The 2015-2016 All-Bizarro Leaders in Minutes

It’s about that time of the year to construct this season’s five-man team made up of unusual players who led their respective team in total minutes, though my last construction of one (or nine, going back to 2006-07) was in late-July instead of May. Whatever. In both situations, the season was already over and that’s all that really matters.

I started this mainly because guys like LeBron James, James Harden, and Jimmy Butler are likely to lead their respective teams in total minutes, but there are also a handful of players each season who are unusual sights at the top. Sometimes teams go into a rebuilding mode and need someone, anyone to be a key cog during that phase. For other teams, an aging player may have fresher legs than expected, and others may see their minutes rise due to injuries and/or depth issues.

For example, below was my 2015 squad:

2015 Tm MIN G MPG
Shane Larkin NYK 1,865 76 24.5
Ben McLemore SAC 2,670 82 32.6
Solomon Hill IND 2,381 82 29.0
Wes Johnson LAL 2,245 76 29.5
Pau Gasol CHI 2,681 78 34.4

Shane Larkin somehow led the Knicks in minutes with just 1,865, which has to be close to the record for least amount of time on the floor to lead a team. Solomon Hill went from 226 minutes during the 2013-14 season to 2,381 partly thanks to the freak leg injury to Paul George between those seasons. Meanwhile, Ben McLemore was one of the main constants for a Kings squad that was a playoff contender through the first five weeks before falling apart without DeMarcus Cousins. Wesley Johnson made the list, though just about any Laker who ended the season as the minutes leader would’ve looked unusual. Rounding out the squad was Pau Gasol, who at 34 years old played nearly 2,700 minutes, the most since logging over 3,000 in 2010-11 and the most minutes per game (34.4) since 2011-12.

So that’s a quick explanation and example of how these teams are formed. I also want to say that while I’ve started to ignore most counting and per game stats, minutes are still valuable to me. An easy example is a look at the Boston Celtics which have Jae Crowder, Avery Bradley, and Isaiah Thomas all under contract through the 2017-18 season for a combined $20-22 million, but all three provide above-average production for a combined ~95 minutes per game. That’s huge. Above-average production at, thanks to a booming salary cap, below-average salaries for that kind of talent. There will be some contracts next summer paying that much for just one above-average player. The salaries and minute load of that Celtics trio allow them to overpay for minutes at other positions, too, or for shooting off the bench.

Enough about all that, though, and a look into this season’s bizarro minutes squad. Here were my picks:

Jordan Clarkson, Los Angeles Lakers, 2552 minutes

Not every year gives me a wide variety of players to choose from, but I try to make these teams as realistic as possible with a point guard, a collection of wings, and a center. According to Seth Partnow’s playing time estimates by position, Clarkson played 42 percent of his minutes at point guard, so he’s my choice here.

He beat out C.J. McCollum, Portland’s leader because I thought there would be more in the way of Clarkson with the mix of veterans and rookies in the backcourt. Kobe Bryant, Louis Williams, and even Nick Young would get their minutes, but so would D’Angelo Russell. Clarkson ended up starting every one of the 79 games he appeared in, though, and Bryant played 98 percent of minutes at small forward. Williams played most of his 1,907 minutes at shooting guard, but Young played in only 54 games and saw his minutes per game finally drop below 20.

For McCollum, Portland traded Will Barton in the middle of last season for Arron Afflalo, who was also off the roster before this season got started. Of course, they also let Wesley Matthews go in free agency. A lot more available minutes opened up for McCollum. On a bad team like the Lakers, there were plenty available for Clarkson, too, but also veterans and developing players who needed to get their minutes.

Evan Fournier, Orlando Magic, 2,566 minutes

This spot was a toss-up between Fournier and Gary Harris. The former averaged 28.6 minutes per game in 2014-15, but the Magic had more likely choices to lead their team in minutes this season such as Victor Oladipo, Nikola Vucevic, Elfrid Payton, and Tobias Harris. For Gary Harris, he went from 719 minutes in his rookie campaign to 2,439, but just about any Denver Nugget would’ve made for an unusual leader in minutes including Danilo Gallinari, who averaged just 24 minutes per last season.

Someone on a lottery team has to lead their team in minutes, and I went with Fournier as the most unlikely between the two. Along with the teammates already mentioned, Fournier logged only his second of four seasons of over 70 games played, and it looks like there was something of a ripple effect to his minutes after Harris was traded to Detroit. The total games and minutes from this season should help Fournier this summer when, at just 23 years old, he’ll be looking for a new contract. That new contract feels more terrifying than other major raises in salary, but he shot 40 percent from three, is not a great playmaker but is at least decent, and has trimmed his turnover and foul rates since his time with Denver.

