Switching The Lineup Around

Since the return of Yi, the Nets have had a stable starting lineup (with the exception of the last game – Devin’s wrist injury), but let’s face it.  The lineup we have on the court isn’t working right now, and I think that a switch in the starting lineup is well overdue.  In my opinion, there are two players you can consider moving to the bench and have them be the new sixth man.  Those two players are Yi and Chris Douglas-Roberts.  This is because these are the two guys that are “struggling” the most right now.  So how are we going to analyze this?  Well, in the book Mathletics (a book I highly recommend), Wayne Winston dedicates an entire chapter to analyzing lineups, and we are going to use some of the techniques he uses to see which lineup the Nets should start with.

Before we get going, all the numbers are taking from Queen City Hoops.  This is not only a great Bobcats blog, but Brett, the man who runs the site, also collect stats for every team/player in the league.  Seriously go check it out, the player swap is my favorite tool.

Before we look at any possible replacement starting lineups, lets see how the current one performs:

  • Minutes Played:  201:20
  • Pace: 94.4
  • Offensive Efficiency: 100.0
  • Defensive Efficiency: 115.6
  • eFG%: 45.4
  • Pure +/-:  -49

The first thing Wayne Winston recommends doing in his book, is to take the number of minutes played, and equate it to the number of games played.  So this lineup has played about 4.2 games worth of minutes.  They were outscored by 49 points, or about 11.64 points per 48 minutes.

Humprhies Instead Of Yi

  • Minutes Played:  9:05
  • Pace: 84.6
  • Offensive Efficiency: 118.8
  • Defensive Efficiency: 87.5
  • eFG%: 60.7
  • Pure +/-: +5

I know this is a ridiculously small sample size (this lineup isn’t even in the top 10 for the Nets in terms of minutes played), but you do start to see some trends developing. The first two things that you notice is pace and defensive efficiency.  With Humphries on the court instead of Yi, the team makes a notable effort to slow things down.  They go from playing at a 94 possessions a game pace to a 84 possessions a game pace.  That is a huge dropoff.  Also, the defensive rating really drops, and with a team that is struggling on defense, that is huge.  This lineup is allowing 87.5 points per 100 possessions.  That is really low, and although it will probably go up as this lineup’s minutes increases, one could assume this is our best defensive lineup.  The combination of a physical PF and a slower pace really helps this team defensively.

Jarvis Hayes Instead Of CDR

  • Minutes Played:  15:32
  • Pace: 102
  • Offensive Efficiency: 96.9
  • Defensive Efficiency: 114.7
  • eFG%: 41.7
  • Pure +/-: -8

As you can see from the numbers, this lineup isn’t only worse on defense, but worse on offense when Jarvis Hayes replaces CDR.  The only thing that happens when Hayes replaces CDR is that they play slightly faster.  This makes sense Hayes is a three point shooter and most three point shots happen during the early part of the shot clock.

Final Conclusion

Just looking at the numbers, they tell you that Humphries replacing Yi in the starting lineup is the best lineup the Nets have.  The sample size is so small though, how can we tell for sure?  Well, Wayne Winston also gives instructions how to calculate the probability that one lineup is better than the other all things (including minutes) being equal:


So what this tells us is there is a 98.9% chance that the lineup that replaces Yi with Humphries is the better lineup in the long run.  Looking at it, the numbers do make sense.  I know I was going into this expecting the numbers to tell me CDR coming off the bench makes the most sense, but the key here is who you are placing into the starting lineup.  Yi’s backup Humphries is playing very well right now, while CDR’s backup Jarvis Hayes isn’t.

So now that we know the best starting lineup for the Nets, let’s look at how this move would effect the team.  First, it will keep the Nets in games longer.  Too many times are the Nets out of it before the first quarter ends.  If the Nets play a more competitive lineup, they will be able to hang around longer, and as teams hang around, their confidence grows, and who knows what happens from there.  Also, with Humphries starting in place of Yi, the team becomes a better defensive team in the front court.  During the past couple of games, teams have really started going after Yi when they are on offense.  Humphries is more physical and better on defense.  The final point is that moving Yi to the bench greatly improves our second unit.  Yi would be the #1 option on this unit without question, so he will still be able to get his shots/points as he goes up against a backup PF.

The thing people don’t really grasp when they talk about starting lineups is that the starting 5 doesn’t have to be your five best players.  You also don’t have to finish the game with your starting 5.  Even if this change does happen, I would still expect to see Yi get more minutes than Humphries, and that makes sense.  The starting lineup switch just gives the Nets a better chance of keeping games close for longer, and I think that’s exactly what is needed right now.

One final thing.  Something that you may have notice while looking through the numbers is that a slower pace resulted in better numbers both offensively and defensively.  This is going to be something I will look at soon, but I really do think that Kiki and Del Harris need to slow the game down and limit possessions.  The Nets aren’t good offensively, and when things start to open up (in terms up pace), that is when the Nets usually fall behind for good.