Years ago I was a guest on a podcast talking about the Utah Jazz / San Antonio Spurs upcoming playoff match-up in the first round. On that podcast there was a fellow guest on who was a Spurs blogger. The far from hotly contested series mirrored how poorly contested the podcast went. I knew we were going to lose. Somehow it deviated into just talking about letting Danny Green beat you in a series. We were both joking around at that point. The joke is on us now, though. Danny Green had his ups and downs coming into the league. But in the NBA Finals he made a name for himself by putting his name in the history books. Bravo Danny! Some other guys really showed up big in the 2013 NBA Playoffs this year. Who could forget Stephen Curry leading his Golden State Warriors to a few 'never say die' games? When the Oklahoma City Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook when down Kevin Durant had to go into take-over mode. The Brooklyn Nets and New York Knicks were led by Deron Williams and Carmelo Anthony -- and both had crazy numbers this playoffs. I honestly had to triple check my numbers for them. Paul George and Roy Hibbert took care of business for the Indiana Pacers, while Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol showed the world that going big wasn't going out of style. The names in the lights were the Miami Heat trio of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh -- but their role players helped them win another ring. And back to the Spurs, Tim Duncan and Tony Parker gave it their all, but they wouldn't have even been in the position to win games down the stretch it if wasn't for Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green.
I collected the Top 46 players from the playoffs.
- Five players each from each NBA Finals team (Miami Heat, San Antonio Spurs);
- Four players each from the runner ups in the Conference Finals (Memphis Grizzlies, Indiana Pacers);
- Three players each from the losing second round teams (New York Knicks, Golden State Warriors, Oklahoma City Thunder, and Chicago Bulls);
- and Two players each from the first round exit teams (Milwaukee Bucks, Boston Celtics, Atlanta Hawks, Brooklyn Nets, Los Angeles Lakers, Los Angeles Clippers, Houston Rockets, and Denver Nuggets)
I've taken the time to chart out their stats so you can see how they helped their teams IN the playoffs. Then, because hey, it's me, I found out how much experience these players had in their early careers. You can't teach an old dog new tricks. After a certain age you can't house break a hound dog. You need to teach things early, or if you're the pup, you have to learn things by a certain age -- otherwise it will be too late.
As a learning leaning guy I think this is somewhat true for humans as well. Particularly when it comes to skill building.
You may be surprised to know that out of this group of 46 NBA players (some All-Stars, some bench guys, some first round lotto picks, others second rounders) the AVERAGE minutes played per season over their first three seasons in the league was 2,430.6 minutes (+/- 599.8 mins standard deviation). Over the years of looking at this data I have this theory that the magic number has to be an average of 2,000 minutes per season, over the first three seasons of a player's career. Less than that and it's going to be a tough climb to be the type of player that can contribute to a playoff team. See, these 46 players are the top guys for those teams that not only made the playoffs, but went far in them.
If you have a young player on your team that you want to one day be able to lead a team deep into the playoffs, by the numbers, they should be playing over 2k mins per season over their first three seasons (regular season games + playoff games combined).
Have a look for yourself:
|Player||2013 NBA Playoff Statistics||First three years in NBA|
MPSeas = calculated minutes per season (season = regular season + playoffs)
MPeSeas = minutes per estimated season, which assumes that each season has 82 games in it -- which gives you a managed number that attempts to unify data over things like lockout shortened seasons (which some of the guys on this list had to deal with), or a big injury over one of their first three seasons (which is what happened in the case of D. West or J. Noah for example).
So who is at the bottom of the list? It's Danny Green. He really came out of nowhere as he (and Tony Allen) are between 2 and 3 standard deviations behind the curve in MPSeas and MPeSeas. Tony Allen is a great defender, but this playoffs really put Danny on the map so we're focusing on him. Almost everyone else was over that 2k mark (Noah was at 1.95 k, Hibbert at 1.81 k -- rounding up they are there too). If you split the difference between those two and round Noah up and Hibbert down that means 39 of 46 players on this list of guys who helped their team in the playoffs played 2k. That means only 7 did not. Using a little thing called math that means 84.8% of the guys on this list (not all of them are HOFers, or All-NBAers, or All-Stars, or even 1st rounders) played the minutes early. And they built the confidence needed to produce in big moments. (Meaningful minutes are really seen in the playoffs, to these 2k+ers)
Danny (and Tony) are the big outliers. So if you are still on the train that minutes =/= development I implore you to step up to the table and show some quantitative data. Because right now I'm seeing the data confirm my theory more and more. Even if you don't believe that minutes = development, at least look at this list of the 46 guys who helped their team in the playoffs. A common characteristic, at the very least, is playing at least 2k minutes on AVERAGE over their first three years in the league. Sadly, it's a characteristic our high priced (Fav will make over $4m and be in this 4th yr in the league), high hopes guys do not have (Derrick Favors, Gordon Hayward, Alec Burks, and Enes Kanter).
In science we would throw out the guys above and below two standard deviations from the mean. They exist in real life, but if you are banking on low mins = possible rotation guy based upon Danny Green then I have some magic beans to sell you.