The Best Lineups in the NBA This Season
Last year, the Golden State Warriors built upon the NBA's trend toward smallball lineups by developing what we've all come to know now as the death lineup. This was the lineup of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Andre Iguodala, Harrison Barnes, and Draymond Green, with the 6'7" Green playing the center position.
Head coach Steve Kerr (or Luke Walton for a time) primarily deployed this lineup when he needed to close out a tight game. The versatility of the group, both offensively and defensively, allowed him to do so no matter the opponent's lineup.
The result, at the end of the year, was the league's best lineup. Among those with at least 100 minutes played, the death lineup ranked first with a net rating (offensive rating minus defensive rating) of 47.0 points per 100 possessions.
Naturally, we expected the same kind of effectiveness out of the Warriors' newly dubbed mega-death lineup, with Kevin Durant taking the place of Barnes. Has that happened, though? Are they one of the best lineups in the league so far?
Utilizing NBA.com's lineup information, I've compiled a top five for both frequently-used and seldom-used lineups, based on net rating.
Read on to find out if the Warriors' mega-death lineup has lived up to the hype.
For these lineups -- which are all starting lineups, by the way -- the minimum number of games and minutes are set at 10 and 200, respectively.
|Team||Lineup||O Rtg||D Rtg||Net Rtg|
|LAC||Paul, Redick, Mbah a Moute, Griffin, Jordan||112.1||93.5||18.6|
|GSW||Curry, Thompson, Durant, Green, Pachulia||114.9||100.2||14.6|
|CLE||Irving, Smith, James, Love, Thompson||114.3||103.4||10.9|
|CHI||Rondo, Wade, Butler, Gibson, Lopez||108.4||99.3||9.0|
|WAS||Wall, Beal, Porter, Morris, Gortat||105.2||97.0||8.3|
Due to their hot start this season, we shouldn't be surprised to see the Los Angeles Clippers' starting lineup atop the five best in the league. In 411 minutes together, they've shot an impressive 49.6% from the field and 43% from three. They also account for 4.5 steals and 2.1 blocks in 19.6 minutes a game.
Golden State's starting lineup hasn't been as great defensively, but their 114.9 offensive rating is the highest of the five teams. After all, they have an assist-to-turnover ratio of 2.33 and an assist percentage of 81.3%. That team play has resulted in 3.5 threes in 12 minutes per contest.
The Cleveland Cavaliers' usual starters are an elite three-point shooting threat, with 5.1 makes per game on 43.4% shooting. So, despite their mediocre defensive rating, Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love, and J.R. Smith flank LeBron James in out-scoring their opponents.
With an obvious lack of three-point shooting, not many people expected the Chicago Bulls' combination of Rajon Rondo, Dwyane Wade, and Jimmy Butler to be hanging around the top lineups of the league. But they've dispelled those thoughts, with a solid 47.4% from the field and a great rebounding lineup, grabbing 56.3% of available boards.
In recent years, the problem with the Washington Wizards hasn't been their starting lineup -- it's been their depth. The same can be said this year, as they boast the league's fifth-best high-volume lineup. They're very respectable defensively and produce 43.9 of the team's 103.7 points per game this season.
In contrast to the frequently-used lineups, the qualifications for this list are only five games played and 50 minutes. Please note that with less volume, by nature, we see higher net ratings.
|Team||Lineup||O Rtg||D Rtg||Net Rtg|
|TOR||Lowry, Joseph, Ross, Patterson, Nogueira||131.5||101.0||30.6|
|GSW||Curry, Thompson, Iguodala, Durant, Green||125.0||94.9||30.0|
|MEM||Harrison, Daniels, Allen, Green, Gasol||107.1||82.1||25.0|
|HOU||Beverley, Gordon, Brewer, Dekker, Nene||118.2||94.0||24.2|
|ATL||Delaney, Sefolosha, Hardaway, Jr., Millsap, Muscala||121.7||97.9||23.8|
It's a rather odd lineup to hold the top position, but the Toronto Raptors' lineup of basically Kyle Lowry and company has been very effective in just 106 minutes of court time. The lineup has been dominant offensively with an assist-to-turnover ratio of 2.25 and an offensive rebound percentage of 29.8%.
The famed mega-death lineup makes an appearance at number two, on the back of a versatile defense and a ridiculously-efficient offense. In their 102 minutes together, the group has a true shooting percentage of 65.6% on a 70.9% assist percentage. As small as they are, the only fault they have is in rebounding, but it really doesn't matter.
With Mike Conley and others out, Andrew Harrison and Troy Daniels have stepped in and performed admirably for the Memphis Grizzlies in limited time (52 minutes). The group's defensive rating confirms that they are the best defensive lineup of these five. And their defensive rebound percentage of 89.4% tells us that they just don't give up second chances to opposing teams.
It's crazy to see a good Houston Rockets lineup without the presence of James Harden, let alone any other normal starter than Patrick Beverley. As hard as it is to believe, though, in just 53 minutes, this rotational lineup has hit 48% of their shots by assisting on 69.4% of their made field goals.
This isn't as extreme as Houston's primarily backup lineup, but still, the Atlanta Hawks' rarely used lineup includes only Paul Millsap, among everyday starters. This combination has excelled by practicing good shot selection, with a field goal percentage of 54.7% on 6.6 shot attempts per game.