The time has come to take another look at how specific Bobcats’ lineups have fared so far this season. If you remember, we first had a look at things back in late November when the Bobcats stood at 5-4. Record-wise, the team has not fared as well since their hot start. Upon comparing the current point differentials of some of the most utilized lineups to the numbers after only nine games, you begin to see why they’ve struggled as well as why it’s important to remember that it’s a long season. There are ebbs and flows but one thing is always for sure – the cream rises to the top.
Let’ begin our look with the lineup that has logged the most minutes all season – Haywood, Mullens, Kidd-Gilchrist, Taylor, and Walker. After nine games, the lineup had posted a point differential of 12.2 (per 100 possessions). Since then though, the lineup has struggled mightily during the 95 minutes they’ve been on the court together, resulting in a point differential of -14.7. The lineup’s struggles can largely be attributed to Mullens’ play, but this is a story for another time. All in all, the Bobcats’ most used lineup has a point differential of -2.5 over 166 minutes of play so far this season.
Eventually, Coach Dunlap elected to replace Haywood in the starting lineup with Bismack Biyombo. Fans rejoiced. Bloggers rejoiced. Everyone rejoiced. However, so far the results have not been praise worthy. To date, the lineup has seen the court for 55 minutes (second-most often used lineup) and recorded a point differential of -22.9. So clearly Biyombo is the problem, right? I’m not so sure. What is clear is that this lineup gives up 43% of their opponent’s field goals close to the basket – a recipe for disaster. It may seem counterintuitive given the prolific shot-blocker Biyombo is, but in actuality the Bobcats fare better offensively with him on the floor and worse defensively. Whether Biyombo is to blame or not, the numbers scream that this lineup does not know how to play together, particularly defensively.
Much in the way Biyombo could be blamed for the struggles of the previous lineup (I’m in no way advocating this kind of analysis), Gerald Henderson’s inclusion in the starting five in place of Jeff Taylor has resulted in far more impressive numbers for the Bobcats. Leading up to the Mullens injury, the newly minted starting lineup (Biyombo, Mullens, Kidd-Gilchrist, Henderson, Walker) had posted a point differential of 7.8 over 52 minutes of play on the court. Another productive lineup – albeit in less court time – has been the diminutive backcourt of Walker and Sessions paired with Kidd-Gilchrist, Mullens, and Biyombo. This grouping boasts a point differential of 13.2 over 32 minutes of play.
How about some of the new lineups we may have seen with the likes of Hakim Warrick as well as the now healthy Tyrus Thomas? The results have been very good and very bad. The lineup consisting of Biyombo, Thomas, Kidd-Gilchrist, Taylor, and Walker has netted a point differential of 14.7 during just shy of three quarter’s worth of play. On the flip side, the lineup featuring Biyombo, Warrick, Henderson, Sessions, and Walker has posted an abominable point differential to date of -48.7, the worst pairing that has seen at least 25 minutes of play.
So what do we take from all this? It’s tough to say. Much like we saw with the early results of the original starting lineup, after logging more time on the court together their point differential swung dramatically. So it may seem easy to look at the numbers to date and come away with a handful of conclusions, but the truth is it takes time on the court to flush out meaningful results. And while a lineup may perform much better with the addition or subtraction of one player, the results do not necessarily elevate one or indict another. Basketball is the ultimate team game, where defense is meant to be played on a string and the offensive capabilities of teammates are to complement each other and result in a sum greater than its parts. This is the task at hand for Coach Dunlap and his staff, to assemble the lineups and rotations that optimize each player’s skills and maximize the team’s collective ability.