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I have been trying to find a way to visually gauge how the minute distribution between players is evolving over the course of the season. It is too easy to take things out of context, as in last night thinking “wow C.J. Miles minutes are really declining…” In fact, they had been fairly steady until last night, so it might be a little early to be making conclusions like that. Also, with this shortened season, I have become convinced that Ty Corbin has a plan to win the war of attrition by spreading out his minutes a lot more than most teams. The numbers don’t necessarily indicate that so far however, especially with regards to Al Jefferson.

I had to split these up somewhat because there are only so many line graphs you can put on one plot and still be able to make any sense of them. I decided to follow the ‘Point Guard—Wing—Big’ model that I have heard David Locke say a few times (not really sure who deserves the ultimate credit for coming up with it). While some players are capable of playing multiple positions, as in playing the 3 or the 4, I kept it simple and assumed that for the most part there are ‘Bigs’ on our team and ‘Wings’ on our team and they are competing within in their only player class for minutes.
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Figure 1. Point Guards

The point guard situation is definitely the clearest, and least surprising. Jamaal Tinsley is obviously our third point guard on the roster and should expect very little outside of garbage time and a lot of DNP-CD’s unless Devin or Earl get hurt. I can’t imagine anyone (including Tinsley) is terribly shocked by this.

What I do find interesting is that, despite who is in the starting lineup, the distribution of minutes would indicate that Earl Watson and Devin Harris are getting an equal share of the minutes more or less. It will be fascinating to see if this is how Ty plans on doing it all year long to keep them both fresh, or if there is a legitimate competition right now for the role as our primary point guard. I would say more than a few people out there (and possibly right here) would argue Earl is the better man for the job, but who knows.
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Figure 2. Wings

The first thing that pops out to me is Alec Burks. It would seem that, small sample size notwithstanding, he has played himself right into the rotation. And despite some poor shooting, his uncanny ability to get to the line is going to keep him there.

The second thing that pops out to me is Raja Bell. Throw out the Laker game and his minutes are about as regular as a high-fiber diet (which, by the way, is highly recommended by your doctor!). What’s not shown here, but can be seen if you look at the minute distribution provided by popcornmachine.net, is that he is starting both halves, playing about nine minutes, and then sitting. It’s a very strange and unusual rotation to say the least. He did finally have a good game last night, so I would not be shocked if Raja remains a solid 18 minute guy for a little while longer

Beyond that there are more questions than answers. Is C.J. really on the downswing, or was last night just one game? I will be definitely be watching to see if he gets more run tonight on the back end of a back-to-back. What about Josh Howard? He has been playing solid, despite being somewhat of a ball-hog. He knows how to get to the line and it’s easy to see why he is being trusted to close out games. Hayward has been in his own little shooting slump, but I have liked what he has shown as far as perseverance, especially last night when he got thoroughly boned by some bad calls (Note to the refs: if both of the defenders feet are off the ground, it’s not a charge!).

What I can say with some confidence, despite my severe amateurism, is that you cannot have 5 wing players all regularly in the rotation all year long, even with the compressed schedule. Sooner than later, one or two of these guys are going to become to the odd-man (men?) out. But who? (hint, I think C.J. Miles is still the most likely candidate!).

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Figure 3. Bigs

Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap are your primary bigs. That is neither surprising, nor up for debate. Derrick Favors is clearly your third big. Kanter is (and hopefully continues) getting a solid bit of run at 12ish minutes a game. For a rookie on a Jerry Sloan (or Jerry Sloan protégé) coached team, that is far more than one can expect. And our beloved Jeremy Evans has become the odd man out…

It’s tough to see where this is heading. I was surprised that Al and sometimes Paul are getting 35 minutes a game. I don’t really see how they can continue to do this in a short season and not get worn out when we are playing more often than every other night. I’m sure Ty is aware of this, however, as I’m willing to bet he knows more about basketball than I do, so we will see where this goes. I don’t see how Jeremy Evans is ever going to get playing time as long as we have the four bigs ahead of him that we do, which is sad. I personally believe that given the opportunity he could become a solid rotation guy. He can do more than alley-oop it, believe or not. I do like Al, but if we traded him, and ended up with a bigs rotation of Favors/Millsap, with Kanter as our third big and Evans getting 10 minutes a game, it would be hard to be unhappy about that.