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Lineup Optimization: A Look Back At the 2010-11 Season

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Our friend at Indy Cornrows and Hickory High, Ian Levy, has been taking a look back at the departed 2010-11 NBA season specifically in regards to coaching performance.

Lineup Optimization: The Extra 15% | Hickory High

He begins his analysis by asking how exactly we can use statistics to measure coaching performance? Try not to get the Kevin Durant shimmy-shakes when you read his hypothesis: 

For each team, I looked at all the five-man units that played at least five minutes together and calculated what percentage of those units finished the season with a positive Net Rating. I then calculated what percentage of total minutes were played by those positive units. If a coach distributed minutes completely evenly, with no regard for a lineup's effectiveness, those two percentages would be equal. Unsurprisingly, that was not the case in any of the seasons I looked at. So to restate, we're comparing the percentage of lineups which outscored the opposition, with the percentage of time those lineups were on the floor. For our purposes here, we'll consider the difference between those two percentages, positive or negative, as a representation of a coach's ability to manipulate their roster.

Interestingly, after Mr. Levy finished his research he reached out to us with a simple observation - that coach Scott Brooks played his optimal line-up just a bit over 50% of the time.

If you've been with WTLC for any length of time, or are a Thunder fan in general, you know that Scott Brooks and his rigid adherence to his starting five has evoked no small ire from the fanbase. From the early part of the season where it was clear that Serge Ibaka was the best post defender to the end of the season where we were practically screaming at the TV screen for James Harden to get more minutes, it seemed pretty evident that the Thunder were making their jobs more difficult than it needed to be.

In fact, Levy's post reminded me of a few things I wrote early on in the past season before Jeff Green was traded away:

What To Do When Solutions Are Few

OKC Thunder Defense: Russell Westbrook, Jeff Green, and Thin Slicing the Forest 

We know that the Thunder rely to some extent on player metrics and optimization performance measures. The question Levy's post asks is, are those same measures applied to Brooks' approach as well?