Thursday, August 4, 2011

ESPN the Magazine Mic Check: Talent and Health are the Ingredients of Playoff Success

Despite two current holes in next season's starting lineup, the Three Kings' talent will be enough to get the HEAT into the playoffs as long as they're healthy. NBA teams without talent or health go through a lot of different starting lineups to find that same success but usually only get a lottery ticket instead.

In ESPN the Magazine's Revenge of the Jocks V issue, they gave several athletes an open forum to get things off their chests in a feature called "Pass the Mic." Here's what Indiana Pacers power forward Tyler Hansbrough had to say:
"I don't really like starting lineups. I don't know why we just can't walk out onto the court and play. It would save a lot of time, and it would also save the team a lot of money because they always have to turn the lights on and off for it. Think about it. We have to listen to intros of the same players for 82 games. Let's just walk out onto the court, because everyone already knows who's going to start."
Actually, NBA fans don't know who's going to start about 20 percent of the time. According to NBA teams used an average of 16 different starting lineups during the 2011 season.

NBA Starting Lineups Used in 2011
  1. Washington Wizards: 29 starting lineups
  2. Sacramento Kings: 27 starting lineups
  3. Toronto Raptors: 25 starting lineups
  4. Cleveland Cavaliers: 24 starting lineups
  5. New Jersey Nets: 24 starting lineups
  6. Milwaukee Bucks: 23 starting lineups
  7. Dallas Mavericks: 22 starting lineups
  8. Detroit Pistons: 22 starting lineups
  9. Utah Jazz: 21 starting lineups
  10. Denver Nuggets: 20 starting lineups
  11. New York Knicks: 18 starting lineups
  12. Atlanta Hawks: 17 starting lineups
  13. Minnesota Timberwolves: 17 starting lineups
  14. Phoenix Suns: 17 starting lineups
  15. Los Angeles Clippers: 15 starting lineups
  16. Houston Rockets: 14 starting lineups
  17. Miami Heat: 14 starting lineups
  18. Orlando Magic: 14 starting lineups
  19. Boston Celtics: 13 starting lineups
  20. Indiana Pacers: 13 starting lineups
  21. Memphis Grizzlies: 13 starting lineups
  22. New Orleans Hornets: 13 starting lineups
  23. Charlotte Bobcats: 12 starting lineups
  24. Golden State Warriors: 12 starting lineups
  25. Portland Trailblazers: 11 starting lineups
  26. Oklahoma City Thunder: 9 starting lineups
  27. Philadelphia 76ers: 9 starting lineups
  28. Chicago Bulls: 8 starting lineups
  29. San Antonio Spurs: 8 starting lineups
  30. Los Angeles Lakers: 2 starting lineups
The 14 different starting lineups used by the HEAT produced an estimated 50 wins in 2011 (see this spreadsheet from the Heat Produced page). The HEAT finished the season with the second-most productive starting lineup in the NBA — Mike Bibby, Dwyane Wade, LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Zydrunas Ilgauskas. The Boston Celtics had the only starting lineup more productive than the HEAT (see this article for more information).

Next season's starting lineup for the HEAT is uncertain since Bibby is an unrestricted free agent, Mario Chalmers is a restricted free agent and Ilguaskas is pondering retirement. Fortunately, the Three Kings produced 43 of the starters' estimated 50 wins produced. The HEAT should be fine as long as they stay healthy, re-sign Chalmers and ensure Ilgauskas' replacement (if necessary) is a reasonably productive player.

Not all teams have the fortune of the HEAT. As the list above illustrates, the coaches of teams without talent, health or both go through a lot of different starting lineups but they usually end up in the lottery anyway. Only four of the 16 teams that used an above average number of starting lineups made the playoffs in 2011 — Hawks, Knicks, Nuggets and Mavericks.

With the third-most productive starters in the NBA, the Mavs had talent but ranked fifth in games lost to injury, according to Kevin Pelton at Basketball Prospectus. Unfortunately for the HEAT, the Mavs were healthy enough in the Finals and Wade was not.

Here's how the rest of the teams that used an above average number of starting lineups rated as contenders in terms of talent (based on wins produced per 48 minutes - WP48) and health:
  1. Wizards: No talent and no health. 27th in starters' WP48, 9th in injuries.
  2. Kings: No talent. 24th in starters' WP48, 23rd in injuries.
  3. Raptors: No talent and no health. 30th in starters' WP48, 4th in injuries.
  4. Cavs: No talent and not enough health. 26th in starters' WP48, 13th in injuries.
  5. Nets: No talent and not enough health. 29th in starters' WP48, 16th in injuries.
  6. Bucks: Not enough talent and no health. 19th in starters' WP48, 1st in injuries.
  7. Mavs: No health. 3rd in starters' WP48, 5th in injuries.
  8. Pistons: Not enough talent and no health. 17th in starters' WP48, 7th in injuries.
  9. Jazz: No talent and not enough health. 22nd in starters' WP48, 11th in injuries.
  10. Nuggets: Not enough health. 10th in starters' WP48, 18th in injuries.
  11. Knicks: Not enough talent and not enough health. 15th in starters' WP48, 20th in injuries.
  12. Hawks: Not enough talent. 12th in starters' WP48, 25th in injuries.
  13. Timberwolves: No talent and not enough health. 21st in starters' WP48, 14th in injuries.
  14. Suns: No talent. 25th in starters' WP48, 24th in injuries.
Unless Hansbrough can guarantee NBA fans their teams will be talented and healthy, then coaches will keep shuffling the lineups searching for success and fans will need those lineups announced before the game. Maybe Hansbrough wouldn't hate starting lineups so much if NBA teams had a cool intro like this one:

No comments:

Post a Comment