Excellent forum post from very valued TWolves Blog member “Wolfenstein.” We’ll let him take it away from here…
(Check out this post and much, much more, in our TWolves Blog Forums)
First of all, credit where credit’s due: from Simmons via ESPN.com (about halfway down, read the Rockets write-up):
…The Law of Too Many Guys. You only need eight and a half guys to win in the NBA: five starters, three bench guys, then an 8½th man who doesn’t mind playing 0-10 minutes a night and being on call if a rotation guy gets into foul trouble, gets hurt or whatever. Of those eight and half guys, ideally, you need two scorers, one ball handler, one perimeter defender and one rebounder. You need to be able to play defense. You need everyone to know their roles. You need to know who’s playing crunch time and who gets the ball in those last few minutes. And you need a coach competent enough not to screw things up. That’s it.
It’s a common-sense thing. Ask any NBA starter how many minutes would make them happy and they’d say 36 to 38 (one rest per half). There are 240 minutes available in a basketball game. That means you need to allot 180-190 minutes for your five starters to be happy. Now, ask any bench player how many minutes they need to play well and you know what they’d say? Two stretches per half for 8-10 minutes. They need time to run around, break a sweat, get a feel for the game and get comfortable. That means you need to allot 50-60 minutes for your three bench guys and your 8½th man.
So let’s split the difference: 185 minutes for five happy starters, 55 minutes for the three and a half bench guys. That adds up to … wait for it … 240 minutes! What a coincidence.
Deep, deep insight from Simmons. If you line up 2 scorers, a ballhandler, an excellent rebounder, and an excellent defender in a pickup game, you know you can run the court for a few games, until you either tire out or until someone brings a better team with similar balance and better talent. I would argue that it is possible for your best defender to be a post defender, as long as you don’t have substantial gaps with your perimeter defense. If you are letting guys penetrate all game long, you will have a problem with just a great interior defender. Otherwise, with decent perimeter defense a guy like Mutombo or Garnett as your plus defender is good.
Let’s assume this bit of basketball knowledge is accurate, as I think it is. Let’s also go one step further and say that you can have a MAXIMUM of one defensive liability in your starting 5, and one in your 3.5 backups. Usually this is one of the scorers, but if you think back to some of the great teams of the last 10 years you realize at times it is a ballhandler, at times a big man; in no case is more than one starter a defensive liability.
So, to recap:
- One Ball Handler
- One Rebounder
- One Elite Defender
- Two Scorers
- Three Bench Contributors
- One Serviceable Sub
- MAX one Defensive Liability as a Starter, one as a Sub
Let’s now take this theory back to our dear Wolfies. Keep in mind that everyone at the NBA level is versatile to a certain degree- i.e. Love is a solid scorer as well as rebounder, but since we must categorize him as one or the other, the dominant role takes precedence; obviously Love gets classed as a Rebounder. I’m also going to list each player’s overall score as I see it at this point in their career. ++++ would be your perennial All-Stars, +++ is top 10 at his position, ++ is a legit starter, + is a contributing role-player, = is a replacement level player and – is sub-par. I will also note those players that I believe are significant Defensive Liabilities. This is obviously a subjective exercise so there will be those that disagree with details, but it’s useful nonetheless for sorting purposes.
Please click “Read More” for the in-depth analysis and insight from “Wolfenstein”…
Our team as presently constructed looks like:
- Luke Ridnour – Ballhandler, Defensive Liability (+)
- Wes Johnson* – Scorer (+)
- Mike Beasley* – Scorer, Defensive Liability (++)
- Kevin Love – Rebounder, Defensive Liability (+++)
- Darko Milicic* – Rebounder (+)
Current Bench Guys
- Anthony Randolph – Scorer (++)
- Anthony Tolliver – Defender (+)
- Nikola Pekovic – Rebounder (+)
- Wayne Ellington – Scorer (+)
- Jonny Flynn* – Ballhandler, Defensive Liability (=)
- Martell Webster – Scorer (+)
- Lazar Hayward – Perimeter Defender (=)
Now I’ll admit this is not an easy team to grade, nor is it an objective scale. I didn’t give anyone on the team a -, mostly because some nights Jonny looks like a – and some nights he’s better than Ridnour. Likewise you get major inconsistencies out of Darko, Beasley, and Wes Johnson. Out of all of those guys Wes is the only one that gets a pass this year in my book since he’s a rook. We can entertain discussions about whether a player deserves the Defensive Liability tag or not, or whether a player is an elite defender or not; bottom line is that this is getting close.
