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Lineup series: Crunch time and free throws

When the Hornets need to a take a lead during crunch time then ice the win with free throws, here are the lineups to get the job done. 

Charlotte Hornets v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

With the Charlotte Hornets in rebuild mode, there may not be many opportunities this year for coach James Borrego to insert different lineups to take the lead in crunch time then seal the win with free throws. But when these situations come up the Hornets have some good options based on where the team is today and where it wants to be in the future.

Clutch lineup

In general terms, “clutch” situations take place in the fourth quarter and overtime with less than five minutes remaining and neither team ahead by more than five points. If Charlotte was beginning this season as a playoff contender then I’d stick to a more veteran lineup in clutch situations, but things are different when you’re rebuilding. The goal this year should be getting young guys experience in crunch time, so here’s the lineup I’d go with:

  • Terry Rozier
  • Malik Monk
  • Dwayne Bacon
  • Miles Bridges
  • Cody Zeller

This grouping is very similar to what should be the starting lineup, but I’d sit Nicolas Batum and insert Malik Monk to give the third-year player some additional experience in close games. The same logic holds for keeping Dwayne Bacon and Miles Bridges on the floor over more experienced veterans like Marvin Williams. If the playoffs were a realistic goal then I’d err on the side of rolling with the vets, but the focus this year should be developing the young core.

Free throw lineup

When the crunch time unit has done its job and given the Hornets a lead late in the game, it’s now time for Coach Borrego to insert his free throw lineup. This group needs to be able to do three things - inbound and protect the ball, make free throws, and play defense. Here’s the core unit to pull this off with their career free throw percentages in parentheses:

  • Terry Rozier (77 percent)
  • Malik Monk (87 percent)
  • Nicolas Batum (84 percent)
  • Marvin Williams (81 percent)
  • Dwayne Bacon (76 percent) or Miles Bridges (75 percent)

The first four spots are pretty straightforward, but the last spot is a toss-up between Bacon and Bridges. Bacon shot 80 percent from the line during his rookie season but then fell to just 74 percent last year. Bridges hit 82 percent in two college seasons but dipped to 75 percent during his NBA rookie season last year. Let’s hope they can both get back to north of 80 percent this year. Until then I’d suggest just riding the player with the hot hand.

The Hornets might not be closing out as many games with wins as we’d like this year, but when those opportunities come the team has some good lineup options to make it happen.