The cut line has been established: 30.5 minutes. No one has been voted Rookie of the Year the last 10 seasons averaging fewer per game, and Kyrie Irving cruising to victory over Ricky Rubio and Kenneth Faried in 2012 is more anomaly than anything. Winning with that comparatively light workload does not ordinarily happen.
Really, based on recent history, a first-year player will need to log closer to 35 or 36 minutes an outing to have the kind of role that sways voters, a trend that is relevant with no clear preseason choice for the award and some of the most NBA-ready prospects opening 2014-15 in reserve roles.
Julius Randle would be a much stronger candidate in other places, but not amid Lakers plans to rely heavily on Carlos Boozer to chase that elusive 30th victory. Nikola Mirotic and Doug McDermott join a crowded and experienced group of forwards as the Bulls chase something other than the past. And in Boston, Marcus Smart would have better odds as opening night approaches if not for the likelihood he will spend a lot of time coming off the bench once Rajon Rondo returns from a hand injury, which could happen very early.
No one has won Rookie of the Year averaging less than 30 minutes since Mike Miller of the Magic at 29.1 in 2001, his easy victory over Kenyon Martin. In the previous 10 seasons, to be exact:
2013-14 — Michael Carter-Williams, 76ers, 34.5 minutes and 70 games.
2012-13 — Damian Lillard, Trail Blazers, 38.6 and 82.
2011-12 — Irving, Cavaliers, with 51 appearances in the 66-game, lockout-shortened schedule.
2010-11 — Blake Griffin, Clippers, 38 and 82.
2009-10 — Tyreke Evans, Kings, 37.2 and 72.
2008-09 — Derrick Rose, Bulls, 37 and 81.
2007-08 — Kevin Durant, SuperSonics, 34.6 and 80.
2006-07 — Brandon Roy, Trail Blazers, 35.4 and 57.
2005-06 — Chris Paul, Hornets, 36 and 78.
2004-05 — Emeka Okafor, Bobcats, 35.6 and 73.
Anyone hoping to crash the party from the bench this season is going to need a lot of big moments on a good team and probably even as a difference maker for a playoff club. Voters generally want numbers or a lead role, not a complementary spot for a winner (the 76ers were 19-63 last season, the Trail Blazers 33-49 as Lillard won, the Cavaliers 21-45 as Irving won. On and on. Rose is the only Rookie of the Year in the 10-year sample to play for a non-loser, with the Bulls at 41-41.)
The outlook will change with the depth charts, of course. Boozer averaged 28.2 minutes in Chicago’s last regular season and was down to 24.2 in the playoffs, so he’s not exactly an insurmountable obstacle for Randle. If the Lakers are taking on water and getting the 2013-14 Boozer, the ROY race could change, given projections that power forward Randle should be able to handle himself physically and score inside now.
The week before the new season opens, though, the same player that would have a stronger case on another team has a problem. And leading candidates Nerlens Noel and Jabari Parker have an advantage.