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.