Wesley Matthews, Dallas Mavericks, 2,644 minutes

Matthews returned to NBA action less than eight months after tearing an Achilles tendon, then proceeded to log a minute total and per game rate right in line with the rest of his career. There’s value in that despite his usage rate being the lowest since his rookie season and his true shooting percentage the lowest since the lockout-shortened 2011-12 campaign. Hopefully 2016-17 brings upticks in three-point percentage (36 percent, down from 39 percent from 2010 to 2015) and around the rim (50 percent, down from 60 percent from 2010 to 2015).

Matt Barnes, Memphis Grizzlies, 2,190 minutes

Barnes is 35 years old, but his two highest minute totals in a season have been in 2015-16 and 2014-15, the latter when he logged 2,271 for the Clippers. This season’s total probably wasn’t what the Grizzlies planned. They cycled through 28 players and stayed afloat despite missing a total of 70 games to Marc Gasol, Mike Conley, and Zach Randolph. That trio combined for over 7,000 minutes in 2014-15 but about 5,600 this season. Courtney Lee and Jeff Green were also minute eaters, for better or for worse, who are now on the Hornets and Clippers, respectively.

Like Fournier, Barnes will be a free agent this summer, but at 35 his earning potential just isn’t the same. He should be able to make more than he did in 2015-16, though, which was $3.5 million and somehow the most he’s made in a single season. The minutes he’s been able to log should help with that.

Also, Barnes played 362 minutes at power forward. That’s enough to slot him here.

Anthony Davis, New Orleans Pelicans, 2,164 minutes

We need a possible center, so Davis makes the cut. There’s still reason to put him here despite being a top-10 player when healthy. The main one is that Davis logged only 2,164 minutes, which typically shouldn’t be enough to lead a team. Divide that by 75 games, a reasonable amount to get out of at least one player on a team, and that’s 28.9 minutes per game. Unfortunately for New Orleans, the only player to go over that 75-game total was Dante Cunningham, a gluey player and a constant for a team marred by injuries and the Matt Barnes for the Pelicans, or something. I have no idea. I have no idea about anything related to the Pelicans this season…

Honorable Mentions

Marcus Morris, Detroit Pistons, 2,856 minutes

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Andre Drummond, and Reggie Jackson seemed more likely to be the Pistons’ leader, but Detroit was top-heavy with their minute totals all season.

Paul George, Indiana Pacers, 2,819 minutes

Because, yeah, freak injuries and stuff. What a comeback.

C.J. McCollum, Portland Trail Blazers, 2,780 minutes

As mentioned above, quite a few minutes opened up for him this season, but 2,780 is still, well, a lot. Perfectly fine to swap Clarkson for him.

P.J. Tucker, Phoenix Suns, 2,540 minutes

It was just that kind of season for Phoenix, but Tucker’s 28th in total minutes since the 2013-14 season. Some bizarro names ahead of him are Jeff Green (23rd), Thad Young (21st), and Trevor Ariza (4th).

Gary Harris, Denver Nuggets, 2,439 minutes

Mentioned above and a very reasonable pick, especially after his rookie season when he had FG%/3P%/FT% lines of 30.4/20.4/74.5. Maybe he gets some votes for Most Improved Player?

Maybe I should change my pick from Fournier to Harris. Welp, too late.

Hollis Thompson, Philadelphia 76ers, 2,154 minutes

The Sixers’ leader was probably going to be weird no matter what. For that, Thompson’s penalized and dropped to the honorable mention. Still, he only started 17 games. 

Until next season. Hopefully Boris Diaw has 4,000 minutes in him.

Stats via Basketball-Reference unless noted otherwise.

Tweaking the Sixth Man of the Year Award

It’s award season in the NBA, helping pass time from now until the playoffs. Personally, I look forward to the All-NBA and All-Defensive teams more than the Most Valuable Player, Rookie of the Year, etc. The five-man teams offer a good look at who the best players were from season to season long after they’re over and its minor details have left our memory. The rest of the awards are fine, but they can mean multiple things to multiple voters. That shows itself each year in the voting results and sometimes, well, things happen.

