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Larry Brown and Tyrus Thomas – Come on!

Can someone, ANYONE, please contact the Bobcats organization and let them know that there are currently no known league policies precluding them from playing Tyrus Thoms? The only person keeping Tyrus from blowing the F up is Larry Brown, and its gone past ridiculous straight into the realm of unacceptable. What more can Thomas do to warrant at least 30+min/gm (if not full on starters minutes)? Not only is he NOT playing, but he’s losing minutes to guys like Dominic McGuire, Matt Carroll, Derrick Brown, Kwame Brown, DeSagana Diop, and Nazr Mohammed…again…unacceptable. His PER is currently at a robust 23.56 which is, apparently, just high enough to earn him 21min/gm. Please tell me that you guys are paying attention to this, because I firmly believe that you helped play a part in getting Rambis to remove the vice from Love’s 4th quarters, and I genuinely think that you could do the same for Tyrus. Below are his season’s PER48 splits, please enjoy:

Total 17 21.3 9.7-19.0 51.1 7.7-9.1 84.1 2.25 3.58 3.8 5.8 5.0 8.4 13.4 1.3 27.0
As Starter 1 34.0 15.5-28.2 55.0 5.6-5.6 100.0 0.00 5.65 0.0 2.8 9.9 5.6 15.5 4.2 36.7

How, exactly, is it that Larry Brown feels justified in keeping this kind of production on the bench? If so inclined, please take a minute to post something on behalf of Tyrus Thomas, I know he’d appreciate:)…After all the negative things that have been written about him (and his game), I think he’s earned it.
-Tim (Twitter at TheWagOfMutombo)

Henry at TrueHoop passed this email on to me and (with Tim’s permission) I am going to dig a bit deeper. Though I was on the other side of the Kevin Love argument (Maybe Coach Rambis is not crazy), this is my opportunity to show that I am not just a contrarian – Larry’s insistence on starting Nazr and giving not insignificant minutes to DeSagana Diop (before Kwame got healthy), Kwame Brown (once he got healthy), and Derrick Brown instead of Tyrus Thomas has been troubling since game 2 of the season. Opening night – Tyrus Thomas got 31 minutes, scoring an efficient 22 points and grabbing 6 rebounds. It was over two weeks later on November 15th before he saw more than 24 minutes again. What exactly could he be doing wrong? Potentially defense, like it appeared might be the cause for Kevin Love?

If it is defense that is forcing Larry’s hand – my numbers can’t find it. With Tyrus on the court this year, the Bobcats have allowed an efficiency of 104.0 and it goes to 106.5 with him off the court. Looks solid for him. Ok – how about individually? Tyrus is among the team leader’s in slowing down his opponent, allowing 1.8 fewer points per 100 possessions to his man than expected. Nazr and Derrick Brown bring up the rear on this at 6.7 and 5.1 more per 100, and Kwame is only slightly in front of Tyrus at -2.4. For allowed PER, Tyrus has surrendered a PER of 1.2 points below expected, with Nazr at 6.75 above, Derrick at 5.19 above and Kwame at 0.59 below.

The one troubling number I see in Tyrus’ opponent production? A very high free throw rate – instead of 0.45 free throw attempts per field goal attempt, Tyrus’ man has been getting to the line at nearly 1.5 times that rate, 0.67. This causes his respectable field goal percentage allowed to become a somewhat ugly 59.8% true shooting mark. That’s really the only blemish though on his individual defensive stats – Tyrus Thomas Defense By Position – and it would seem to be outweighed by the decreased scoring output and PER of his foe.

Which brings us back to offense – and while PER measures things aside from offensive output, it is a decent indicator of overall performance and a good place to start. As Tim mentioned, Tyrus has put up a stellar PER of 23.56. How good is that? Among qualified players, it is 11th in the league (Hollinger’s NBA Player Stats – Insider). The interesting thing about his spot? Tyrus and Shaq are the only players in the top 30 who are not playing at least 30 minutes. The difference is that Shaq, at 38 years old, is nearly old enough to be Tyrus’ (just 24) father.  Other teams seem to think playing productive players makes sense, why not the Bobcats?

Now, not only does Tyrus enjoy a lofty ranking in the league in PER, he easily leads the Bobcats, with D.J. and Nazr trailing him at around 16.7. A point of per over 2000 minutes of action generally equals about 1 win – so if Tyrus stays at 20 minutes per game for the season, rather than getting 30, the Bobcats lose out on about 2.1 theoretical wins over the rest of the season.

Like the large gap between Tyrus and his teammates in PER, there is a similar gap in how much Tyrus is scoring for the Bobcats – per 100 possessions, Tyrus is scoring 29.5 points, with Stephen Jackson at 26.3. There’s another big discrepancy on the way though: Tyrus is second on the team in true shooting percentage at 59.8%, while Stephen Jackson is 7th at 56.4%. The only Bobcat ahead of T-Time in TS% is Derrick Brown, at 63.7, though he is only scoring 16.7 points per 100 team possessions.  Generally, that is the trade-off:  With increased output comes decreased efficiency – but Tyrus is scoring more and more efficiently than the Bobcats next big scorer.  On a team struggling to put points on the board, at 23rd in offensive efficiency, sitting such a player seems counter-productive.

Last note:  The Bobcats have played two lineups with much consistency this year, with the rest of their lineups getting 30 minutes or less together on the season.  The starters are one of the two lineups, with D.J, Jax, Crash, Boris, and Nazr having logged over 200 minutes together.  During that time the Bobcats have been outscored by about 11 points per 100 possessions.  The Cats other common lineup is the one where Tyrus replaces Nazr – and that lineup has dominated opponents the same way the starters have been crushed:  +10.6 points per 100 possessions for this group of Bobcats.  That’s been done over the course of 86 minutes, getting close to 2 games worth of time together.  It might be time for the Bobcats to switch that minutes breakdown between the two – because what they’re doing is not working and continuing to do the same thing and expect a different result is…well, I don’t want to call Larry Brown crazy, so I’ll just say stubborn – for now.