Sunday, January 30, 2011

Larry Drew's Learning Curve

Immediately following the loss in Dallas, Jason Walker took apart Larry Drew for matching Rick Carlisle's Barea/Terry/Marion/Nowitzki/Haywood lineup with Teague/Crawford/Wilkins/Powell/Pachulia for the first three minutes of the fourth quarter:
This is what a strategy of crossing your fingers in terms of depth can lead to when you play a team that employs a different tack in that regard. And if Jamal Crawford doesn't have it offensively, which he didn't tonight---a lineup like that starting a quarter against a lineup like the one Dallas put out there means you're gonna need a bigger boat.
Walker's pointed critique struck a chord. Didn't I warn about Larry Drew's commitment to a not-very-good bench fairly early in the season? And, if so, did that mean I was right about something?

October 31, 2010:
Saturday night's 99-95 win over the Washington Wizards taught us some things about Larry Drew. We should expect overreaction to early fouls. We should expect a willingness to risk losing a game in order to give some starters extended rest. We should not expect quality of defense or infrequency of shots made to affect the playing time of any tenured members of the backcourt.
November 11, 2010:
Larry Drew's commitment to using his bench both to develop depth and not to exhaust his starters is theoretically sound. Practically, he lacks the personnel to accomplish either goal without suffering in-game consequences. Jamal Crawford and Zaza Pachulia are his only (healthy) quality reserves. There are very good reasons why Josh Powell, Jason Collins, and Etan Thomas have not been rotation players in the NBA for years and the drop-off from All-Star starters to sub-replacement level reserves will cause conflict between Drew's desires and the realities of winning basketball games.
November 12, 2010:
Larry Drew could get away with letting his second unit oversee diminishing leads against Philadelphia or Washington but Utah proved to be a different kettle of fish. Drew may have to abandon his apparent desire to use Zaza Pachulia and Josh Powell together. The easiest solution would be to reduce Powell's minutes (the Hawks were -10 in the 11:25 he played tonight, they were outscored by 8.5 points per 100 possessions he was on the court this season entering the game) to something approaching zero. The difference between Powell and Pachulia is significant, the difference between Powell and both Horford and Smith is vast and such differences become more stark in games (such as three of Atlanta's four losses) that go down to their final possessions.
So there's three examples from the first two-and-a-half weeks of the season of an obvious problem that has not been addressed three months into the season.

Injuries to Marvin Williams an Mo Evans aren't on Drew. Nor are the off-season "additions" of Josh Powell and Etan Thomas. Nor that two roster spots are being used on players not expected to contribute in the NBA this season.

The inability to get regular minutes out of Jeff Teague, the willingness to allocate shots and minutes on the basis of reputation and experience rather than ability, the disinterest in acknowledging the very real defensive liabilities of most of the backcourt, an inability to deal rationally with fouls committed by Al Horford and Josh Smith, and an irregular acceptance of throwing minutes during competitive basketball games down the Josh Powell well, those are on Drew.

It was obvious he was given a difficult task this season. It's not so obvious he's making that task any less difficult on himself.

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