Talented big men are a rarity in the NBA. In fact, so far this season if we look for players that play primarily at power forward or center and have a WP48 of 0.200 or greater (twice as good as an average player) we only find twenty such players.
Something that may not immediately stand out is that a few of these players are getting a surprisingly small number of minutes per game.
|Gustavo Ayon||New Orleans Hornets||18.2||0.249|
|Kenneth Faried||Denver Nuggets||17.0||0.350|
|Kosta Koufos||Denver Nuggets||15.7||0.218|
|Chris Andersen||Denver Nuggets||15.0||0.275|
|Brandan Wright||Dallas Mavericks||13.2||0.251|
If you’re a Nuggets fan then that list should make you very upset. Especially when we consider the following:
When we look at our underplayed bigs there are a few simple explanations:
There is an anti-rookie bias in the NBA. Ayon and Faried are both first year players. While it is true that young players do not tend to do as well as older players in the NBA — players hit their peak around 26 — this should not be used in lieu of actual on-court performance. Happily, Ayon has seen a boost in his minutes. Surprisingly though, George Karl is still keeping Faried limited.
Nene, Chris Kaman, Emeka Okafor and Dirk Nowitzki are all highly paid players, who also happen to play on the same teams as our underplayed players. Additionally, Kaman, Okafor and Nowitzki have all won NBA honors (either All-Star appearances or various awards) Nene and Okafor have both been very good players, even as recently as last year. They’re having off seasons, but it is understandable why they are getting the nod. Dirk and Kaman though, are far removed from their best seasons. Their reputations are what is getting them more minutes than more deserving players. That’s unfortunate as their teams have some power on the bench that could definitely help.
Even going over these biases though, I still can’t really give Karl any wiggle room. Instead of playing Koufos, Andersen and Faried he is playing Harrington and Mozgov! Harrington has never been a good player and Mozgov is young and inexperienced as well. Even accounting for biases in coaching decisions Karl is still managing to play the wrong players. Last night Faried only played 17 minutes. Here was his performance though:
- 0.38 Wins Produced
- 1.041 WP48
- 6-6 from the field, 1-2 from the line
- 10 rebounds, 7 offensive rebounds
- 1 turnover, 1 steal
- 2 personal fouls
That stat line is insane! Equally insane is that he did it in less than 20 minutes played. I’m hopeful this will be enough of a slap in the head to make George Karl realize that in addition to starting the game, Faried might be worthy of starters’ minutes. Of course, given his track record, I’m not optimistic.