It is already that time again? What time you ask (you didn't ask), time to talk about how bad Travis Ford is at managing playing time and submit our own thoughts as to who should see the floor and when. Yes, I am starting off CRFF's second basketball post of the 2012 season with a shot at Coach Ford.
I am a Ford defender. (I hate blogger-types that only write about their stance on a subject instead of the subject itself, but I feel like we are at the point with Ford where you have to know what side the person leading the discussion is on in order to read it in the right context. It is like politics... or Royal's butter fetish). I think Ford is one of the top 4 coaches in the Big 12 in most categories, but managing player rotations is definitely not one of those. I am pretty well documented on my push for Ford to assign an assistant to handle in-game adjustments and lineup decisions (a Sean to his Eddie if you will) and have seen no reason to expect improvement in this area until a change is made. The good thing for us as fans is that since we rarely see the best 5 guys in the best configuration on the floor at the same time, we get to play a lot of the "who should be on the floor" game.
This 2012 rotations should be great ones to fantasy-fill (gross). You have the return of the ultra-talented but never could figure out how to fit together nucleus of Le'Bryan Nash, Markel Brown, Michael Cobbins, Brian Williams, Jean-Paul Olukemi, and Philip Jurick (hopefully), then add to it the ultra-PG Marcus Smart, the sharpshooting Phil Forte (aka Keiton-heavy), and the long and athletic Kamari Murphy. It's an interesting group of guys to piece together, unless you are Travis Ford.
Right off the bat we will all be jacked to see Smart and Nash on the same floor at the same time. Nash is shockingly good at working without the ball and if Smart is the penetrator and passer at this level that everyone thinks he should be then the only play the Cowboys may need is to isolate these two guys on one side and play a two-man pick and pop/roll, high-low, or a drive-and-dish game. There were a few magical times last season where the Cowboys would do this with Brown and Nash and I clamored to see that on 80% of possessions, and Brown isn't half the passer that Smart is billed to be. Run the two-man game, put Cobbins on the opposite block to clean up the boards and you have a mean offensive set right there. See, this is already constructive!
So obviously Smart and Nash will be on the court at all meaningful times (starting lineup, crunch time), so let's go ahead and throw the other no-brainer on the court and stick Markel Brown at the two. And thank Eddie that he can finally play that SG position without worrying about covering for the deficiency at the point. While Nash may benefit the most from the arrival of Smart, Brown being able to play at his natural spot will be a nice side-effect of the Smart addition.
Smart at the one, Brown at the two, and Nash on the court at any of the remaining positions. This is the nucleus (for now). So what do we put around them and how will those configurations work?
Balanced: Smart, Brown, Olukemi, Nash, Jurick
Big: Smart, Brown, Nash, Cobbins, Jurick.
Small: Smart, Brown, Williams, Olukemi, Nash
Fast with some size: Smart, Brown, Olukemi, Nash, Cobbins
Shooters: Smart, Forte, Brown, Williams, Nash
Defense: Smart, Brown, Olukemi, Cobbins, Jurick
2-3 Zone: Smart, Brown, Olukemi, Murphy, Cobbins
#LobStilly: Smart, Brown, Williams, Nash, Cobbins
All of these would be matchup dependent, obviously. I think the Cowboys will probably start with the balanced lineup at the beginning of the season, then switch up to match substitutions and to exploit weaknesses. I love the Fast with Some Size lineup against Baylor and any other zone teams and have a feeling it could end up being the best overall lineup. The 2-3 Zone lineup is pretty interchangeable with Nash for Murphy or Williams for Brown, but whatever it is I like the idea of putting as much length and athleticism on the court at the same time.
Anyway, just getting the ball rolling here on rotation talk. There are still so many questions to be answered before we can decide what will work best. How do we think Smart, Forte, and Murphy will work with the returning "stars"? Can Soucek improve upon the spark of raw talent and natural feel we saw last year and become a contributor? Who is Ford Stuen? There are probably more questions. No? Okay, that is all the questions.