One interesting side note is to take a look at the T-Wolves box score from tonight:
[attachment:1]C: akepathwolfies box score 4-9-11.jpg[/attachment]
Notice that we had seven players between 22-30 minutes, one with 33 (Martell Webster, who had a solid but not spectacular night) and two with under 20 minutes (Lazar, who scored a very efficient 15 points in 19 minutes, and Pekovic, limited by foul trouble).
Many of us have identified this throughout the year, so I won’t belabor the point, but one wonders if Rambis, a career bench player, fails to grasp that the best players expect to be in the game the vast majority of the minutes. Possibly he just recognizes what my ratings above will show, which is that, besides Love, he has about 2 other guys who seem to deserve Starters’ minutes and they both play the same position as Love.
Back to tackling the problem of how to move forward in constructing this team, we have some issues to tackle:
- Love is our best player and is an elite rebounder. He can probably coexist with two other elite scorers without significantly hurting our team, since he hits spot up shots and creates points by rebounding. He will probably not be a 20 ppg scorer if 2 other guys need shots in the offense, but could easily be a 15/12+ guy within such a system. In other words, he could be the best case scenario of the love-child (no pun intended) of Toni Kukoc and Dennis Rodman on a contending team.
- We have way too many defensive liabilities on our team as constructed, and only one guy who plays like a legitimate defensive stopper (Hayward), who projects as a solid role-player at best (i.e. not a starter).
- Our only viable scorers besides Love (who I am including as a rebounder for reasons above- plus he’s not the guy who creates his own looks within the offense) are Beasley and Randolph, who both play the same natural position as Love. Beasley is also a significant defensive liability at this point in his career due to his bad positioning and vision habits and tendency to lose track of his man.
- We have a total of 3 players on our roster who I believe deserve to be starting at this point in their careers. Three. And they all play Power Forward. Obviously Beasley and Randolph are somewhat versatile in their position.
- We have between seven and nine role players on our team. Way too many. One excellent player and two very good players. No elite players.
- No elite perimeter or interior defenders.
So what to do?
First, let’s add current assets. We’ll throw Rubio in there as a Ball Handler and a legit starter based on his track record in International/Olympic play. We’ll call him “Ricky Rubio – Ball Handler (++)”. I think he’s probably an above average defender but in my mind doesn’t qualify as a lockdown perimeter defender, so we’ll leave it as is.
Second, we have our 2011 first round draft picks. We’re likely to be in the top 3, let’s assume we don’t get totally screwed and fall to 5. We probably will, but let’s assume it’s top 3. We have Kyrie Irving and Harrison Barnes (assuming he comes out) as top prospects, with lesser prospects in Derrick Williams and Perry Jones. At this point we have Beasley and Randolph who can be scorers, but you can’t roll the ball out with Love, Beasley, and Randolph on the court and not get destroyed in the halfcourt. Not at this point, anyway.
So let’s assume we need to add scoring punch to our team, and ideally it would be at a position that is not occupied by any of our legit starters- certainly not a player who projects as a PF. Even with trading Love we still would have an unresolved logjam.
That leaves us with 3 first round picks, and in need of at least one additional legitimate scorer, and one elite perimeter defender.
If we could add Harrison Barnes and trade for a guy like Gerald Henderson, Avery Bradley, or Thabo Sefolosha (more difficult to acquire), we’d be in the right neighborhood. If Darko could regain his mojo or if Randolph could improve his post defense to the degree required to hold down the Center position, this would put us in the right territory.
