I've been thinking about how our lineups might look as far as starting, second unit, and other variations we could put together. Dave's questions about that exact topic spurred a lot of this, as well as what other folks were responding to in their replies. It seems to be a common assumption that Frye and/or Przybilla will be getting more minutes than people expect (want?) because of foul trouble to our other frontcourt options, especially Oden as he learns.
I'm not challenging that at all. I think it's right on the money. What I am wondering is how all those fouls will affect our game. According to 82games.com ( Blazers page ) we attempted 24.5 free throws per game at 77%, and gave up 26.3 at 78%. If we're looking at serious foul trouble in our frontcourt, we could see a much bigger disparity in those numbers. Potentially, we could have something like a -8 or -10 free throw differential every night. That could be a much bigger problem for us offensively than replacing Zach's numbers. In the end, giving up free points to the opponent is about the same as not scoring points you're used to getting. If Travis continues his aggressive drives that we saw at the very end of last season, that could help our free throw numbers. However, thinking for myself as well as perusing everyone else's ideas of our possible lineups, I don't know if he'll see enough playing time to get significant free throw numbers, as well as the questions regarding whether he can produce like that without being the number 1 or 2 option on offense.
The other issue I see with increasing fouls in our frontcourt is how it affects the pace of the game. It's been noted many times that we have the personnel to be a really fast, uptempo team. Whether that's how Nate (or KP?) want it to be, the possibility is there, and in all likelihood the team will try to be as fast as is helpful. However, if we're constantly stopping the game with fouls and free throws, where are the fastbreak opportunities? And even if, as has been suggested, we're not a fastbreak team, but become a very quick, motion-style halfcourt team, how will the constant variation in pace from frenetic cutting and tenacious defense to standing around watching a bounce-bounce-free throw affect our guys? It is much harder to condition for repetitive sprints and rests than constant effort in a flowing game.
Looking at the stats on 82games.com for the preeminent running teams in the NBA last year, the Golden State Warriors and the Phoenix Suns , the Warriors shot 25.8 at 72% while giving up 29.5 at 75% and the Suns shot 22.2 free throws at 81% while giving up 23.2 at 77%. Last year, our free throw numbers were right in there with those teams, so it seems like it wouldn't be a problem, but we're looking at increasing the number of free throws we're giving up significantly. Also, don't forget that Zach was masterful at getting fouled and drawing free throws, especially during his putbacks. There's a quite likely possibility that we'll give up a bunch more free throws, and attempt even fewer.
How do you think our free throw differential will look next year? Change or no change, why? Will our foul situations affect the pace of the game we play? How quickly can our frontcourt be coached into avoiding fouls? Conversely, how quickly can they be coached into drawing fouls and free throws?