A look at workable lineups in a Loveless world

After spending most of the summer exulting over the flexibility we'd have with such a deep roster, Love decided to do some knuckle pushups against somebody's face / a brick wall / [insert conspiracy theory here] and Derrick Williams decided to try his best Jonsley Flynson impersonation. (Zgoda has yet to confirm the Internet rumor I just made up that Williams enrolled in a summer course at Syracuse this offseason, but I think that eyes-closed layup attempt gave us all the evidence we need.)

Adelman has said he will consider playing AK and Amundson at the 4 until Love returns, as well as Cunningham (and presumably Williams will sneak onto the court here and there as well). None of those options inspire much confidence. While Love provided 3-pt range, Amundson is limited to 3-ft shots. Slide AK to the 4, and Roy has to take some minutes at the 3, banging his porcelain body with bigger dudes. Oceanary gave a fine rundown of what Cunningham can do...but he remains a limited offensive player.

But enough grousing over what we've lost. (If you're in the grousing mood, the lead article over at A Wolf Among Wolves is all about how our roster without Love flat out doesn't work. We'll take a more constructive approach over here.) Let's take a look at what player combinations give us the best chance to paper over our PF deficiencies. Is our roster deep enough to continue to put out lineups with sufficient scoring, rebounding, distribution, ball handling, and defense? We'll find out below the fold.

*********(just pretend folds still exist in FanPosts, and you can't see anything below this point until you click on the title of my post.)********

Okay, welcome back.

So here's what we currently have to work with (plus a reminder of the production we're trying to replace):

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A few notes:

  • The first thing to remember is that we simply cannot replace Love's production. But with our transmogrification at the wings, it may be feasible to tread water from last year's .500ish start. That's essentially what I'd like to explore here. Can we be an average team?
  • The 20th-ranked numbers are meant to give a rough idea of the average production at the position. E.g., among point guards, the 20th-best scorer was Felton's 12.9 per 36. 20th-best rebounder, DWill's 3.3 per 36. Etc.
  • Take Conroy's numbers with a grain of salt, as they're based on 12 career game appearances.
  • Roy's numbers are taken from his hobbled 2010-11, so call this the worst-case scenario. For instance, his ORtg in 2008-09 was 123. TS% and USG were also far higher earlier in his career. But his DRtg was never any better than 109, so don't hope for much on that count.
  • Shved had no BBRef info, so I had to use his numbers from Moscow. I don't know much about converting from Euro stats. I figure assists will go up. Beyond that...if anyone cares to offer something better, I'll plug in those numbers.
  • Amundson's ORating and DRating were dramatically lower last year with Indiana than they ever were with Golden State. Which figures, of course, based on the philosophies and rosters of those teams. Lots of noise in a lot of these numbers, but this is one egregious case I thought I'd point out. Another case: Lee got most of his playing time last year after the wheels came off, so feel free to discount his poor ORating and middling DRating.
  • So...yeah, we're going to be punished on the boards. Cunnngham and Williams are below-average rebounders, and AK is well-below average as a PF (I did check his career numbers, as he played some 4 in Utah early on. But he's never topped 7.8 per 36, and hasn't been above 6.3 since 2006).
  • AK and Cunningham rack up the blocks and steals but don't have particularly impressive DRatings. I'm going to go ahead and call them plus-defenders anyway, along with Amundson and Stiemsma. Hopefully Shved can be an active defender, because we're probably not going to get much assistance from Ridnour, Barea, Roy, and Bud. We may end up having to play a lot more of Cunningham, Amundson, and Stiemsma than we'd like—even once Love comes back—to make up for the sieves in the backcourt.
  • The biggest elephant in the room for me is Dante Cunningham's usage. We're talking about replacing the highest-usage player on our team with the second-lowest. Yeah, as nice as Cunningham's midrange elbow jumper is, we've got a pretty serious problem here. Love was more efficient with twice the usage (and a roughly similar TOV%...damn are we going to miss this dude.) It becomes worse if you want to talk about pairing him with Stiemsma in the second unit, as the other three guys on the court would have to account for over 75% of the action. Barea, for what it's worth, is all for this arrangement.
  • Which means that Williams absolutely has to show up. If he can't pose a reasonable post-scoring threat for 25+ minutes per game, we're screwed.