The Most Valuable Player is an easy example, but I actually wish the Sixth Man of the Year was like that, too. It’s an award given out to the best player who starts under half the games they’ve played in. That’s the only benchmark that needs to be met in order to be eligible for the award, but the trend for who wins has been just as simple. Sixth Man of the Year winners tend to be high-minute, high-scoring, and high-usage players. This might be fine for most fans and voters, but when I think of the Sixth Man of the Year I think of some sort of sacrifice being made, a player thriving in a limited role that could very well be the best situation for him, but also one performed well enough to deserve some sort of promotion. Looking at the voting results, this often applies to players who score a lot of points, but not for the better “gluey” or “energy” guys who find other ways to make positive contributions to their team.

That’s bugged me for a while, and especially during a season where the Jamal Crawfords of the league aren’t doing too hot yet still might get heavy consideration for the Sixth Man of the Year. I’ll admit that not starting can be a big deal on its own despite getting similar levels of minutes, shots, and crunch time appearances. There’s a human element to a player sitting on the bench during the beginning of a game and not having their name announced before it. It’s something I obviously will never grasp from the couch but also because of my comfort level with anything like that kind of attention. A few retweets on Twitter is fun, but anything more is kind of scary. The same goes for a blog post like this getting some views and some feedback, but if it reaches Reddit I become terrified.

But the Crawfords of the league will still put up a ton of shots, typically play starter-level minutes which boost their point totals, and for better or for worse they might play in crunch time. Not every professional basketball player can play a role like Crawford, but not everyone can contribute across the board either, and this year the latter deserves to finally get more recognition, but I doubt it’ll happen. Year after year, points per game seems to overpower any other statistic when it’s an unfair way to measure most reserves.

So I hope a few suggestions for the Sixth Man of the Year help. Also, it has to be said that I have an irrational love for multi-positional players who don’t shoot a ton, and some of these players expend too much energy to log 30-plus minutes. Anyway, I’m hoping the first suggestion becomes more of a benchmark for the Sixth Man of the Year…

24 Minutes Per Game or Less

Using per game stats feels gross, but minutes per game still carries value and is especially useful during award season. For this award, though, it wouldn’t hurt to go the other way around. Instead of the requirement being starting less than half of the games, what if it was changed to playing less than half of the game? It’s a very simple cutoff, one that evens the playing field for starters who don’t log a ton of playing time.

For example, below is a look at Amar’e Stoudemire and Hassan Whiteside from February 3 to April 4. Try to ignore who’s started during the last couple months and decide who really is the reserve, or sixth man:

amare and hassan

This season is something of an outlier for situations like Stoudemire and Whiteside. 34 players have started over half their games while averaging under 24 minutes per, minimum 10 games played. That’s the highest amount in a season since 2006-07, around 10 more than any of those seasons except the lockout-shorted 2011-12. Meanwhile, 32 players who have started in less than half their games are averaging more than 24 minutes per.

If the 24 minutes per game ceiling made starters eligible for this award, they could pretty much replace the bench players who become disqualified.

So how would the Sixth Man of the Year race look if there was a 24 minutes per game ceiling? Below is a look at who the top candidates would be if this change was made, sorted by VORP (Value Over Replacement Player), via Basketball-Reference:

24 mpg

Not a bad group of players. When looking at VORP, the winner here is Nikola Jokic. When filtering out starters, the top player is Ed Davis. Both tables feature players who are solid but for health, age, or depth reasons have not cleared the 24-minute mark. Of course, this is only one statistic to measure by, but I’ve enjoyed fiddling around with it lately and it sounds cool, the latter reason about as good of a reason to judge a player by as points per game. Maybe. (This often seems so true for whenever Win Shares makes an appearance. It’s a darn good name for a stat.)

Going back in time, this minute benchmark would alter several Sixth Man Awards. Since 1983, only three averaged under 24 minutes per game: Bobby Jones, Bill Walton, and Corliss Williamson in 1983, 1986, and 2002. Here are links to the top players in VORP regardless of their frequency of starting games and a link filtering out players who started over half of their games.

Take Crunch Time Minutes Into Account

Just something to consider, but this could go either way in helping or hurting a player. Andre Iguodala, for example, may be penalized missing a decent chunk of games. Should he also be penalized for being a part of the Warriors’ death lineup or should that give him a boost? Is not starting as big of a deal as not being on the floor for the final minutes of a close game? Should players who neither start nor play in crunch time be given a boost or downgraded? What is life?

From the couch, it’s silly enough to decide what is sacrificing and what isn’t and it’s just as bad to decide which is more important for an NBA player between starting and finishing a game. My flaming hot take is that they both carry weight, but it seems like fans remember games and players by what happened during high-leverage moments at the end of games compared to how they started. There’s sacrifice when it comes to being fine with not starting, but it’s probably less of an issue if it means participating in crunch time. Especially in a contract year.

