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Lineups and Plus/Minus Part II

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What combination of Huskies have performed the best in big games this year?

NCAA Basketball: Washington at Colorado Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Yesterday I took a look at the overall plus/minus for each player in the UW rotation. You can find that article here if you haven’t read it and then come back. Today we’ll look at the team +/- for player pairings as well as for overall 5-man lineups. A reminder that we’re looking just at the 7 conference games plus the Gonzaga and Kansas ones. If you include the Bethune-Cookman game when basically everyone had a +30 then everything looks like sunshine and rainbows even if it doesn’t have any consequence moving forward.

Positive Plus/Minus Player Pairings (min. 100 minutes)

# of Minutes Combined Plus/Minus P/M per 40 Minutes Player 1 Player 2
# of Minutes Combined Plus/Minus P/M per 40 Minutes Player 1 Player 2
146.5 21 5.73 Noah Dickerson Hameir Wright
313.32 31 3.96 Jaylen Nowell Noah Dickerson
218.74 14 2.56 David Crisp Hameir Wright
131.96 8 2.42 Jaylen Nowell Dominic Green
179.76 7 1.56 Jaylen Nowell Hameir Wright
128.29 4 1.25 Hameir Wright Nahziah Carter
319.73 9 1.13 Matisse Thybulle Noah Dickerson
108.77 3 1.10 Jaylen Nowell Nahziah Carter

There’s a heavy heaping of Noah Dickerson, Jaylen Nowell, and Hameir Wright on this list. Of the 16 spots available for the 8 positive +/- pairings, those three players combine for 11 of them and each of the pairings contains at least one of them. I touched on the explanation for Dickerson and Nowell’s inclusion in part I yesterday.

Coach Hopkins loves to substitute defense for offense and while I don’t have access to this exact breakdown, I know that Nowell and Dickerson have played more offensive possessions than defensive ones. Your +/- can only stay the same or go up when you’re on offense.

The more curious frequent inclusion is Hameir Wright. Generally, Hameir Wright is also a part of the defensive lineups deployed at end of games. But he’s also played a lot of offense and has been useful on both ends of the floor. His biggest impact on offense probably isn’t being felt in the box score. Wright’s usage rate is microscopic as he’s only attempting about 2 shots per game in conference play. But he’s a legitimate threat as a stretch 4 which gives more space for Dickerson to work under the basket as well as for Nowell to drive into the paint. Even by doing nothing but standing in the corner he helps the offense.

There were more negative defensive pairings than positive ones so I’m once again going to include 8 pairings all of which finished with worse than a -5 per 40 minutes.

Negative Plus/Minus Pairings (min. 100 minutes)

# of Minutes Combined Plus/Minus P/M per 40 Minutes Player 1 Player 2
# of Minutes Combined Plus/Minus P/M per 40 Minutes Player 1 Player 2
158.04 -20 -5.06 David Crisp Nahziah Carter
116.79 -17 -5.82 Noah Dickerson Nahziah Carter
156.06 -23 -5.90 David Crisp Dominic Green
141.27 -25 -7.08 Noah Dickerson Sam Timmins
268.27 -52 -7.75 Jaylen Nowell Sam Timmins
126.47 -25 -7.91 Matisse Thybulle Dominic Green
116.86 -28 -9.58 Matisse Thybulle Nahziah Carter
265.26 -71 -10.71 Matisse Thybulle Sam Timmins

The list isn’t dominated by a trio of players to quite the extent as Nowell, Dickerson, and Wright do in the positive pairings. Matisse Thybulle appears in each of the 3 worst pairings while Sam Timmins and Nahziah Carter also show up in 3 of them. David Crisp, Noah Dickerson, and Dominic Green each appear in 2 of them so it’s much more equal opportunity. I noted in part I that the Timmins/Thybulle pairing is the most common on any given defensive possession which is partly to explain for why the +/- has been so bad. The two also don’t pair particularly well on offense either. Timmins doesn’t command a double team and takes up driving lanes which hurts Thybulle’s ability to both get up an open shot and drive to the rim.

