Josh Smith, Amir Johnson

I don’t think I sufficiently communicated my disgust with the last play of the Indiana game in yesterday’s post. Having three ball handlers on the court as Chris Bosh does a TJ Ford impersonation rubbed me the wrong way, in fact, the whole second half rubbed me the wrong way, but that play rubbed me in a very wrong way. The game is serving as some motivation for this post which looks at some statistics concerning the lineups of Jack, Calderon and Turkoglu.

Disclaimer: +/- doesn’t tell you the whole story generally, but since the last four games have seen peaks and valleys in our play corresponding to key substitutions, I figured this would be an appropriate use-case.

Here are the +/- numbers for the various lineups the Raptors have put out during the course of the last four games – Orlando, Philadelphia, Boston and Indiana. These four games were selected because Jose Calderon played in all of them after returning from injury.

The Calderon-Jack-Turkoglu lineup was the second-most used lineup, only behind the starting combo of Jack and Turkoglu. The -2 you see under JCT for the Indiana game is significant because it represents a 7 minute stretch where the Raptors couldn’t outplay the Pacers with the game on the line. Hedo Turkoglu played 11:46 of that quarter and went 0-5 FG (0-3 3FG) and an overall +/- of -8. A terrible quarter indeed. There are a couple things these simple summations tell us:

  • Whenever Jose Calderon has come off the bench and been given complete ball-handling duties (no Turkoglu or Jack), the second-unit has thrived as indicated by his +25. This falls in line with what a casual observer would feel when watching the last few games.
  • The poor starts against Orlando, Boston and Philadelphia are hurting the Jack-Turkoglu (-13) duo, but this is where +/- can be deceiving because we know by watching that Jack has been performing well in his first stints and playing the “right way”. Leaving his poor outing in Indiana aside, he’s netting 12pts, 5asts on 52% and his shot-charts indicate that he’s been driving the ball as per plan.
  • The Jack-Turkoglu-Calderon is our worst lineup (-9) even though the previous Jack-Turkoglu lineup has a worse plus-minus rating. Consider that other than the +8 stretch in the second-quarter against Orlando, that lineup has never produced anything more than a +2, and that too only once. It is the only lineup that has a negative +/- for every one of the four games. It is also a lineup that is not needed since other ones simply work better.

If you look at the lineup rating which considers defensive and offensive ratings (thus normalized for pace), the Calderon-Jack-Turkoglu lineup is once again revealed to be the worst with a rating differential of -14.09. That’s saying if that lineup plays 100 defensive and 100 offensive possessions, it’ll be down by 14 after them. The lineup also includes Chris Bosh and Andrea Bargnani, making it exactly the same lineup Triano had at the end of the game against Indiana! The only other Calderon-Jack-Turkoglu lineup of significance (83 total offensive and defensive possessions) includes Antoine Wright and that has a point differential of -40.88. We’ll blindly attribute that to Wright.

The three ball-handler lineup is also the worst defensive lineup (131.35 DRTG) of our top 10 lineups used and is the 3rd most lineup used. Think about that, we have our worst defensive lineup out there that often. Nor surprisingly, our best defensive lineup (103.70 DRTG) has only two of the three ball-handlers in it and that’s Jack and Turkoglu along with Sonny Weems (Bargnani and Bosh being the other two).

For more we turn to resident RR stats guru @Liston, who provides us more on these normalized ratings and further confirms that the Calderon-Jack-Turkoglu should never see the light of day. Also, Belinelli might be a good option to close games and there is a defensive lineup we can turn to when Bargnani needs rest:


“Source: Data obtained from basketballvalue.com as of January 11, 2010”

Now if chumps like me and Liston can figure this out and document in a blog post, I’m positive so can Jay Triano, Alex English, Micah “Who the f**k?” Nori, Marc Iavaroni and Alvin Williams. There has to be an external force (ahem, Colangelo) dictating the use of this lineup in order to make sure that the big players play a respectable amount of minutes. It’s not too far from a conspiracy theory, is it?

Moving on to Turkoglu’s poor play. This was discussed in the podcast a few days back after he came out and said that he needs the ball more but is too shy to demand it and needs the press to help him out. He does have a point, a small one, but a point. When he was signed, everyone here viewed him as the playmaker and somebody who would bring a different dimension to the offense using his drives, court-vision and clutchability (I made that word up). What nobody saw coming was Jarrett Jack stepping in and doing a lot of the things Turkoglu was supposed to do, and that too with added defense. With Jack playing well, it’s natural for Turkoglu to feel that he shouldn’t be stepping on toes and disrupting the good play of his teammates. This is where a coach needs to intervene, put his foot down and decide on what his primary lineups will be. If Turkoglu is to be the designated point-forward as the plan was in the summer, let’s make it happen, if not, he either needs to accept (and thrive) in an adjusted role or be shipped out. If you try to make everyone happy, you’ll end up pissing off everybody.

Watching Turkoglu has become frustrating because it’s obvious that he’s frustrated. His idea of a good shot in the fourth quarter has become a pull-up semi-contested jumper taken only because he’s been told that he’s supposed to be the clutch scorer on the team. In Orlando, his fourth-quarter play was part of a bigger offensive scheme which included offensive rebounding (a key element missing here), but in Toronto, we’re thrusting the ball in his hands without an offensive plan and expecting magic (I couldn’t resist). Per 36, his numbers are down in every statistical category except three-pointers bricks attempted which speaks of total mismanagement of his abilities.

Phdsteve will swing around later with his podcast which I’m sure will include tons of funky soundbytes and a ridiculous trade. We love that guy.