How Much Does Frank Vogel Look at Lineup Data? 'A Lot' | Wizards Blog Truth About

How Much Does Frank Vogel Look at Lineup Data? ‘A Lot’

Updated: November 24, 2015


If you peruse this Washington Wizards blog site every now and then, you might have noticed a particular affection for lineup data. Individual plus/minus data and other on/off-court numbers, and iterations of those connected to more advanced metrics such as stats per possession, do tell a story. But NBA teams must play five players at once, and the combination of which five players work best together can be much more insightful (and maybe much more important).

The Pacers, like the Wizards, are going through a fairly drastic shift to a court-spreading style of play. Gone is Roy Hibbert, gone is David West, and here is Indiana’s most-used lineup to date: George Hill, Monta Ellis, CJ Miles, Paul George at the 4, and Ian Mahinmi (the lineup that will start tonight versus the Wizards). That crew has played 98 minutes together over seven games (Indiana’s next most-used lineup has played 37 total minutes over five games), but has only started six of the Pacers’ 13 games due to a variety of injuries.

The advanced statistical returns on that lineup, however, have not been good—just like the Wizards and their “spread-the-court” starting unit that features John Wall, Bradley Beal, Otto Porter, Kris Humphries shooting 3s, and Marcin Gortat. Per, 24 different NBA five-man units have played 90 or more minutes together this season. Only two teams are putting up a Net Rating (1) worse than the minus-9.8 of the Wizards’ starters: Indiana’s crew at minus-14.9 and the go-to lineup of the Orlando Magic at minus-16.5. Of course, the main lineup of the 3-11 Brooklyn Nets ranks third-best in the NBA with a NetRtg of plus-14.6. So yea, it’s early.

With the new-look Pacers in town, I wanted to take the opportunity to ask head coach Frank Vogel about how/if he used lineup data. One of the opening questions from another reporter asked Vogel to assess the new-look Wizards, given the similarities in transformation. Vogel’s answer:

Vogel: “They’re doing a good job and they’re just giving more space to great offensive players in Beal and Wall. Looks good so far. They’ve had a couple bumps in the road just like we’ve had a couple bumps in the road, but it makes them very, very much more difficult to guard—Humphries being out at the 3-point line, it makes him more of a threat. I’m interested to see how it progresses throughout the year.”

Weidie: In the early part of the season when you are trying to figure out which combinations you like best on the court, how much to you look at lineup data—five-man units, four-man units, etc.?

Vogel: “A lot. I do look at it everyday, after every game I should say. And then over each five games we’ll get a report, each 10 games we’ll get a report, and we’ll keep studying it.”

Weidie: Is there an specific number of games that’s a good sample size for judging how successful a lineup is?

Vogel: “There is. I don’t know what the exact number is, but we’re not there yet. It’s still too soon to say. Obviously when you see reports like that, there’s two ways to react to it. You can stop playing certain lineups, or you could tweak those lineups to be more successful on the court. And that’s where we’re at. When one lineup’s not succeeding, why isn’t it succeeding? Let’s try to make it work.”

Reporter: Even though it’s early, would you still say at this point that you guys are better in a bigger lineup, or more comfortable in a bigger lineup?

Vogel: “I think we’ve been good with both, to be honest. There’s room for improvement in both areas, but I think that there’s been times where the spread lineups have looked really scary, really good. There’s times where we’ve clicked with two bigs out there as well.”

Weidie: Have you looked at lineup data more now than in the past, in particular because you’re trying to interject a new style of play into this team?

Vogel: “Yes, much more. Absolutely. Because we’ve always played two bigs, that’s just who we’ve been. So evaluating what’s working and what needs improvement is a bigger part of this year’s plan.”

It will be interesting to see how lineups from both teams play out this evening, in particular how much Washington’s “big” stretch 4 in Kris Humphries is tasked with guarding Indiana’s “wing” stretch 4 in Paul George. Or if Humphries is more frequently matched up against 6-foot-6 wing CJ Miles, which seems to be what other teams do in similar situations.

Click here for Wizards-Pacers Opening Statements.

  1. Net Rating, or NetRtg, subtracts points allowed per 100 possession from points scored per 100 possessions
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Kyle Weidie
Founder / Editor / Reporter / Writer at TAI
Kyle founded TAI in 2007 and has been weaving in and out the world of Wizards ever since, ducking WittmanFaces, jumping over G-Wiz, and avoiding stints on the DNP-Conditioning list. He has covered the Washington pro basketball team as a member of the media since 2009. Kyle currently lives in Brooklyn, NY with his wife, loves basketball, and has no pets.