A little respect for coaches and PT

ND at the Team Rebound blog has done a fascinating job of following up my examination of the workload of top players on title teams.

I noted that top players who play huge minutes used to win titles, but stopped seven years ago.

Related: LeBron James last year, who played a ton of minutes in the regular season (3,063) and then led the league in playoff minutes (922) fizzled at the end of the Finals. Not since Ben Wallace in 2004 has any player passed 3,000 minutes in a season and finished in a title. Before 2004, however, it happened all the time.

ND gets a gold star for doing what I did not, which is actually looking at the playoff performance of top players on title teams who play long minutes. Do their performances decline? Looking at PER, the answer is not so much: "For every Dirk Nowitzki 2005 (-6.00) there was a ... Dirk Nowitzki 2010 (+5.40)."

You should really read the whole post. It's nicely written, convincing, and ends like this:

It is true that teams whose stars play over 3000 minutes in a regular season do not win championships, at least during the last 7 years. But since those players' heavy workloads do not translate into a reduction in playoff performance relative to their lower minute peers, it is difficult to conclude that the stars' heavy minutes cause their teams to lose in the playoffs. Instead, perhaps the conclusion should be that the much- derided coaches are capable of identifying players that can handle long regular season minutes without a dropoff in playoff performance.

I feel there's still more to this worth understanding. It does seem odd that just when the NBA became a game with a lot more movement, players who put in long minutes stopped winning titles. I don't propose to understand precisely what that dynamic is, but it doesn't feel random. Nor does it seem smart for coaches to play their top players more than minutes than others have been able to make work.

I'm interested in hearing from anyone with thoughts.