The Suns are on a 4 game win streak and have averaged 120 points during those 4 games. They have shot 54% while allowing 49% shooting.

Individual players have also stepped up their game during this current streak. For instance:

  • Raja Bell had been averaging 9.9 points per game through the first 15 games of the season (he didn’t play all of those games due to injuries). Over the 4-game win streak, he has averaged over 16 points per game.
  • Steve Nash averaged 10.6 assists per game in the first 15 games. He has averaged 16 in the winning streak
  • Amare Stoudemire averaged 8.25 rebounds before the current streak and 10.25 rebounds during the 4-game streak.

And despite “common knowledge” that seems to be floating around the message boards during this streak, the minutes for the starters have not gone up during this current streak. In fact, except for Amare Stoudemire, who increased 7 minutes per game during this streak, Steve Nash is the only other starter who increased minutes at all (less than one minute).

This leads me directly into the next analysis that I have done regarding the league. I have heard from friends and read on blogs and message boards that the Suns are playing their starters a lot more minutes than most teams and that Coach D’Antoni’s rotation is much more limited than most of the teams in the league. I finally decided to do some analysis on this to try and settle it once and for all. There are two steps that I am doing in this analysis. The first part will be today when I look at all of the teams in the league and determine where the Suns stand in number of “regular players” and total minutes for the top 5 players on the team. After Friday’s game, I will show an analysis of just the playoff teams from the 2006-202007 season to determine what the best teams in the league did regarding their lineups and where Phoenix was ranked in that group.

First, I need to explain how I came up with these numbers. After thinking about it for awhile, I figured that to count a player as a “regular”, he would need to play in at least two-thirds of his team’s games. To make things go a little quicker, I counted both DNP-Coach’s Decision and DNP-Injury as a non-played game. So players that dressed and just didn’t play are counted the same as players who didn’t dress (like Dwayne Wade because of injury or Stephen Jackson because of suspension).

I also decided that a player would need to average at least 12 minutes per game to be counted as a regular player. If he only averages 3 minutes per game, that doesn’t allow the player to make a significant contribution to the team’s win or loss so I didn’t count him as a “regular.” So if a team played 18 games, a player on that team would have needed to average 12 minutes or more in at least 12 of the games to be counted as a “regular player” in this analysis.

Here’s what I found:

6 regulars – 2 teams
7 regulars – 3 teams
8 regulars – 10 teams
9 regulars – 12 teams
10 regulars – 3 teams

Just off the top of your head after looking at this breakdown, where do you think the Suns stand in the list? From what I have heard and read lately, it seems like most people would think the Suns are in the 7 regulars section. Actually, they fall in the 8 regulars section.

The next thing I did was add up the minutes of the top 5 players on each team. This could be either starters or non-starters. It’s really just the 5 players on the team who get the most minutes. So if a team started a certain player because he was tall and always got the jump ball but only played him 13 minutes per game, he would not be counted in the total. On the other hand, if a 6th man played 40 minutes per game and he was in the top 5 minutes played on his team, he would be counted. I did this to find out where in the 10 teams the Suns ranked. I figured if the top 5 players played more minutes, that would leave less minutes for the other regulars.

Of the 10 teams that had 8 regulars, the Suns top 5 played more minutes than 8 of them. So in my analysis, the Suns are in the bottom third of the teams regarding rotations and the distribution of minutes between players. But what does this all mean? Does playing more players give you a better chance of winning the championship? Does distributing the minutes better allow a team get further in the playoffs?

I’ll have more on that in Friday’s ‘By the Numbers.’ Until then, enjoy the Suns’ 4 game win streak and feel free to e-mail me at blog@suns.com or leave a comment below if you disagree with how I did the analysis or if you have any suggestions on how I can look at these numbers better.

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