Over the past 24 hours, we’ve gotten some great reporting and analysis on everything from what skills Stephon Marbury has left, what his role will be and whether he’ll buy into Ubuntu, and, you know, the far less exotic concept of defense.
What makes Marbury such an interesting story is the element of mystery — of possibility.
Everything is on the table. He could score 20 points off the bench in a decisive playoff game, or he could be on the street (or at the bus stop) by April.
As I indicated Wednesday, I’m most interested in how Doc will try and fit Marbury into the line-up, and that’s why I think it’s particularly unfortunate that Kevin Garnett is going to spend at least the first two weeks of the Marbury Era on the bench.
Upon reflection, I was a bit narrow-minded in my initial analysis of Steph’s potential role on the team. I tried to squeeze Marbury into the most frequently-played bench units in a simplistic either-or way. As in, it’s either Eddie House or Stephon Marbury; or, it’s either Tony Allen or Stephon Marbury.
But the reality is that Marbury’s acquisition frees Doc to create a whole new set of line-ups, and the key to that potential creativity is Garnett. As die-hards have probably noticed by now, Garnett is the only one of the Big Three that never plays alone, without one of the other Big Three together with him in the line-up.
In fact, about 80 percent of Garnett’s total minutes this season–and, really, nearly all of his meaningful minutes — have come with both Paul Pierce and Ray Allen on the floor. I’ve always been curious about why Doc never uses Garnett as the lone Big Three member or what an offense run through Garnett in the post for several possessions at a time might look like.
My best guess is that Doc does not trust the ball-handling of the primary back-up guards (Eddie House and Tony Allen) enough to leave them alone with KG and two bigs. So when the bench is in, he makes sure either Pierce or Allen (and not KG) is in with them to act as a stabilizing ball-handler and scorer.
Marbury changes that, because he can be that stabilizing ball-handler. That might free Doc up to play KG without the other members of the Big Three–to in effect turn KG into the big man with a jump shot we all think the bench could use (Big Baby‘s current hot streak notwithstanding).
The most commonly played bench units now are Pierce/Ray Allen with House, Tony Allen, Baby and Leon Powe. Those are the units (the Pierce one in particular) that have struggled for stretches offensively–the line-ups that have us all wishing for a big man (i.e. Joe Smith) who can hit an open jumper consistently.
So just imagine a new Big Three/second unit combo that looked like this: Garnett-Marbury-Powe-Davis-House (a big line-up with two small guards); Garnett-Marbury-Tony Allen-Powe-Davis (a big line-up with a good wing defender); or Garnett-Marbury-Tony Allen-House-Powe/Davis. You get the point, and we haven’t even explored a few other line-up possibilities.
Note: This does not mean that I’m suddenly bullish on Marbury. I have some of the same concerns I had 48 hours ago, and I’m aware this could all end with Marbury throwing a fit about playing time and getting cut in two weeks. I’m only pointing out a quirk in Doc’s line-up construction and wondering if Marbury might have some impact on that.
The shame of it is that Doc will have about 10 fewer games to tinker with this stuff than he would have if KG were healthy now.
In any case, I’d be curious to hear more about what you all think about Marbury leading up to tonight’s game. Hit up the comments.