How Many Minutes? How Many Wins? by the stat sprocket There has been a lot of banter about whether the Detroit Pistons should have been tired going into the playoffs. There can be no doubt that they played like a tired team through much of the Cleveland and Miami series. And of course being tired has multiple causes, probably as many mental ones as physical ones. It’s tough to feel good and have energy regardless of some objective physical standard that says you’ve had enough rest if your last six shots have clanged off the front of the rim, or your last three have been shoved back into your face by Shaq. The mental causes are tough to measure, but we can get some handle on the physical ones by taking a look at how many minutes the team played during the regular season and how that compares to other teams. All of the starting five are in the top 50 in terms of total minutes played during the course of the season. They range from 44th to 61st in minutes per game. The average starter played 35.3 minutes per game which ranks 57th across all players. Including McDyess to produce a top six, only 80 NBA players average more minutes per game. So, yes, the starters are near the top of the ranking, but how does this compare to other teams and how productive were those minutes in terms of producing wins? Keep in mind here that we’re only looking at teams and players at the end of the regular season. This analysis tells us how things were going into the playoffs and does not account for the impact of an every other day schedule of intense games for several weeks in a row. That’s tiring even to watch. Comparing the Top Six Team by Team The table below compares minutes played by the top six players across all NBA teams. Detroit’s top six played in 487 player games for 16,045 minutes, averaging 32.9 minutes per game. No other team’s top six played as many. The last three columns of the table tell the tale. Diff vs Detroit – The number of minutes less played by the top six players by team Diff in 48m Games – How many fewer full 48 minute games the minutes difference equates to Diff in Avg Games – How many fewer average games (average for top six players across the league) the difference in minutes equates to In Portland, the top six played 5,064 fewer minutes than Detroit’s top six. This equates to an average of more than seventeen extra full 48 minute games per player over the course of the season. It equates to over 27 average games based on the top six player average minutes per game of 31.1. By Portland’s standard, the Pistons’ top six played 109 regular season games. Between injuries and expanded bench roles, the Miami top six effectively played nearly thirteen fewer games than did the Detroit top six. The Detroit top six played effectively more than fifteen additional games than the top six for nine NBA teams (Utah through Portland). Click below to read the stat sprocket's analysis! [break=Minutes Analysis] Concentration of Minutes and Winning When we compare winning to number of minutes played by the top six, we do not see much of a relationship. Some teams can win in the regular season by concentrating minutes among a small group of players – Detroit, Phoenix, New Jersey, and the Clippers being the chief examples. Others win with far fewer minutes from the top six – Dallas, San Antonio, and Miami. Coincidence or not, the two NBA finalists’ top six players played a lot fewer minutes than did Detroit’s or Phoenix’s. The highest winning percentages seem to be from teams whose top six played between 13,500 and 14,300 minutes during the regular season. The Pistons’ top six played over 2,100 more minutes – seven more 48 minutes games, nearly twelve more average games. Finally, let’s see if there might be a way to get at some measure of efficiency – how teams produce wins from minutes played by the top six. In the following table I divide minutes by six to get the average for the top six players from each team. Each of the top six from San Antonio played on average 2,293 minutes during the season. Then I divide that by the number of wins to see how productive those minutes were in producing wins. San Antonio and Dallas were the most efficient teams in the league at producing wins using the top six. So, a lot more minutes got played in Detroit than anywhere else. In many cases we’re talking differences that equate to playing a 90 or 100 game regular season. Add that on top of the two prior years, which were if anything worse (the starters played more minutes per game during Brown’s last year than Flip’s first), and you get a team on its last bit of strength going into the 2006 playoffs. All statistics from www.dougstats.com.