Coaching is hard. Teaching defense or fundamentals or plays and sets is not what makes coaching hard. The pressure of winning is hard, but it is not even the hardest part of coaching.
The most difficult thing a coach is tasked with is putting together rotations of players that will best help the team succeed. The fact is that some players do not play well together on the floor or some play better with a different role assigned to them.
My first year I was an assistant and on that team there were three players that very rarely saw the floor. The head coach at the time could not build rotations that helped all players succeed because even in middle school, where I started coaching, it is very easy to just put out the most athletic players and hope for the best. That team only won a handful of games.
The following season I took over as head coach and those three players that rode the bench were starters. I was able to put together rotations that maximized their potential and the team was 7 seconds from a championship. I don't say this to gloat at my ability to coach, I say this to say that building rotations can eliminate talent on your team if they aren't cohesive.
Coaching the Memphis Grizzlies
“Rookie” Head Coach J.B. Bickerstaff has been tasked with coaching a team that adds a potential superstar rookie, a few new savvy veterans, and a returning should-be all star. The fact that the Grizz are 8-5 with the amount of injuries and lineup experiments that have to take place is a testament to the coaching staff.
The original starting lineup of Mike Conley, Garrett Temple, Chandler Parsons, JaMychal Green, and Marc Gasol managed to play a total of 21 minutes together before injuries set in. Lineup trials were forced to happen very early only.
The question is, How well has J.B. done finding lineups that work?
Advanced Stats and Fun Facts
Here is a rule for the section concerning lineups:
Memphis has run out a total of 20 different lineups during any given game this season thus far. The Grizzlies have 9 lineups that have played more than 10 minutes together on the season, only 5 that have played at least an entire quarter together.
Only those 9 lineups will be considered.
- Shelvin Mack, Wayne Selden, Dillon Brooks, Omri Casspi, Marc Gasol
This lineup is a +80.2 in 10:31 played together. That is obviously an insanely high +/- that could never be maintained. The biggest problem with this lineup is that they are out rebounded by 9 rebounds while their biggest plus is their activity on defense with +26 in the steals department.
2. Shelvin Mack, Mike Conley, Garrett Temple, Dillon Brooks, Marc Gasol
Where is Parker Fleming?! POSITIONLESS BASKETBALL. Two “point guards” and Dillon Brooks at the four with a center that spreads the floor. This group is a +6.7 in 16:25 minutes played. Due to Dillon guarding fours in this rotation, they are out rebounded by 8.3 boards, but make up for it by being +6.7 in steals.
3. Shelvin Mack, Mike Conley, Garrett Temple, Kyle Anderson, Marc Gasol
I call this group “The Closers.” Coach Bickerstaff has used this lineup to close the last three games. The Closers are a +6.2 in 39:45 minutes played. This lineup is also the second most used lineup by JB. A final few stats to note: 8.2 less turnovers, and +10.7 steals
- Shelvin Mack, Wayne Selden, MarShon Brooks, Kyle Anderson, Jaren Jackson Jr.
It seems as if Anderson’s success at the four is having Marc Gasol behind him running the defense. JJJ is not quite ready to lead the defense. This group is a -48.3 in 11:42 minutes played. The big factors are that they are out rebounded by 12.5 and turn the ball over 5.7 more times than the opponent while on the floor.
2. Shelvin Mack, Wayne Selden, MarShon Brooks, Garrett Temple, Marc Gasol
The common factor here seems to be Wayne Selden Jr. and MarShon Brooks on the floor at the same time. (Exclude Mack because well see below). This is quite possibly the smallest lineup Bickerstaff could run out and it shows, being out rebounded by 15 rebounds. This is not a lineup that should continue to see run excluding garbage time.
3. Mike Conley, MarShon Brooks, Garrett Temple, Kyle Anderson, Marc Gasol
This lineup is a -5 in their 14 minutes played together. In this rotation MarShon is in for Jaren and according to the stats, MarShon makes this lineup five points worse. For all the MarShon stans out there, Brooks is the only player in all three of the worst lineups this team has run out.
The Starting Lineup
The Opening Night starting lineup managed 21 minutes together and was actually a +4 during that time. The current starting lineup according to the stats is not as good.
Mike Conley, Garrett Temple, Kyle Anderson, Jaren Jackson Jr., Marc Gasol
This is not the starting lineup that Coach Bickerstaff envisioned to start the season, but it is the lineup he has chosen to compensate for injuries to Parsons and Green. Currently the starters are even as far as +/-, but up until the last game, they were a negative lineup.
Of the 20 lineups used, 10 are positive lineups, and of those 10, 7 of them contain Shelvin Mack and 8 contain Marc Gasol.
Jaren Jackson is in more negative lineups (4) than he is positive (2).
Team Leaders (min. 8 games)
Offensive Efficiency Defensive Effeciency
- Shelvin Mack (117.9) 1. Marc Gasol (100.9)
- Wayne Selden (110.3) 2. Jaren Jackson Jr. (101.7)
- Mike Conley (109.5) 3. Kyle Anderson (103.4)
- Garrett Temple (109.5) 4. Dillon Brooks (106.8)
- Marc Gasol (109.3) 5. Shelvin Mack (107.2)
TOP 3 MAN COMBINATIONS
- Shelvin Mack, Garrett Temple, Kyle Anderson (+15.7, 93:36 minutes played)
- Shelvin Mack, Wayne Selden, Marc Gasol (+14.7, 78:49 MP)
- Shelvin Mack, Garrett Temple, Marc Gasol (+11.5, 135:40 MP)
All stats found at Basketball-Reference