Friday, December 16, 2011

stomach aches

(this post brought to you by the only band full of people that never made it that finally made it.)

last night, among all the josh howard / andrei kirilenko chatter, prolific jazz tweeter clintonite33 mentioned that J-Ho isn't much of a security blanket if you're talking about injuries as compared to AK.  just last year, howard only played in 57 games while The Russian Back Tattoo played in 68.

jazz fans are, i think, pretty spoiled by their history when it comes to resilient players.  after all, the mailman had ten seasons with the jazz where he didn't miss a single game, and another seven where he missed two or less.  with all the complaining that we hear from SLC about players missing too many games, i thought it would be interesting to see how many games players are actually missing.

to make it more interesting (and to avoid my data being skewed by DNP-CD guys), i only compared the number of games played by each team's top six players.  the top six players were selected by the number of minutes each played throughout the entire 2010-2011 season, and placed within a team based on where the player was under contract at the close of the regular season.  for example, deron williams' numbers are based on his entire season's play, and is listed as a nets player rather than a jazz player.

the relevant information is entered into an excel spreadsheet, which is linked below.  all info was gathered from Basketball Reference.  the categories of data are as follows (auto-calculate equations in parentheses):

  • Games Played:  the number of games the player actually played in during the season.
  • Games Missed:  the number of games the player did not appear in (82 games minus Games Played).
  • Games Started:  the number of games the player started.
  • MPG:  the number of active playing time minutes the player averaged per game.
for each team, the top six players have their stats averaged; each category of stat was summed and divided by six.  so, the jazz's top six players averaged just over 73 games played last year, or almost missing 9 games each to injury (AK's missing 14 games--five more than the rest of the best guys--isn't so far removed from the mean here).

further, each team's top-six-players-average stats is has been averaged in with rest of the team's division (each division has its own tab), each division averaged against the rest of the conference, and a league-wide average is available as well.  finally, note that the first tab on the spreadsheet only refers to teams that made the playoffs last year; each conference's playoff teams have been averaged together as well.

the link to the spreadsheet is here.

this is a lot of data, but answering the question as to whether AK is a big wuss compared to the rest of the league is pretty easy.  on the "TOTAL" tab, note that the league-wide average for top players missing games due to injury is 10.383 games missed.  kirilenko is a little softer than the the average, having missed 14 games (but still in a much better spot than josh howard).  compared to the eastern conference only (13.233 games missed per season), AK's not looking too shabby.

while it's nice to know that andrei is a softie in the west but an average miss-16-percent-of-my-games guy in the east, the rest of the numbers here provide some interesting points.

note on the "Playoff Teams" tab that only three teams averaged higher than 10 missed games per season from their top six players.  chicago had a tough season with noah, boozer, and thomas all missing a bunch of games, but the heat and dallas each have a wild outlier in haslem and butler, respectively.  taking haslem out of the heat's equation and only looking at the remaining 5 players, MIA's numbers move to only 5.6 games missed per season.  similarly, if you drop butler from dallas' numbers, the team's average drops to 4.2 games missed per each of the remaining 5 players.  excluding the lakers' freak show of invincible players, that 4.2 number for dallas would easily be good enough for best in the post-season.  it's little wonder, from this perspective, that they were able to put together a championship run, as the best players on the team didn't have to fiddle with alternate line-ups all season.

also interesting to consider that, in what is arguably the last year of the recent era of the west having generally better teams than the east, the western conference has a slight advantage in top-six players being available per game, 73.044 to 68.767.  and, within the western conference, the division with the best star-availability sent the most teams to the playoffs: the southwest division's top-six players missed an average of only 7.533 games all year, easily the lowest in the league, and sent four teams (DAL, NOH, MEM, SAS) to the post season.

something that i found strange was that, excluding CHI, MIA, and DAL's above-ten-games departure from the other playoff teams, having a healthy core that missed under 10 games a year didn't necessarily translate to making the playoffs (or even being on the cusp of making them).  the jazz, for example, averaged only 8.333 missed games per player, the same number as portland, yet finished 11th in the west.  detroit's squad averaged a missed 9.167 games and didn't make it out of the regular season.  golden state's guys missed 7.333 games each, and phoenix--old as balls, nash/hill/carter phoenix--led the league in available talent at only 4.167 games missed yet neither of the pacific division teams earned a playoff berth.

on the other side of the coin, missing a bunch of games from your core was pretty much a guarantee that your team was going to enjoy a lengthy summer break.  toronto, whose dismal record was bested only by sad, sad cleveland, missed an average of 30.333 games per each of the squad's heaviest hitters.  the closest western conference number to approach the raptors part-time team was the clippers, with 18 games missed by each of the team's best (impressive, considering that blake griffen played all 82 games), which was enough to earn them dead last in the pacific division, and ahead of only SAC and MIN in the west.

the last thing that struck me up front is most apparent on the "Playoff Teams" tab.  dallas, while en route to their championship, leaned heavier on its bench for minutes than any other playoff team.  this is apparent from the "games started" column; dallas's top six (by minutes played) guys only started 48.833 games each during the regular season, the lowest average number of games started by any playoff squad.  the number is also good enough for second most bench-reliant starpower in the west, behind only sacramento.  whether or not this is something actually worth noting is beyond my limited analytics skillset, but it does seem interesting.

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