Which Lineups Are Best in the NBA?
In November, my fellow contributor Bryan Mears took a look at the top five lineups in the NBA at that point in the season. When he did, the NBA season was still just getting started, so he didn't have a large sample size to go off of.
Now we're two-and-a-half months further into the NBA season with a lot more games played and stats compiled. So, naturally, I generated the top five lineups to see how things changed. To qualify, each lineup must have at least 20 games and 200 minutes played together. They're ranked according to their Net Rating (Offensive Rating - Defensive Rating) per 100 possessions.
(I will also be utilizing our nERD metric to show each lineup's combined efficiency.)
Here's the top five:
|Team||Lineup||O Rtg||D Rtg||Net Rtg|
|1. GS||Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Harrison Barnes, Draymond Green, Andrew Bogut||114.5||94.4||20.1|
|2. SAC||Darren Collison, Ben McLemore, Rudy Gay, Jason Thompson, DeMarcus Cousins||108.1||91.8||16.4|
|3. LAC||Chris Paul, J.J. Redick, Matt Barnes, Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan||117.2||101.1||16.1|
|4. LAC||Chris Paul, Jamal Crawford, Matt Barnes, Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan||119.2||104.8||14.4|
|5. OKC||Russell Westbrook, Andre Roberson, Kevin Durant, Serge Ibaka, Steven Adams||109.8||96.4||13.4|
5. Oklahoma City Thunder: Westbrook, Roberson, Durant, Ibaka, Adams
This lineup has just 249 minutes this season in 23 games, so obviously they need to log more minutes together. Unlike a lot of things, that hasn't had anything to do with Coach Scott Brooks. It has everything to do with injuries -- a lot of them. Whether it's been Russell Westbrook and his early season injuries, Kevin Durant and his off and on foot and ankle problems, or Steven Adams' recent hand injury, the Thunder's top lineup hasn't been able to stay on the floor together.
When they have shared the court though, they've been one of the best lineups in the league -- and they might be even higher if not for chemistry problems caused by their injury problems. The five players have a combined nERD of 22.6, led by their two superstars, who have a combined nERD of 18.1 between them. Westbrook and Durant bring the offensive firepower to the lineup while Roberson, Ibaka and Adams contribute with their defensive abilities -- particularly Ibaka and Adams at the rim.
4. Los Angeles Clippers: Paul, Crawford, Barnes, Griffin, Jordan
The Clippers "1-B" team has been as good as nearly every "A" team in the league. It doesn't matter if he's simply stepped in for an injured J.J. Redick in the starting lineup or if he's come off the bench in his normal sixth man role (with a healthy Redick), Jamal Crawford has given the Clippers' mainstays a lot of help on the offensive end of the floor. He's been a huge factor in the lineup's top offensive rating among the top-five lineups.
On the other hand, he is also a factor in their poor Defensive Rating -- the lowest among the top five. He's just not very sound defensively, but he does make up for it with his highly-skilled offensive game, as evidenced by their Net Rating of 14.4 in 42 games and 219 minutes together. The Crawford lineup has also earned a nERD of 34.8 between them.
3. Los Angeles Clippers: Paul, Redick, Barnes, Griffin, Jordan
That's right -- the Clippers own two of the top five lineups in the league. The Redick lineup is even better than the aforementioned 1-B lineup. In 46 games together, with the highest total of (880) minutes among the top five, the Clippers' default starting lineup has earned a Net Rating one-and-a-half points higher than the previous lineup. It's not hard to figure out why.
Paul, Barnes, Griffin and Jordan still bring their same skill sets to the lineup: Paul with his defensive intensity, offensive efficiency and leadership; Griffin with his athleticism and offensive versatility; Barnes with his outside shooting and defensive versatility; and, last but not least, DeAndre Jordan with his elite defense, rim protecting and rebounding. But, J.J. Redick does his part on the defensive end -- increasing the lineup's defensive rating by 3.7 points per 100 possessions. That's why this lineup maintains a nERD 2.4 points superior to the previous one and why the Clippers are third in our power rankings.
2. Sacramento Kings: Collison, McLemore, Gay, Thompson, Cousins
I wish I could say I'm surprised by this lineup making our top five, but they were in the same position in late November. Nonetheless, I wouldn't have expected it to keep it up from the beginning of the season, especially with all the changes in Sacramento. They have had a slight drop off of 2.7 points in their Net Rating since the aforementioned article, but they've still proven themselves as one of the best lineups in the league.
The Kings' favorite (and usual starting) lineup has a nERD of just -3.4 -- which means they're below the league average in efficiency -- but this lineup also possesses the best Defensive Rating (91.8) among the top five, and by a decent margin (2.6). What's more impressive though is the fact that its Defensive Rating is the best of all eligible lineups. Collison's speed and Cousins' and Thompson's rim protecting ability have a lot to do with that. Due to injuries, however, this lineup has performed together in just 30 games -- so imagine if they were healthy.
1. Golden State Warriors: Curry, Thompson, Barnes, Green, Bogut
No surprise here -- the Warriors have the single best lineup in the league. As a matter of fact, that's how they started off the season too. But, with a much larger sample size today, Golden State's starting five has seen a decrease of 11.5 (from 31.6 to 20.1) in their Net Rating. Their offense and defense have both fallen since their scorching hot start to the season. But that's okay, as they have a combined nERD of 43.6, which is the highest of the top lineups.
Despite having Andrew Bogut essentially part-time throughout the season, this lineup has played a total of 496 minutes in 35 games and has been extremely effective on both ends of the floor. Their defensive mindset and versatility might be their biggest assets -- or are they? It's hard to say with guys like Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green -- they have ridiculous skill sets and have shown them off all season. It's only right that the Warriors are number-one in our power rankings and have the best chance, at 32.1%, to win the NBA championship.