After the last few weeks of Statsketball, I've gotten a few requests to look at the Mavericks' lineups so far, and how they've been used. So, today, I have obliged.
How Carlisle manages player minutes and lineups is crucial to how the Mavericks perform. The bench this year is surprisingly shallow - Brandan Wright has been great, but Vince has only been a shell of what he was last year, especially when Wright isn't with him, and Larkin has been a good rookie but otherwise meh backup - and so the team's success largely falls on Carlisle's ability to stagger everyone's minutes in a way that gets maximal utility on the floor as much as possible.
To some degree, he's successful. Carlisle is one of the best coaches in the league at keeping his player's minutes managed while still keeping good players on the floor. That said, he has his weird quirks with lineups, too, and it's not always clear why he does things the way he does them.
I don't envy him of his task. As far as I can tell, it's impossible to keep only good lineups on the floor without playing Dirk Thibodeau-ian minute loads. Nonetheless, I'm a little baffled as to why, for example, Marion is still playing at Power Forward almost half of the time he's on the floor.
What follows is my attempt to look at what lineups have worked so far, and what hasn't worked quite as well.
What Has Worked
- Both of the Mavericks' regular starting lineups, Calderon-Monta-Marion-Dirk-Dalembert, and then the same lineup with Blair in for Dalembert, have outscored opponents by a rate of 6.9 points per 100 possessions and 3.9 points per 100 possessions, respectively.
- The team is, on average, defending at a rate of 98.5 points per 100 possessions when Jae Crowder is on the floor, and this isn't even the result of being in great defensive lineups. The top 3 lineups that he sees time in: Larkin-Vince-Crowder-Dirk-Blair (an atrocious lineup); the same lineup with Mekel playing instead of Larkin (a fabulous lineup); and Caldy-Monta-Crowder-Dirk-Dalembert (which is significantly better than the same lineup with Marion).
- When Vince Carter plays alongside Brandan Wright, the Mavs outscore opponents by 8.4 points per 100 possessions with an offensive efficiency of 116.9 points per 100 possessions.
- When Wright plays alongside Dirk, the Mavs score 116.6 points per 100 possessions.
- When the 3 play together, the Mavericks have a net rating of 8.4 and score almost 120 points per 100 possessions.
- The 5 man bench lineup of Larkin-Vince-Crowder-Dirk-Brandan Wright outscores opponents by almost 20 points per 100 possessions.
What Hasn't Worked
- The starting lineup that appeared a few games ago - with Wayne Ellington replacing Shawn Marion - is a negative 72.6 per 100 possessions. The lineup has been outscored by opponents BY OVER 70 POINTS PER 100 POSSESSIONS.
- The Mavericks are outscored by almost 8 points per 100 possessions with Shawn Marion at Power Forward, and he plays the position for 1/3 of each game.
- In last week's Statsketball, I did some math to try and project the Western Conference Playoff Odds. In it, I included a graph of the worst, projected, and best possible records of each team, on an axis of their current average Win%. That graph looked like this:
- Adam Jacobs also had another really cool graph that's pertinent to last week's Statsketball about the odds of the Mavericks making the playoffs:
The graph is a visualization of each team's Win% (the percentage of games they've won) with their Point Differential (how many points they beat teams by per 100 possessions) so far. Point Differential tends to be one of the best predictors of how many games a team Wins, and there's usually a pretty direct relationship between wins and PD. That's, in part, what this line shows. Most teams fall right within the correlation.
What you'll want to note, then, is the that the Timberwolves are wayyyyyy off of the line. Odds are, that'll correct itself over time, and they'll end up along that main line somewhere. There are three possibilities for them, given that: the Wolves might start winning more, to match their point differential (which is, depressingly, a little more likely); they might start winning by fewer points and losing by more, so that their Margin of Victory (same thing as Point Differential) matches their Win%; or a little bit of both might happen.
Here's what that looks like:
The moral of this story is that if Minnesota starts winning games in a way that matches their Point Differential, Dallas is screwed. If their Point Differential starts matching their Win%, Dallas is fine. If it's a mix of the two (what I suspect is the most likely outcome), then the playoff race is going to be really, really, really close.
- Ed Kupfer tweeted this graph out this morning:
So Dallas is somewhere between being in a really fantastic position and a really, really worrying one. So that's helpful.