An Elite Duo in Miami: How Often Does this Happen?

Posted on June 6, 2011 by


The following is from Andres Alvarez.

The story in Miami this year has often been about the “Big Three”.  But although Chris Bosh is a very good player (at least, if we ignore his current finals performance), the Miami Heat are really the LeBron and Dwyane’s show. An amazing fact stands out when we check the Wages of Wins MVP candidates (the top five players in Wins Produced for 2011)

Player Team Pos MP WP48 WP
Kevin Love Minnesota 4.2 2611 0.474 25.8
Dwight Howard Orlando 5.0 2935 0.382 23.4
LeBron James Miami 3.2 3062 0.356 22.7
Chris Paul New Orleans 1.0 2865 0.358 21.4
Dwyane Wade Miami 2.0 2823 0.322 18.

Here is a helpful guide from the Wages of Wins Network on Evaluating Players:

  • 0.100 WP48 – Average Player.
  • 0.200 WP48 – Star Player (twice as good as average)
  • 0.250 WP48 – Super Star Player. Usually required for a shot at the title.
  • 0.300 WP48 – Elite Player. Most title teams had one.

When viewing the MVP candidates we can see all of the players were “Elite”.  And Miami has two of these players.  So how often has this happened?  How often has one team had two MVP candidates?

More specifically, how often has one team had two players in the top 10 in Wins Produced (who were also “Elite” players)?  Let’s take a stroll down memory lane and review.

1980 Los Angeles Lakers

  • Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: 22.2 WP, #1 in the League, 3143 MP, 0.340 WP48
  • Magic Johnson: 20.6 WP, #4 in the League, 2795 MP, 0.353 WP48
  • Accomplishments: 60 Wins, Champions

With just Kareem in the latter 1970s, the Lakers were good but not great. When the Lakers drafted Magic, though, this team tore through the league and was a contender immediately. Sadly, Magic Johnson was injured in 1981, which was Kareem’s last season in the top 10. Had Kareem been a few years younger, then this tandem could have been even greater than they already were.

1981 Boston Celtics

  • Larry Bird: 20.5 WP, #1 in the League, 3239 MP, 0.304 WP48
  • Robert Parish: 15 WP, #10 in the League, 2298 MP, 0.314 WP48
  • Accomplishments: 62 Wins, Champions

Not sure people remember Robert Parish as an “Elite” player . But he was very productive.  And in 1981, Bird and Parish led the Celtics to yet another title.

1983 Boston Celtics

  • Larry Bird: 25.6 WP, #2 in the League, 2982 MP, 0.413 WP48
  • Robert Parish: 15.9 WP, #8 in the League, 2459 MP, 0.311 WP48
  • Accomplishments: 56 Wins, Lost in Eastern Conference Semi-Finals

The 1983 playoffs is remembered for the Fo-Fo-Fo 76ers.  Oddly enough, this Boston team actually lost to the Milwaukee Bucks.  Larry Legend and the Chief still played great, though, and the Celtics did manage another 55+ win season. However, they’d have to wait another year to get their next title.

1991 Chicago Bulls

  • Michael Jordan: 27.6 WP, #2 in the League, 3034 MP, 0.437 WP48
  • Scottie Pippen: 19.7 WP, #10 in the League, 3014 MP, 0.314 WP48
  • Accomplishments: 61 Wins, Champions

Michael Jordan finally found his way to a finals. Really this happened when Pippen matured into his own and showed he was an Elite player himself.  In other words, contrary to popular belief, MJ didn’t win titles by himself.

1992 Chicago Bulls

  • Michael Jordan: 24.5 WP, #2 in the League, 3102 MP, 0.380 WP48
  • Scottie Pippen: 20.4 WP, #6 in the League, 3164 MP, 0.309 WP48
  • Horace Grant: 17.9 WP, #9 in the League, 2859 MP, 0.300 WP48
  • Accomplishments: 67 Wins, Champion

Horace Grant — just barely — was an Elite player; giving the Bulls three players at this level (so much for diminishing returns). Dave brought up a while back that this was the greatest trio in the turnover era. The 2011 Heat seem to have a similar strategy: a top shooting guard, small forward and power forward. We will see if the 2011 Heat have the same finish.