Meanwhile, Nahziah Carter’s offensive efficiency has plummeted in league play. The shooting percentages from the field are bad but not atrocious but turnovers have been the main culprit. His turnover percentage is only slightly less than that of Daejon Davis who is averaging more than 4 turnovers per game but has an assist rate 9x better than Carter’s. That’s leading to fast breaks for the other team and easy buckets despite his defensive abilities in the half court.

Now it’s time to go all the way to 5-man lineups. The zone doesn’t have a true 1-5 in positional terms. But I have an order of players I’m using to assign folks. David Crisp is always the 1 if he’s on the court, Sam Timmins is always the 5, and everyone else slots in between depending upon their size/ball handling responsibilities. You can quibble about which one between Dominic Green and Nahziah Carter are the 3 or the 4 if they’re on the court together but it doesn’t matter that much.

Here are the 8 most common lineups the Huskies have used along with their +/- performance in each of them and a per 40 minutes +/-.

Conference/”A” Games Most Played Lineups

# of Minutes Combined Plus/Minus P/M per 40 Minutes 1 2 3 4 5
# of Minutes Combined Plus/Minus P/M per 40 Minutes 1 2 3 4 5
65.51 -19 -11.60 David Crisp Jaylen Nowell Matisse Thybulle Noah Dickerson Sam Timmins
35.82 2 2.23 David Crisp Jaylen Nowell Matisse Thybulle Dominic Green Noah Dickerson
27.91 -26 -37.26 David Crisp Jaylen Nowell Matisse Thybulle Hameir Wright Sam Timmins
27.12 19 28.02 David Crisp Jaylen Nowell Matisse Thybulle Hameir Wright Noah Dickerson
14.51 -9 -24.81 David Crisp Jaylen Nowell Matisse Thybulle Dominic Green Sam Timmins
8.92 0 0.00 David Crisp Matisse Thybulle Nahziah Carter Hameir Wright Noah Dickerson
8.82 2 9.07 David Crisp Matisse Thybulle Nahziah Carter Hameir Wright Sam Timmins
8.73 1 4.58 David Crisp Jaylen Nowell Nahziah Carter Hameir Wright Noah Dickerson

That first row is pretty disconcerting. It isn’t ideal when your starting lineup is getting outscored by double digits over the course of an entire game. Given that stat it’s pretty incredible that the Huskies are 5-4 in these games (although their scoring margin is negative). I mentioned before the year that one of Noah Dickerson and Sam Timmins was going to have to learn a jump shot in order for them to play effectively next to one another on offense. While Noah can pretty reliably hit a free throw line jumper, he doesn’t do it often enough to make the defense come away from the basket. It’s not a surprise that the Huskies have struggled offensively early in games with their starters on the court until they bring in Hameir Wright or Dominic Green to stretch the floor.

You can also see the giant effect that the offense for defense substitutions have on individual lineups. The Crisp/Nowell/Thybulle/Wright/Timmins lineup is the most likely to be out there in crunch time on a defensive possession. And because of that it’s getting absolutely murdered. If you adjusted this to show points per offensive possession minus points per defensive possession it wouldn’t be nearly as bad. But as it stands, they’re getting outscored by almost 40 points over the course of an entire game. The lineup substituting Green for Wright if Hameir is in foul trouble is almost as bad.

On the other side, the crunch time offensive lineup of Crisp/Nowell/Thybulle/Wright/Dickerson has almost cancelled out the lineup swapping Timmins for Dickerson. It has the right mix of ball handling, floor spacing, and athleticism to maximize the Huskies’ talents. Putting in Green for Wright in this case hasn’t been quite as effective.

Because of the sample sizes involved compared to everyone else, Michael Carter III doesn’t show up in any of the above. However, it’s interesting to note that his best pairing since he’s returned from injury has actually been with David Crisp rather than in place of him. Lineups featuring the trio of Crisp, Carter III, and Nowell together have run other teams off the court in tiny sample sizes. When UW is really in need of a bucket it wouldn’t shock me to see more of that lineup with Noah Dickerson at center in order to maximize shooting and ball handling.

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