In a primetime TNT matchup with the San Antonio Spurs back in February, Los Angeles Clippers’ all-world point guard Chris Paul had his roughest night of the season. In 27 minutes, Paul scored just 4 points on 16% shooting with only 3 assists. Predictably, the Clippers were blown out and failed to make a statement in their first meeting with the perennial Western Conference juggernaut. Paul, like many NBA superstars understand that, unlike their teammates, when they don’t show up their team can’t win. Teams can survive off nights from their role players, but if their offensive star struggles, it’s pretty safe to pencil that game in the ‘L’ column. This puts supreme weight on the shoulders of the many of the NBA’s premier players to bring it each and every night, but which players carry the largest offensive burden?
Total Burden (TB) is the percentage of all of a team’s half-court points that can be attributed to a player, either via assisting on a basket or scoring himself. Half-court situations are used because during fastbreaks the opposing defense plays an overwhelmingly most important role in determining the play sequencing and outcome. Conversely, in the half-court, while defenses always try to make the offense work through lesser players, offenses have always found a way to get the majority of their shot opportunities taken by their preferred shooters.
That said, below are the top 20 players in ‘total burden’ last season.
Total Burden (TB)
Scoring/Assist Burden Ratio
Perhaps most surprising is seeing Kobe Bryant lead the NBA last season in total burden. His 38.1% TB is particularly amazing considering the increase in talent surrounding him this season. Add this offensive burden to Mike D’Antoni’s last season decision to match the 16-season vet up with the opposing team’s best player each night and Bryant’s late season Achilles injury makes a lot more sense.
Also fascinating is seeing Greivis Vasquez at the top of the assist burden list. After acquiring Jrue Holiday from the tanking Sixers in a draft deal, the Pelicans moved Vasquez to Sacramento in a sign-and-trade deal for Tyreke Evans. While Vasquez will need to raise his shooting percentage significantly to be a great player in his own right, he’ll be very comfortable running the show and sharing the ball, something that didn’t happen nearly enough in Sacramento last season.
Finally, the scoring/assist burden ratio of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook explain the Thunder’s postseason struggles on multiple levels. Firstly, despite Durant’s standing as the most important Thunder (he had the highest TB) and all of the advancements he has made as a passer, his 2.49 burden ratio last season suggest that’s he’s still fairly one dimensional offensively. That dimension (his scoring ability) is historically great but he will need to improve as a passer to enter the stratosphere in which LeBron James sits. Westbrook takes a lot of flak in the advanced stats community for his poor shooting percentages, but he does provide a skillset that, up until this point, Durant has proven unable to provide. They need each other. Secondly, the Thunder level reliance on two players is incredible. Both Durant and Westbrook rank in the top 6 in the NBA in TB. If only they had a third offensive superstar to….
Lastly, an adjusted total burden table is below; it factors in games played. Kyrie Irving jumps up on this list as his total burden of 25.7% in 59 games translates to a 35.7% adjusted-TB over an 82-game season, good for 9th in the NBA. If he stays healthy this season, expect him to jump even higher in TB, possibly into the top 5.
GP-Adjusted Total Burden