The 5 Best NBA Lineup Combinations So Far
The NBA season is still young, but most teams’ starting lineups have hit the 100-minute threshold, so it’s a good time to look at some early returns on these five-man combinations.
For these lineups, I pace-adjusted my search and only included ones that have hit that 100-minute minimum, so there are some potentially great combinations that haven’t really had time to play together - Bulls lineups with Derrick Rose or any Thunder lineup, for example.
Here are the top five, in descending order.
2014-2015 – ORtg: 110.2, DRtg: 98.3, NetRtg: +11.9 in 110 minutes
2013-2014 – N/A
This lineup is already broken up, as Eric Gordon is out indefinitely with a torn labrum. That means extra Austin Rivers, which has been alright so far this season, but it remains to be seen how that will play out over the course of a full season in the Western Conference. Regardless, Anthony Davis is an MVP candidate and is capable of making any five-man combination elite just by being in it.
The Pels have a unique trio of bigs, with Davis, Asik, and Ryan Anderson who all do different things. Asik is an elite rim protector, Anderson is one of best shooting bigs in the league, and Davis is Davis. The effect of getting Asik might be understated for Davis’ development - playing with mostly just Anderson in the past made him bang against centers, but Asik gives him a lot more flexibility to maximize his amazing strengths.
4. Mike Conley – Courtney Lee – Tony Allen –
Zach Randolph – Marc Gasol
2014-2015 – ORtg: 114.6, DRtg: 102.6, NetRtg: +12.0 in 139 minutes
2013-2014 – ORtg: 105.7, DRtg: 90.2, NetRtg: +15.6 in 67 minutes
Last year, the Grizzlies got up to the 50-win mark despite not having their best player, Gasol, for over a month of the season. A fully healthy Gasol, a year under his belt for head coach Dave Joerger, and an easy schedule to start the year is a recipe for success and the Grizzlies have taken advantage of it so far.
How the Grizzlies are dominating with their best lineup is interesting. Although the Grizzlies as a team have been fantastic on defense as usual, this lineup - their best one so far - has actually not been that great on that end. However, it is scoring at a rate that would only be below the historically-paced Dallas Mavericks. As they get into conference play, will we see an offensive regression from this unit?
2014-2015 – ORtg: 116.2, DRtg: 97.5, NetRtg: +18.7 in 181 minutes
2013-2014 – N/A
This performance is a testament to Mavs head coach Rick Carlisle, Dirk Nowitzki, their ability to craft such a dominating combination with three new members from a season ago. The Mavs have been outscoring opponents at a historical pace, and this lineup is a big reason for that.
The biggest question for the Mavs this season will be how they perform on the defensive end, as history shows that it’s very hard to be a true contender without a top-10 defense, and they currently stand at 15 according to our power rankings. The good news is that this lineup - the one they’ll play as much as possible in the playoffs - has been excellent defensively. Their 97.5 defensive rating (DRtg) would rank first in the league in terms of team efficiency.
2014-2015 – ORtg: 105.9, DRtg: 86.8, NetRtg: +19.1 in 188 minutes
2013-2014 – N/A
Yes, the five best lineups in the NBA include Eric Gordon, Ben McLemore, and Jason Thompson. DeMarcus Cousins’ beginning to the year - including 22 points, 12 assists, 5 assists, and 3 steals against Anthony Davis last night - warrants MVP consideration so far. Rudy Gay - once a punchline around the league - has been very good for the surprising Kings as well.
And Darren Collison has been a very serviceable point guard on both ends of the floor, even though it seemed foolish for the Kings to replace Isaiah Thomas with him this summer. Everything is working out for the Kings right now and Boogie is playing like one of the 10 best players in the league. Can they keep it up?
2014-2015 – ORtg: 120.3, DRtg: 88.7, NetRtg: +31.6 in 145 minutes
2013-2014 – ORtg: 112.0, DRtg: 94.0, NetRtg: +18.0 in 51 minutes
Holy goodness has this lineup been destroying opponents. Obviously, they won’t continue to perform at a plus-32 NetRtg level, but this lineup does have a history of blowing teams away on both ends of the floor. It’s actually quite amazing that former Warriors head coach Mark Jackson only played this combination 51 minutes all of last year.
Will this lineup still get significant run when David Lee returns to the rotation? It will be very hard for new head coach Steve Kerr to not play this combination a ton – they really have no holes offensively or defensively. If defensive anchor Andrew Bogut can stay healthy this season, this lineup could very well lead the Warriors to an NBA Finals berth.