Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Who's gonna play?

There has been a lot of conversation floating around recently about the Grizzlies rotation. Who is going to be in the starting rotation is the most popular question, but there is an equally interesting question floating around.

How many people should be in the playing rotation?

Ever since Hubie Brown brought his unique 10 man rotation (more aptly described as a 2 team, 5 man rotation) to Memphis the rotation has been a topic Grizzlies fans like to discuss. With a new coach in town people have wondered what type of rotation the team will run this season. Will he use our depth and go 10 or more deep? Will he use a 6 man rotation predominantly like Phoenix has? What is the plan?

Perhaps we should look back at the teams Marc Iavaroni has played and coached in the past to get an understanding of how he may coach in the future.

As a player Iavaroni was the starting PF on the World Champion Philadelphia 76ers. That team had a legendary 5 players (Moses Malone, Julius Erving, Maurice Cheeks, Andrew Toney and Bobby Jones). Eight players played more than 1000 minutes that season. That means these players averaged at least 12 mpg over an 82 games season. However no one played 82 games that season. In fact 12 players averaged at least 10 minutes a game that season. A telling statistic is that four players averaged over 30 minutes per game and only 8 players averaged 20 or more minutes.

After his career ended Iavaroni eventually became an assistant coach with Mike Fratello in Cleveland. The first season there Cleveland had 10 players average at least 10 minutes per game. However, Bob Sura and Mitchell Butler both played fewer than half the games that season and since both played SG it is likely that their minutes should be considered one player. Four players averaged over 30 minutes a game that season (Shawn Kemp, Wesley Person, Brevin Knight and Cedric Henderson) and Zydrunas Ilgauskas averaged 29 mpg. Also only 7 players averaged 20 minutes a game. The second season Ilgauskas was hurt after only 5 games. Cleveland rotated more with 9 players averaging at least 20 minutes per game but you have to assume a healthy Ilgauskas would have altered those minutes significantly.

From Cleveland Iavaroni went to Miami to work with Pat Riley for three seasons. His first season there Miami had 4 players average 30 minutes per game (Alonzo Mourning, Jamal Mashburn, Dan Marjle and Tim Hardaway). Five other players averaged at least 20 minutes a game but once again injury seems to have played a role in that number. The next season Miami had 5 players average at least 30 mpg including an iron-man like 40.7 mpg from Tim Hardaway. Three other players averaged at least 20 mpg that season. His final season in Miami the Heat again had five players average 30 mpg and three others averaging at least 20 mpg.

From Miami Iavaroni moved to Phoenix with Mike D'Antoni for the last five seasons. Here the rotations really get short. His first season Phoenix had two players average 40 mpg (Stephon Marbury and Shawn Marion) and a mere 6 players averaging at least 20 mpg. The second season, Phoenix had three players average at least 40 minutes (Marbury, Marion and Joe Johnson) but the Suns radically changed the team at the all-star break by dealing Marbury and Hardaway and going very young. The next season Phoenix had 5 players average 30 minutes but only one other person averaged at least 20 mpg. The next season Amare Stoudamire was limited to three games and 8 Suns reached the 20 mpg mark. Last season it was back to a basic 6 man rotation with all six players averaging 30 mpg.

In Iavaroni's career he has never played or coached in a system that didn't emphasize a limited number of players playing a large majority of minutes. I would be very surprised if Iavaroni changes suddenly into the type of coach who uses his bench a lot during the season. Assuming Gasol, Miller and Rudy all average over 30 mpg, Stro starts with Gasol and with the point guard position apparently going to be run in a three man rotation for the time being (eventually that will drop to two man rotations) the last week should be interesting to watch to see who emerges. Right now it looks like Darko, Hakim and Juan Carlos Navarro are battling for those roles with Jacobsen, Kinsey on the outside but that can still change.

Update: The point guard role has apparently already dropped to a 2 man rotation as Damon has been practically named starter and Kyle is to come off the bench.


Dr. Jojo said...

I miss Swift in the last paragraph... he is going to crack the rotation for sure, even it looks like he will be starting at PF!

ChipC3 said...

Thanks for pointing out the omission. I will correct it. Swift has won the starting interior role (don't know if you call it a center or a PF) next to Pau and I should have mentioned that in the closing paragraph.