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Time isn't on your side

More minutes don't always mean more production

Posted: Wednesday December 7, 2005 3:50PM; Updated: Wednesday December 7, 2005 3:50PM
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By Roland Beech, 82games.com, Special to SI.com

We're only a month into the season, but it's never too early to examine the "curious coaching decisions" already evident around the league. While a good coach influences how his team performs in many ways, the most obvious perhaps is simply who gets the minutes.

The battle for PT is always on every player's mind since the big contracts, the shoe deals, the fame and the attention are all a byproduct of being on the court for long stretches of the games. Of course when a team is winning, it's hard for a player to complain about not getting minutes without looking like a bad apple. On the other hand, if a team is losing ... then all the flood gates of frustration fly open unchecked!

But for every player not getting enough minutes, there is a player getting too many. Let's take a look at some of the more questionable lineup choices made this season.

Too many minutes?
Team, Player Comment
Knicks Antonio Davis -171 plus/minus is worst in the league by far
T'wolves Michael Olowokandi Team outscored even with KG beside him; Griffin obvious solution
Rockets Juwan Howard Rockets have been outscored in 14 of 17 when he's on court
Mavericks Erick Dampier Team has been outscored even when he?s on court w/Nowitzki
Heat Jason Williams Payton says he should start, not J-Will; stats say otherwise
Raptors Jalen Rose -110 plus/minus and holding back the rookies
Nuggets Earl Boykins EB can play, but shouldn't take minutes from Earl Watson
Lakers Kwame Brown Maybe the injury break will help, but expect minutes will shrink
Hawks Josh Childress Hawks have been outscored in 15 of 16 when he's on court

Looking at these in more detail:

New York Knicks

Larry Brown is a brilliant coach, no doubt. But in his attempt to figure out just what he can do with the roster he's been dealt, he's relied plenty on veteran Antonio Davis, which isn't helping. Davis has played 51percent of the total minutes and along with the worst plus-minus in the league, he has produced a 1-12 won-lost record on a game-by-game plus/minus basis. More to the point, in assessing how he plays with the Knicks' key guy, (at least until he's traded) Stephon Marbury, the 82games.com Player Pairs stats reveal the Knicks are -133 points in 300 minutes with Marbury and Davis on court together (for a 1-12 W-L record). In contrast, here are some other Marbury combos:

with Channing Frye: +24 in 317 minutes (8-8)
with Jackie Butler: +21 in 86 minutes (8-3)
with Maurice Taylor: +10 in 117 minutes (7-4)


A coach as good as Brown, though, we trust he'll start cutting back on 37-year-old Davis' minutes soon.

Minnesota Timberwolves

One of the hard things to accept as an NBA stats analyst is why teams make decisions that fly in the face of pretty convincing statistical evidence. A case in point is the Timberwolves' continued usage of Michael Olowokandi. In 2004-05 the T'wolves were -51 in net points with the Kandi-man on the court and +166 without him. This season the tally runs at -24 with Olowokandi, +85 without. Sense a pattern here?

What's more significant is this: Kevin Garnett is clearly the heart of this team, and there is one guy on the roster who, when on court with KG, produces incredible team results: Eddie Griffin.

2004-05
Garnett/Griffin on floor: +177
Garnett without Griffin on floor: -37 

2005-06
Garnett/Griffin on floor: +63
Garnett without Griffin on floor: +18

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