Stephen Jackson is averaging 40.7 minutes per game as a Bobcat. Gerald Wallace is leading the league at 42.4 minutes of burn a night. Two other Bobcats have more than 4 games of at least 40 minutes: Boris Diaw at 16 and Raymond Felton at 5. That is a problem, right? It is common knowledge (assumed truth would be more accurate) that playing heavy minutes reduces a player's effectiveness. The reason the Bobcats have been losing lately is because Crash and Jax are wearing down from the heavy burden of carrying the team night after night – or is it?
I am not arguing that player's do not have limits – but have they crossed that threshold already, with more than a quarter of the season remaining? Yes, the Bobcats starters are called on to play a lot of minutes – but they do a bit less running than some, due to the Bobcats slow pace. 7 players are within 100 minutes (total minutes) of Gerald on the year, where he leads the league at 2375 minutes played. But he is only 4th in possessions on the court – Kevin Durant leads with 4637, while Gerald is at 4499 – and there are 10 players over the 4400 mark. Yes, Stephen Jackson shows up in both of those lists as well – but it is not like the two JordanCats are alone.
So, here are a couple of tables to chew on. The first shows the efficiencies by month of the Bobcats primary 4 (efficiency being points per fga+.4*fta+turnovers – crude but effective). The second shows their efficiency for the season, then the number for nights they played 40+ minutes and then in the game following a lot of run.
Two of the 4 continue to put up better than season average efficiency numbers in February and the other two were within a reasonable number (if you throw out Raymond's potentially fluky December, he would be a third). And then the really interesting part: All 4 were more efficient than their season average in the games where they played heavy minutes. Even better: Only Raymond came up short in the next outing, with Boris Diaw putting up surprisingly strong numbers when playing in his next game following a 40+ minute night.
It is interesting – but not conclusive. Do not take it mean that I think the Bobcats are not doing themselves a disservice by playing this core such heavy minutes. They are – the guys will wear down as the season progresses (I get to see it year after year with Duke basketball – watching J.J. Redick in the NCAA tourney a couple years back hit more iron than a blacksmith being a particularly memorable example) and puts them at increased risk of injury – but the numbers do not indicate that is happening just yet. The other disservice is the lack of playing time for the young guys – Derrick Brown, D.J. Augustin, and Gerald Henderson. The next few weeks will tell us if this current rough patch is an aberration or the beginning of collapse spurred by over-exertion.