To win an NBA title, apparently, you need your star player to clock in less than 3000 minutes a season, as the meaning of an NBA minute has changed over the years, becoming more physically taxing as time goes by, which might mean player like Kevin Durant or Kobe Bryant (who might not even make the postseason) need to take a rest before this season is over.
Durant has played more minutes than anyone else this season – 2980, averaging 38.7 per game. That’s second best in the NBA, sitting behind Luol Deng with 39.2, but no one is expecting the Chicago Bulls to win the title this season, and Deng has missed a few games due to injury, ranked 14th in the league when it comes to total minutes.
While reaching 3000 minutes in a 82 game season means a player need to be on the court an average of 36.58 minutes a game, if he doesn’t miss them. Some teams have the luxury of resting their star players, either by sitting them out completely during the final stretch of the season, like the Heat might do with LeBron James, who needs 217 minutes in the remaining six games to reach that dreaded 3000 number, which is highly unlikely.
Why 3000? Well, according to Henry Abbott , it’s been nine seasons since an NBA player logged over 3000 minutes during the regular season and managed to win the NBA title that year. The player? Ben Wallace with the Detroit Pistons in 2004, playing 3050 minutes (averaging 37.7). Since then, quite a few players passed that 3000 minutes mark only to fail. In the 2004-2005 season LeBron James led the NBA with 3388 minutes. He has played over 3000 minutes 7 times during his 10-year career. Last season, a shortened season, in which he averaged 37.5 minutes a night, the fewest of his career, he finally won the title.
It’s been done 96 times by 51 players since 2004, none of them finishing with the ring in the end, including James, Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard, Dirk Nowitzki, Dwyane Wade, Derrick Rose and Chris Paul. The theory that playing an NBA minute means more than it used to might have some merit after all. Good defenses these days are all about loading the strong-side box, which means a hell of a lot of scrambling. That style of defense has been growing in popularity and has evidently also been limiting the number of big scorers.
Coaches are adjusting, just like in baseball with pitch-counts being more and more strict than ever before. A decade ago, nine players averages 40 minutes or more per game. Only Monta Ellis has passed that mark in the last three years of NBA play. The Heat don’t have anyone who’ll reach 3000 minutes, the Thunder are going to end up with one and another coming very close. The San Antonio Spurs, another team many see as a major contender for the NBA title, don’t have a single player with over 2085 minutes played this season at the moment.