Dividing a player’s crunch time minutes (up or down by five or less points with five or less minutes remaining in a game) by a team’s total crunch time minutes is easy to find with players who have played in every game, but it’s kind of a hassle, at least for me, to calculate how many minutes a player like Manu Ginobili who get banged up or have frequent DNP-NAPs. So for this, I only took six eligible players who are at least something of a contender for the Sixth Man of the Year, whether it feels right or not. I also let the 24-minute filter slide because there are only so many players who have played close to 100 percent of the season so far, and only so many who happen to play less than half of the game and/or start less than half of their games. Crunch minutes are from NBA.com:

clutch

So maybe this graphic helps Enes Kanter, who does what he can without starting games or finishing them, but it hurts him because there are legitimate reasons for why he shouldn’t be on the floor against opposing closing lineups. It could go either way for him. Who knows? Just something to consider going forward.

Below-Average Usage

My last thing to consider is usage rate, but it’s probably a bit much. I only threw this out there, though, because points per game seems to be the biggest component of who wins the Sixth Man of the Year. Below is a look at players eligible for Sixth Man of the Year with below-average usage rates, and then another top 10 when applying just a 24-minute-per-game filter. Again, sorted by VORP:

usage

This all might be a collection of hot takes, and everyone is more than welcome to jump through their laptops and tell me to stahp and especially after writing the word “sacrifice” multiple times, but really I just hope for a better mix of players who make their way to the top of the Sixth Man each year. The key suggestion of 24 minutes per game or less would do just that. It might even be over the top, tilting things in favor of some players who can only be effective in so many minutes before they’re gassed, but we can fiddle with a minute ceiling. The bottom line is that it’s not just players who take a ton of shots who excel off the bench.

A player who fits well with all I’ve mentioned is Ed Davis. He doesn’t boost his stats by playing a starter’s amount of minutes, doesn’t log a whole lot of his minutes in crunch time (for better or for worse), and is a low-usage player who has found other ways to contribute while on the floor. It’s a weird year for the Sixth Man of the Year as Jamal Crawford hasn’t been his complete self, so hopefully that opens the door for Davis to get some votes that, in the past, haven’t really been there for reserves like him.

All stats are as of April 4, 2016.

RIP Embedded Excel Tables

I have not published anything on here since September of 2015 (!!!) and have logged into my account maybe a handful of times over the season to check a few things. Well, about a week ago was one of those times and I noticed that all the embedded Excel charts included in blog posts were gone. The embed codes are still there, but the charts themselves don’t show up anymore. This has happened before, a longgg time ago back when there weren’t a lot of posts that relied on charts, so that was easy to fix. I think I just logged into OneDrive and pasted in the codes again, but now it would take too much time to correct each and every one. It’s not worth it given the subjects I used to write about.

So, yeah. Most blog posts look pretty awkward now. Sorry to those who thought they’d find a somewhat useful blog post about half-court heaves or non-conference records! The numbers probably don’t show up anymore. On the bright side, the last post before this one was taking the over/under on win totals before the season, and I know that was a disaster. The last time I checked how I was doing was a few months ago and it looked like I was going to end up 7-23 compared to 17-13 in 2014-15. They probably look even worse now.

This won’t be the last blog post on Chicken Noodle Hoop, so going forward there will be a substitute for Excel Online whether it’s with Tableau or just screenshots. Things will be fine, but yeah if an old blog post makes little sense and/or has huge blank spaces, well, now you know why, now you know I’m aware of it, and many apologies but now you know I’m not going to fix that.

Future blog posts won’t have that problem, though. That’s a better thing to keep in mind.:)

(Also, remember to tell everyone you know that Mo Speights, Boris Diaw, and Jae Crowder are the NBA’s finest players not just right now, but forever.)

Stabs at Westgate SuperBook’s 2015-16 over/unders

Since Westgate’s over-unders have been tweeted out, it’s time for an immediate blog post. I guess this will be a yearly thing since I did this over 360 days ago, back when I sarcastically predicted Golden State would win 70 games if Harrison Barnes started over Andre Iguodala, and Marreese Speights started became a stretch four. GEN.IUS. Well, this season I have one more weird prediction for Golden State and 29 others, but not really. There were some over-unders I didn’t really know what to go with, so like last year I let blog momentum and other factors decide some for me.

For whatever it’s worth, I went 17-13 for the 2014-15 season, which means I’m better than 17 out of every 30 NBA players. That’s how this works. We’ll have to wait and see if I got better over this off-season or not, or something. What am I talkiing about.

