Looking at the 4.5 best 5-Man Lineups (Jan. 9th)




I thought this week we'd look at the top 5 lineups this season. Listed are the top 10, but I didn't want to be too extraneous with it as these things are still subject to rapidly change on a day-by-day basis, so we keep it to talking about five. I highlighted lineups that are out-shooting their opponents by at least 20% from 3 and via EFG%. Those lineups are either, most likely, benefactors of hot-shooting from them self, or cold-shooting from their opposing lineups. It's not too uncorrelated that the 4 teams with said beneficial percentages are also the bottom 4 in terms of minutes played.

The starting Clippers lineup is pretty far ahead of the rest of the pack, and the interesting thing to me is they're just attempting way more shots than anyone else who they're up against. I suppose it makes sense when you actually look at them. Leonard and George are two of the best wing-defenders in the NBA, Batum is really good, Beverley is one of the best point-of-attack defenders even if people wish to pretend he isn't, and Ibaka is also a strong rim-protector. They probably have the most well-balanced defence in the entire NBA. They are making more FGs than any other lineup else at +20, but they're also attempting +35 field goals, +15 more from 3P, and even getting to the line quite a bit more than others at +13. Their shooting percentages aren't much better than who they're playing against, but just being able to get their shot off and deny the other team from doing so has them 20 points better than the next best lineup in the league. They're also playing at a glacial 94.7 pace, slower than any team in the past 4 years, which is interesting.

Coming up in 2nd place is the reigning defensive player of the year's team, Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks, who posted the best defensive rating in the NBA last year. Coincidence that another defensive team makes #2? According to SRS, Milwaukee's been the best team in the NBA which is kind of surprising, being 6-4, but also kind of not surprising being that they're the Milwaukee Bucks, and already have quietly had 3 blowouts by more than 30 points. While the lineup is a little different than the Bucks main one last year, it's mostly the same in style of play and with an overall improvement. Middleton's been scoring 2 more points per game, and almost 2 more assists per game, he's currently leading the team in assists, and I think it's a good thing to make him a bigger part of the offence. DiVincenzo (11.2 PPG) is also contributing more than Wes Matthews (7.4 PPG) was with scoring the ball. These both have dropped Giannis' scoring rate down to a paltry 27.1 on 1.4 less FGA per game, which I think is a good thing to see. Giannis doesn't have the offensive versatility to carry a team's scoring load in the playoffs by himself, but can easily be a #2 like Anthony Davis.

I wish Danny Green and Shake Milton's faces lined up a little better, but what can we do. The new-and-improved 76ers lineups are off to a good start. They're 3rd and 5th individually, and the 4-man lineup of Embiid - Harris - Simmons - Curry is the best in the league. I think the jury is still out on the lineups though; Joel Embiid is shooting 46% from 3, Seth Curry is shooting 60% from 3, Tobias Harris is shooting 45% from 3, even Ben Simmons is shooting 50% from 3! They've got a lot of guys shooting way above reasonable averages, and then they have two guys who could be end-of-season candidates for defensive player of the year. If they can end the year with 4 guys shooting over 45% from 3P with one guy putting up 60%, then I'm sure they're going to be fine. We'll see if they can keep it up.

Denver Nuggets return with the same 5-man lineup that ended up 3rd in net points during the regular season, behind the Milwaukee Bucks and Utah Jazz. This is not the true starting lineup though, as the Nuggets started the first five games with Porter Jr. in place of Will Barton until he got injured, and has since remained injured, but I hope they keep Barton in throughout the year. The 2020 core lineup is +18.53 per 100 possessions together, if you swap Barton out and Porter Jr. in, they drop to -5.35. Looking at the stats difference, the only real big advantage Denver has over their opponents is their free throws drawn. I believe this is because Porter Jr., while a bigger off-ball threat than Barton, is less active moving off-ball. Barton's cutting and movement keeps defences out of sorts enough for Jokic to pick apart teams and hit guys streaking to the basket and drawing fouls. Barton is also a lower usage player than Porter Jr, which allows the ball to be in Jokic and Murray's hands more, and a better defender. Images, stats, and anything else I might have done are probably from basketball-reference.com or pbpstats.com, written by and graphics made by Will Smith. Thanks for reading!

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