more players in the NBA who had more usage of contributing on offense than Luol Deng. Yes, there are different ways to view this, especially with turnovers, but what is undeniable is that amount of responsibility. LeBron, as we all know, had a huge amount of responsibility in Miami.  Dwyane Wade was 10th in the NBA in USG at 27.0 and Chris Bosh finished behind Deng at 20.0.

If the Heat want to be successful, Deng will have to up his USG and really help the Heat contribute more than his responsibility has been before in Chicago or Cleveland.

Value Added (VA) and Estimated Wins Added (EWA)
These go together, well, because they go together. Value Added is calculated as the estimated number of points a player adds to a team's season total above what a 'replacement player' (for instance, the 12th man on the roster) would produce. Value Added = ([Minutes * (PER - PRL)] / 67). PRL (Position Replacement Level) = 11.5 for power forwards, 11.0 for point guards, 10.6 for centers, 10.5 for shooting guards and small forwards. This is a complex stat, but it really helps see how much a player is valued among a regular substitute. James was 2nd in the NBA, behind Durant, with a 818.5 VA. Deng was a mere 155.8, good for 12th among small forwards.

Maybe more significant and easier to understand than that is EWA.  Estimated Wins Added is calculated as the Value Added divided by 30, giving the estimated number of wins a player adds to a team's season total above what a 'replacement player' would produce. James, again, was 2nd in the NBA with a 27.3 EWA - meaning he added 27 wins to the Heat over a "normal" player would have helped the team. It's astonishing, and hard to accept, but when you think about it: how many games would the Heat have won if James Jones played LeBron James' minutes last year? The data suggest the Heat would have been 27-55...not sure about that. Deng was a mere 5.2 in EWA.

In case you want to see them side-by-side, here's the statistics from last year:
LeBron James: 27.1 PPG, 6.9 RPG, 6.4 APG
Luol Deng: 16.0 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 2.9 APG

As you can see, Luol Deng hasn't and can't do what LeBron James did for the Heat. But that's not the expectation. The question becomes, is the departure of LeBron James too big of a void for the Heat to recover with the multiple pieces they will add? There are still some moving parts in the roster, so it's hard to tell at this point. What we do know is that the Heat will need to play a brand of basketball that is much more team oriented than they did with James. They won't be able to plug someone in and chug-a-long and expect to succeed. The approach needs to change.

Comment
What do you think? What numbers stand out to you? How do you expect Luol Deng to fair as he tries to fill LeBron's shoes here in Miami?