Understanding a Basketball Team Rotation

Jayne Lessard has provided her services as a licensed counselor to patients in and around the High Point, North Carolina, for more than two decades. Jayne Lessard’s professional experience also includes leading the Montreat Anderson College women’s varsity basketball team as head coach.

One of a basketball coach’s most important jobs is managing his or her rotation, the term used to describe the number of players active during a game and how many minutes they spend on the floor. Every basketball team features five starters who generally log more minutes than other players on the team. Starters, naturally, begin the game on the floor to start each half and, in most cases, are the five players to finish a game. A starter, however, can be supplanted in terms of total minutes by the team’s sixth man. Despite the title, a sixth man is often more skilled a player than some of the team’s starters; however, many coaches value bringing an offensive spark off the bench to handle the ball or lead the second unit when the starters are resting.

The remainder of minutes are absorbed by rotation players and bench warmers. A rotation, or role, player generally serves a specific function and may see as many minutes as a starter or no playing time at all depending on the matchup. A tall rim protector, for example, can be valuable against certain teams but rendered a liability by teams fielding smaller, quicker lineups. Moreover, a bench warmer is either a young, inexperienced player or a veteran who has been eclipsed in terms of production by his or her teammates. Bench players only see the floor in blowouts or in cases of injury to teammates.

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