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Mike Dunlap names Bobcats starting five using defensive models

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Mike Dunlap has named the Bobcats' starting five, just two days before the season opener against the Indiana Pacers. Using advanced defensive statistics, Dunlap formed a group of starters based on defense.


After practice today, Mike Dunlap announced the group of starters for the first game: Kemba Walker, Gerald Henderson, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Byron Mullens and Brendan Haywood.

The way he came to this starting five was via statistics, it seems:

And those five to me - on our deflection chart, on all our defensive things that we chart -they're our top five on those numbers and that's how I did it.

Any kind of movement of the chairs [in preseason] was to get a sampling of player combinations and I didn't know and I know more now with those combinations what they can do. And yet I still don't have all the samples. It's going to take a little longer.

Basically, the Bobcats compiled their own advanced statistics during preseason games. Dunlap here references a deflection chart. Deflections can essentially be any tip of the ball from its assumed trajectory: dribble deflections, rebound deflections, shot deflections, whatever -- although there is no agreed-upon standardized definition, so take that for what you will. From there they somehow devised a way to compile each player's defensive activity from these charts and built the starting five from that.

Dunlap says that he chose this starting five on the ideal of starting the best defense, noting how the lineup's strength is their defensive intensity.

I think they get after it defensively. We've been selling that and we've got more work to do on that but first and foremost, if I say that we're going to tilt this thing towards defense and we've got a long way to go in that area. But you've got to do it with your actions and not your words.

This is true, but the calculated measure could also pay some dividends on offense. Going back to the deflections chart, not only can deflections halt the opposition's offense by disrupting them and forcing them to beat the shot clock, but can get the Bobcats' offense in gear. If this group is the best on the team at forcing deflections that can lead to turnovers, it also pushes the Bobcats into their strengths in pushing the tempo. Walker, Henderson and Mullens have all proven to be solid at getting up and down the floor quickly and finishing in transition. Kidd-Gilchrist should only make them better in this regard. Haywood ... not so much, but you shouldn't need all five men in transition if you have an advantage in numbers and execute well.

With this emphasis on defense, Dunlap noted how his defensive ideology will require an 11-player rotation, larger than what most better NBA teams play with. Because his strategy depends on furious speed and energetic rotations, he's going to require time from nearly everyone on the roster so no one gets killed by exhaustion.

In order for us to play as hard as we want us to play on defense, I'm going to have to use a lot of the bench.

You can't ask these guys to do some of the stuff we're asking them to do unless they go to the bench to get a drink and a respite, and also you have this really long season. If you go with a short bench and you're demanding that maybe that we're going to do some trapping and stuff like that, there will be a burnout factor.