Most stat leaders get there simply by playing a lot of minutes, and they play a lot because they're great players. But are there players who are perhaps getting too many minutes relative to their performance?
Let's use the NBA's efficiency rating (a linear combination of points, rebounds, assists, etc., with penalties for missed free throws, field goals, and other turnovers) as a measure of how "good" a player is. Most of the efficiency leaders will also be leaders in minutes played per game, but what of the players who play a lot of minutes but don't crack the top efficiency lists?
Three names are in the top 20 in minutes played yet are not in the top 50 in efficiency rankings. Before I reveal them in the next paragraph, think of what sort of names you expect to see here. I would have expected to see fairly good but not All-Star players getting more minutes than they would deserve on a great team because they are the best player on a bad team.
Indeed, two of the three names are such examples. Al Harrington averaged 38.6 minutes per game for the Hawks, 12th overall in the league, but didn't crack the top 50 in efficiency. This makes sense. Not only is Harrington the best player on a bad team and therefore getting more minutes than perhaps he would get on a great team, the entire opposing defense is geared towards stopping him, so his inclusion here is no surprise.
Jamal Crawford was slightly surprising since he was not the best player on the Knicks: he did, however, average 38.4 minutes per game, 16th overall in the league, and also didn't crack the top 50 in efficiency. Stephon Marbury averaged 40 minutes per game, and was 6th overall in the league, but he was a deserving player: he was 17th overall in the league with a 21.91 efficiency ranking.
The last one is the most surprising. Richard Hamilton! A star on the defending world championship team, and the only player on a playoff team to get so many minutes without being as efficient or productive as you might have expected.
Rip averaged 38.5 minutes per game, 15th highest in the league, but didn't crack the top 50 in efficiency rankings.
Another surprise further down the list is Tayshaun Prince, who averaged 37.1 minutes per game despite not cracking the top 50 in efficiency. However, he is less of an anomaly for two reasons: one, he is ranked at 28th overall in minutes played, so his deviation away from top 50 is much smaller than Hamilton's 15th overall minutes ranking; and second, he is well-known as a defensive specialist, and those statistics are far harder to include in efficiency rankings (more specifically, they are more variable as steals and blocks are rarer to occur than points and rebounds).
Are two of Detroit's starting five, and both of the swingmen, overplayed?
Or do the efficiency rankings miss something that Joe Dumars and Larry Brown clearly see?