It’s pretty easy to pick those names off the top of your head, even if you aren’t a basketball junkie. If you followed the PBA at least here and there for the past 3 years, you’d probably find it pretty easy to name Rain or Shine players as well.
On the other hand, if you try doing the same thing with GlobalPort or Barako Bull, you find it quite difficult to associate players completely to these teams (okay, GlobalPort now has Stanley Pringle and Terrence Romeo but it’s still a short list).
That is something in Team Management that you call “Continuity”.
I stumbled upon a picture in twitter that I found very intriguing. I can’t find the link to that tweet any longer, but at least I could find the original source of the picture.
Basketball-Reference has a nifty little section called “Roster Continuity” as pictured above. As per Basketball-Reference:
Roster continuity is calculated as the % of a team’s regular season minutes that were filled by players from the previous season’s roster.
From the chart, you get a pretty visual picture of how consistent teams have been at retaining the players on their rosters. My beloved Timberwolves have been in the red for most of their franchise history in terms of roster continuity and it has resulted in them being one of the worst franchises in NBA history. However, there was a two-year blip where they retained 89% and 95% roster continuity in 2002-2003 and 2003-2004. Surprise, surprise: that was during the span which the Wolves made their only appearance in the Western Conference Finals.
More recently you can see that the San Antonio Spurs have been one of the best teams at retaining the core of their team. The lowest roster continuity they have hit is 59% since 1999…which they have also been winning 50+ games per season since.
The evidence is staring us in the face. Roster stability is crucial factor to a team’s success.
Let’s check out how teams of the PBA are doing.
Let’s start with something which can be comprehended quite easily. Here is a table showing the amount of unique players that teams have fielded throughout the last 3 years.
Over the span of 3 years, Rain or Shine has fielded only 23 players. This explains a bit why you only think of a few players when you mention “Rain or Shine”. There haven’t been that many to think about. Second in the list is Blackwater who have played 25 players.
I don’t think I need to remind you that Blackwater had just only recently wrapped up their first season of PBA Basketball last month. In the span of 1 year, Blackwater has fielded more players than Rain or Shine has in the past three. The effects of Roster Stability here are quite clear, with Rain or Shine being the most winning-est team in elimination play for the past 3 years while Blackwater… have not exactly had the same type of success.
Now let’s break it down another level into Minutes Retained and go conference by conference.
I love this table so much for the sole reason that it displays how dedicated the Rain or Shine coaching staff are with minute management. Year in, year out, conference after conference, Rain or Shine has managed to maintain the fluctuation of the minutes of their players by retaining their roster minutes to hover around a consistent 84%. This is highly incredible, considering that every two out of three conferences, you have to manage the major minutes of an incoming import as well.
And that sort of consistent roster management has been rewarded well.
Rain or Shine has been the winning-est team in the past 3 years and have never had a losing conference (in the elimination rounds). No other team has been able to maintain being above .500 for all the past 9 conferences.
Meanwhile… on the other far side of the table, GlobalPort has struggled to keep the core of their roster in tact. They have changed nearly half of their roster each year and almost every conference. You can see that it has affected their performance, being the second worst team in terms of W/L% over the past 3 years.
Maybe a part of you is pointing out at the fact that Rain or Shine has never won a championship during this 3 year span. How can you possibly connect continuity and success when the most stable roster over the past three years have yet to win a championship with this squad?
First off, Rain or Shine may have yet to win a championship during this span but they are the only team to get to the Semi-Finals in the last 7 conferences. They are also tied for the most Finals appearances during that span as well. So… while they’ve never won a title, that run is something you can’t just brush aside. Secondly, the team that has had the best performance in the playoffs during this stretch has been none other than STAR Hotshots (San Mig Coffee, Purefoods Hotshots, pick a name). Barroca, Devance, Pingris, Reavis, Simon, and Yap know how to play together and they know how to win together. The continuity of this core is one of the main reasons that this squad is one of the only 3 teams in PBA history to have recorded a Grand Slam. They know each other like the back of their hands.
It is not by chance that two of the most stable rosters (San Miguel Beermen, Alaska Aces) have duked it out in two of the Conference Finals in this 2015 season. Roster Continuity is something that needs to be highlighted in every team owner’s notebook.
Do you think it is a coincidence that Talk ‘N Text had their worst conferences and missed the playoffs exactly at the same time that their roster recorded the two lowest roster continuity? In the 2013 Governors’ Cup, they acquired Sean Anthony (Not to say Sean Anthony is not good, just mentioning him as a new addition to the team) and lost Kelly Williams to a recurring illness. They missed the playoffs and won only 3 games. (They were also resting a lot of minutes from their Gilas players, too.)
Recently in the 2015 Governors’ Cup, they had to integrate Asian Import, Sam Daghles, into their system while adapting to not having Kevin Alas as their secondary guard (which says quite a lot about Kevin Alas). They missed the playoffs with a .455 record.
The Beermen acquired Alex Cabagnot for Sol Mercado before the 2014-2015 Philippine Cup Playoffs and they won the title from there, but it was far from an easy run against the Alaska Aces in a 7-game grind. The trade caused the Beermen’s roster continuity to drop to a low 70.3% and they recorded their lowest W/L% in the last three seasons and their only playoff miss in the following conference.
One more issue about roster continuity that doesn’t show up in the players minutes is the continuity of head coaches. Yeng Guiao has coached Rain or Shine throughout the past 3 years. Tim Cone has coached STAR Purefoods Coffeeshots for all these three years. Not only have they had roster continuity, they also had coaching continuity. Take a look again at the success they have had.
In contrast, there is Ginebra. They have had a stockpile of talent and they have done well to keep it nice and steady with an average roster continuation of 76.5%. However, that has only translated to 51.0% Wins. Maybe (MAYBE) that could have something to do with the fact that they have shuffled through 4 coaching changes (and maybe even one more) over this entire span.
At some point though, you will have to shake up things in your organization and if you won’t they will shake themselves. Players get old. Coaches move on. Managements change. Change is inevitable. What teams must do to succeed is to make the transition as smooth as possible along the way. You have to know how to fade out the old and embrace the new. Some struggles cannot be fixed instantly with a personnel change. Sometimes all it takes is time to gel. Maintain stability. If you can do that, good things tend to happen.
Don’t just take my word for it.
— HumbleBola (@HumbleBola_) July 8, 2015