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Evaluating the Lillard/Williams Backcourt

With many bench needs and so few resources it becomes both necessary and difficult to prioritize. What's more important: a third big, competent wing scorer, or an upgrade at back-up PG?

Another way to approach this question is to ask which line-ups do we most want to avoid next year? In other words, what were the worst line-ups this past year that we would have to play next year if we don't change personnel?

The most used three-man combination that was really bad was Mo, Lillard, and Robinson. In 320 minutes that combination of players had a Net Rating of -14.2. For context, the 76ers had a Net Rating of -10.7 last year.

This is a pretty big deal because I think both Robinson and two point guard line-ups are seen as a part of the Blazers future. Obviously, three-man line-ups are a pretty limited diagnostic but it raises a question: When are Mo/Lillard line-ups successful?

*If I omit any roster combinations it's because they played

With Aldridge at the 4

  • Mo/Lillard/Aldridge/Lopez: +17.1 in 149 minutes
  • Mo/Lillard/Aldridge/Freeland: +14.2 in 108 minutes

With a Stretch 4

  • Mo/Lillard/Batum/Wright/Lopez: +20.1 in 83 minutes
  • Mo/Lillard/We$/Batum/Lopez: -2.5 in 86 minutes
  • Mo/Lillard/We$/Batum/Aldridge: -8.4 in 66 minutes

With Robinson at the 4

  • Mo/Lillard/Robinson/Lopez: -21.6 in 118 minutes
  • Mo/Lillard/Robinson/Aldridge: -18.4 in 48 minutes
  • Mo/Lillard/Robinson/Freeland: -9.3 in 102 minutes

That's a pretty stark difference, and not at all surprising. The Mo/Lillard back court works when our best rim protectors can cover for all of the penetration. The line-up with Wright at the 4 is somewhat confusing. My best guess is that the quickness of Wright allows him to succeed in the pick and rolls even if Mo or Lillard get buried and the length of Batum and Wright bothers teams and allows them to gang rebound.

The other potential reaction is that Robinson is bad and should be replaced. There is some truth to that but looking at Robinson's other line-ups gives us a more complex picture.

Here's the Robinson/Lopez combo:

With Two PGs

  • Mo/Lillard/Batum/Robinson/Lopez: -15.7 in 13 min
  • Mo/Lillard/Mathews/Robionson/Lopez: -11.6 in 47 min
  • Mo/Lillard/Wright/Robinson/Lopez: -34.4 in 57 min

With One PG

  • Lillard/Mathews/Batum/Robinson/Lopez: +31.8 in 28 min
  • Mo/Mathews/Batum/Robinson/Lopez: +44 in 17 min
  • Mo/Mathews/Wright/Robinson/Lopez: -13.4 in 21 min

And here's the Robinson/Aldridge combo:

With Two PGs

  • Mo/Lillard/Batum/Robinson/Aldridge: -43.5 in 17 min
  • Mo/Lillard/Mathews/Robinson/Aldridge: -7.4 in 25 min

With One PG

  • Lillard/Mathews/Batum/Robinson/Aldridge: +27.1 in 38 min
  • Mo/Mathews/Batum/Robinson/Aldridge: +24 in 17 min

If you take a weighted average, Robinson's line-ups with one PG are +23 over 121 minutes. For comparison, the Blazer's starting unit has a Net Rating of +8.5. So he definitely brings something to the table. The implication is that Robinson and two PGs line-ups have a future but not if you're forced to play them together.

How Does This Affect This Summer?

If we spend the MLE on a third-big, he better have some defensive chops. It's gonna be tough to find a quality wing for the BAE so we would be relying on the Mo/Lillard back court for major minutes again. I would want the third big to have roughly the same defensive influence as Aldridge to go this route. I'm not sure if any FA big fits that category and especially not Hawes.

We could go after a back-up PG who can defend 2's at an above average level. I think Bradley, Livingston, and Hinrich would fall into this category. However, I'm skeptical that these players have the shooting or offensive creativity to maintain the positives of the two-PG line-up. It doesn't make sense to shore up the defensive deficiencies if we lose the offensive firepower.

I think we should use the MLE on a wing if we find one we like. That's counter intuitive considering how many SGs we have on the roster and it's not what I would have said before doing this research. But I think a wing who can defend his position and provide some offensive creativity would help TRob and Mo be successful on the court together. I would look at Marion or Carter. Maybe Kirilenko, Granger, or Butler although I haven't watched enough of them recently.

This discussion doesn't consider multi-year scenarios or trades (say TRob, CJ, 2015 1st Rounder for Afflalo?), but if we're just talking about next year, I'm hoping Olshey gets the guy(s) necessary so Stotts can play two-PG line-ups strategically, rather than every single game.

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