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WFNY Stats & Info: Cavs frontcourt’s potential without Bynum

andy tristanIt’s no secret that the Cleveland Cavaliers were not a good basketball team with since-departed Andrew Bynum on the court. Heck, they obviously haven’t been good overall with their 12-23 record, but it was particular awful with the current free agent.

In Bynum’s 480 minutes, the Cavs had a -11.3 net efficiency rating per 100 possessions. That’d easily be the worst team in the NBA. In the remaining 1,240 minutes this season, the efficiency differential is just -3.0, a mark resembling that of a 30-win team, which might just be enough for the playoffs in the year’s historically bad Eastern Conference.

But that alone wasn’t enough for me. I wanted to dig even further into the specific frontcourt combinations that the Cavaliers have used this season. I then looked at all of the iterations of playing time between Bynum, Anderson Varejao and Tristan Thompson. The data was parsed with an eye toward the corresponding plus-minus points and net rebounding data. It’s not easy to track possessions in this way, so I averaged them out per 48 minutes of playing time.

My goal: To look only at Cavs lineups with Thompson and/or Varejao on the court, but never with Bynum. These are the options the team will rely upon going forward in the second half. So their past success (or failures) could tell a sign for the future.

cavs frontcourt plus minus

Looking at only the highlighted combinations, they represent 63% of total minutes this season: 1,077 overall. And, to great fortune for the team’s future: They have exactly a zero plus-minus thus far. They’ve been perfectly average. That’s awesome. That should be music to Cavs’ fans ears.

Obviously, this excludes the lineups we’ve seen without Thompson, Varejao or Bynum on the court. Those will still be possible going forward, so their issues aren’t just immediately alleviated. The Cavs have been very bad during those minutes. Still, it’s pleasing to know of the positive results.

On the rebounding side, the combined Thompson/Varejao lineups — representing 39% of minutes — out-rebound opponents by 6.4 boards per 48 minutes. That’s elite and very impressive. It’s perhaps in line with Varejao’s recent eight-game rebounding hot streak. Although the Cavs are an average rebounding team overall, they’ve been below average in every other lineup iteration.

The biggest factor for the future could just be the health of the team’s best players stars, specifically Varejao. He personally has a -3.7 plus-minus per 48 minutes in the last four years in 3,708 minutes despite all of the franchise’s terrible struggles. If he can stay on the court — and Bynum gone — then this Cavs team could truly have a fighting chance with solid new addition Luol Deng.

[More Andrew Bynum thoughts from WFNY’s Scott Sargent: The end of an era]

Photo: Jason Miller/Getty Images

  • Ezzie Goldish

    Great breakdown. What’s the expectation on who will be picking up those minutes? Obviously Zeller will get some, but who else? Clark, or Bennett back to 4?

  • WFNYJacob

    The Cavs have played 3 games since the Bynum suspension and with both Irving/Jack healthy. The minutes for our usual 10-man rotation in those games (includes OT) and the season average minutes overall:

    Irving 38.7 (35.2)
    Waiters 35.0 (30.0)
    Thompson 34.3 (33.0)
    Varejao 31.7 (29.4)
    Jack 29.7 (28.1)
    Clark 23.7 (17.6)
    Zeller 18.7 (10.6)
    Miles 16.3 (20.1)
    Bennett 13.7 (10.7)
    Delly 4.3 (17.1)

    If the Cavs were smart, this would be a huge opportunity to send Bennett down to the D-League. Conceivably, Deng will get his usual 32-36 minutes, I’d imagine. He’ll pick up Bennett’s minutes, many of the Clark/Miles minutes and, by a slight margin, some of Jack/Delly.

    I’d imagine Zeller will continue to average 12-15 minutes or so per game. Bynum averaged 16.8 mins in his first 12 games, then 23.2 in his final 12 games for an overall average of 20.0.

    But the Cavs have been more widely using those smaller lineups with only one big man on the court — either Andy or Tristan. Those still should continue, with Deng now getting way more mins.

  • Pat Leonard

    Wow… very interesting to see how comically bad the pairing of Bynum and Thompson were, specifically. Other teams must have been thinking “We don’t need to guard you outside of the restricted area. Ever. So we won’t.”

  • Ezzie Goldish

    Interesting, thanks. I don’t know about sending Bennett down, though – I don’t know that minutes or playing time are his issues. Practicing/getting coached with the rest of the team and just getting out of his own head seem to be the problem, and is the D-league going to help with that?

    I wonder if the Cavs will trade Gee for a big body at some point just to have.

  • WFNYJacob

    That last point doesn’t make much sense to me. With Varejao getting 30 mins, Thompson getting 34 mins and Zeller getting 14 mins, that’s 78 minutes combined. Obviously, still lots of Varejao/Thompson paired lineups. But the Cavs are just fine with these small-ball lineups too. I don’t think adding a big is necessarily a huge need at the moment. If they do, I’d poach from the D-League.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Thompson has been horrible I sure hope it’s as simple as removing Bynum for the mix. Personally I think between Bynum and all of the time Thompson has spent trying to figure out which hand to shoot with that it’s really retarded his game. That and I think he’s a “soft” big man. He doesn’t exactly defend well and he certainly doesn’t block shots and personally I think his personality doesn’t do him any favors. He’s to laid back and joking off the court that I think it holds him back from going out and just trying to dominate. And by dominate I mean being within 10 feet of the basket at all times, defending, rebounding and blocking shots.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    I agree with sending Bennett down but according to MSB a few days ago on MS&LL she said the Cavaliers think having him around, closer to the coaches here and the team that they can better monitor him for not only basketball but nutrition and guidance.

  • WFNYJacob

    Eh. The Cavs have been so dreadfully bad in the restricted area — 51%, worst in NBA in 17 years — that I think it’s actually the opposite.

    Teams would defensively crowd the paint against Bynum and Thompson. With the paint so clogged up, the Cavs offense either A) shot mid-range shots at fairly normal efficiency or B) struggled immensely to shoot inside when they did.

  • Ezzie Goldish

    I’m thinking injuries, junk time, and just generally the ability to play Andy more about 25 minutes a game instead of 30 to reduce his risk of an injury. But I hear you.

  • Pat Leonard

    That’s actually what I meant, although I can read it now and see how it could be interpreted as the opposite. Defenders knew they didn’t need to guard Bynum and (for the most part) Thompson outside of the paint, so they just hung out down there and waited to challenge shots at the rim.

  • mgbode

    I think it’ll mostly be Clarks & Jacks minutes being cut. Less 3-guard lineup time on the court.

    I’m just excited to see how much of an impact Deng can make on this team defensively. Should be a big boost.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    No more nicknames for you Mr. Rosen the fact that you replied to others while skipping me has left me bitter and sad. I thought I was your boy. I thought we were close. Pfffft, forget you!

  • Vesus

    Tristan “doesn’t exactly defend well”?

    Come on. No, he isn’t a shot-blocker. But there is more to playing good defense than blocking shots.

  • WFNYJacob

    Anytime, Sham(rock). Lolz.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    It’s to late mister. Andrew is my new besty so there! 😉

  • simond

    Maybe there was too many changes in the off-season like you mentioned – switching hands, addition of Bynum, healthy Varajao, new coach.

    I hope the addition of Deng and the subtraction of Bynum can resolve a lot of intangibles.