HANG TIME NEW JERSEY — The Miami Heat, Oklahoma City Thunder and San Antonio Spurs were the three best teams in the league last season. The Heat and Thunder met in The Finals, while the Spurs tied for the league’s best regular season record and fell to the Thunder after winning their first 10 playoff games.
So it’s logical that Miami, OKC and San Antonio are three of the four teams that are returning more than 80 percent of last year’s minutes on this year’s roster.
Though they added Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis to the mix, the Heat are bringing back players that logged 97 percent of last year’s minutes. Only Eddy Curry, Juwan Howard and Ronny Turiaf, who totaled just 494 minutes last season, are gone. The Thunder have 91 percent of their minutes coming back, and the Spurs have 87 percent coming back.
So, who is the fourth team returning more than 80 percent of last year’s minutes? Is is the Bulls, Pacers, Grizzlies or Celtics?
Nope. It’s the Sacramento Kings.
The Kings, who finished 14th in the Western Conference at 22-44 last season, are returning 11 players who logged 88 percent of last year’s minutes on this year’s roster. They’re young, with several players who need time to develop and another Lottery pick (Thomas Robinson) added to the mix. Still, Sacramento was in the bottom 10 of the league both offensively and defensively last season, and will obviously need a lot of improvement from within to make any sort of move up the standings.
Continuity worked pretty well for the Philadelphia 76ers last season. They returned an amazing 99 percent of their minutes from 2010-11, won 18 of their first 25 games, and had the league’s No. 1 defense for much of the year. While they eventually dropped to eighth place in the East, they did finish with the conference’s third best point differential.
In recent years, there has been a pretty strong correlation between continuity and success, which makes sense. The good teams (like the Heat, Thunder and Spurs) keep their players and stay good. And there are few examples of teams as bad as the Kings bringing back such a high percentage of their minutes.
Last year’s Timberwolves are one. Though they went 17-65 in 2010-11, the Wolves brought back 80 percent of those minutes. They added Ricky Rubio and were 21-20 (and a half game out of a playoff spot) before Rubio was lost for the season. So maybe there’s some hope for the Kings.
Here’s a full list of all 30 teams, sorted by what percentage of last year’s minutes they’re returning on this year’s roster. Not surprisingly, the Houston Rockets rank last…
|Rank||Team||2011-12 MIN||Ret. Players||Ret. min.||Ret. %|