Substitution patterns can and do vary immensely from coach to coach and not only can they vary from season to season, but they can also vary from game to game. Up until recently, almost all coaches subbed by “feel”. However, in the recent trend toward metrics, there is a growing contingency of coaches who are charting the effectiveness of different lineup combinations in the search for the best lineup to have on the floor for various reasons.
No coach every really needed metrics to put 5 good 3PT shooters on the floor for a last possession down by 3, or putting 5 good ballhandlers/FT shooters on the floor late to protect a lead. But, there are a number of other reasons to analyze lineup combinations so as to maximize one’s roster’s strengths and minimize weaknesses. For instance, do you really know what your best defensive lineup is? Or, more specifically, which lineup plays man to man better together or which lineup plays your zone best together. Or, which lineups attack man, zones or presses the best?
Somewhat hidden but very operative in lineup analysis is the word, “together”. All you have to do is go back to your own playing days to recognize the fact that there were players you really didn’t want on the floor when you were. Whether they were selfish or didn’t space the floor or didn’t get open at the right time or created too many help situations for others on D, you hated their presence. Maybe your instincts then couldn’t have been supported statistically but that’s a moot point now.
As a coach now, though, all one has to is take a look at lineup analysis because like any other way to analyze your team, all you need to gain or prevent is one basket a game to make the analysis worthwhile. Of course, the more one subs, the more painstaking the process can be.
Like all new metric ventures, perhaps the best way to experiment before full investment is analyzing two or three recent games and charting the lineups and scores while on the floor together. That alone might begin to tell you if the time invested is worth further work. Then you might get into the other details like what lineup works best against zones, man or presses; or the flip of which of your lineups plays certain defenses better than others.
If one really wants to invest, a designated coach or sharp manager might do the initial leg work. The good news is that after a certain number of games to obtain a good sample, one doesn’t necessarily have to continue the process. The key is merely having some solid data to support the “feel” aspect.
More Reading on Lineup Analysis