Earlier today, our own SG reported that
Rashad McCants still isn't particularly pleased at being moved into the "sixth man" role last season. The quote from McCants:
This past year after working extremely hard to recover from microfracture surgury, I found myself coming of the bench being the sixth man and the second leading scorer. The only bad part about it was that I could have been twice as productive with more minutes. I would have been able to meet my individual goals, we could have won more games, and I'd be on my way to being a respected player in the NBA.
Naturally, I immediately went over to basketball-reference.com to check out this assertion. The results: I think McCants is misremembering his season. Here's what I found:
1) McCants's minutes barely dipped at all after being moved to sixth man.
The change was made right around February 1 of last season. McCants had started 24 of 40 games up to that point, including 11 in a row; he wouldn't start again after that date. Hence, this is the obvious dividing line between the two halves of the season. And what the numbers show is this: Before the move, McCants was averaging 28.1 minutes per game. After coming off the bench, he averaged 25.7 minutes per game. Somehow, I don't think that extra two minutes, twenty seconds per game was really enough time for McCants to change much.
2) McCants wasn't any less - or more - effective coming off the bench.
In the first half of the season, when he was starting regularly, McCants averaged 15 points per game, or 0.53 points per minute. As the sixth man, he averaged 14.7 points per game - or 0.57 points per minute. This extremely small fluctuation in points per minute can be explained by two things: as the sixth man, McCants shot slightly more (0.482 FGA/min, versus 0.455 FGA/min in the first half) and made a slightly higher percentage of his shots (46.4% from the field, vs. 44.4%). In other words, he was almost exactly the same player in either role.
3) There's no evidence that more minutes would have helped anything.
Let's put it this way: McCants had a PER of 14.65 last season, and John Hollinger normalizes that statistic so that 15.00 is the league average. He wasn't a future superstar stuck on the bench - he was a league-average shooting guard. Playing McCants 10% more minutes would, for the most part, have meant 10% more points - not twice the productivity.
Basically, the move to sixth man meant for McCants that he missed out on the first two minutes of the game. After that, he was a regular part of the rotation; even after the move, he only played less than 20 minutes in a game seven times in 35 games, and nine times in those 35 he played more than 30 minutes.
I appreciate that McCants has confidence in his own abilities; I think most NBA players believe that they could help the team, if only they could play more. However, I'm not sure there's any evidence that McCants has much right to complain - not only did he see the floor almost as often after the move as before, he didn't do anything either before or after the move to convince the team that it had made a mistake.