Earlier today I wrote that I thought Portland's starters might be tiring at this point of the season and it sparked a look at some data on the subject. As of this morning, only three NBA players had logged more minutes on the court this season than Damian Lillard and Nic Batum. Yes, I know -- you already knew those guys were logging heavy duty. And there's good reason, too -- the bench is not providing a whole lot of firepower.
But consider this, too -- if you really want to be an NBA superstar, playing a lot comes with the territory. If you're good, your team wants you on the floor. And you better get used to it. Journeymen don't play 40 minutes a game, valuable players do.
The three players ahead of Lillard (1,963 minutes) and Batum (1,942)?
- Kobe Bryant, LAL, 1,998
- James Harden, Hou, 1,987
- Kevin Durant, OKC, 1,977
And while Batum and Lillard have never had a season of basketball during which they've played this much, the takeaway for them from this is simple: this is the way it's going to be for you. Are they as good at this point as the all-stars ahead of them on this list? Nope, at least not yet. But you could also make a case that they're as important to the success of their team as that trio. And when you're making the big bucks and you're essential to your team's success, you're going to be on the floor a good deal of the time.
Those minutes, by the way, are total minutes -- so players who have been healthy or whose teams have played more games rank higher than if this were done with per-game averages. Here's how it breaks down if done in a per-game manner:
- Luol Deng, Chicago 39.7
- Nic Batum, Portland 38.8
- Kevin Durant, OKC 38.8
- Jrue Holiday, Phi 38.5
- Damian Lillard, Portland 38.5
- LeBron James, Mia 38.4
- Kobe Bryant, LAL 38.4
- LaMarcus Aldridge, Portland 38.2
Lillard is carrying an incredible workload for a rookie. The next-highest first-year man in the minutes-per-game rankings is Washington's Bradley Beal, who is 86th, at 30.7 per game. Would it be fair to say that Lillard's 1-for-16 field-goal shooting Sunday might have been due to some fatigue? Well, I'm not sure that's true, but I think it's a fair thing to say. He's approaching two full college seasons worth of games that area coming at him in rapid fashion.
Again, young fella, get used to it.