Conversely, we could trade for a scorer (Mayo, Ellis, Martin would fit the bill) and look for a draft a guy with one of our later picks like DeAndre Liggins, who projects as a plus defender.
The other thing that becomes apparent is that, unless his perimeter defense improves dramatically, Beasley will either need to take something of a hit in minutes (and ego) and come off the bench as a 6th man (both pairing with and subbing for Love), or either he or Love will probably need to be on the move. This is due to Love’s natural challenges with defensive footspeed and leaping, paired with Beasley’s lack of defensive awareness and generally mediocre team defense.
I would also add that Beasley’s efficiency would probably need to increase in order to keep him in our starting line-up.
There’s a lot here to consider, but the concept of “Too Many Guys” seems to fit our team perfectly. Not enough leaders, and our top end talent is mainly redundant.
Anyone who read the “K-Love has got to go” thread knows I think he can and should be a part of our long-term future. Also, as a basketball purist I love Rubio’s game. So we’ll pencil them both into the starting line-up.
I like Beasley as our first guy off the bench, assuming one of the guys we add takes Beasley’s starting spot. Could be leader of a very explosive bench; you’ve heard my rationale on this topic in a dozen other threasa, so we’ll move on.
Since Love is somewhat of a defensive liability at this point, we’ll take Anthony Randolph as another sub, because someone needs to step up in the Amare/Bosh nightmare matchups. His versatility is nice since we’re shortening up the bench, I see him projecting as a SF/PF/C at some point.
Wes Johnson is tough to project since he’s only a rookie, he pushes himself during the offseason, but he has been extremely streaky. Likewise, Webster is tough to project due to his injuries this year and in the past. Either guy could be a solid starter or roleplayer. With a solid offseason push towards creating his own shot, and an assertive scorer on the team, Wes could break into the starting lineup alongside Rubio and another wing, but for now he or Webster is our 3rd bench player, and the other one is on the move.
Tolliver is your perfect hustle/8.5th guy. Energy when you need it, doesn’t require lots of minutes to contribute to your team, great lockerroom guy, etc.
This leaves us like this:
- BALLHANDLER: Rubio
- SCORER: ?
- SCORER: ?
- REBOUNDER: Love
- DEFENSIVE STOPPER: ?
- 6th MAN: Beasley
- ROLEPLAYER 1: Randolph
- ROLEPLAYER 2: Johnson/Webster
- ENERGY GUY/8.5th GUY: Tolliver
One of our backcourt guys needs to be able to slide to point when Rubio’s out; a guy like Mayo, Steph Curry, Evan Turner, Iguodala, etc. OR Wes is either in the starting lineup or on the move, since your bench guard will need to be able to handle the rock when Rubio rests.
Further, we still have no defensive stopper; there are options here and a guy with great fundamentals and tenacity is important. Brewer had the hustle and the attitude but is far too much of a gambler and lunger to make sense as a lockdown guy. He gets his chin out past his feet and there is no longer any balance. Again, Thefalosha, Gerald Henderson, and Iguodala are good options. Iguodala obviously gives you more on the offensive end as well as ballhandling-wise.
Assuming we add 2 legit wings, one of whom can score and one of whom can lockdown the other team’s top player, it makes sense to play center by committee as Roundhouse and others have proposed. However, if we need consistent production from the man in the middle I don’t see a center by committee ploy working out well. You guys seem to love Pekovic but I see a guy who fouls too much and has feet slower than Kevin Love. Maybe he’s the long-term solution, in any case I’m not spending much time on it.
With Pick 1 we add Barnes in a perfect world and we move the Grizzlies pick plus Webster for a stopper, or take someone like Liggins with the Grizzlies pick and move our #1 plus Webster/Johnson + Ellington for Iguodala, or something like that. Maybe you need to give up Beasley to do that deal, which I believe would be worthwhile.
Again, just some thoughts on how to construct a team, namely ours.