Chris Webber’s Hockey and Free Throw Assists (Updated)

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Last summer I wrote a shooting profile of Chris Webber at Nylon Calculus and later posted some of his passing stats here. During all-star weekend, I added to the latter but never updated the post. With the Lowe Post podcasts featuring Howard Beck and Shane Battier mentioning Webber and those early-2000s Kings, now would be good to, like, post those updated numbers instead of letting them sit in a folder. I also spent some free time adding a few more games, random thoughts, and GIFs. Webber’s best years are very good GIF material.

Below are the updated numbers. 2ary means secondary/hockey assists. It’s the same stuff found in player tracking statistics over the last two seasons:

web
Random Thoughts

  • Like 90 percent of the regular season games I watched weren’t in English, but that’s okay. There were a couple YouTube accounts with a TON of sports games from overseas and just so happened to have random Kings-Wizards, Kings-Clippers games. Maybe Sacramento really did have worldwide appeal?
  • This is still a small sample of games, less than 10 percent of Webber’s from 1999 to 2003 (added two 1997 games anyway). It would be nice to get more regular season totals, and maybe that’ll happen with how many random games pop up over each off-season.
  • The hockey assists are a little underwhelming, in my opinion, but as a team I feel like there’s no doubt the Kings would’ve crushed in this stat. Same with the late-90s Sonics teams, among others.
  • I may have been too picky on free throw assists, but I don’t remember if at first I gave them only to shooting fouls. If that’s what I was doing, Webber’s real free throw assist totals would get a nice boost considering how often he would use his behind-the-back pass to find a cutter near the rim.
    • Those passes definitely did not always work, by the way, but the payoff in the long run was greater than the occasional turnover. How exactly do you guard those, the normal passing angles and Webber’s scoring?
  • There were so many handoffs around the elbow to post-Magic Nick Anderson, one of a few players from 1999 to 2001 who I think are easy to forget. Maybe there wouldn’t be much of an assist difference since overall there isn’t much of one, but Anderson getting those handoffs around the arc instead of an older Peja Stojakovic, Hedo Turkoglu, or Mike Bibby…I don’t know. I should’ve tracked the assist opportunity field goal percentage on strickly jumpers.
  • Once Webber became a ~50 percent shooter from the elbows, those handoffs seemed like a low-key nightmare to guard. He was, um, clever enough to fake them for shots and attack cheating defenders off the dribble, but a reliable jumper was another effective option as a safety valve for whoever was running off him.
  • In terms of rivalries, from a distance it seems like the Kings’ were obviously the Lakers, but also the Jazz and Mavericks given the frequency of their playoff matchups. I remember from 2001 to 2004 they had some ridiculous games against the Timberwolves, too. 2004 was crazy. I got chills before Game 1 of the semifinals just from how much respect I had for the Kings. Not exactly the same feeling whenever the Timberwolves played the Lakers or Spurs…
    • For all the offense involved, the few Mavericks-Kings games I watched with or without Webber were a lot more physical and intense (Mavs fans and THEIR cowbells!) than I expected. Nothing like seeing these two play in the second round. The damn West.
  • For somebody of Webber’s value, he committed some really, really bad fouls. He also got away with some, such as a reach on Robert Horry in the final minutes of Game 6 in 2002. If that was called? Yikes. I love Webber’s offense and will defend his efficiency, but I also might be too harsh on his defense and rebounding.
  • It’s kind of jarring how different Webber was after his knee injury. Did this stage of his career really happen? His stint with Philadelphia in 2005, given his minutes per game, is probably one of 100 worst >500-minute stints/seasons in league history.
    • What other modern day guys would make the cut? 2004 Antoine Walker and 2013 Kevin Love? So much Sasha Pavlovic, too.
      • These random thoughts are getting really mean.
  • One of several fascinating statistics over Webber’s career: 2005-06 season, he was 32 years old and two years after knee surgery, but played 75 games and nearly 39 minutes per for his career high in season minutes.
  • Okay that’s it, enjoy some GIFs! Some may be potatoes, though.
    • Also, if you’re on a phone, beware: They’re on auto-play, and probably load slow at first because of that.

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I thought that was a low-key amazing pass.

And then a few GIFs from the fourth quarter of Game 4 of the 2000 playoffs:

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That was a really fantastic quarter.

Some other potatoes:

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That might’ve been what made Webber unlikeable. 17-point lead with ~16 minutes to go and doing a little showboating, but these two teams played a pretty physical game a week prior and that was Webber’s former team. REVENGE OR SOMETHING.

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That was literally the first possession of the game.

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Fun times. Now, time to get all set for the 2015-16 season. Hope you all are, too.

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