Home Unfiltered Articles Players Baseball Prospectus
Basketball Prospectus home
Click here to log in Click here for forgotten password Click here to subscribe

Click here for Important Basketball Prospectus Premium Information!

<< Previous Article
Premium Article Starting Over (04/19)
Next Article >>
Premium Article Emegergence (04/20)

April 19, 2012
Phoenix Health
Suns Lead Injury Standings

by Kevin Pelton

Printer-
friendly
Contact
Author

In analyzing why the Phoenix Suns have exceeded expectations by staying in the playoff race through the season's final week, the training room is a good place to start. There's likely to be plenty of room, because the Suns are enjoying one of the healthiest seasons in NBA history. Combined, the entire Phoenix roster has missed just 18 games to injury all year. That's fewer than 55 different players in the league have missed all by themselves.

During a compact schedule that has tested depth around the league, Alvin Gentry has had the luxury of relying on a full complement of players nearly every night. The impact of the Suns' terrific health has been crucial to the playoff race. Consider that Phoenix has lost just 521 player minutes (calculated by multiplying minutes per game when healthy by games missed) compared to the league average of 2,245. That's an average of 28.7 minutes per game the Suns haven't had to call on deep reserves rather than rotation players.

From a bottom-line standpoint, Phoenix has lost just 0.3 Wins Above Replacement Player to injuries. That's not the league's best mark because some teams (including the New Jersey Nets, who have lost more games and minutes to injury than anyone else in the NBA) have actually benefited in some sense from having below-replacement players sidelined. Still, it's 2.5 WARP below league average. In a tight battle for the last seed in the Western Conference, those two and a half games count. (The Houston Rockets, for example, have lost 2.8 WARP to injuries, right at league average.)

Ordinarily, such health tends to be the result of good fortune as much as anything done by the team itself. The correlation between games lost to injury and illness by teams in 2010-11 and this season is less than 0.1, indicating that there's little predictable relationship from year-to-year. The Suns are the exception to this rule. Over the three years for which I have complete injury data (previously compiled for Basketball Prospectus by volunteers Dirk van Duym and Joe Dombrowski last summer), Phoenix has lost a total of 189 games to injury. Only one other team, the Philadelphia 76ers, has lost fewer than 250. The Suns are also the only team that has ranked in the league's top 10 in fewest games lost each of the last three years.

Here's a summary of the team-by-team data for the last three years, along with ranking in games lost for each season individually.

Team            Gms Rk     Min Rk   Wins Rk   10   11   12
----------------------------------------------------------
Phoenix         189  1    3138  1    3.2  3    5    9    1
Philadelphia    206  2    4181  2    6.6 10   13    1    2
Atlanta         226  3    5330  7    8.4 17    1    4   26
San Antonio     251  4    5013  5   10.4 19    6    7   12
Oklahoma City   268  5    4365  3    1.7  2   12    3   16
Orlando         268  5    4790  4    8.0 16    3   22    3
Miami           291  7    6040  8    7.3 12    4   17    7
Chicago         313  8    7057 10   15.3 24   23    6   14
L.A. Lakers     323  9    5138  6   10.8 20   11   14    6
Indiana         338 10    6458  9    9.1 18   27    2    8

Team            Gms Rk     Min Rk   Wins Rk   10   11   12
----------------------------------------------------------
Memphis         343 11    7336 12    7.6 14   16    8   24
Denver          345 12    8238 18   16.7 26    8   12   21
New Orleans     347 13    8148 16   17.6 27   18    5   28
L.A. Clippers   347 13    8188 17   11.6 21    7   18   13
Sacramento      350 15    7748 13    5.9  7   24   11    5
Dallas          356 16    7923 15    7.4 13   10   23    9
Utah            369 17    7317 11    6.4  9   15   21   10
New York        378 18    7877 14    6.2  8   14   10   27
Minnesota       381 19    8383 19    6.9 11    2   19   29
Detroit         383 20    9495 21    7.9 15   21   16   11

Team            Gms Rk     Min Rk   Wins Rk   10   11   12
----------------------------------------------------------
Houston         397 21    9685 22   24.9 29   25   19    4
Cleveland       445 22   10608 24   16.3 25   20   26   15
Toronto         459 23   10798 25   12.8 23    9   27   20
Charlotte       461 24    8710 20    4.4  4   18   24   25
Boston          517 25   10607 23    5.8  6   17   29   23
Milwaukee       538 26   11626 26   11.7 22   22   30   21
Washington      561 27   13897 29    4.6  5   28   25   19
New Jersey      574 28   13051 28    0.0  1   26   15   30
Golden State    637 29   15095 30   21.2 28   30   13   16
Portland        667 30   12678 27   38.5 30   29   28   18

