SO, our Bruins have lost 2 of 3 for the first time in Heaven knows how long... and what do we know?
We know enough to know that things we were certain of at the beginning of the year are not so certain anymore, both for bad AND for good.
(1) POINT GUARD -- DC is rightly heralded as one of the fastest point guards in the game… and yet he has gone into the paint less and less over the past few weeks. With all his legit speed, he's getting cut off at the pass, i.e, the arc just above the FT-line elbow in the key.
(2) SHOOTING GUARD -- Jrue started the season as a high-flyer, one-and-done prospect. Now, although his athleticism is still there on breakaways, offensive rebounds (!), solid help defense, and perimeter man defense... our offense (including Jrue's) has stalled like my wife's old Saturn in crunch time.
(3) SMALL FORWARD -- A riddle in an enigma. Earlier this year, Josh’ s rebounding was heralded by no less than CBH as a reason to start him over the resurgent (and finally healthy) Roll. Now, like a surfer after a shark attack, Josh hasn't hit the boards like he used to (bolded stats showing better numbers):
First 5 games = 3.55 rpg; last 12 games = 2.33 rpg.
That's the riddle, here's the enigma: in that same span, Josh scoring has returned in a BIG way.
First 5 games = 9.8 ppg; last 12 games = 13.4 ppg.
(4) POWER FORWARD: We all hoped Keefe would build on his eye-popping performances in the postseason (Pac-10 and NCAAs)... and yet Drago took over at the 4 spot.
Now, Drago is FAR from a prototypical power forward… and yet he is showing significant improvement on both ends of the floor, tripling some of his stats in only double the time.
(5) CENTER --This summer, Aboya was the major question mark at the 5 spot, no question. No one was expecting KL2 from AA2, but many of us were hoping for at least LMR2.
NOW? AA2 is giving us production that is even with -- if not arguably better than -- what we got from old LoMa about 2 years ago:
5.4 rpg. (only 0.1 better)
To me, this means that our team is STILL growing, STILL learning, all while facing MORE adversity — and the season is NOT done yet.
I am now idly wondering if another lineup change is in order, so that we can maximize and reward those players who have stepped up, and to honestly help bolster our players who are hitting rough patches this season by refocusing their strengths. CBH tinkered with his lineups some last year, to address both injuries to ourselves and challenges from opponents. We may need the same sense of experimentation now. Here’s what’s just randomly running through my head:
POINT GUARD — Keep DC where he is.
Yeah, he’s had a rough month. His end-of-clock decision-making and his forays into the lane are not the sure things they have been before. It happens. I still wouldn’t bench a pre-season All-American, 4-year senior and 2-time F4 starter at PG for anything. That being said, if the creases for drives are not as wide as they used to be, then we need someone who can both slash in traffic and hit from outside. So…
SHOOTING GUARD — Switch Josh for Jrue.
This is not a knock on Jrue, but, by way of example, Toby Bailey (another strong, long, quick guard with FAA-warning hops) sure didn't start his whole frosh year. Josh is slowly but surely realizing if the outside shot isn’t falling, then drive and get a rhythm. He’s getting FTs more, and if his shot is falling a little better than Jrue’s right now, then let’s get a bigger, 6’5" guard out there, one who can shoot a little better over the arms of extended-zone defenders. Who gets the SF spot, then? Not who you might think…
SMALL FORWARD – Switch Drago for Josh.
Yep, I’m more than half-serious here. AA2 is doing yeoman work at the 5 spot, and is to be commended. However, one of the maxims in hoops (IMO) is that if you have a less-than-traditional-sized center, you need strong, active rebounders bookending him in your frontcourt. The Pistons had Rasheed Wallace pulling down 8 caroms a game next to Ben Wallace. The Suns had jumping-jack Shawn Marion next to Amare. Drago has clearly improved his shot, and his aggressiveness and smarts on perimeter D. That being said, he may never be a 5-boarder in Division I. If we want him to stretch Ds, then let’s bring him out to the perimeter. And with his newfound conditioning, he may not get burned by opposing SFs as you might think – his length alone may help compensate. How about giving opposing teams a freakishly long outside gunner to guard at the 3 spot for a change???
POWER FORWARD — Switch Keefe for Drago.
I like having Keefe standing next to Aboya and throwing his 6’8", 235 lb. frame at the boards. I figure if CBH’s first inclination is to use his veterans to play smart-shot O and grueling D, then let’s put our biggest, thickest, and toughest out there on the front lines.
CENTER — AA2 stays, thank you very much.
What can you say about AA2? He’s done everything we had hoped for, and added a nifty baseline jumper good for 2-4 points a game. He still doesn’t have a go-to post move, but his rebounds are still keeping us close down the stretch. Now, all he needs is a little help. If zone defenses are keeping our backcourt and wings from getting to the glass, then let’s get JK riding shotgun for him instead.
Plus, as improved as DC is on his runners in the lane, we need to give him options to dump off to in the lane. With ND camped out on the perimeter, we have one less guy to grab the interior pass and shove and slide in for chippies a la Hollins, Mata, Luc, etc. Remember -- we didn't have reliable, inside-post move scorer for 2 years prior to KL, but we had an inside game based on JF dumping to Hollins, and DC dumping to Luc AND Mata.
Since DC is not 6'5" and 220 like AA, he's not goping to be able to get in for layups on sheer force of will. AA2 can, but not if he's the only one going for the points every time. Our chiseled-granite big man needs an enforcer's cover fire (just like Moses Malone, Ben Wallace, and others did before him). Keefe is best-suited for the job... just like AA2 is best-suited for the one he has now as starting 5.
NOTE: I am NOT down on Jrue -- heavens, no. I think it’s always understandably harder for a guard to adjust to starter’s minutes on the next level than for a big. However, I like the idea of having Jrue and Drew coming in to help speed up the D AND the O. Perhaps the change of pace generated by Drew’s blocks and hustle can free up Jrue with more open-court opportunities and help bring him rhythm. Besides, Gordon’s emergence as a long, energetic backup at the 5 makes me feel more comfortable about bringing Keefe back up front, and makes me more excited about teaming 2 live Jrues/ Drews off the bench for spark and aggresiveness.
If this works, note the difference in size. From what we have now...
DC — 6-0, 160
JH — 6-3, 180
JS — 6-5, 220
ND — 6-9, 216
AA2 — 6-9, 245
... to what is possible:
DC — 6-0, 160
JS — 6-5, 220
ND — 6-9, 216
JK — 6-8, 236
AA2 — 6-9, 245
In theory, this lineup would give us: (a) added bulk on the glass, (b) extra length in the passing lanes, (c) more opportunities for our younger players to use their own strengths, (d) taller players to shoot over zones, (e) stronger bangers to give DC more dump-off oppportunities, and (f) more length to get 2nd-chance points on putbacks.
Again, just some random thoughts. Feedback is welcome.