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Is Andray Blatche-Brook Lopez the best PF-C combo the Nets have?


Last night, as the Nets cruised to a 108-98 victory over the New Orleans Hornets, and while it was a "much-needed win" for Brooklyn, much of the post-game conversation revolved around the second half bigs rotation, as P.J. Carlesimo opted to play Andray Blatche alongside Brook Lopez a the 4/5 positions -- something Nets fans have been clamoring for.

The play worked out, as the Hornets struggled to defend both bigs, allowing for Blatche and Lopez to combine for 44 points, and as a result, pushing Reggie Evans to the bench for not only the entire fourth quarter but for much of the third as well.

After the game, Carlesimo said that he would look to this pairing more, especially in the playoffs, if the matchups present themselves. Meaning, when he can take advantage of having two offensively-gifted 7-footers on the floor at the same time.

In the case of last night's game, the matchup did just that. The Nets heeded to add inches to the defensive side of the ball, seeing as Anthony Davis, a long and lean 7-footer, was able to get up and over Reggie Evans, almost at will, in the first half.

The adjustment made in the second half was twofold: make Davis work on the offense (having to go over and through Blatche) and make him work on the defensive side of the ball (taking away Davis' ability to roam, seeing as Evans isn't much of a threat on offense).

It worked, the Nets won, and now here we are wondering if we're going to see more of the Blatche-Lopez combo.

Truthfully, I do think it's all going to depend on matchups. But, since we're here already, lets' take a look at some of the numbers and see what we can determine, if anything, regarding the power forward-center rotations.

Note: When you're looking at two-man combos, there are plenty of other factors to take into account (like, who else is on the floor, duh!), but I think there is certainly something we can take from these numbers.

Stats via:

Mirza Teletovic - Brook Lopez

Min: 105 OffRtg: 118.0 DefRtg: 107.8 NetRtg: 10.2 Pace: 91.94 Plus/Minus: +23

In terms of offensive rating, the Lopez-Teletovic combo reigns supreme. The 118.0 the team posts when they are on the court together is the highest among any combination, and that goes beyond just the power forward-center combos we're looking at. The problem here, of course, is that defensively they struggle. And while they do carry a 10.2 net rating, a 118 Offensive Rating is less sustainable over time than a 107.8 Defensive Rating. Meaning, regression.

Still, it's an interesting combination, especially with Teletovic's ability to stretch the floor offensively. The only other problem is, rebounding. They post the worst rebound rate among the four PF-C combos, at 44.2%. That's not good.

Kris Humphries - Brook Lopez

Min: 480 OffRtg: 106.1 DeffRtg: 103.9 NetRtg: 2.2 Pace: 91.61 Plus/Minus: +26

We probably don't have to spend too much time talking about this combo since, well, Carlesimo is dead set on not playing Hump, but it certainly is an intriguing one -- at least offensively. One interesting number, this combo posts just a 50.1% total rebound rate, which is better than Mirza-Brook (44.2%) but not even close to the other two combos.

Again, we probably don't need to spend much time here because Carlesimo isn't going to give Hump much of a look going forward.

Reggie Evans - Brook Lopez

Min: 863 OffRtg: 102.9 DefRtg: 102.3 NetRtg: 0.6 Pace: 90.1 Plus/Minus: +11

The combination of Lopez and Evans can be, at times, a bit hit or miss. As I talked about above, when Evans is on the court the offense is, at best, 4.5-on-5, sometimes simply 4-on-5. On defense, Evans does make the Nets a better team. But, as you can see with the NetRtg of 0.6, it's a give and take. For every one he gives you on defense, he takes away on the offensive side of the ball.

Off the glass, Lopez-Evans posts a 54.8% rebound rate, which is quite good, especially when you consider they've played almost 900 minutes together. It's not quite as good as the Blatche-Lopez rate, but, you know, sample size and all.

Andray Blatche - Brook Lopez

Min: 73 OffRtg: 104.3 DefRtg: 99.4 NetRtg: 4.9 Pace: 89.9 Plus/Minus: +14

First of all, I was a little surprised to see how well this combo clocked in on the defensive side of the ball. I suppose I was as equally shocked when I saw that they posted a team-best 63.8% Rebound Rate. Blatche-Lopez also posts a better +/- than Evans-Lopez, as well as a higher OffRtg and NetRtg. So, you know, case closed, right?

Well, when you consider that Blatche and Lopez have played just 73 minutes together -- nearly 800 fewer than Lopez-Evans -- it's hard to come to any concrete conclusions based on the data. We need to see more of this combo in order to really paint a proper picture.

Yes, the offense is better. Much better -- we know that, we expect it to be. Though it is a tad-bit slower with Blatche and Lopez on the floor together. Evans is no gazelle -- nor is he much of a finisher -- but he is quicker than Blatche, just not as skilled as him with the ball in his hands. You win one, you lose one.


Really the conclusion is simple here. In this instance I trust the Carlesimo method of matching up the bigs. It made so much sense last night to have Blatche and Lopez in against Davis and Robin Lopez. However, it made just as much sense in other instances where Carlesimo wasn't willing to pull the trigger. So, while I do give him credit for his rotations last night, he's done a poor job on several occasions of recognizing the need for change.

In certain instances, it makes sense to have the stretch-four out there in Mirza, where you're not so worried about the defensive mis-match, or in need of an instant offensive spark.

With Evans, there are plenty of cases where he's better suited alongside Lopez. Plenty. And, heck, you can even make the case for slotting Gerald Wallace over to the '4.'

I think the thing to watch, going forward, is not the change in the starting lineup. That won't happen. Reggie Evans, by all indication, will continue to start. But, the thing to watch is how Carlesimo plays the matchups. And how often he's willing to go to the Blatche-Lopez combo, when it's a matchup in their favor.

Remember, too, that when you move Blatche to the power forward spot to play alongside Lopez, who becomes the backup center? Who spells Lopez? Reggie Evans?

Yeah, that should be interesting. You have to be careful what you wish for...sometimes.