The topic is managing player minutes, specifically Lowry, has come up a fair bit lately and has been met with some strong opposition.
To summarize the concern, Lowry is currently playing 35.8 MPG. That puts him 11th in MPG in the NBA. Of the top 20 players, Lowry is the 3rd oldest. Considering Lowry played fewer minutes last year and how his production fell off a cliff (in Feb he averaged half as many points as Dec and saw his assists drop from 8.9 to 5.3).
Now there are some folks who think this is nothing to worry about or that this is just more "Casey hate". Here are some examples of opposing posts from other threads:
"36 minutes isn't that crazy anyway. In the mid 2000s, top players were playing 40+mpg, looking back at 2005-06, 10 guys were playing more mpg than the league leader (Harden - 39.1) this year. And that was a time when iso-ball was even more utilized, and many of these guys were taking over 20 shots per game to generate offense for their teams (Kobe was all the way up at 27)."
"No one is in peak form after 82 games. Casey not the only one playing his best player 33+ minutes."
"All the elite PG in the league are playing around the same amount of minutes than Lowry. Why is Lowry the exception?"
"Why would I compare it to last year? When Lowry has totally changed his body and is in the best shape of his career?"
"Alternatively, the"brass" may feel that teaching what they must, getting the rotations sorted out, developing chemistry and piling up wins until March - when they might more confidently rest players - makes sense as well."
So is this really just Casey hate or is there actually strong evidence in the NBA that supports this concern?
Well, let's start at the source:
From Casey - credit to JimiCliff for the good find to share http://www.tsn.ca/off-season-weight-...lowry-1.408023
"We are trying to limit Kyle’s minutes," Casey said. "It’s very difficult in trying to do what we need to do. It depends on the guys behind him stepping up and doing their job so we don’t wear out DeMar and Kyle and our starting unit."
If this is Casey trying to limit Lowry's minutes, then I'd hate to see how many minutes Lowry would otherwise play. But this at least demonstrates that Casey has Lowry's minutes on his radar. Great to hear, but with a history of double speak, wont believe it until it's on the court.
Now, in the not so distant past, star logged heavy minutes (as noted in one of the opposing posts listed above). In fact, the 2005 season mentioned might have been the lynch pin season for the change in that trend. That season, the NBA's CBA changed the size of the roster from 12 players to 15, including 12 active on game day. From 98-2003, the NBA averaged 9.4 players who played 40+ mpg. But 2008/2009, that number dropped to 0.6 players (Mugsey Bogues?). With greater roster options available to coaches, more balanced minutes started to trend.
Miami Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra, "Coaches want to work in that depth to keep their players as fresh as possible for that stretch run."
Remember just 2 years ago when the Spurs won the title with no player averaging more than 30 MPG. During the Mavs 2011 title run (the reason we got Casey), only 3 players averaged over 30 MPG and none averaged 35 MPG. Good enough for Championship teams, why not us?
As Spoelstra says, it is about "peaking at the right time before the playoffs."
When you look at the current league leaders in MPG, Lowry is found between a 24 yr old Brandon Knight and a 22 yr old Anthony Davis. But by scrolling further down the list, you see examples like Al Horford, age 29, at 62nd in the league at 31.9 MPG. Bosh, Ellis, Gay, Howard are all in the 32 MPG range and Mike Conley, another 29 yr old PG that his team needs, is 68th at 31.4 MPG. Considering Horford and Conley don't have Lowry's burn out history, perhaps they could handle more but the teams are looking at the post season. Conley in the West should be more concerned about losing ground than the Raps in the east from sitting.
There have been opportunities for Lowry to play less. A 19 point win over New Orleans saw Lowry play 34 1/2 min. He shot 4 for 13 that night with just 5 assists. Surely that 19 point lead was safe with CoJo & Powell or CoJo & Wright in the back court for a few of those minutes?
Lowry played almost 37 mins in the 20 point loss to Miami. Another dud night where Lowry scored 15 points on 16 shots. Surely CoJo could have bumped up from 23 mp? Or Wright could have gotten more than 2 1/2 mins?
Both of these seem like minor things I'm sure, but over the course of a season, these things add up. Rest and recovery are hard to come by when playing 35+ and travelling. Factor in the age recovery impediment, and you should start to see the concerns piling higher.
The benefit to the additional rest to stars is two fold, less wear on your stars keeps them fresher longer into the season, but also allows players deeper on the bench to develop, increasing the overall talent of the team.
"Coaches are smarter to the extent that they're using their entire roster of players, and not only that, developing them," said former Chicago Bulls player and head coach Bill Cartwright. "To me, that's the biggest advantage of any championship team—that your bench is fully developed, your bench is making a contribution."
After a Thunder win earlier this season, where the bench played a pivotal role in the win, Durant said:
“You have to let them go through some adversity and let them work through it. That’s what great coaches do. He let them fight through it. It’s easier if you just put your starters back in to try to get the lead back, but that doesn’t help them. He stuck with them and it proved to be right for us. They came out and did a tremendous job for us late in the second quarter and the rest of the game.”
Getting those players involved early in the season allows them be develop faster but also feel much more a part of the team. When those players are needed in March, would it not be better to know that they have gotten experience in Nov/Dec first?
There is also the Casey double standard when it comes to minutes. Jonas Valanciunas is currently averaging just 27 MPG. In the 13 full games that JV played before his injury, he played less than 30 mins in 8 of them and topped at just 33 MP. KL has played less than JV's season high 3 times (despite nearly double the games played). DD twice. Carroll 4 times. When JV reaches the 30 mp mark, he is averaging 14.6 PPG and 10.6 RPG on 58% FG% and 64% TS%. Sure a few less Lowry and a little more CoJo/JV wouldn't cost this team it's playoff chances?
So call me a Casey hater if you must, but when the league trends towards resting stars, some of the best coaches make a point to incorporate it and you have a star with a history of burn out; surely this registers as legitimate concern.