The 2012 NBA playoffs are just around the corner and there’s no doubt that San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich is refining his lineups trying to find the best way to utilize the depth he has. NBA.com has an interesting tool where you can compare all the different lineups and player combinations that a team puts on the floor.
It gives you a bit of a headache if you look at it too long, looking at all the different player arrangements and seeing what strengths each one brings to the table, but you get a lot of good info. It’s very surprising to look at the Spurs’ lineup configurations because the lineups they use the most are actually not the most effective when you look at the stats. Now granted, these numbers can be skewed a little bit because you have to take into account that some of the lesser-used lineups can have boosted stats because they go against other second units or it’s garbage time and the level of competition isn’t the same.
But for example, the most common lineup for the Spurs is Duncan, Parker, Green, Blair and Leonard. If you stretch the average stats for this group over 48 minutes, their offense is a little bit under the team average for the season. Of course, the defense and rebounding are better than the team averages, so it evens out and this lineup comes out with positive results.
One of the most effective, often-used lineups has Manu subbing in for Green. I think this is the lineup that most Spurs fans would like to see. This is the arrangement that is used most that has Tim, Tony and Manu all on the floor at the same time. All the numbers are way above team averages except for 3-point attempts. As we’ve seen over the years though, Manu loves to come off the bench, so the numbers might not be the same if this was the starting lineup.
You can look down the list of lineups and notice a few other trends. Surprisingly, a lot of combinations with Tim Duncan in them don’t do as well as ones without him. Again, that could be due to a lot of different factors, and I’m definitely not recommending that Duncan sit. The Spurs are going to need Duncan and all the other big men to step up if they want to compete for that championship.
Of course, playoff lineups are also going to have to be determined by matchups, not just stats. If the Spurs play the Lakers, they’re going to need more size. If they play the Thunder, they’ll need size and speed. A lot of times, stats don’t mean anything, and you just go with your hot hands. Lucky for the Spurs, they have a solid bench and great starters, no matter who’s out on the floor. They’re a great team, top to bottom, and are poised for a deep playoff run.
The starting center is almost irrelevant. I think Blair's ego is the most fragile, so let him have it, if it keeps his head in the game. Oh, and someone needs to get him a BIG tub of stick-um. I swear the man has the biggest case of butter fingers I've ever seen.
The guy that gets the most minutes at center, as the article says, will be dictated by matchups. I think you're gonna see a lot of Diaw against high-profile big men; think Randolph, Nowitzki, Gasol. He's their best post defender after Duncan.
I think you have Splitter confused with Blair. Splitter is the most "not ready for prime time" guy on the Spurs. He's as awkward as all get out, thinks slow and acts as if he learned his basketball out of a book. On the other hand, DeJuan Blair has two of the quickest pair of hands on the Spurs...similar to Manu's lightening quickness. How many games have you seen Tiago Splitter's flopping around like a whale out of water? I have many times ...way,way too much and it happens about 3-4 times every game...sure he's big ... and sure he's awkward! Hopefully he'll learn how to play basketball NBA-style....Hakeem (Akeem) "the Dream" Olajuwon, "learned" to play basketball AFTER enrolling at the U of H...he was somewhat awkward initially and fouled a lot ... but boy did he ever master the game. He developed into the greatest and smoothest big man I ever saw...and will ever see. (Remember the year the great David "Admiral" Robinson who won the MVP go up against "The Dream" in the WC Finals? Hakeem absolutely smoked the great "Admiral" and then completely demolishes and outclassed a rookie named Shaquile O'neal in the NBA Finals. Olajuwon was flawless ...whether defending, blocking shots, stealing opponents passes or shooting ...he was smoother than $1000 wine. Splitter is big!
As far as natural athleticism is concerned, there's no comparison between Splitter and Blair ...Blair wins in all categories ...other than height.
Diaw should start so as to play with Parker. Bonner and Blair could split time since they play best with Ginobili and Splitter.
I think against the Lakers we saw a little bit of our playoff line up, it was primarily a 8-9 man rotation (Gary Neal was added later on). I don't mind Manu coming off the bench, i really like Green and I think Pop should give him a chance in the playoffs, our bench having Neal,Manu,Jack,Diaw and splitter should be enough and I'd like to see Bonner start instead of Blair.
I like Manu coming off the bench, and I hope he does so in the play offs, too. With Manu coming off the bench, it's like an alternative starting unit, but there are soooo many combinations available, that Pop LOVES to optimize accordingly to the opposing unit. We have the deepest bench in the NBA that we can counter against any team. I don't think there should be any official line ups. I believe Pop will use his discretion using multiple lineups depending on what team we're facing.
With that ultra speed the Thunder play with, it will be mandatory for Pop to devise some manner of slowing Westbrook and Durant down if both teams get that deep into the playoffs...ie, the WC Finals. That kind of speed makes turn overs disastrous. The Spurs have been running the shoes off the opposition ...as have the Thunder, and the Spurs must commit to ball security. Tim has to be ready; Tony, Manu can still fly and Leonard, Green, Neal and Diaw are fast as hell and Blair runs the floor well too. Any of those guys can maintain a pace that few teams, other than the Thunder, can even hope to match.
A Spurs-Thunder WC Finals will be something to behold ...two damn good entertaining teams operating at the top of their games.