INSIDER – Who are they playing against

A hot debate in the Jazz fan community right now is how to equate the minutes the starters are playings (and most often being outscored) and those the bench are playing (and most often outscoring the opponents).

One theory is that if you flipped the groups around you would end up with the same exact outcome. Our Jazz team is currently constructed of a group of non all-stars that are very equal 1-13 so when they play a Hall of Fame or All-star laden starting line-up they struggle but the bench is very deep so it has success.

The other is the bench players would do much better than our current starters.

At the Sports Nation site SLC Dunk Amar did terrific work this week delving into what percentage of minutes each player is playing against the other team’s starters contrasting to the other team’s bench players.

The results were our starters are playing about 76% of their minutes against other teams starters. Gordon Hayward is playing about 50/50% in 25 minutes, Favors and Burks have been playing about 40% v. Starters in their 20 minutes and Kanter is at 33% v. Starters in his 15 minutes.

This was terrific work by Amar.

Let’s take the next step and put this into actual play.
Jazz starters play 25 minutes a night v. other starters and 8 minutes a night v. Reserves. Hayward is 12.5 of each, whereas Favors and Burks play 9 minutes v. Starters and 11 v. reserves. Finally, Tyrone Corbin has been very careful to protect 20 year old Enes Kanter and he is playing just 5 minutes v. starters and 10 v. reserves.

What jumps out to me from Amar’s work is what an enormous jump of competition it is to be a starter.
If Favors were to start he is moving from 9 minutes a night v. front level guys to 25 a night and even Hayward goes from 12 to 25. Favors is undertaking 3 times as many minutes against the best talent.

What Kanter is doing tonight, thankfully v. the Bobcats, if he starts is even more stunning. Kanter will move from 5 minutes a night to 25 minutes against front line players.

Looking at this gives me two different conclusions. First, comparing starters performance to bench players performance are apples and oranges. On the other hand, a team better start its best players to handle the difference in talent a team is facing throughout the game.