I surveyed rotation patterns across the league to try to figure out what’s the best way to stagger star minutes? In Oklahoma City, Billy Donovan ensured that Russell Westbrook and Paul George tended to play together for most of the game during the 2018-19 season.
In contrast, Mike D’Antoni staggers minutes for James Harden and Chris Paul in Houston, letting each offensive engine take a turn driving the team.
Ultimately, the optimal approach to staggering depends on how well a team’s stars play together and separately.
Using play-by-play data, I created a few visualizations of the lineup rotations employed by the Golden State Warriors. Here’s an example of the rotations for a single game – November 28th, 2016 versus the Atlanta Hawks.
I also estimated the average rotation pattern over the course of the 2016-17 season.
Looking at Draymond Green’s rotations from 2015-16, you can see how his minutes changed sporadically from game-to-game and then more systematically in the playoffs.
And here’s a visual of the Warriors slowly abandoning the role of the traditional center.
I also used play-by-play data to visualize minute-by-minute plus-minus stats for individual games and seasons. I looked at Stephen Curry’s crazy third quarters from the 2016-17 season as a test case for this type of chart. Here’s a typical example from Dec 5, 2015.
Here’s the incremental plus-minus for Stephen Curry for an average game in 2015-16.
Here’s the same chart, discretized into blocks of 1, 3, 6, and 12 minutes.
I used the Herfindahl-Hirschman Index to quantify how much Steve Kerr spreads the minutes around for the role players in the Warriors rotation.