Basketball Trends: Why FSU should abandon the "Traditional" lineup

Images_mediumBasketball is generally played with a point guard, shooting guard, small forward, power forward and Center. Roles are well defined with the point guard facilitating the offense, the shooting guard and small forward as primary perimeter scorers, and the power forward and center are the interior muscle, controlling the paint and trying to dominate the offensive and defensive glass. Traditionally, these lineups are centered around slow half court power games that rely on slow "skyscraper-esque" big men clogging the paint. Modern basketball, however, is moving away from this philosophy. Professional and college basketball lineups are revolving their lineups around "hybrid players" and changing their offense to a more spread out style.

There are several reasons behind this change in lineup philosophy. One reason is due to the higher ratio of "hybrid" players that are able to play multiple positions. Players like Kevin Garnett (who can play SF, PF, and C) and Dirk Nowitzki (7'0 who plays like a guard fairly often) and Chris Webber (PF with fantastic court vision) are players who have bent the traditional roles of big-men.


The major reason for the change is attributed to rule changes for big men (the "Shaq" rule) and perimeter defenders (the "hand-check" rule). The Shaq rule came from the way the referee's deviated from the usual trends of calls in the previous generation of players in regards to the post play of Shaquille O'neal. In the late 80's and early to mid 90's, the NBA was filled with a large group of top tier big-men In 1995, the NBA had David Robinson, Charles Barkley, Hakeem Olajuwon, Karl Malone, Patrick Ewing (who were all in the peak of their hall of fame careers), Shaq, Juwon Howard, Alonzo Mourning, Glenn Robinson (all young guys early in their careers), Rik Smits, Arvydas Sabonis, Dikembe Mutombo and Bryant Reeves (as lesser tier but still talented guys). With such a large sample of talented bigs, they were able to keep each other in check for the most part. By the 1999-2000 season, Shaq was the only upper tier power-offense oriented big man left. With a significant weight difference (Shaq at 320+ lbs), he was able to manhandle every opponent. The league began to "check" Shaq by calling 3-seconds quicker and offensive fouls more often (instead of blocking fouls) which neutralized his power game. The NBA also instituted the "Defensive Three Seconds" rule prior to the 2001-2002 season. This keeps big-men from clogging the lane on defense. The second rule change was the hand-check rule established in 2001 but not really enforced until the 2004-2005 season. This rule eliminated a perimeter defender's ability to impede an offensive players progress with their hand or forearm. This gave quick guards an advantage.


Though not all of these changes are present in the NCAA (there is no defensive three second rule for instance), NBA trends are finding a place in the college ranks. While the NBA game and NCAA game are two totally different animals, there is generally a trickle down of organizational policies (i.e. NBA superstar calls or in college program prestige calls where the top tier coaching programs tend to get the benefit of the doubt with questionable calls) and refereeing practices.


Now teams are finding that it's beneficial to run a lineup consisting of 4 "perimeter oriented" players complimenting a single post player. Running this type of lineup limits the effectiveness of a zone defense (to break a zone defense you need to spread it out), has a greater chance for mismatches on the offensive end against a man-to-man defense, limits the ability for the defense to successfully double team players (a double team requires proper defensive rotations which is difficult when the offense is spread out), and keeps the paint relatively open for penetration from the perimeter as well as room for post play.


More NBA teams are adopting this type of lineup. The Portland Trail Blazers won their game last night by adopting this philosophy


Trailing the Suns by two with less than six minutes left, the Blazers removed Marcus Camby and slid Nicolas Batum up the 4 spot, rendering Phoenix's strategy of immediately double-teaming post-ups far more problematic. Batum promptly started raining jumpers, scoring 11 points in the final five minutes, as the Blazers used an 18-1 game-ending run to avenge last season's playoff defeat to the Suns.

The larger implications here are the same ones Blazers fans have fretted about all season: Namely, that Portland's starting five doesn't mesh together nearly as well as some other combinations. With starters Andre Miller and Marcus Camby both non-shooters, Phoenix could double-team LaMarcus Aldridge with impunity.

John Hollinger

Batum is a natural SG/SF but is able to play PF due to his length and defensive ability.


Nearly every team in the NBA has used a 4-perimeter lineup and many teams use it as their primary offensive set.


Of the top 10 teams listed at the end of the season ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll, Duke (Singler at PF) , Butler (Hayward at PF), West Virginia (Ebanks/Jones at PF), Kentucky (Patterson PF), Kansas (Marcus Morris at PF), Syracuse (Johnson/Joseph at PF), and Tennessee (Wayne Chism at PF) all used perimeter oriented PF's, or SF's playing PF, as a main staple of their offense.


FSU would be crazy, with our personnel, not to use a 4-out 1-in type of lineup with Singleton set at PF. Singleton has the length and defensive ability to defend opposing PF's on defense, his rebounding ability (7.0 rpg last season) wouldn't be a disadvantage, and he should be able to exploit mismatches against slower forwards. Spreading the ball out would help a little bit with our poor post entry passes. Snaer, with his decent shooting and fantastic penetration ability, would benefit the most from this type of lineup.


We don't have enough good shooters to spread the defense out with three point shooting. Clogging the lane with multiple big men will only serve to limit our offensive strengths.


A lineup with a Kreft/Gibson rotation at center, Singleton at PF, Snaer at SF, Dulkys at SG, and Kitchen at PG (with Miller and Loucks rotating in at both guard spots) would be ideal. Of course this lineup doesn't need to exclude a traditional lineup from our repertoire. Against a team where we can exploit our height (like Jacksonville, Stetson, or Mercer) we should have a Kreft/Gibson front court. There are times during games where having a traditional lineup would be a good change of pace. Though generally, especially in ACC play, we should play Singleton at PF.

Sometime later I plan on posting about our offensive philosophy and what we should be running (motion/Princeton/triangle/etc).




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