Should Richard Jefferson be forced to miss Game Two due to his sprained ankle, Coach Lawrence Frank will face a difficult decision: How best to replace RJ in the starting lineup? To help answer that question—and possibly predict who he may choose—we’ve taken a look at some other combinations that Coach Frank has used involving the starting unit without Jefferson.
From data available at www.82games.com, it turns out that the Nets used at least four other five-man units that include Jason Kidd, Vince Carter, Jason Collins, and Nenad Krstic during the regular season:
· When Jacque Vaughn played with that four-man unit, the Nets were outscored 130-126 in 72 minutes. During that time, the Nets achieved an effective field goal percentage of .450, while permitting the opposition to achieve a .486 effective field goal percentage.
· When Antoine Wright played with that four-man unit, the Nets outscored the opposition by a 35-20 margin in 16 minutes. The Nets shot a .636 FG%, while holding the opposition to just a .269 mark.
· In very limited action, the unit was outscored 5-2 while playing with Bostjan Nachbar, albeit in just 2 minutes of play.
· Miss Jeff McInnis? Don’t. Although McInnis was at his best while playing alongside Kidd, Carter, Collins, and Krstic, that was good for just a mediocre +0 in 10 minutes of play (18 points for and against).
In addition, Lamond Murray likely played a few minutes with this quartet over the course of the season, but it was for less than 14 minutes of play and therefore the totals are not available from www.82games.com. Nevertheless, we can identify 16 minutes that Murray and Cliff Robinson played with Kidd, Carter, and Collins, and note that this unit exhibited moderate success, outscoring the opposition 42-33 while holding them to a .404 effective field goal percentage.
With Coach Frank’s demonstrated propensity to use Murray off the bench during these playoffs, we suspect that he will be the choice, should Jefferson be unavailable. Given Murray’s success playing with the trio of Kidd-Carter-Collins, this would not be a bad choice. However, although there is limited data available, we believe that Wright may be just as good an option, and hope to see the rookie utilized in Jefferson’s stead. As these numbers reveal, the team defense was outstanding with Wright in that unit, although admittedly over a short sample size. Putting aside the numbers, Wright has started to become recognized as one of the Nets’ better man defenders, and planting him on Wade or Antoine Walker may not be all that bad an idea. In short, if it were up to us, we’d try using both Murray and Wright with the remaining starters, and, only if Wright appeared to be outclassed would we go to Vaughn as the fallback option.