Go Small or Go Home


This summer / fall Truehoop ran a series of interviews with Wayne Winston, who has worked statistics for Mark Cuban and the Mavs for just about a decade now. One of the points that Wayne touched on was the evolution of the game away from traditional lineups featuring 2 interior bigmen in the front court. Wayne credited the change partially to Mike D’Antoni’s success running a small lineup in Phoenix, and he also posited the value of having at least 4 shooters on the floor for spacing at all times.

Watching ball early this season, I have to say that Mr. Winston appears to be onto something. Almost every team features a small lineup with a traditionally undersized player manning one of the power positions, and even when they run standard units most teams have no more than one non-shooter on the floor at any given time.

Atlanta Hawks – They generally have Josh Smith and Al Horford or Zaza Pachulia on the floor, and they are all non-shooters, but they do go with Marvin Williams at the 4 at times, and he has three point range.

Boston Celtics – Team Green starts Kevin Garnett who is very comfortable shooting to 20′ and brings Rasheed Wallace off the bench at the 4 and 5, and at this point ‘Sheed is basically a 3 point specialist on offense. They don’t tend to go small often, though they do occasionally swing Pierce to the 4 when they want to pick up the tempo.

Charlotte Bobcats – The Cats start Boris Diaw, who is a perimeter 4 and bring Vladimir Radmanovic off the bench. They also like to go small with Gerald Wallace at the 4.

Chicago Bulls – Vinnie’s Bulls start two non shooters in Joakim Noah and Tyrus Thomas, but they generally finish with either Brad Miller playing away from the hoop at the 5 or Luol Deng sliding over from the small forward to the 4.

Cleveland Cavaliers – The Cavs don’t start any big man shooters (let’s not kid ourselves about Anderson Varejao just yet), but they do go “small” and move LeBron James to the 4. Back up center Zydrunas Ilgauskas also has good range.

Dallas Mavericks – Mavs start Dirk Nowitzki, and they like to run a small lineup with Shawn Marion at the 4. They are the embodiment of this whole concept – not surprising, since the 4 shooter hypothesis belongs to their stat-man.

Denver Nuggets – Kenyon Martin can shoot with decent range, but it’s their ability to swing Carmelo Anthony to the 4 that gives them a true shooting lineup. Their centers have very little range.

Detroit Pistons – Detroit has 3 non-shooters who get minutes, but they start a lineup with 4 shooters with Charlie Villanueva manning the power forward.

Golden State Warriors – Come on! It’s Don Nelson! The last time he ran a lineup with less than 4 shooters on it or a genuine power forward / center combination, he had to announce it via town crier.

Houston Rockets – Chuck Hayes is not a shooter. Carl Landry is not a shooter. They are both horribly undersized to play center. Everyone else on the team who plays significant minutes shoots the ball. So they go small by default and they shoot from four positions almost all the time.

Indiana Pacers – Indi has Troy Murphy, the three point shootingest true power forward this side of Dirk Nowitzki, and they like to run a very small lineup with Danny Granger at the power forward and Dahntay Jones or Brandon Rush at small forward.

LA Clippers – The Clips would be running a pretty standard line-up in terms of size if Blake Griffin had not injured himself. Even so Griffin and Marcus Camby can both spot up with range. Due to the injury Dunleavy has been forced to throw out a lineup with Al Thornton at the 4 when they go small.

LA Lakers – With a healthy Pau Gasol they start an ultra big two center line-up. Right now they are starting perimeter big Lamar Odom at the power forward (and Odom will likely close out games even when Gasol returns). They can also run smaller lineups with Artest at the 4.

Memphis Grizzlies – Allen Iverson and I are waiting for the day the coach sends him out there with Mike Conley, OJ Mayo, Rudy Gay and one of the bigs, but until that happens they don’t go small and don’t really play with four shooters, though Zach Randolph has some range.

Miami Heat – The Heat start a tweener 4 with legit three point range in Michael Beasley and bring spot up shooting (18 foot range) Udonis Haslem off the bench at the power forward, and he will moonlight at center when they go small.

Milwaukee Bucks – Can Ersan Ilyasova shoot from deep? He’s averaging 3 three point field goal attempts per game through three games, so it looks like he thinks he can.

Minnesota Timberwolves – If Kevin Love was healthy they’d have a fairly regulation sized team with four shooters and Al Jefferson (who actually has decent catch and shoot range himself).

New Jersey Nets – The Nets don’t tend to run a lot of small lineups these days, but they do have shooting bigs in Yi Jianlian and Eduardo Najera. Brook Lopez can step away from the hoop and hit a set shot once in a while as well.

New Orleans Hornets – David West can shoot with range, and they do run a small lineup with James Posey at the 4. He hasn’t shown it yet this year, but Posey is a three point shooter.

New York Knicks – Come on! It’s a Mike D’Antoni team! The last time he played anybody who couldn’t shoot with range or a true center it was because Steve Kerr held a 365 LB gun with 17 nicknames and 4 championship rings to his head.

Oklahoma City Thunder – (I will get used this name someday). Jeff Green is more of a perimeter oriented forward, but I wouldn’t call him a shooter. However, Nenad Krstic and Nick Collison can both shoot from the power positions.

Orlando Magic – When healthy they start tweener forward Rashard Lewis at the 4 where he guns in three pointers like a 6′ 10″ Ben Gordon. Even with ‘Shard injured they are starting Ryan Anderson who has great range as well. They haven’t really been healthy enough to show us Van Gundy’s preferred lineups yet, but he liked to go small with Hedo Turkoglu at the 4 last year, and I expect Mickael Pietrus and / or Matt Barnes will serve some time up front next to Dwight Howard as well.

Philadelphia 76ers – Last year the Sixers were at their best with Thaddeus Young manning the power foward in a run and gun concept. He’s not really a shooter, but he’s a perimeter slasher who will see significant time at the 4 again.

Phoenix Suns – Alvin Gentry has returned the Valley of the Sun to its racetrack ways, and they’ve got shooters and small line-ups galore. Newcomer power forward, Channing Frye is a lightly built catch and shoot specialist, and they’ve been running Grant Hill at the 4 in their old Shawn Marion role at times as well.

Portland Trailblazers – They have the two big clunkers in Joel Przybilla and Greg Oden at center, but the rest of the team shoots from everywhere. LaMarcus Aldridge is a terrific perimeter bigman, and small forward Travis Outlaw plays some 4 as well.

Sacramento Kings – Ugg. I don’t even know anymore. Rookie forward Omni Casspi seems to have a nice 3 pointer. Let’s just move on.

San Antonio Spurs – Tim Duncan can shoot. Antonio McDyess can shoot. Matt Bonner can shoot. They can go uptempo and move Richard Jefferson to the 4 if Popavich sees a reason to, but they have a strong standard-sized team.

Toronto Raptors – The Raps start Chris Bosh and Andrea Bargnani who both like to gun from the outside. Hedo Turkoglu will slide to the four at times as well.

Utah Jazz – With Kyle Korver hurt, Utah’s best three point shooter is starting center Mehmet Okur. This is a team that does run a small lineup as well with Andrei Kirilenko playing alongside either Carlos Boozer or Paul Millsap at the power positions.

Washington Wizards – He’s hurt now, but when he comes back Antawn Jamison will be the fourth shooter in the Wiz’s starting lineup. They also will go small with Caron Butler moving over to the 4 to play with Mike Miller or DeShawn Stevenson and two guards.


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