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Doug Collins' 8-Man Rotation

If the game is in question, Doug Collins trusts eight players on his roster. Spencer Hawes, Elton Brand, Andre Iguodala, Jodie Meeks, Jrue Holiday, Evan Turner, Lou Williams and Thaddeus Young. That's his group. Those are his guys, and he's going to win or lose with them on the floor. Whether relying so heavily on eight players is sustainable over the course of this abbreviated season remains to be seen, but for now, that's his plan and he's sticking to it. Let's see how he's mixed and matched those players so far.

First of all, if not for Hawes' dramatically improved play thus far, it wouldn't be possible for Collins to have trimmed his rotation to eight, so more well-deserved kudos to Spence for doing whatever he's doing. Also, if you missed last night's SixersBeat episode, you can listen to the replay right here:

OK, so the Sixers have played 288 minutes so far. For 242 of those minutes, the entire five-man unit on the floor has been made up of guys in the top eight of the rotation. Overall, the team is +78 points on the season. Oddly enough, the team is also +78 for the 242 minutes when the top eight have been the only ones on the floor. They're a flat 0 in +/- for the other 46 minutes when at least one other guy on the roster is in the mix.

Since Collins only has two options at the five in his 8-man rotation, it's actually pretty simple to break down the possible combinations of players he can use. There are only 30 combinations, so the first chart will look at the cumulative success of each lineup (he's used 25 of the possible 30 combos). A few caveats, the sample size is ridiculously small here, so this isn't a slight on Collins for playing or not playing certain rotations, it's just a quick look at which units he's gone with to this point and how they've performed. Also, you have to take into account the level of competition. For example, the starting lineup plays against other teams' starting lineups at least twice a game for a decent chunk of time. Anyway, here's the first chart, think about the limits to what Collins can do in terms of mixing and matching when he's limiting himself to 8 players (PER MIN is plus/minus per minute on the floor):

So the starting lineup has the second-best +/-, with Hawes, Brand, Iguodala, Turner and Williams as the best. The worst is a tie between Hawes, Thad, Turner, Meeks, Lou and JTI with Hawes and Brand (which is surprising). Now let's take a look at the 27 lineups ranked by plus/minus per minute:

Not a lot to draw from this chart, yet. Lineups with Hawes at the five and Thad at the four have really performed well. The best lineup with a decent amount of minutes is again, Hawes, Brand, Iguodala, Turner and Williams. JTI with Hawes and Thad has showed some promise as well.

Now let's take a look at the same chart ranked by minutes played:

If Collins was using his rotations perfectly, the colors in the far right column of this chart would go from green to red, top to bottom (once you remove the outliers), meaning he'd be giving the most minutes to the most successful lineup combinations. Obviously, he's not there yet, but the sample size is way too small to draw any conclusions from it.

Ultimately, these charts serve a great way to keep track of what he's doing with his 8-man rotation, to look at what's available to him in terms of combinations he can put on the floor and it provides a template. Something we can look back on after maybe 20 games, or 33 games. When we accumulate that much data, we can maybe begin to draw some conclusions about whether Collins is getting the right groups out there, or if maybe he's leaning too heavily on a certain lineup that's having very little success.

We've got another game tonight, at 8pm against the Raptors (who lost to the Nets last night). The game thread/seriously brief preview will be up around 5pm. Until then, leave your thoughts on these charts and/or Collins rotations in general, in the comments below.
by Brian on Jan 7 2012
Tags: Basketball | Doug Collins | Rotations | Sixers |