Adelaide made some huge signings in the off-season. On paper it looked like a championship contender. How the parts are assembling though is a cause for some concern.
Probably the biggest hurdle the team has had to overcome is the “Twin Towers” set-up of Daniel Johnson and Luke Schenscher. I was critical of the signing of Schenscher initially, based on my doubts that he and DJ could co-exist and that it would hamper DJ’s development.
Have a look at DJ’s numbers this season as opposed to last
He has gone backwards in all categories besides assists. Admittedly he's down almost 2 minutes a game, but the decline isn't inline with his minutes drop. Not what we were expecting as a follow up to his MVP season.
Is it all Big Luke's fault? Clearly Schenscher's arrival has changed where Johnson takes his shots from and how much of a focus he is on offense. It has also hampered his defensive game though which needed a lot of work.
This isn’t labelling the Schenscher signing a bust though. He's currently 11th in the league in rebounding and second blocks, despite only playing just over 21 minutes a game. It is clear though the two don’t do their best work together.
Looking at the +/- figures, our best 3 lineups all feature DJ at the 5 spot...and Schenscher on the bench. The only lineup that Schenscher has featured in with a positive +/- (that has played more than five minutes together) is Crosswell/Gibson/Weigh/Johnson/Schenscher...and that’s only at +1. That also means only one lineup featuring DJ and Big Luke (that has played over five minutes together) has a positive +/-.
So should we shakeup the starting lineup? Our most successful lineup would suggest so. Our best performing unit so far has been
This is an interesting lineup. It’s got a pure, pass first, point guard, a scorer at the 2, a slasher at the 3, a workhorse at the 4 with a strong/inside outside game (he’s hit 6/12 threes to date) and our best inside scorer in Johnson at the 5. I prefer Crosswell and Petrie off the bench though as Crosswell is really a 15-20minute guy at this point of his career and Petrie has been a spark off the bench. I’d go for our second best performing unit to start, which is
This means we move Big Luke to the bench and start Creek. Mitch’s numbers are far from overwhelming but the team seems to flow better at both ends with him out there. This lineup allows us to bring Schenscher in when the opponents rest their centre and therefore have a huge size advantage.His role should also be more defense focused.
We then need to fix DJ and get him back to his 2011-2012 form by working on the following
The only true emotion DJ seems to show on the court is the “oh dad” when he gets whistled for a foul (or not whistled for being fouled) and turns to Clarke hoping he can help. This lack of emotion has stopped many a fan (myself included) from fully embracing DJ. I was stunned on Sunday when Mitch Creek dived for a ball and fed DJ for an inspiring “and 1” that the crowd went nuts over. Creek semi-molested DJ with his excited man hug..... and DJ barely responded. We get he’s a quiet guy but he needs to start “giving a damn”.
Johnson struggles to play through frustration and often “checks out” when the going gets tough. Mark Radford said in a team release this week
“(Johnson) is learning to play through contact a lot better, he still has a lot of room for improvement, we keep demanding that from him and he demands it from himself.”
If he wants to take his game to the next level he needs to keep his head up and stay involved in other ways if he’s not getting the calls or his shots aren’t dropping.
As displayed Sunday, DJ is at his best when he’s given some room to move inside. He can get fouled and get to the line almost at will against most of the league’s bigs when his head is in the game. While he does have a decent outside shot, he’s at his best when allowed to play on the low block.
It's a bold move to bring your key signing for the year off the bench, but it can work. Just ask Wollongong. Plus I believe it will help us get better starts. Our starters have a "- 6" as a lineup and have recorded these starts so far this season.
V MEL 9-12
V NZ 5-9
V CAIRNS 5-6
V WOL 15-5
V SYD 2-12
V MEL 7-5
V PER 9-9
Johnson is often a great first quarter scorer and would benefit from being given the space he needs.
We're already a quarter of the way through the season and with Wollongong, New Zealand and Perth likely finals "locks", Adelaide will need to make any necessary changes soon to ensure it's a legitimate chance for a return to the playoffs. A well respected CEO has left Townsville due to a 0-8 start. Melbourne has replaced an under peforming import with an NBA lottery pick. A starting lineup shuffle and reverting to making DJ "The Man" probably isn't asking too much.