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The Greg Popovich Minutes Plan vs. The Tom Thibodeau Minutes Plan

Discussion in 'Houston Rockets: Game Action & Roster Moves' started by Carl Herrera, Aug 8, 2013.

  1. Carl Herrera

    Carl Herrera Contributing Member

    Feb 16, 2007
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    The Spurs are famous for limiting the minutes played by their main guys in recent seasons. At times, they would even rest healthy guys (drawing Stern's ire on one occasion). In 2012-13, no Spurs player played more than 2201 minutes or 32.9 minutes per game.

    The Rockets allocated minutes in a more conventional fashion-- represented by how Tom Thibodeau has handled minutes, i.e., play your regulars as many minutes as they can handle in order to maximize wins. The Rockets had two guys playing more than 36 mpg and 4 of its starters playing 2464 minutes or more for the year. A part of it is that HOU stayed remarkably healthy (knock on wood), with those 4 starters missing a combined 10 games all season. Another part of this is due to necessity, since the Rockets barely made the playoffs and doesn't really have the margin for error to rest its regulars (especially Asik and Harden) and experiment as the Spurs did. Of course, having a younger roster means that rest is less of a worry than it would be with multiple 30+ year-old stars.

    The situation is different now with Howard on board-- missing the playoffs should not be as much of a worry barring a catastrophic injury. However, getting a top 4 seed would likely require things to fire in all cylinders.

    Given this, should the team stick with the Tom Thibodeau Minutes Plan, so they can not only ensure making the playoffs but also get the higher seed possible, or should they go more toward the Popovich way and value getting into the playoffs with a healthy roster over seeding?

    I would personally lean toward the latter. Yes, the team is younger than the Spurs but you don't want to wear out young guys either if you can help it (Yao and McGrady were young when they got injured). Also, the Rockets should have enough depth to handle some of the lesser teams in the NBA even without one of its max stars. I would do this even if it means getting, say, the 6th seed rather than the 3rd or even 2nd seed. The 82 game season is a grind but success is more about winning in the post-season.
    3 people like this.
  2. tallanvor

    tallanvor Contributing Member

    Oct 9, 2007
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    Our playoff line-ups still need experience playing together. I would say for this season at least that we should implement the Tom Thibodeau strategy.
  3. A_3PO

    A_3PO Member

    Apr 29, 2006
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    The Spurs plan sounds nice in theory, but not all teams have a coach like Pop and 3 primary veterans with multiple championships. IMO, the only team besides the Spurs who should consider that course of action is the Heat.

    Everybody else needs to go out and try to win every game to develop an edge and create chemistry they can call upon in the playoffs. The Rockets have no business doing anything else.

    Of course, some old or injured players have to be nursed during the regular season. That's life in the NBA.
  4. saleem

    saleem Contributing Member

    Jan 1, 2001
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    TT minutes plan without any doubt. The Spurs model applies to a very mature and experienced squad. We are a new and young squad,who need to play with each other to achieve success. If we follow the GP Minutes plan,we will miss the playoffs.
  5. 13 in 33

    13 in 33 Member

    May 26, 2013
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    We wore our main guys out quite a bit last year, especially Harden and Parsons. At some points in the playoffs, you could tell Harden was a bit worn down.

    I believe our depth will allow Harden (38mpg) and Parsons (36mpg) to shave a few minutes a night in order to keep them fresher for the playoffs. This season, Harden should be able to get atleast 12 minutes of rest each night.

    The younger guys will be able to be counted on more during the regular season due to their offseason development. Our core should be much fresher for the playoffs this season.
  6. meh

    meh Contributing Member

    Jun 16, 2002
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    This thread should be renamed "Popovich's plan for SAS aging stars" vs. "Everyone else's plan in the history of the NBA including Pop running prime Duncan to the ground which prompted him to start his current plan in the first place."

    Which means that Howard probably gets some extra rest than in the past. While Harden probably go 35~38mpg easily.
  7. tburris872

    tburris872 Member

    Jan 25, 2009
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    Minutes plan

    During the grind of the season (back to back games, four games in five nights, etc...), the Rockets should rely on their bench more (balance out the need for wins against the need to keep wear & tear down on key players).
  8. just a word

    just a word Member

    Nov 14, 2012
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    "Given this, should the team stick with the Tom Thibodeau Minutes Plan, so they can not only ensure making the playoffs but also get the higher seed possible, or should they go more toward the Popovich way and value getting into the playoffs with a healthy roster over seeding?"


