Measuring "The Spurs Effect"

Gregg Popovich's proclivity to rest stars like Tim Duncan has caught on with the rest of the league. Rocky Widner/NBAE/Getty Images

Editor's note: Tom Haberstroh will be hosting a panel on Sports Science: Performance Analytics at the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference this weekend.

They say the NBA is a copycat league. And after the San Antonio Spurs won the 2014 Finals with radical resting strategies, it seems the league is frantically trying to Xerox the Spurs' blueprint.

To back it up a bit, the 2013-14 Spurs made history by becoming the first team to finish the season without a player averaging more than 30 minutes per game. Not one on the roster. Granted, if the Spurs weren't any good, that feat alone might not have created even a ripple.

But the Spurs were not just good, they won a championship over the Miami Heat in breathtaking fashion while employing coach Gregg Popovich's aggressive rest strategies.

And so the Xeroxing began. Case in point: Look at how the minutes leaderboard has transformed. Last season, 33 players averaged more than 35 minutes per game -- or about one per team. This season after the Spurs won it all? That total is 17, sliced nearly in half. How about the number of players who play more than 30 minutes per game? A total of 84 players this season, down from 99 last season and 120 as recently as 2008-09.

What's happening here? After seeing the above numbers, one longtime general manager responded bluntly:

"The Spurs Effect."