Assessing Inconsistency: Erie's Frequent Lineup Changes

Monday, February 1, 2010

At 12-16, the Erie BayHawks currently sit in fifth place in the East Conference, 10 games out of first place and four games back in the loss column from the eighth and final playoff spot. Aside from a 12-day stretch in mid-January when they rattled off six wins in seven games, the BayHawks haven’t won back-to-back games all season. It’s been a season marred by inconsistency...

...from players, most notably Alade Aminu, whose game-by-game scoring chart would have spikes big enough to qualify for inclusion on the Legion of Doom's shoulder pads.

...on the roster, which has come via trade (Donell Taylor out, Mike Gansey in), cuts (bye-bye Zach Sowers, Martin Zeno, and the never-really-even-here Booker Woodfox), signings (hello Cliff Clinkscales, Frank Tolbert, Tyc Snow), and NBA call-ups (Cedric Jackson)

...and, most notably, in coach John Treloar’s starting lineups. In 28 games, the BayHawks have used 15 different starting lineups, including seven different variations in the past 10 games. Obviously, some of the lineup changes have been necessitated by the roster changes and injuries, but sometimes the lineup shifts seem arbitrary, unnecessary, and downright detrimental to the team. A little consistency could go a long way. More importantly, on a fundamental level, don’t you typically want your best five players to start the game?

Based on that basic tenant of basketball, I believe the starting five should be as follows:

  • Center-John Bryant
  • Power Forward-Alade Aminu
  • Small Forward-Jackie Manuel
  • Shooting Guard-Mike Gansey
  • Point Guard-?

We’ll get to the “?” in a second, but first let me address the four spots that should be on lockdown.

Center-John Bryant
Big Bad John Bryant—not to be confused with Big Bully Busick (two 90s WWF references? Uh oh, someone’s been reading too much Scott Schroeder lately)—is a walking double-double in the D-League, trailing only Dwayne Jones in that category this season. He’s also one of the best pick ‘n pop big men in the league, so teams should no longer act surprised when he displays his feathery touch from the top of the key and in. Bryant’s 23 starts are second on the team, but just last week he inexplicably came off the bench in back-to-back games against Springfield and Maine. Where's the consistency in that?

Power Forward-Alade Aminu
Aminu is the main reason I’m writing this post. After being touted as an NBA call-up candidate in recent weeks, he was demoted over the weekend, playing limited minutes after starting on Friday and then coming off the bench on Saturday against Springfield. Arguably the most talented BayHawk (and without Cedric Jackson on the roster, I’d put the argument to rest for the time being), there is no reason why Aminu shouldn’t be starting. Furthermore, there’s no reason why Treloar should be averse to the idea of Bryant and Aminu—Erie’s two best frontline players—playing side by side.

For what it’s worth, the BayHawks are 7-8 when Bryant and Aminu start together, 5-7 when one of them starts, and 0-1 when neither of them starts. I understand that 7-8 is nothing special, but it doesn’t tell the whole story. Erie had won four of five games with both Bryant and Aminu in the starting lineup before Cedric Jackson earned his NBA call-up. It was working. Jackson vacating the point guard spot was what changed and hurt them, not the Bryant/Aminu combination.

Small Forward-Jackie Manuel
The consummate team player and emotional leader of the BayHawks, Manuel has started a team-high 27 of 28 games this season and played a team-high 1,134 minutes this season. Despite an improved offensive game this season, he remains most valuable as a stout defender who welcomes the challenge of guarding the opposition’s best perimeter player. Ivan Harris is a better shooter, but Manuel’s energy, effort, and intensity warrant him the spot in my starting five every time. His flair for the occasional highlight reel dunk is a nice added bonus.

Shooting Guard-Mike Gansey
This midseason trade acquisition has paid off in a big way for the BayHawks, who are now 6-2 when he is in the lineup. He brings an added element to the offense with his perimeter shooting, which was what Erie knew they were getting in exchange for Donell Taylor. The surprise has been his contributions in other areas as he’s averaging 8.5 rebounds and better than a steal per game. His production has not gone unnoticed around the league as he was just named the D-League Performer of the Week for his late-game heroics in a pair of Erie wins over Springfield.

Point Guard-?
Point guard was a question mark heading into the season for the BayHawks. After their experiment to play number one pick Donell Taylor at the point failed (2.8 assists, 3.5 turnovers per game in his 13 games with Erie), the BayHawks found that their answer was on the roster all along: Cedric Jackson. Unfortunately, it worked out so well that Jackson earned a call-up to the NBA when the Cavaliers needed a fill-in for their injury-depleted backcourt situation. That left the BayHawks with just Cliff Clinkscales. There’s been love and, well...less than love for Clinkscales in the D-League blogosphere this season, but he’s best served as a role player—not running the team full time. With an injury costing him the past two games, the team had to dig even deeper and sign Tyc Snow, a little-known player from Mississippi Valley State.

The point is that if Erie gets Jackson back from Cleveland this week, the question is answered at the point guard position. On the other hand, if he gets signed to another 10-day contract (possible) or for the rest of the season (doubtful) by the Cavs, Erie needs to figure out a plan B in a hurry, whether it’s excavating Maureece Rice from his contract in Ukraine or finding someone else.

Final thoughts: The BayHawks should be riding their best-five the rest of the way. If Jackson returns, a starting five of Bryant, Aminu, Manuel, Gansey, and Jackson gives the team a legitimate chance to win every night with four quality scoring options and a good mix of size and speed defensively. Leave Harris as the sixth man to provide instant-offense off the bench and have Clinkscales, Tolbert, Gunter, and Goldcamp fill in as needed. If they can follow that prescription daily, maybe inconsistency won’t be the storyline of the second half of their season the way it has been so far.


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About this blog/blogger

Blog Talk BayHawk is an unofficial Erie BayHawks blog covering the NBA D-League. It features opinions and information about the NBADL and the Erie BayHawks. Blog Talk BayHawk is written from a basketball fan’s perspective to fill In the gaps left by professional journalists’ coverage of BayHawks basketball and the Erie professional basketball scene.

Matt Hubert is a 25-year-old writer and basketball fanatic born and raised in Erie, Pa. He graduated from Mercyhurst College in 2007 with a bachelor's degree in English and a dual concentration in writing and creative writing. Matt's not wavering from his stance as a lifelong Los Angeles Lakers fan, but he will cover the BayHawks' NBA affiliates in Cleveland and Toronto when it makes sense to do so throughout the year.

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