    Or in other words, play them like Thibs to gain chemistry, unless it's a b2b and then expand the rotation. ESPECIALLY during the 4 in 5's or that one 5 in 7 (wtf Stern).
  9. Roachiep

    Roachiep Member

    Jun 26, 2012
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    Honestly I don't think either plan works better than the other. The Spurs are obviously trying to prevent destroying their senior citizens to make another failed championship run with their over the hill stars. The thibodeaux way has its drawbacks with player exhaustion as well. Ultimately I don't think being bold or conservative with your players' minutes has much at all to do with injuries. TMAC and Yao both got injured early, late and often and neither were run into the ground with too many minutes. Injuries happen, constantly, and little can be done to prevent them no matter how much people pay attention to MPG or bench time or games where stars are rested when not injured.

    Its luck of the draw, or bad luck as it were with those players that get injured. Coaches have little to do with who gets injured and how.
  10. amazingskills

    amazingskills Member

    Jun 28, 2013
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    Tired Harden makes no Eurostep... 36mpg avg is max for him to play...whats the point in having him 40mpg if he wont be eurostepping and will be turnover prone...only fresh Harden is true Harden...
  11. Nubmonger

    Nubmonger Member

    Apr 17, 2013
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    Here are the actual numbers for the four starters last season.

    Omer Asik: 30.0 MPG (82 Games)
    Jeremy Lin: 32.2 MPG (82 Games)
    Chandler Parsons: 36.3 MPG (76 Games)
    James Harden: 38.3 MPG (78 Games)

    Both Asik and Lin didn't miss a single game last season. Suffice it to say that this probably won't be the case next season, as most players miss at least a few games a season due to injury or just plain needing rest.

    Parsons's minutes are a bit high but not crazy out of line with what you would expect for a primary player.

    Harden is the clear outlier here. Whether that's because McHale wanted to "ride" him for wins, didn't like any of the backups, or because Harden himself demanded it (likely a combination of all three), the end result is that Harden played way too many minutes. If you expect him to have enough energy to push through the playoffs, where you face incredibly focused defense and are expected to provide the same for your team, then he can't be playing this many minutes in the regular season or he will end up either injured or a shell of himself come crunch time.

    Lin was actually slightly limited in his minutes (most starters hover around 35 MPG), although averaging over 32 MPG is still pretty heavy time when you consider he did it for every single game of the year. He probably could have averaged about 35 MPG, but the slight decrease is probably due to a few factors from McHale: he seemed not to trust Lin's play (I think everyone can agree that Lin was benched at surprising times, including the 4th quarter of close games), possibly didn't want to overuse him after a major surgery, and also probably felt that the available backups were not as much of a drop-off in terms of production.

    For Lin & Harden, what you would hope to see next season is a reduction in Harden's minutes, with Lin taking up most of that slack. Then guys like Beverley and Brooks can split the remainder of those minutes. While this would be a small shift for Lin & the bench guards, over the course of a season it would be a huge benefit to Harden.

    The interesting fact is that Asik was limited to just 30 MPG. He probably could've played more minutes, but perhaps McHale wanted to keep him fresh since big men tend to tire more easily and are more prone to injury.

    The thing is, Dwight Howard averaged about 36.3 MPG and 77 Games over his 9 seasons, including his injured 2011-2012 season. Last season he actually played in 76 Games and averaged 35.8 MPG, so even though he didn't perform at peak level due to recuperation his endurance is definitely still there.

    If you just do a straight swap in positions with Howard and Asik, then the question becomes is McHale going to ride Howard like he did Harden, or is he going to limit Howard to the ~30 MPG we saw Asik receive?

    I would say that ideally we should see Howard "capped" at around 32 MPG, with the expectation that he will play more minutes in close games. That will probably keep his average around 35 MPG. With Asik anchoring the team while Howard sits, there is much less of a chance that the team will lose leads and force Howard to play additional unnecessary minutes.

    If you look at the roster, no one should be playing a ridiculous number of minutes. The team has significantly more depth than it did last year. The back court was never a problem, Garcia is an upgrade over Delfino as the primary backup for Parsons, and the Howard/Asik combination should ensure that opposing teams can't rally back just because the starting center is off the floor.

