The usage-efficiency tradeoff states that if you have two players that are carbon copies of each other, except that Player A is used within a team’s offense more than Player B, than Player A will have a lower efficiency rating than Player B. This makes sense intuitively — with pretty much anything, it becomes increasingly harder to keep up a certain level of excellence (efficiency) the more you have to work (usage).
Applying the usage-efficiency tradeoff to crunch-time in the NBA, which players are able to excel given that at least 25% of the team’s offense goes through them during crunch-time? So in other words, I looked at players who
- Played in at least 30 crunch-time scenarios (at most, five points ahead or behind with five minutes or less left in the game)
- Were used at least 25% of the time during these crunch-time situations
I measured efficiency by looking at a player’s “net rating”, that is, the points their team scored (per 100 possessions) when they were playing minus the points their team surrendered (per 100 possessions) when they were playing. Not the perfect measure of efficiency, but it gives a pretty good snapshot of a player’s impact on both ends of the court.
- Kevin Durant gets used alot at the end of games. Of the top five guys, he gets used almost 10% more than any other player.
- The other incredible thing is that Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook are responsible for about 80% of the Oklahoma City Thunder’s offense in crunch time. By comparison, LeBron and Wade are only responsible for about 60% of the Miami Heat’s offense in crunch time.
- The Heat are incredible in crunch-time because Wade and LeBron are both so effective. Stopping both of them is near impossible.
- The Oklahoma City Thunder obviously have a great 1-2 combo as well, but it is not as effective as the Heat’s. This is probably because Durant and Westbrook are used more heavily than Wade and LeBron, and thus have less efficiency.
- I haven’t really talked a ton about Steph Curry, but it is illuminating that he can be as effective as he is in crunch-time given the fact that he is used quite frequently by the Golden State Warriors, and he doesn’t have another really great partner (Jarrett Jack is 11th in efficiency for crunch-time players with a usage of at least 25%) like the Heat/OKC combos. This means that opposing teams really key in on him, and force him to take tough shots, which makes his net rating even more impressive.