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Essay: Playoff Unit Analysis

(Photo by Marc Serota/Getty Images)

From studying the postseason’s top units by way of the incredibly insightful site Basketballvalue.com, here are a few thoughts I’ve put together. Some of these are more or less obvious, while others may make you check the site for yourself. Enjoy.

  • Thanks to their stubborn insistence—or maybe an inability to do anything else—of switching on every pick and roll involving Chris Paul, the Los Angeles Lakers have, so far, been suspect on defense. But apart from this strategic gaffe, it seems, to nobody’s surprise, that they’ve struggled most with Andrew Bynum on the bench. Simply switching Sixth Man of the Year award winner Lamar Odom for their starting center and the Lakers crumble, giving up 26 more points per 100 possessions. In fact, during the postseason, their lineup of Bynum, Shannon Brown, Matt Barnes, Odom, and Steve Blake has been their most staunch defensive unit, giving up just 93 per 100. So far that lineup has the eighth highest overall rating of every unit that’s been on the floor over 17 minutes this postseason. Obviously there’s a floor time differential here, but Bynum’s impact can’t be overstated. He’s a game changer.
  • Defensive Player of the Year Dwight Howard has yet to be on the floor with a unit that’s scored more points than they’ve given up. Howard’s stats through four games are astronomical but are being overlooked due to some incompetent play by Turkoglu and Co., and Orlando’s 3-1 series deficit. Even if Orlando’s able to somehow escape their series against Atlanta, the Dwight Howard Departure Meter has permanently raised itself from Code Yellow to Code Orange.
  • During the regular season, Philadelphia’s lineup of Jrue Holiday, Jodie Meeks, Andre Iguodala, Elton Brand, and Spencer Hawes accumulated more minutes together than all but three units in the league. In the playoffs that chemistry has resulted in the third highest offensive rating (128 points per 100) and the seventh lowest defensive rating (91 points per 100) making it one of the most impressive groups employed. With Meeks playing the role of outside sharpshooter, Holiday serving as a ball handler with a respected deep shot and decent ball hawking abilities, Brand as a rebounder who’s able to stop an opponent’s scoring run with a consistent turn around jumper, Hawes as an underrated enforcer down low with some technical skills around the basket, and Iguodala as arguably the league’s best perimeter defender and oft point forward offensive facilitator, this is not only a very difficult group to scheme against defensively, but good luck scoring consistent buckets on them, too. What they also have, as previously mentioned, is familiarity playing with one another, a key component come playoff time.
  • The most efficient scoring unit (138 points per 100) resides in Dallas: Kidd, Terry, Chandler, Nowitzki, and Marion. Not only does this unit have three offensive match-ups that will more than likely be in their favor (Dirk, Terry, and Marion) but their rebounding/height advantage at four of the five positions allows second chance opportunities—as was put on display last night with Tyson Chandler’s 79 offensive rebounds.
  • The Heat have the two stingiest defensive units, one with James Jones at shooting guard and the other with Dwyane Wade. What’s very interesting here is the fact that Jones’ unit is slightly better than Wade’s, by a hair. What’s even more interesting is the better defensive unit has Chalmers at the point and Joel Anthony at center. When Big Z and Bibby—two starters—are on the floor, Miami has the third worst defensive rating. Those two are supposedly in the game to spread the floor and open up things offensively, but wait a second…Miami’s productivity with the aging veterans alongside Miami’s Big 3 is 27.4 points lower per 100 possessions than with Anthony and Chalmers. I wonder who’ll see more floor time in the Boston series.
  • Speaking of the Celtics, their starting five with Jermaine O’Neal as the defensive anchor has played 82 minutes in the postseason, the most of any unit. They’re giving up a solid 93 points per 100 possessions while scoring a superb 122. Checking in on Oklahoma City, the Thunder’s starting five (with Kendrick Perkins) have played 46 minutes together. They’re a tad better defensively (92 points per 100), but offensively they’re scoring 23 fewer points per 100 than Boston. For the record, Jermaine O’Neal’s defensive rating is 89 and Perkins’ is 103.
  • The Chicago Bulls are drastically better on the offensive end with Kyle Korver at shooting guard instead of Keith Bogans, and the hit they take defensively isn’t as great as one might expect. With Kutc—Korver, the Bulls average 125 points per 100 possessions as opposed to 90 with Bogans. Defensively, Chicago has actually allowed three more points than they’ve scored with Bogans on the court. With Korver they’ve outscored opponents by 21.
  • That O.J. Mayo for Josh McRoberts trade that didn’t happen sure looks good for Memphis right about now. The Grizzlies have three different offensive units that rank in the top 15 in offensive rating and Mayo (not Zach Randolph) is in all of them.

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