    The PF position is most likely going to be the same rotating cast we've seen, but hopefully one of those guys can step up and command at least 30 MPG over the course of the season. Last season we saw Delfino get a significant number of minutes at the 4, with the team ostensibly "going small". Honestly, that's just a bad idea over the long term. Even if you give Garcia all of Delfino's PF minutes, the team needs a real PF come playoff time. The candidates need enough playing time not just to sort out who the starter is going to be, but to give that player the time he needs to develop on the court. All that being said, the concern with this position is completely different than with the others - it's not overuse and injury that is going to be the problem.
  12. don grahamleone

    don grahamleone Contributing Member

    Aug 11, 2001
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    I lean towards the Spurs plan.
  13. Spacemoth

    Spacemoth Contributing Member

    Jul 30, 2007
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    As we have Asik, we need to do everything we can to maximize his utility while he's on our team. I don't want to see Dwight Howard averaging 30 minutes over the course of the first half of the year. We can run our guards all we like; they're young enough that I don't believe they'll wear out by playoff time. But our big men absolutely need to have their minutes rationed. I want a healthy hungry and angry Dwight Howard come May.
  14. WinkFan

    WinkFan Contributing Member

    Feb 12, 2002
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    Don't worry, Howard won't average 30 minutes, he'll average 34 minimum. If he averaged under 30, he'd be angry, all right. Angry at the Rockets.

    There was nothing wrong with our minutes last season. When Harden hits 30 years old, we can think about the Pop plan.
  15. Deckard

    Deckard Blade Runner
    Supporting Member

    Mar 28, 2002
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    It was pretty obvious to me that Harden was starting to run on fumes by the time we got to the playoffs. Had we locked in a spot early, I doubt that McHale would have played him as many minutes as he did in the latter part of the season. I don't want him to average over 36 minutes per game this year, not that I have any say in the matter. ;-)-

    So I want a combined plan, Mr. Herrera.
  16. PeppermintCandy

    Oct 25, 2009
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    I think it's not just about minutes played but also what the player is asked to do during those minutes.

    Harden for example carried the offensive load every time he was on the floor. If he were part of a more balanced attack, he might not be so worn out at the end of the season even if his minutes stayed around 38.

    Still, I would like to see his minutes slightly drop.
  17. jtr

    jtr Contributing Member

    Dec 4, 2011
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    Another exceptional thread Carl. I had been thinking about this issue for a while.

    A prime example I have used is allocation of minutes to Howard and Asik. The ideal allocation might be Howard 30 minutes and Asik 24 minutes, yielding 6 minutes of both Howard and Asik on the court together. That rotation has a high probability of delivering both Howard and Asik into the post season both injury free and rested.

    Every other position in the Rockets rotation could have a similar plan except SG. The Rockets lack any sub for Harden that can produce at even 60% of his level. And getting Harden into the playoffs well rested and healthy is certainly a primary concern. But with any luck the Rockets could have put away 50% of their games before the final 8 minutes next season, reducing the minutes necessary from Harden. I certainly would hope that the coaching staff reduces Hardens minutes to below 34.

    But it is impossible to forecast such intricate tactical coaching decisions next season. At this point I doubt that the Rockets organization has a firm idea of their minutes allocation position.
  18. CertifiedTroll

    Feb 1, 2012
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    From a spectators perspective, I think that it is fun to watch the bench guys play. So I wouldn't mind limiting the minutes of our starters.
  19. outlaw96

    outlaw96 Member

    Dec 10, 2011
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    Greg's strategy also maximizes playoffs seed. Spurs always are 1st or 2nd. It's not about how many minutes main players are playing but more on how they spend it and what effot they put into these minutes. 30 minutes of high energy basketball is much better than 40 minutes of basketball with the wrong attitude.
  20. dobro1229

    dobro1229 Contributing Member

    Feb 16, 2010
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    I definitely believe they should use a minutes restriction on Dwight, and maybe even Harden (although some people around here think he should play more because he's "out of shape" looking).

    The Rockets have other players that can step into larger roles offensively at times like Jeremy Lin & Parsons.

    Also the development of D-Mo & Jones could really lend itself useful to limiting the minutes of Dwight.

    Oh, and the Rockets still have Asik to use last time I checked who could step in and play larger minutes for Dwight for multiple games.

    The Rockets are a very deep team right now, and could get even deeper with a significant mid-season trade to bring in a 3rd all-star player. I am totally down with limiting Dwight's & Harden's wear and tear throughout the season, but with everyone else.... go full blown Tom Thibs... Those players wouldn't want it any other way.

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