We have already been over the fact that this year’s Pacers team doesn’t actually have a starting shooting guard. That doesn’t mean that Indiana only starts four players; it just means that the roster features two guys, Mike Dunleavy and Brandon Rush, who might be on the court during tip-off one night or another depending on match-ups or, presumably, their recent play. But neither can ever be sure he will get the start very far in advance.
When do they find out though, wondered Andrew Perna of Real GM, who rightly speculated that can cause some uncertainty for the players as they prepare?
With the pair switching roles so often, I wondered how much of a warning O’Brien gives them heading into each game.
“He’ll usually tell us in shootaround the day before, but it doesn’t really matter,” Dunleavy said.
Just to be sure, I asked Rush the same question. He corroborated with Dunleavy’s answer.
So it sounds like the guys have learned to deal with the situation.
With that cleared up, Perna decided to investigate just how well the team has fared depending on who opens the game — something our own Tim Donahue broke down not too long ago.
When Dunleavy starts over Rush, Indiana is 10-9. As would be expected he averages more points (12.8 to 10.3), rebounds (5.8 to 4.0) and minutes (32.4 to 24.1) when he’s on the floor first. However, he shoots the ball at a 53.3% clip when coming off the bench as opposed to just 43.2% as a starter.
The Pacers are 3-4 with Rush opening the curtain and his numbers fall in line with what you’d expect as well. His points (14.5 to 11.1) and rebounds (4.1 to 3.6) are greater in his starts, but his minutes are more consistent than Dunleavy’s (34.1 to 28.0). Unlike Mike, he shoots better (47.9% to 44.4%) as a starter.
Those are the blunt numbers. Here he lists some others.
Indiana has an offensive rating of 105.7 in Dunleavy’s starts and 102.5 in Rush’s.
You’d expect the opposite to be true of their defensive rating, but the Pacers have a 103.5 defensive rating with Dunleavy as the No. 1 two-guard and a 104.3 rating with Rush. It will be interesting to see if this remains the case as the season progresses.
These are not all that much more precise considering we’re still talking about the whole 48 minutes in games they start and not just the time that each individual is on the court. (Not that that would be perfect either.) Regardless, I’m sure we will be taking a closer look at this again soon after we get a larger sample of games.
Still, the idea that they are essentially interchangeable and that neither has “earned” the starter role more than the other guy remains pretty accurate.