Over the larger sample, the difference between the Suns and teams like the Golden State Warriors and Portland Trail Blazers that have been battered by injuries become evident. What Phoenix is doing doesn't appear to be a fluke. The Suns aren't like the Oklahoma City Thunder, which benefits in this analysis from a youthful roster. In fact, Phoenix starters Steve Nash and Grant Hill (the lone Suns player to miss multiple games from a single injury after undergoing knee surgery) are two of the league's five oldest players.

Phoenix truly seems to be playing a different game than the rest of the league when it comes to injury prevention and management. That matches up with the cutting-edge techniques head athletic trainer Aaron Nelson and his staff are using, as described by Michael Schwartz in a feature for Valley of the Suns.

At the same time, the limited control teams have over injuries is also evident from the multi-year data. Take the Atlanta Hawks, for example. The Hawks had been one of the league's healthiest teams the last two seasons before suffering multiple major injuries this season. In terms of WARP lost (figured by winning percentage when healthy, less replacement level and times minutes missed), Al Horford's torn pectoral muscle is exceeded only by Stephen Curry's series of ankle injuries and Greg Oden's microfracture as the most harmful injury this season.

Along with Memphis, New Orleans and New York, Atlanta is one of four teams that ranked in the league's top 10 in terms of fewest games lost to injury in 2010-11 but ranks in the bottom 10 this season.

Conventional wisdom has it that injuries are up this season because of the schedule and limited training camp, a notion for which I found some support in mid-January. With a handful of games remaining for each team, however, that no longer appears to be the case. There have been an average of 3.2 games lost to injury per scheduled game--that is, about three players are sitting out due to injury between the two teams in any given game. That's actually down slightly from the average of 3.6 per game in 2010-11 and 3.4 in 2009-10. The average minutes lost per game (73.9) is closer to last season's figure (74.3) and up from 2009-10 (73.3), but the numbers I've compiled simply don't back up the notion that players are getting hurt more frequently.

One early trend that has continued is more injuries being described by teams as "soreness." There have been 90 examples of players sitting out due to soreness, as many as in the full 2011-12 season and more than in 2010-11 (86). While teams have the discretion to list more serious injuries as simply soreness, this may reflect more nagging wear and tear over the course of the year. Nine players, including Hill and Nash, have sat out for nothing more serious than to "rest," which was previously rare--just two instances in the database over the last two seasons combined. So coaches are evidently treating their players differently because of the schedule, which may have the desired effect of keeping them healthy and on the floor. Especially in Phoenix.

APPENDIX - 2011-12 INJURIES

Thanks to Dan Feldman for using my injury data to create the following chart that compares teams in terms of games, minutes and WARP lost and also highlights the most serious individual injuries.

This free article is an example of the kind of content available to Basketball Prospectus Premium subscribers. See our Premium page for more details and to subscribe.

Kevin Pelton is an author of Basketball Prospectus. You can contact Kevin by clicking here or click here to see Kevin's other articles.

2 comments have been left for this article.

<< Previous Article
Premium Article Starting Over (04/19)
Next Article >>
Premium Article Emegergence (04/20)

RECENTLY AT BASKETBALL PROSPECTUS
State of Basketball Prospectus: A Brief Anno...
Tuesday Truths: March-at-Last Edition
Easy Bubble Solver: The Triumphant Return
Premium Article Bubbles of their Own Making: Villanova, Temp...
Tuesday Truths: Crunch Time Edition

MORE FROM APRIL 19, 2012
Premium Article Starting Over: South Carolina Under Martin

MORE BY KEVIN PELTON
2012-04-24 - Awards Ballot: 2011-12 Picks
2012-04-23 - James Stands Alone: 2011-12 MVP Ballot
2012-04-20 - Anatomy of Futility: The Charlotte Bobcats
2012-04-19 - Phoenix Health: Suns Lead Injury Standings
2012-04-17 - Premium Article Three Centers: Carlisle's Options
2012-04-16 - Premium Article On Point: LeBron James at PG
2012-04-13 - Premium Article Uneven Halves: Extreme Performance Swings
More...


Basketball Prospectus Home  |  Terms of Service  |  Privacy Policy  |  Contact Us
Copyright © 1996-2014 Prospectus Entertainment Ventures, LLC.