The Wolves won Friday night in Sacramento with rookie Karl-Anthony Towns playing just 21 minutes. The game before that, they won with Towns playing just 22 minutes.
Sitting the Number One overall pick for more than half the game has some observers critical of coach Sam Mitchell:
Towns will get 12 minutes this half. 12.— Jon Krawczynski (@APkrawczynski) November 28, 2015
My sense of it is: It's a long season with a hellacious travel schedule. Towns is 20 and a year out of high school. The history of the NBA is filled with talented young big men whose bodies couldn't take the stress: Sam Bowie, Greg Oden, Bill Walton ... Why beat the kid up if you don't have to? Wiining with Towns playing 21 minutes is easier on him than winning playing him 31 or 41 minutes.
In baseball, the prevention of injuries is the current sabermetric holy grail. It's almost certainly the same in the NBA, which has perhaps accepted analytics more readily than baseball has. We certainly see more teams sitting specific players on one side or the other of back-to-back games.
The NBA and MLB have some parallel issues: A lot of games packed into half a year with tons of travel, long overnight flights and sleep disruption. Baseball teams are already trying to limit pitcher workload -- not only in game, but in season. We may soon see more attention to position players as well.