Tightening the rotation, as magic number reaches four

Now that the season is entering its homestretch and the Cavs have pretty much locked up their first seed in the East (the real magic number over the Magic is 4), it’s time to look forward towards the playoffs. WFNY has looked at potential playoff matchups, and even though some teams match up better than others against Cleveland, the Cavs seem to have an answer for any and every kind of team. Over and over again, you’ve heard that this team is not only deep, but versatile. Mike Brown’s rotations (both before and after the Jamison acquisition), have shown that the Cavs can go big, small, fast, slow, athletic, long-range, slash-and-kick, and can sport a post game. The Cavs have 15 guys on their roster, and they’ve all seen burn this year in Mike Brown’s rotations (and not just in garbage time).

But let’s fast forward to the playoffs. Every year when the playoffs approach, coaches tighten their rotation. What can often be a 10 man rotation (12 on a good night) is reduced generally to 8. That may not seem like a big change, but it means three things (after the jump):

1) Some guys will never see the court,

2) The guys who had been playing 15 minutes per night are now playing less than 10, and

3) The rest of the guys are playing more minutes (upper 30s and 40s).

Once Shaq gets back, he’ll be starting at Center, no doubt. But for right now, the roster looks like this:

POS

STARTER

2nd

3rd

PG

M. Williams

D. Gibson

S. Telfair

SG

A. Parker

D. West

D. Green

SF

L. James

J. Moon

J. Williams

PF

A. Jamison

A. Varejao

L. Powe

C

J.J. Hickson

Z. Ilgauskas

S. O’Neal

Which means, the playing times will contract like this:

Buh-Bye

From 15 to 10

S. Telfair

J. Williams

D. Green

J. Moon

D. Gibson

J.J. Hickson

L. Powe

The rest of the 8 guys on the roster will be getting the bulk of the minutes. And the fact that most players on the Cavs can play multiple positions means they can get away with this contraction. Brian Windhorst has said Mike Brown will start experimenting with Jamison at the SF, and that’s not the only out-of-position player Mike Brown has used this year.

By employing different lineups all season, the Cavs have shown the rest of the teams in the league that they can win games handily through unconventional means. But the playoffs raise a few questions: will the Cavs take the conventional route for the playoffs and shrink their roster to a rigid 8 players and use seemingly fixed rotation for the duration of the playoffs? Does this inhibit their versatility as a team? Does this inhibit their versatility as individual players? Do they need the extra depth of players that they seemingly haven’t used in weeks (What’s up, Boobie?)? As we’ve seen, some opponents are easier to beat with a gigantic lineup, and others are easier to beat with small-ball. Do the Cavs want the same 8-man rotation if/when they face the Celtics as when they face the Hawks? Or the Raptors? Or the Magic? Bobcats? Lakers?

This might sound obvious, but I say since we have the depth and the versatility, I think the rosters should be set from series to series. As we saw, the athletic lineup killed the Celtics, but we all know the Twin Towers are needed for the Magic and Lakers. I’ve still got faith that Mike Brown knows what he’s doing, and he’ll make the right choices down the line. He’s gotten tougher and more comfortable with his team. He’s got more weapons to choose from than he did last year. And he’s been a lot smarter about using them.

Bring on the postseason.

Brendan Bowers

About Brendan Bowers

I am the founding editor of StepienRules.com. I am also a content strategist and social media manager with Electronic Merchant Systems in Cleveland. My work has been published in SLAM Magazine, KICKS Magazine, The Locker Room Magazine, Cleveland.com, BleacherReport.com, InsideFacebook.com and elsewhere. I've also written a lot of articles that have been published here.

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