An NBA game is made up of 240 minutes. As Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin knows, each is its own little puzzle piece, assigned to one position in a five-man lineup. On a roster of 12, there are mathematically, 20 minutes available for each player, all things being equal.
But playing time, of course, is not equal, especially not on a Jazz team that boasts nine players who averaged more than 20 minutes per game last year and nine who, at some point in their careers, averaged more than 30. Then there are two young big men, Enes Kanter and Derrick Favors, who are generally expected to take on increased roles.
Therein lies Corbin’s headache.
“They can do different things on the floor,” Corbin said. “They want time and rightfully so. They deserve time.”
In addition to returning starters Gordon Hayward, Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap, who all averaged more than 30 minutes per game last season, the Jazz added three players in the offseason who averaged more than 24.
“That’s tough for any coach,” said small forward Marvin Williams said, the former No. 2 overall pick who averaged 26.3 minutes with Atlanta. “But that’s one of those good problems to have, when you have eight, nine guys that should be playing 20 minutes a game.”
However, it is easy enough, on the numbers alone, to imagine chemistry issues arising as players, including six former lottery picks, try to shave minutes away from teammates.
Good luck getting anyone around the Jazz to say that, though.
General manager Dennis Lindsey, previously the assistant GM in San Antonio, pointed to the Spurs as an example of a team that benefitted from its depth, which allowed Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili to take on reduced minutes in the regular season.
“Tiago Splitter, DeJuan Blair, they all allow Tim to maintain his health,” Lindsey said. “This is not a sprint and the goal is to be the last team standing. To have good depth, if the players are humble and unselfish, is the problem you want to have.”
However, Splitter and Blair were not lottery picks, they have never been All-Stars and they have never been first or second options on playoff teams.
The Jazz entered camp on Monday with multiple positions up in the air, notably small forward and power forward. At small forward, the Jazz are weighing DeMarre Carroll and Marvin Williams — Carroll a scrappy rebounder and Williams a scorer. At power forward, the Jazz are likely being pushed toward a decision between veteran — and pending free agent — Paul Millsap and the 21-year-old Favors.
While Corbin isn’t ready to announce a rotation, he said he has begun to tinker with different possibilities.
“We have an idea on paper of what we thinking different guys will give us,” he said. “But against different competition on different nights, rotation, injuries, it will change some.”
Foye, who averaged 11 points in 25.9 minutes per game last year with the Clippers, was brought in to bolster the Jazz’s outside shooting. The combo will share time with three point guards, as well as Gordon Hayward and Alec Burks at shooting guard. He said Corbin has to find the right combinations and “whatever works you got to stick with it” but that players can’t distract themselves with rotations.
“That’s something they have to think about upstairs,” he said. “But for now, down here, we’ve got to focus on the season.
Jazz minutes, 2011-12
Player Per game
Al Jefferson 34.0
Paul Millsap 32.6
Gordon Hayward 30.5
Mo Williams (LAC) 28.3
Marvin Williams (ATL) 26.3
Randy Foye (LAC) 25.9
Raja Bell 23.4
Derrick Favors 21.2
Earl Watson 20.7
DeMarre Carroll 16.4
Alec Burks 15.9
Jamaal Tinsley 13.7
Enes Kanter 13.2
Jeremy Evans 7.5