In looking at lineup possibilities, we'd ideally want to have 3-pt shooting on the floor at all times, some semblance of a post-scoring threat, and capacity for dribble-drive penetration. Rebounding will be a weakness no matter what, but we can try to limit that deficiency by limiting AK's minutes at the 4. (I was tempted to dig up that Sloan report on ideal roster combinations, but let's forget about ideal for the moment and stick with functional.) With all that in mind, here are some of the player combinations that look promising to me:

  • AK-Cunningham-Pek. This is probably going to be the starting front court. Crafty offense from the 3 and 4 to complement Pek's scoring; scrappy defense to offset Pek's limitations on that end.
  • Williams-Stiemsma. Assuming Cunningham gets paired with Pek for the most part, I just don't see how we can play Amundson and Stiemsma together for any length of time. If Williams can't pull himself together and provide some post scoring with Pek on the bench, we're left with Lou and Greg, AKA the inverse of Boston's backcourt from a few years back, with offensively challenged Rondo and Tony Allen ensuring that neither team would be scoring for the foreseeable future. Except that Rondo and Allen were (much) better at offense than our pair. And much better at defense. Oh well.
  • Roy and Bud on separate units. With so little scoring available to our bench at the 4 and 5, we need a scoring wing on the court at all times. I think Roy and AK make a nice pairing, as do Shved and Bud. Hopefully Shved can contribute from day one, because if Bud has to back Roy up at SG, we'll need Williams to take the backup SF minutes, and counting on Williams at this point at two positions is just inconceivable.
  • Roy, AK, and Pek (on the bench). As tempting as it would be to ride these guys into the ground, I hope Adelman is disciplined enough to limit their minutes. I expect to see a fair bit of Shved, Bud, and Stiemsma sharing the court.

So, add it up, and here are some lineups that I think could work for us. Again, we won't win 50 games with these guys, but our goal here should essentially be .500 ball.
#1. (Probable Starting Lineup) Ridnour-Roy-AK-Cunningham-Pek. (combined usage = 94%) The usage numbers seem reasonable. There's room there for Cunningham to get a few more touches than he's used to without dramatically changing his role. Ridnour getting back to the neighborhood of 40% from 3 would be quite nice. As far as Williams goes, I don't think he can start even if the light comes on and he starts scoring 25 PPG at Love's level of efficiency. We have to have someone able to score in the post when Pek sits. I don't see anyone on this team other than Derrick able to fill that role. I hope Adelman makes that clear, that the best way he can help the team right now is from the bench.
#2. (First Substitution) Ridnour-Roy-Bud-Cunningham-Pek. (combined usage = 95.6%) Sixth man is probably Bud, in for whichever of Roy or AK seems most fragile at the moment. We've got more options at the 2, so best guess is Bud comes in for AK all things being equal.
#3. (Second Unit) Barea-Shved-Bud-Williams-Stiemsma. (combined usage = 104.1%) Shved's usage will probably (hopefully) drop from the 28.8 he posted for CSKA, and playing next to Barea should ensure that happens. This unit provides four willing 3-pt shooters (and three capable ones), with Williams hopefully able to provide some post scoring and rebounding. Shved has already shown a knack for penetrating and kicking to Bud in the corner.
#4. (Crunch Time) Ridnour-Roy-Bud-AK-Pek. (combined usage = 99.8%) Ridnour gets the nod over Barea due to better shooting and better defense, even if Barea is probably better suited for the Pek and Roll. Iso-Roy as a fall-back isn't the worst idea in the world, with Bud and Ridnour hopefully being kick-out options pending the double team.
#5. (Worst-Case Scenario) Ridnour-Roy-Bud-AK-Amundson. (combined usage = 95.2%) If Pek misses a game or has to sit early with foul trouble, what options would we have left? Well, I'd be interested in bringing in Amundson ahead of Stiemsma, taking out Cunningham and sliding AK to the 4. Kirilenko gives you a bit more offensively than Dante, and Bud and Amundson are decent rebounders for their positions to make up for AK. The simpler option is subbing in Williams and Stiemsma for Cunningham and Pek, but that option is solely up to Derrick at this point. As I said above, I don't think a simple substitution of Stiemsma for Pek would work because then you'd need to get 75% of your touches from Ridnour, Roy, and AK, and this sentence just busted Roy's kneecap and tweaked AK's hammie.

Well, that's all I've got. As much as I'm trying to be optimistic, I honestly think the only way we salvage our season is if the lightbulb comes on for Derrick Williams before Nov 2. That would plug a hell of a lot of holes.
Your move, Lion.

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