1994 San Antonio Spurs

  • Dennis Rodman: 29.5 WP, #1 in the League, 2989 MP, 0.474 WP48
  • David Robinson: 22.3 WP, #3 in the League, 3241 MP, 0.330 WP48
  • Accomplishments: 55 Wins, Lost in the Western Conference First Round

Rodman’s time in San Antonio is not fondly remembered. People have said he didn’t get along with David Robinson. That said, they played together very well. Unfortunately there wasn’t much support and a top Utah Jazz team managed to “upset” them in the first round.

1995 San Antonio Spurs

  • David Robinson: 22.9 WP, #1 in the League, 3074 MP, 0.358 WP48
  • Dennis Rodman: 17.2 WP, #9 in the League, 1568 MP, 0.526 WP48
  • Accomplishments: 62 Wins, Lost in the Western Conference Finals

David Robison rightfully took home the MVP. Hakeem may have used that as incentive to upset him in the playoffs. Dennis Rodman, in spite of missing over 30 games due to injury and suspension, still played amazingly well and helped the Spurs to a top record. In typical fashion, though, the postseason helped convince the Spurs to move Rodman. That move worked out well (for the Bulls at least)

1996 Chicago Bulls

  • Michael Jordan: 24 WP, #2 in the League, 3090 MP, 0.372 WP48
  • Dennis Rodman: 18 WP, #9 in the League, 2088 MP, 0.415WP48
  • Accomplishments: 72 Wins, Champions

Jordan and Rodman had both been on top tandems before. It only made sense for them to team up to form the greatest team of all time. What should make this team even more incredible is the fact that both players were past their prime and over 30.  By the way, Pippen just missed the mark for MVP status at the 12th most productive player in the league.

1997 Utah Jazz

  • Karl Malone: 21.5 WP, #2 in the League, 2998 MP, 0.344 WP48
  • John Stockton: 18.9 WP, #4 in the League, 2896 MP, 0.314 WP48
  • Accomplishments: 64 Wins, Lost in the Finals

The Stockton-Malone duo had been teetering on making this list their whole career. When they finally reached the list they also reached the NBA finals. Although Pippen and Jordan had dropped just below Elite status, they were still a force and managed to dispatch the Jazz in the finals.

2000 San Antonio Spurs

  • Tim Duncan: 18 WP, #5 in the League, 2865 MP, 0.302WP48
  • David Robinson: 16 WP, #10 in the League, 2558 MP, 0.300 WP48
  • Accomplishments: 53 Wins, Lost in the Western Conference First Round

Duncan and Robinson remind me of Magic and Kareem. Had their ages been a little closer we might have seen many more years of greatness. In 2000, both players played at the top of their game. Duncan, though, went down with injury and the Spurs missed a shot at repeating (this duo won the title in 1999).

2006 Phoenix Suns

  • Shawn Marion: 22.3 WP, #3 in the League, 3268 MP, 0.328WP48
  • Steve Nash: 18.5 WP, #6 in the League, 2801 MP, 0.317 WP48
  • Accomplishments: 54 Wins, Lost in Western Conference Finals

Nash and Amare right? Not quite. Nash and Marion are up there with Malone and Stockton as the greatest duo to never win a title. Dirk managed to exact revenge on Steve Nash for leaving Dallas before falling to Dwyane Wade in the finals.

2007 Phoenix Suns

  • Shawn Marion: 19.9 WP, #4 in the League, 3010 MP, 0.318 WP48
  • Steve Nash: 19 WP, #5 in the League, 2682 MP, 0.340 WP48
  • Accomplishments: 61 Wins, Lost in the Western Conference Semi-Finals

Marion and Nash came back strong and with a healthy Amare were able to crack 60 wins. In a case of bad luck, though, they missed their window in the playoffs.

Summing Up

Only 12 times before this season (at least, since 1977) have we seen a situation like the current Miami Heat. All of these teams were successful in the regular season.  The playoffs, though, didn’t always work out (which may be because the playoffs are a small sample).

One should also note that these duos (or in one case, a trio) all had more than one year of success.  With LeBron James and Wade both in their 20s, we should expect (and this is not surprising), Miami to contend for a few more years.  Of course, Miami fans are also hoping that this duo is the next Jordan-Pippen (and not the next Nash-Marion).