In baseball, inning limits have become all the rage. Teams are treating young pitchers like they're made of glass, the underlying theory being too many innings too early in a career leads to a higher likelihood of serious injury. Today, we aren't going to debate the trend in baseball, that's a long discussion for another blog. Instead, let's see if there's a correlation between minutes played early in a career and injuries later on.
When the Celtics traded for Kevin Garnett, my snarky response centered around the 35,000+ minutes Garnett had played in the league. Basically, he was much older than the 30 years his birth certificate promised. I predicted a very narrow window opening and closing for Boston due to Garnett's heavy workload. I also said there was no way they'd win the championship in 07-08, among other things, but let's focus on my Garnett comments.
In particular, I want to see what kind of company Andre Iguodala is in. Over his first five seasons, Iguodala has logged 15,345 minutes. Now, let's run some comps.
In the past 10 years, here are the players who have logged over 15,000 minutes in their first five seasons:
- LeBron James
- Andre Iguodala
That's it. Let's expand it to 20 years. Here are the new additions to the list.
- David Robinson
- Latrell Sprewell
- Vin Baker
Still too small of a sample size. When we push it to 30 years, these names are added.
And 40 years...
- Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
- Bob McAdoo
- Sidney Wicks
- Dave Cowens
- Norm Nixon
Here's a look at the longevity of each of these players' careers.
- Never really slowed down. Played 57,000+ minutes in a 20-year career.
- Fell off a cliff after his 7th year.
- Still going strong after year 6.
- Serious injury after year 7. Changed his game at that point and remained productive through year 12.
- Remained healthy and productive through year 9. Career lasted 13 years. Missed more than 20 games three of his last four seasons.
- Career lasted 10 seasons, below-average player for the final 5.
- He remained durable throughout his career, only missing significant time for strangling his coach. His productivity fell off after his 10th season.
- He hung around for 8 more seasons, but was never the same after his fifth. Conditioning and off-court problems ruined his career.
- Career lasted 10 seasons, with a brief comeback a couple of years later. 4 of his final 5 seasons were ineffective and injury-plagued.
- 10 seasons in the league, his final two were injury-plagued, his final 5 were pretty ineffective.
- 17 year career, only the final two were cut short. Good longevity, and solid production into his mid-thirties.
Honestly, there isn't enough data here to point to any kind of a trend. It's pretty amazing that only 11 other players have logged as many minutes as Iguodala in their first five seasons, but that probably says more about the league than anything else. It's not easy to make the jump from college, or high school, to the pros. Plenty of guys have started from day one, but not many have been able to log heavy minutes right from day one.
Here's an alternative comp, guys who have logged 15,000+ minutes by their age 25 season.
- LeBron James
- Tracy McGrady (missed 109 games over the next 4 seasons)
- Kobe Bryant
- Adrian Dantley (missed over 20 games in 4 of his final 8 seasons)
- Shaquille O'Neal
- Bob McAdoo
- Carmelo Anthony
- Stephon Marbury (one more productive season, followed by nothing but injuries and lunacy)
- Kevin Garnett (durable through age 31)
- Isiah Thomas (began to break down after age 29 season)
- Gilbert Arenas (played a total of 15 games in age 26 and age 27 seasons, combined)
- Shareef Abdur-Rahim (massive injury problems after age 27 season)
- Antoine Walker (durable through age 30 season, out of the league at 31)
- Dirk Nowitzki
- Elton Brand (missed 127 games combined in age 28 and 29 seasons)
- Tony Parker (injuries starting to pile up at age 26)
- Chris Bosh
- Cliff Robinson (done at 28)
- Magic Johnson (durable pre-HIV)
- Rashard Lewis (missed 22 games in age 27 season, otherwise durable)
- Joe Johnson
- Buck Williams
- Mike Bibby (major injury in age 29 season, otherwise durable)
- Andre Iguodala
That list is a bit dire. Only a handful of players on that list played into their thirties at a high level without serious injuries. The jury is still out on LeBron, Rashard, Kobe, Carmelo, Bosh, Dirk and a couple of others.
Obviously, I'm not saying we have to hold our breath with Iguodala. He's one of the best-conditioned players in the league and has been since his rookie season. Personally, I feel it's a huge benefit to the team that he can go out there and play 40+ minutes whenever it's needed. At the same time, if we want to see Iguodala in a Sixers uniform beyond his current contract, playing at this level or beyond, it would make a lot of sense to find a way to lessen his workload.