Being an NBA superstar is a blessing and a curse. On one hand, fans worship you and your production makes you vitally important to your team's performance. On the other, you barely get any rest because your coach asks you to play so many minutes.
This common practice has varying results. Some stars are unaffected, while others sometimes suffer nagging injuries or just get tired down the stretch.
Just the same, it's hard to justify giving these types of players any less playing time. They are the superstars for a reason, and are too important to their respective teams to just be sat so they can have a rest.
Some players still simply MUST have their minutes reduced this season. Their health and production are too important in the short and long term, and they need to stay fresh so that they can maintain their current paces up through the end of the season and, in some cases, well into the playoffs.
Current Playing Time: 37.8 MPG
James is the reigning MVP and a member of the defending champion Miami Heat, and losing him for an extended period of time could be borderline devastating to the team. He is a triple-double threat in every game, and is just a freak athlete in general. If Miami wants to win a championship again this season, it is critical that James get more rest when it's due.
Granted, James' playing time this season is actually two minutes below his career mark, but look at who is on the team with him. He has two fine teammates in Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade. It's not as though he's still on the Cleveland Cavaliers and the only star in town; in Miami, he has plenty of support.
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra should thus give James some more rest during games. He is too important to the team as a whole to risk getting injured, and Miami has enough depth that they can still play well without him for a few extra minutes.
Current Playing Time: 38.4 MPG
Like James, Bryant is an incredible athlete and could probably play all 48 minutes of a game, if necessary. Unfortunately, he is now playing in the fast-paced offense of Mike D'Antoni, which would make anyone tired.
Bryant is receiving a lot of playing time now for multiple reasons. Point guard Steve Nash is still recovering from a fractured leg, and teammate Pau Gasol is still struggling to adapt to the new system. That leaves the five-time champion as the sole consistent scorer on the floor.
Bryant could receive a break in the near future, as Nash is inching closer to a return that could be as early as this weekend. Even if Nash isn't back by then, however, the man known as the Black Mamba still needs more rest.
As good as he is, Bryant is not getting any younger at age 34. He has already hinted at retirement, which signifies that he's starting to feel the effects of what will be 17 years in the league at the end of this season.
His Lakers have what it takes to go far in this year's playoffs, but that won't happen if he's too tired or hurt to give his best game due to lack of rest.
Current Playing Time: 37.7 MPG
Curry's playing time has increased this season, as the Warriors no longer have the multitalented Monta Ellis to step in whenever their dynamic shooter and passer needs a rest. So far, it appears to have worked out well for both parties. Curry is averaging a career best 19.4 points and 6.4 assists per game, and Golden State is currently 1.5 games out of first place in the Pacific Division.
However, just because the early returns are looking good does not mean that head coach Mark Jackson should not be willing to give Curry some more rest as the season progresses. Golden State is already playing without center Andrew Bogut, who is dealing with a rough recovery following microfracture surgery on his ankle, and Curry was limited to 25 games last season thanks to an ankle issue of his own.
Curry is also still very young at just 24 years old, and the Warriors cannot afford to risk his health just because they are flying high right now. He doesn't need a lot of extra rest, maybe just two to three minutes per game. Jarrett Jack has proven to be a fine backup, and teammates Klay Thompson and David Lee are proving that they can shoulder the load too.
Once this slight change is made, it will open up many more doors for Golden State when the playoffs roll around.
Current Playing Time: 38.1 MPG
Aldridge is currently playing three minutes more than his career average, and the negative effects have already set in. The Blazers' big man sprained his ankle against the New Orleans Hornets on Sunday, and his status for Thursday's game is unclear.
If Portland coach Terry Stotts didn't have a reason to reduce Aldridge's minutes, he does now. The former Texas Longhorn was limited to 55 games due to injury last season and has missed a small amount of games throughout his career due to various aches and pains.
He also happens to be Portland's best scorer, currently leading the team with 21 points per game. If he goes down for an extended period of time, the options to replace him are as follows: Meyers Leonard (assuming J.J. Hickson switches from center to power forward), Jared Jeffries, or the bad combination of Luke Babbitt/Joel Freeland.
Long story short, the Blazers are up the creek without a paddle if Aldridge has to miss significant time. To ensure that doesn't happen, his minutes need to be reduced...NOW.
Current Playing Time: 41 MPG
Deng currently leads the NBA in minutes per game, and it's hard to justify giving him any less playing time. The Chicago Bulls are extremely short-handed without star point guard Derrick Rose, and Deng is the best scorer on the team after him.
Taking Deng's history in the league into consideration, Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau would be wise to give the athletic forward a little more rest. The staple of Deng's game is that he always plays hard and never hesitates to put his body on the line, which has resulted in him achieving the 70-game mark only four times since being drafted in 2004.
Deng has also been dealing with a torn ligament in his wrist all season long, and the Bulls are essentially sunk without him if that causes him to miss numerous games. He is currently averaging 17.7 points and seven rebounds per game, and is Chicago's top producer in Rose's absence.
It is important that he be the go-to guy while Rose is out, but Deng is just too important to the Bulls to be expected to play so many minutes, especially with an injury. He needs at least five more minutes of rest per game, lest team management want to deal with another significant injury to a key player.
Current Playing Time: 36.9 MPG
Williams was one of the NBA's most durable players during his days with the Utah Jazz, but has since been bitten by the injury bug after coming to the Nets via a trade in 2011. His right wrist has been a constant issue, and has seriously affected his game this season. Williams is averaging 16.9 points and 8.1 assists, but has shot just 39 percent from the field.
The Nets have struggled as a result. After an 11-4 start, the team has gone 2-7 in December, and Williams has continued to play hard despite his struggles.
Look, I get it. Williams is the leader of the Nets, and trying to give him less playing time will be like pulling teeth. Just the same, it's worth more to give him extra rest so that he can get well.
The Nets are also not necessarily sunk without him. C.J. Watson has proven to be a fine backup, and Joe Johnson's scoring abilities are starting to come back. Giving him a few extra minutes on the bench may not seem like an ideal situation, but it's worth it if it means getting his wrist right.
At that point, he can start playing like his old self again and the Nets can start getting back in contention for a title.
Current Playing Time: 40.2 MPG
Noah is right behind his teammate Luol Deng, ranking second in minutes per game.
I don't know how else I can say this. Tom Thibodeau simply MUST give his center some extra rest, preferably five minutes or more.
Noah has been playing some great basketball for the Bulls this season, but look at his career since joining the NBA in 2007. He has only ever played a full season once, in 2008-2009, and has struggled with his durability ever since then. He appeared in 64 of 66 games last season, but that was due to the lockout and there is no way to determine what would have happened were it a full 82-game campaign.
The former Florida Gator's size at 6'11", 232 pounds is just too important with which to gamble, and Thibodeau needs to start trusting his second unit just a bit more. This is understandably hard, considering how the Bulls' lone backup center is the uninspiring Nazr Mohammed, but Noah's health history speaks for itself. Making him play so many minutes down the stretch is just too risky, with or without Rose in the lineup.
Given how much Thibodeau's system relies on defense, it's easy to see just how much trouble the Bulls would be in if Noah did indeed go down due to fatigue or any other injury.