Saturday, April 26, 2014

Exposing Tyler Hansbrough

Game 3 started going the wrong way for the Toronto Raptors in the last few minutes of the first quarter, when they brought in Tyler "Psycho T" Hansbrough off the bench. Dwane Casey went with his starting frontcourt of Jonas Valanciunas and Amir Johnson for most of the first quarter, then stayed big by bringing in Hansbrough and Patrick Patterson behind them.

Hansbrough, at 6'9 250 with alligator arms, is too small to be a backup 5. He's not a great shooter, so he has to play close to the basket, but he's not big or athletic enough to finish over the top of Mason Plumlee and Andray Blatche, the Nets backup centers. He doesn't protect the rim either, so he's bleeding points on both sides of the ball.

In short, Hansbrough is a second-line player. He's a decent enough 4rth big man, but when the games start to get serious, it's hard to have him on the floor. That's what happened to him in Indiana - even though they had a lottery pick invested in him, they just couldn't keep him on the floor in the playoffs, so they let him go in the off-season.

Hansbrough's numbers weren't terrible in Game 3 - 3 points and 2 rebounds on 1-3 shooting in 9 minutes - but he wasn't improving the offense or the defense. He was just eating minutes. The second quarter, where he played a lot in place of Jonas Valanciunas, was where the Nets pulled away. Jonas getting his 3rd foul with 4:40 left in the second absolutely killed Toronto.

The obvious solution for Casey is to stagger the minutes of his top three big men as much as possible, which is what most two-post teams end up doing in the playoffs. Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph have played nearly as much apart as they have together against the Thunder - the Grizzlies need to have at least one of them on the floor at all times.

Having Patrick Patterson play as a stretch 4 next to either Jonas or Amir is just a much more effective two-man tandem than any of the three guys with Hansbrough. Casey has to make sure he gets the most out of his big men - he can't afford to have Jonas play only 30 minutes in a playoff game and think Toronto is going to win.

When you are a playoff team, you have to start thinking about how guys can fill 3-4 minute increments against quality teams. There's a place for a guy like Tyler Hansbrough in the NBA, but it's not on a contending team. If the Raptors are going to be better next season, part of it will come by improving the back end of their rotation.

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