Because of a lockout this year there will be an unusually packed schedule in the NBA which undoubtedly contributed to a theory that we are going to see more injuries this season. Don’t get me wrong, I think this idea sounds plausible because… well, I know how I feel after playing basketball too often in short period (muscle injury or ligament tear waiting to happen). But could it be also a reason why we overrate this issue? I’m not an athlete and I don’t usually play any back-to-backs so maybe that’s why I feel this way when I do…
Beside this point, have you ever wondered do players miss more games now than they used to?
Which teams’ players missed the most and least games in the last decade?
Well, I have so here’s how I tackled those topics:
I considered counting injuries at prosportstransactions.com but there’s one huge problem with this approach:
5 or even 10 day-to-day injuries are usually less significant than one semi-serious knee injury because of time needed for healing and rehabilitation. So why not try to measure the main effect of injuries which is missed games? That’s exactly what I’ve tried to accomplish. I downloaded data from last 20 seasons from dougstats.com, then in each season I sorted it by team’s name and then by players’ minutes per game.
I deleted all players who were 7th or lower on their own team and counted how many games such group played versus how many games they would have played given full 82 games schedule [or 50 in 1998-99].
My rationale here is “let’s count starters and 6th man, the rest doesn’t matter”.
In other words, for players considered the most important by their own teams what percentage of available regular season games did they miss?
Unfortunately it’s not a perfect tool, for example it totally ignores tanking or players who missed entire season because they were injured in the offseason, so if you have a better idea let me know in the comments.
With all that in mind here are the results:
|GP by Top6||11917||11817||11826||11503||12333||12474||12346||7682||12499||12318|
|# of Teams||27||27||27||27||29||29||29||29||29||29|
|% of total Minutes||70,65||69,36||69,73||68,79||69,24||70,96||68,79||68,98||68,00||68,53|
|% of Games Missed||10,29||11,04||10,98||13,41||13,56||12,57||13,47||11,70||12,40||13,67|
|GP by Top6||12094||12924||12411||12538||12794||12599||12803||12598||12769||12862|
|# of Teams||29||29||29||30||30||30||30||30||30||30|
|% of total Minutes||67,49||71,09||69,25||67,15||69,15||67,58||68,37||68,17||67,94||67,18|
|% of Games Missed||15,24||9,42||13,02||15,05||13,32||14,64||13,26||14,65||13,49||12,86|
… and as a graph…
IMHO we can spot four interesting points here:
1) Previous shortened season was one of the healthiest in the last 2 decades!
After I collected my jaw from the floor I have no comment on that other than the fact that it could mean nothing and puts more pressure to find some evidence that injuries were more common during that year.
2) Accidentally I’ve measured the effect of… league’s policy on suspensions!
Because when you compare this graph to changes in NBA rules you will notice that after playoffs in 1993 NBA added many rules regarding suspensions for fighting or hard fouls and the same thing happened after “The Malice at the Palace” in 2004 [BTW, spike in 2004-05 is an effect of suspensions to Artest, Jermaine and Jackson]. So whenever we have no idea if it helped to prevent fighting on the court it most definitely kept some players from playing…
3) What the hell happened between 2001 and 2003?
I re-checked it two times using different source for data [basketballreference.com and basketball-reference.com] but results were pretty much unchanged so I have no other explanation for it other than the most obvious one: it seems that the most lucky and the most unlucky year happened back to back.
In 2001-02 list of long absences was… long: Ratliff played in only 3 games, McDyess in 10, Grant Hill in 14, Camby in 29, Odom in 29, Terrell Brandon in 32 and Mashburn in 40 while during next season only 7 guys played in less than 50 games and only one below 35 games.
Am I missing something here or was it pure randomness at it’s best?
4) Outside of point 3) I’m shocked how consistent it is.
Standard deviation for last 18 seasons is around 2 and a half missed seasons. If we exclude 2001-03 it’s only 1 and a half season for around 180 players! I was expecting a lot more than that…
Anyway, if you are missing fun in this post here’s something to cheer you up… according to method with percentage of missed games the most lucky and unlucky teams in the last 10 years were…
|Team||% of Missed Games by Top6 in Minutes Played per Game||Team||% of Missed Games by Top6 in Minutes Played per Game|
Suns’ medical staff is legendary at this point… and it may be justified.
Pistons were shockingly healthy during their run of consecutive conference finals appearances.
On the other hand we have Pacers [mostly thanks to the brawl], Clippers [notorious tankers] and Wizards [mostly due to Arenas but Haywood and Caron also contributed].
One last note, is it a coincidence that good teams were healthy and bad ones weren’t?
And if not what is the cause and what is the effect there?
UPDATE per Will Carroll’s suggestion:
|Team||% missed||Team||% missed||Team||% missed||Team||% missed||Avg|
So according to this method…
Top7 was [in that order]: Jazz, Pistons, Sonics/Thunder, Spurs, Blazers, Bucks and Suns.
Bottom7 was [in that order]: Wizards/Bullets, Warriors, Clippers, Heat, Mavs, Raptors and Rockets.
I’m not sure what to make of this, should we credit Stockton’s and Malone’s longevity to them or to their medical staff or to both? Although it’s is eye-catching how terrible Wizards/Bullets were in this regard, in all 5-year slices they were at least below average!