Last week, Henry Abbott at Truehoop wrote a post about playing time for rookies. The link is here and it is definitely worth reading. Abbott’s main point was that Marcus Thornton and Darren Collison, in addition to being talented players, have had the advantage of being offered large amounts of playing time in their rookie seasons. Although they are undoubtedly skilled and deserve to be on the court; he wonders how many other equally talented late draft picks could offer similar production if they had the same advantages of playing time.
It is not a perfect answer to this question; but one way to gather more information about this scenario would be to look at the production of this year’s rookies per 40 minutes. By looking at at each rookie’s statistics through this lense we can eliminate some of the distortion created by playing time opportunities, which some players have and others don’t.
I understand there are still some flaws with this method. The role of a starter will be different from that of a player getting 10 minutes off the bench. Each player will be expected to utilize different abilities in their times on the court. For example, Wesley Matthews is a starter in Utah and averages 24.7 minutes per game. As a starter his role is to play effective team defense and work off of Deron Williams and Carlos Boozer as a spot up shooter. Marcus Thornton come off the bench in New Orleans and averages 25.7 minutes per game. Thornton’s role, coming off the bench, is to provide instant offense. He is expected to shoot, and to shoot a lot. Consequently, their per minute scoring stats are going to vary greatly, not because of ability but because of their role on the team. Analytical flaws aside, here are the top ten rookies in Pts/40 and then Pts/game.
The lists are similar, but there are a few things that jump off the page. Rodrigue Beaubois played short minutes in the first half the year, but obviously has scored a ton whenever he has been on the floor. With his performance in the second half of the season he is looking like a tremendous steal. As a Pacers fan, I was really excited to see Hansborough and Price on this list. I haven’t seen a lot of Sam Young and Memphis this year, but maybe he deserves some extra minutes.
Here are the lists for Reb/40, Ast/40, Stl/40, Blk/40 and TO/40:
There are some names and numbers on here that won’t surprise anyone. There are also some players whose above average production has not gotten national press, but is probably well known to fans of their respective teams. In support of Abbott’s argument, there are several players who have per minute numbers higher than what would have been expected. Many of these players have benefited from roster situations where they were asked to play more minutes than their coaching staffs envisioned at the beginning of the season. I am referring to players like Jeff Pendergraph and Dante Cunningham, who were asked to fill a lot of minutes in Portland due to their numerous frontcourt injuries. Taj Gibson would fit this mold as well, becoming a starter because Tyrus Thomas is a bridge-burning moron.
When it comes to discussions of productive rookies, I would love to see an increase in the amount of information analyzed. Pts/game, Reb/game and Ast/game are all appropriate stats to be considered. But so are per minute stats, PER, win shares, wins-losses, efficiency differentials and an overall analysis of the team situation of which a rookie has been a part. The data is all there, let’s use it!