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Quick Stat Hits: Considering more options for the Raptors' starting lineup

There's been plenty of discussion on this, but with it seemingly coming to a head with even Dwane Casey addressing the possibility of changing the starting lineup, here's one last shot at some ideas.

Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

Same Mother and Father

First, there was a quote from Dwane Casey before the Warriors game:

This is an easy one. Yes, Coach, your team has a better net differential in the 3rd quarter than in the 4th quarter - and when Jonas Valanciunas was involved, your thought process had some merit. With JV, the starters got off to slow starts to the tune of a -18 net rating, mostly due to cold shooting - their offensive rating (ORTG) was only 76, while they maintained a very competitive 94 defensive rating (DRTG).

Then in the 3rd quarter they bounced back - their DRTG slipped a little to a still-reasonable 106, but their shooting came around and they were good for a 130 ORTG, good for an overall net rating of +24. So, you don't change the starters hoping that they will sort out their offence since they are giving such good effort defensively. I guess we can buy that, even though overall they don't average out to a net positive even with those great 3rd quarters.

But now, with Biyombo in the lineup? You don't have the same story. Looking only at data since November 19th, when JV went down, the new starting lineup (Lowry, DeRozan, Carroll, Scola, Biyombo) has been much worse. In 1st quarters, they sport a -34 net rating, based on both terrible offence (87 ORTG) and terrible defence (121 DRTG). So nothing promising there. Then in the 3rd quarter, the offence improves (just like with the original starters - up to 114 ORTG) but the defence remains terrible (120 DRTG) so they still have a negative net rating (-6).

It's astonishing that a defence-first coach like Casey could condone such a lineup, even in the 3rd quarter.

There are other factors in the improved net differential in the 3rd quarter as well. The big one? The starters simply play less (about a minute less for each starter). Key bench players like Joseph and Patterson each play a minute or two more in the 3rd quarter than in the 1st quarter.

Scola Doesn't Fit

We've been over this one before, but here's a quick glance at another reason to move him away from the starters.

DeRozan and Lowry have been getting off to very slow starts offensively, and that plays a big role in the slow starts for the team. Here's a quick glance at how they fare on the season with and without Scola on the floor with them.

When either are on the court with Scola, a lot more of their offence is further from the rim, and when they do get close to the rim the shots are harder to hit. Both players need spacing to be most effective and, for all his improved three point shooting, defences simply do not play Scola as a perimeter threat.

Lowry sees his TS% jump from 57% to 62% when Scola sits, largely due to a large increase in his attempts at the rim (up from 3.4 to 6.2 FGA's in the restricted area per 36 minutes), and cleaner looks when he gets there (up from 48% to 60% shooting percentage at the rim).

DeRozan sees his TS% jump from 49% to 56% when Scola sits, largely due to a large increase in his attempts at the rim (up from 4.2 to 4.6 FGA's in the restricted area per 36 minutes), and cleaner looks when he gets there (up from 58% to 73% shooting percentage at the rim).

If those last two sentences seemed overly similar to you, well, that's kind of the point.

What of Terrence Ross?

Well, this is a new one, since Carroll is out for a little while now with that knee contusion (might be a blessing in disguise in the long term if it gets his plantar fasciitis the rest it needs).

But his very nice performance last night got me thinking - if this holds up for the next couple weeks (and there is no reason to believe it will, but let's say it does), does Casey hesitate to put Ross back on the bench? Then again, there's no way Carroll comes off the bench.

So this problem may solve itself (might also cause other problems, but stick with me here). But removing Scola from the starting lineup in favour of starting the game with a small ball lineup with Carroll at the 4 and Ross at the 3 would provide the spacing that DeMar and Kyle so desperately need to thrive. The rebounding may be a concern, especially against bigger lineups, but Carroll is no slouch there and with a centre like Biyombo or Valanciunas, the rebounding may not turn out to be that big an issue.

There's no 5-man lineup with Lowry, DeMar, Ross and Carroll with decent sample size, but looking at that foursome and plugging in any centre yields some nice early returns (small sample size warning).  In 10 minutes together, they have posted a +6 net rating, with reasonable offence and defence (102 ORTG, 96 DRTG). They've done well on the boards, grabbing 86% of available defensive rebounds and 22% of available offensive ones. So at least, even in their small sample, they aren't getting crushed on the boards or shredded on defence.

That said, there's not much data for that lineup, and with a more obvious choice that is heavily supported by lineup data with large sample sizes in Patrick Patterson, it's not an ideal solution. But as you may have noticed, the ideal solution hasn't exactly been hotly pursued by the coaching staff thus far. So perhaps they try something like this first, and I don't think it would be that bad an idea.

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