Phenom point guard Damian Lillard led the league in minutes played last season. At 3,167, he played a whole game, 48 minutes, more than runner-up Kevin Durant. That’s a major workload but perhaps a little exaggerated as Luol Deng and Kobe Bryant, the two players who averaged more minutes per game than the ROY, sat out for good chunks of the season. Durant, who trailed him in total minutes, also played 81 games. One less than Dame.
It’s no surprise then that Lillard hopes, and possibly expects, to play less minutes in the coming months. As he told USA TODAY Sports, “Sometimes when you’re out there (playing) so many minutes, your body can wear down. So you’re not always productive at the highest levels…”
He’s alluding to basic fatigue know-how but also to jabs sent his way regarding his efficiency on the court. Depending on your cup of tea, he posted a good EFF, which is the NBA’s method of proving efficiency, but was a so-so 16.4 in PER, ESPN’s preferred rating. An average player is deemed to have a 15.0 PER rating. Even more troubling for Lillard’s advanced stats state of mind is that though his EFF is very good, at 17.3, 2nd-best for rooks last year, when looked at a per-48 minute standpoint he falters. Henry Sims, Andre Drummond, Anthony Davis, and John Henson stomped on him in the EFF48M category with 40.14, 31.9, 30.35, 28.96 to his 21.45.
With no bench to mitigate his minutes binge, Lillard has a point: he needs to rest more and might even be a better player because of it. If that’s the case, Portland fans can rejoice.
Lillard isn’t alone in the MPG ebb and flow. This off-season starters have been gifted quality backups they didn’t have before, some bench players took on starting roles, and a host of other changes will take a toll on MPG. With that should come an expected efficiency boost and/or drop, depending on the situation.
Who will benefit?
Deng doesn’t have to be the Bulls’ go-to plow any longer. With Jimmy Butler‘s surge, the drafting of Tony Snell, and the Mike Dunleavy grab, the SF can fill up on Gatorade more than he does on IVs for the first time under Thibs. The Bulls are now afforded perhaps the league’s most flexible roster as they can play any which numbers of ways. They can play big with Taj at the 3, which won’t be the offensive drain it was in the past because the Bulls now boast plenty of options on the wings. That lineup would also allow Deng to rest. A Noah, Boozer, Dunleavy, Butler, Rose arrangement looks just as potent as a Noah, Boozer, Deng, Butler, Rose outfit which means Thibodeau can ease up on the team’s glueman for once. This will help his recently waning shooting percentages immensely.
Consensus: Will Benefit
I’m of the mindset that George and Lance should start with Granger and Copeland taking their spots off the bench. But it’s looking more like PG might be the starting SG. In either scenario, the lanky SF-SG is going to become a nightly triple-double specimen. At 6’8″ he’ll tower over most other shooting guards which should keep his scoring clip high while helping his wanting shooting percentages. With Granger drawing some defensive attention, he can cut to the basket for easy layups or dish it off to Hibbert, West, or Scola. It’ll be hunting season in the paint. With less pressure to be a do-it-all on the court, he can still use his versatility to score, rebound, assist, and steal to his liking. His paltry 16.84 PER should rise up to the 20.0 range in the process.
Consensus: Will Benefit
From Jarrett Jack to Toney Douglas. Curry already averaged 38.2 MPG last season, and that was with a candidate for 6th Man of the Year leading the charge behind him. We all saw that Curry had trouble not rolling his ankles in the playoffs and with more resting on them this coming season, doom might be waiting for the electrifying shooter.
Consensus: Will Not Benefit, Might Get Injured As A Result
Two things that will help Harden: Howard and Garcia. Howard will now share the spotlight with Harden in ways that Lin was expected to but never will. Garcia also proved himself as someone that McHale can trust in hairy situations. So, not only will Harden have someone to share targeted scouting reports with but also someone who can fill in the board behind him. His points might drop a tad but everything else will rise, especially his already ideal efficiency. He’ll end up with something like 24.1/6.7/5.3/2.0 on 48/40/85 shooting.
Consensus: PPG Won’t Benefit, Everything Else Will
Poor Stephen Curry. He and Jarrett Jack had a good thing going and now Irving will be the one who reaps from it. With one of the best 6th men in the game, Irving will feel the weight of saving the Cavs from precarious situations off his shoulders. Speaking of shoulders, having such a quality replacement will help Irving remain healthy so that injuries to his shoulders, jaw, thighs, pinkie fingers, eyebrows don’t keep him from the court.
Consensus: Will Benefit Lots
Wade has risen up to the occasion. After the Heat were forced to amnesty Mike Miller, he said that it would be up to him to make up the 3-point slack. That’s respectable, except that Wade has never been too good from the downtown mark. He can make a timely three but not over the course of a series or a season. Thing is, I don’t think that will refrain him from actually trying to force bad shots from deep. As the playoffs proved, Miami was simply better with him resting his crumbling knees. More shooting, and an ego that always operates in hero mode, will not do his body any good. Rest is his best weapon at this point.
Consensus: Will Not Benefit
This might be the season the Grizzlies look to utilize backup Ed Davis more. If that’s the case, Randolph might see a 3-5 minute dip in his MPG. Though he’s always played an old man’s game, Randolph has visibly looked more tired in the past year, as the playoffs revealed explicitly. Less minutes might not be too much of a bad thing as it’ll let the big man get some rest in time for the postseason.
Consensus: Will Benefit In Playoffs, Not Regular Season