Pop quiz! Would you rather have a player that averages 25 points a game but only plays 55 games in the season or a player that averages 17 points and plays a full season? Put your calculator away. And no, you may not go to the bathroom real quick. And stop looking at that other kid’s paper. It’s weird that your eye site is so good – he’s on the other side of the room!

Pencils down. The 26 ppg player will net your team 1,375 points by the end of the season. The 17 ppg player will net you 1,394. While I wouldn’t base my entire draft around guys who appear in all 82 games a season, it’s worth noting. Especially if those players play more than half the game each time out. I selected any player that averaged more than 24 mpg in each of the last three seasons and played in at least 80 games twice during that time, including last season. Kobe Bryant, for example, played in 82 games in both ’07 and ’08, but was only in 73 games in ’09. So while he technically has averaged more appearances than, say, Kevin Durant, the recentness of Bryant’s health concerns is a deficit going in to this drafting season. “Kobe sux anyways, bro. D-Wade 4-Real!” -Frequent Yahoo! commenter. Um, okay. That too.

There were 12 players who played in at least 80 games in each of the last three seasons:

Andre Miller – If he was drafted at all last season, he was drafted to be the third-string PG on most fantasy teams (most fantasy teams with a chance of winning, anyway), sometime after round 10. Kevin Martin was taken with the 20-30th picks of most drafts. Between those two players, which player scored, stole, rebounded, assisted and blocked more than the other? Yup. It should also be mentioned that Miller’s total stats were in the ballpark of Chris Paul at season’s end too. When a guy misses only five games in 11 seasons, he doesn’t need to be the best guy out there in order to produce as much as the “best guys out there.”

Derek Fisher – Fisher’s age made me surprised how reliable he’s been. He hasn’t missed a game in five seasons, though there were a few times there I’m pretty sure Phil Jackson threw some sunglasses on the unconscious body of an elderly Fisher and Weekend At Bernie-d him during a game or two to keep Jordan Farmar from playing more than 30 minutes.

Andre Iguodala – If you go back even farther than three years you’d see he started the first two seasons playing 82 games in each. Then he missed six games in 2006-07 and was dead to Philadelphians everywhere.

Samuel Dalembert He hasn’t missed a game in four seasons, which is made even more impressive considering he spent the first two months of 2010 traveling to his native Haiti to assist with disaster relief on his off days.

Emeka Okafor – After missing 28 percent of his first three seasons, it still feels like Big Mek is oft-injured. What’s a guy gotta do to off that reputation? Or oft that reputation?

The next tier belong to sophomores who have not yet missed a pro game, but have only been in the league two seasons:

Brook Lopez – Hasn’t missed a game yet, just another reason I’m telling everyone to draft Bropez 5-15 spots sooner than they might otherwise want to. Because of that, I’m positive everyone is going to listen to me and we’ll be seeing his femur sticking out of his leg by Jersey’s sixth game.

The third tier belongs to the remaining six players who have played in 80 games in two of their last three seasons while making it to at least 70 games in the third. All of the players on these three lists averaged at least 24 minutes per game in each season.

  1. Ray says:

    ..this is more for weekly leagues, but you’d rather have the player who plays less games at a higher output (as long as his injury is one that requires a long break and not one that takes him out of one game every couple of weeks), since a fill in who averaged more than 1 point a game plus the player who didn’t play a full season would beat the full season fellow

    • Adam

      Adam says:

      @Ray: Good point. That’s why you really wouldn’t want to put too much emphasis on games played over multiple seasons. But all else being equal on draft day, a player’s reliability isn’t a bad tie-breaker.

  2. Interesting stuff. But you aren’t saying that you’d rather have Andre Miller over Kevin Martin, are you? The better question to ask I think is how does player X * N games + replacement player * (82 – N) games compare to player Y * 82 games.

  3. Adam

    Adam says:

    @Frank Kim: No, not at all. But it’s impossible to know who the replacement player might be on draft day. But say you’re torn between drafting Andre Iguodala and Luol Deng (you shouldn’t be torn about this, but let’s just say). If nothing else, wild horses can’t drag Iggy away from an opening tip, while Deng has missed 64 games over the last three seasons – it’s just another tool to draw a differentiation between players.

  4. @Adam: Totally agree w/ you. I definitely appreciate Iggy more after this post though it’ll be interesting to see what his role will be this season. I’m not sure if it was you or someone else who said he expects him to be a focal point because that’s how Doug Collins likes to run things, one focal point.

  5. Adam

    Adam says:

    @Frank Kim: Collins is a benefit to Iggy. Moving full-time to SF is a benefit to Iggy. Having a defined PG is a benefit to Iggy. Having Turner taking (making?) outside shots is a benefit to Iggy.

    Iggy’s a FwB (Forward with Benefits).

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