By Satbir Singh
Ever since the Kobe Bryant injury that ended his season and eventually the Los Angeles Lakers playoff run, the question of how many minutes is to many for a star player has risen. It’s seems that more the minutes the star plays the higher the injury risk, and an even higher risk of the team losing the game or a poor shooting performance from the star player.
Before Kobe tore his left Achilles the Lakers star was playing unbelievably high minutes. Understandably so, it wasn’t the Lakers fault. Bryant insisted on playing more and more. He just wouldn’t bench himself. In the final seven games Bryant averaged just under 46 minutes. That’s seven more minutes than his season average. And remember Bryant went down with just over three minutes left against the Warriors when he hurt himself.
The high minutes didn’t result to injury for everyone who played above average minutes, but it did hurt most teams when it came down to the final minutes of the game. The star would be to tired to overcome a close game, and make a star play.
Carmelo Anthony of the New York Knicks averaged 37 minutes through the season and it won’t shock anyone that his minutes would go up during playoff time. However, there was a difference between minutes in wins and losses for Anthony. In the first three games the Knicks won Anthony averaged just over 39 minutes. Only in game one (40:42) did he play over 40 minutes in those first three games. He also shot 46% from the field during those first three games.
When the losses came around, Anthony’s minutes jumped. He averaged just a bit over 45 minutes in game four and five. Game four was an overtime game, but Anthony’s shooting percentage was still low. He shot 31% from the field in the losses. In game six, Melo’s poor shooting performance continued at 30%, but his minutes were cut to just under 40 minutes that game and the Knicks closed out the series with an 88-80 win. But how much did the minutes from game four and five affect Anthony’s shooting in game six is a question we’ll never really know the answer to.
We can talk about how Paul Pierce played under 40 minutes in the Boston Celtics first two losses versus the Knicks, but Pierce isn’t in his prime anymore. However, Pierce’s lowest field goal percentage came in the Celtics game five win (32%), the game after he just played his highest minute total at under 50 minutes. Same goes for Pierce’s teammate Jeff Green, who’s lowest field goal percentage came in game two (27%) and the game before he played over 45 minutes.
But we can then look at Green’s performance in game five when he had a field goal percentage of 63% after playing over 48 minutes in game four. However, Green only took eight shots in his 63% performance.
This isn’t the case for every player though. Kevin Durant has been averaging just under 43 minutes throughout his teams first round series and he’s got a very respectable 49% field goal percentage. But yet again LeBron James is shooting 63% in the playoffs with just an average of 37 minutes.
For Indiana’s Paul George his shooting percentage is at 55% when playing under 40 minutes, and he’s at a 28 percentage in games he plays over 40 minutes.
Everyone’s probably getting the point. High minutes don’t often result into injury, but losses and poor performance begin to pile up. It’s obvious coaches need to cut their teams rotations in the playoffs, but at the same time they need to find away to save their stars for more important minutes. Especially when comes down later in the road and the team reaches the NBA Championship.
For now the trend will probably continue, but if the Knicks look at the numbers of Anthony from games one, two, three, and six, they could eventually find a trend for themselves that could help them avoid games four and five throughout the playoffs.