More important: Stars or depth?

Determining value of Spurs' supporting cast compared to Miami's big three

Updated: June 10, 2014, 1:07 PM ET
By Kevin Pelton | ESPN Insider

Tim Duncan and LeBron JamesFrederic J. Brown/AFP/Getty ImagesHeat forward LeBron James' 21.4 WARP is far greater than Spurs forward Tim Duncan's 9.6.

The first two games of the 2014 NBA Finals have reinforced the different team-building approaches used by the Miami Heat and the San Antonio Spurs. In Game 1, eight of the nine Spurs players who stepped on the court scored at least seven points, and the other player (Boris Diaw) had 10 rebounds and six assists. The Heat answered in Game 2 with a heroic individual performance from four-time MVP LeBron James, who scored 35 points -- more than any two of his teammates combined.

As our J.A. Adande wrote in the wake of Sunday's game, the contrasting philosophies have both proven effective for Miami and San Antonio. But which has the better track record in the NBA Finals? The results might be surprising.

Best player on the court

The simplest cliché for picking a playoff series is that the team with the best player wins. That hasn't always been the case in past NBA Finals. Looking at the same 30-year sample back to 1984 I studied before the start of the series, the team with the more wins-above-replacement player (WARP) during the regular season is 18-12 (.600).