Updated NBA Power Rankings: Where Do the Best 5-Man Lineups Rank?
Each week, we'll be translating numberFire's NBA power rankings into words. The rankings are driven by our nERD metric, which is a predictive statistic to help define what the team's winning percentage ultimately will be.
This week, the following tweet got me thinking about this season's best five-man lineups in terms of where those lineups find themselves in our power rankings.
The Spurs' starting lineup is the most efficient 5-man unit in the league, outscoring their opp by 28.4 pts/100 poss pic.twitter.com/m7K5sBGOrT— Jimmy Gotham (@jimmygotham) March 23, 2015
The Spurs themselves rank fourth in our power rankings, so where do the other top rotations land?
To qualify the best five-man lineups a little better, I've set the minimum amount of minutes played together at 250 and minimum amount of games played together at 25 to give us a bigger sample size in our evaluations. This gives us 15 different lineups, and we'll look at where the top six, based on Net Rating, fall in our rankings this week.#30 New York Knicks (nERD: 19.9, Record: 14-58, last week: 29)
#29 Philadelphia 76ers (nERD: 23.5, Record: 18-54, last week: 30)
No, the 76ers don't have a lineup that qualifies for the best 5-man lineup as their best lineup sans Michael Carter-Williams has only played together for a total of 21 minutes. I just wanted to show that the 76ers have risen out of last place in our rankings. Six weeks ago, their nERD was 19.6. Now, they're only two wins shy of topping their total from last year. This doesn't mean this team has finally found a magic formula, but it does mean they aren't the worst team in the NBA right now.
#28 Minnesota Timberwolves (nERD: 25.2, Record: 16-55, last week: 28)
#27 Orlando Magic (nERD: 30.8, Record: 22-51, last week: 27)
#26 Los Angeles Lakers (nERD: 34.5, Record: 19-51, last week: 26)
#25 Sacramento Kings (nERD: 37.8, Record: 26-45, last week: 25)
While the Sacramento Kings may be one of the worst teams in the league this year, the Net Rating of this lineup is actually the fourth-best of the 15 that made the cut. Our nERD doesn't like this lineup so much though, as this team's offensive shooting efficiency is more middle of the road among the 15 lineups. But while they aren't keeping up with the Cavaliers, Warriors, and Clippers offensively, this lineup's Defensive Rating in the best out of the 15.
|D. Collison, D. Cousins, Rudy Gay, B. McLemore, J. Thompson||108.1||91.8||16.4||-3.4||52.8||56.6|
The Kings have DeMarcus Cousins and Rudy Gay to thank for helping this lineup maintain such an advantage in Defensive Rating as it's nearly three points higher than the next best lineup from the Warriors. Don't expect many rebounds coming your way either because this lineup pulls down 53.4 of available rebounds each game.
#24 Brooklyn Nets (nERD: 38.8, Record: 30-40, last week: 24)
#23 Denver Nuggets (nERD: 39.6, Record: 27-45, last week: 23)
#22 Miami Heat (nERD: 44.2, Record: 33-38, last week: 22)
#21 Detroit Pistons (nERD: 45.7, Record: 27-44, last week: 21)
#20 Charlotte Hornets (nERD: 46.7, Record: 30-40, last week: 19)
#19 Boston Celtics (nERD: 47, Record: 31-40, last week: 20)
#18 Indiana Pacers (nERD: 47.2, Record: 31-41, last week: 18)
#17 Milwaukee Bucks (nERD: 48.7, Record: 36-36, last week: 17)
#16 Utah Jazz (nERD: 49.5, Record: 31-40, last week: 16)
#15 New Orleans Pelicans (nERD: 50.1, Record: 37-34, last week: 14)
#14 Phoenix Suns (nERD: 50.9, Record: 38-34, last week: 15)
#13 Washington Wizards (nERD: 53.4, Record: 40-32, last week: 11)
#12 Oklahoma City Thunder (nERD: 55.9, Record: 41-31, last week: 12)
#11 Chicago Bulls (nERD: 56.4, Record: 44-29, last week: 13)
#10 Toronto Raptors (nERD: 57.2, Record: 42-30, last week: 10)
#9 Houston Rockets (nERD: 58.2, Record: 48-23, last week: 9)
We almost have to put an asterisk in for the Rockets as their best lineup hasn't played together for two months while Dwight Howard has been out with a knee injury. He was back on Wednesday night, but Patrick Beverley has been diagnosed with torn ligaments in his wrist and is to be evaluated again in a week or two. When healthy though, this Rockets lineup has been the fifth-best of the 15 qualifying lineups according to their Net Rating.
|T. Ariza, P. Beverley, J. Harden, D. Howard, D. Motiejunas||108.1||96.7||11.5||23.2||54.7||58|
We shouldn't expect the Rockets to be great defensively (right Charles Barkley?), but they are playing just as well as the Cavaliers are defensively -- they just don't have as potent of an offense to cover it up. James Harden's effective field goal percentage of 50.8 isn't necessarily hurting the Rockets offense, but it's a clear distinction between this lineup's shooting (54.7 effective field goal percentage) and the top-three lineups (all over 57.0 in the stat). However, the healthier the Rockets are, the better the chances they have against the Spurs, whom they're currently projected to face in the first round.
#8 Portland Trail Blazers (nERD: 59.3, Record: 45-25, last week: 6)
The Blazers a top-10 team in our rankings thanks to the help of the sixth-best five-man lineup of the 15 lineups that met our requirements above. This lineup's Defensive Rating is on par with the Warriors team as a whole and their Offensive Rating would be a top-five number in the entire league.
|L. Aldridge, N. Batum, D. Lillard, R. Lopez, W. Matthews||107.8||97.1||10.7||24.8||50.3||54.7|
However, they do play in a division that hasn't given them much competition as the Thunder have only recently clawed their way back into the playoff picture. In fact, if it wasn't for the seeding rules (all division winners gain a top-four seed), the Blazers actually have the fifth-best record in the West and only sit above the Spurs by a half-game. Our numbers give them a 2.1% chance to win it all, the seventh-best chance in the West, and 11th-best among all NBA teams.
#7 Memphis Grizzlies (nERD: 60, Record: 50-22, last week: 8)
#6 Cleveland Cavaliers (nERD: 61.6, Record: 47-26, last week: 7)
Could this Cavaliers' lineup be the best in the NBA right now? The advanced metrics indicate such, even if they've only been playing together since mid-January.
|K. Irving, L. James, K. Love, T. Mozgov, J.R. Smith||116.8||96.6||20.2||30.1||58||60.8|
They have the highest Net Rating of 20.2, a 1.5-point margin over the Warriors. Of the 15 lineups, this Cavaliers lineup is just 0.4 points shy of having the best offense, but they do have the best effective field goal percentage and true shooting percentage in the league. They should breeze through the East until they run into the Hawks at least -- but if they make the Finals, can anyone keep up with this team for a seven game series?
#5 Dallas Mavericks (nERD: 63.1, Record: 45-27, last week: 4)
#4 San Antonio Spurs (nERD: 63.3, Record: 45-26, last week: 5)
#3 Atlanta Hawks (nERD: 64.1, Record: 54-17, last week: 3)
#2 Los Angeles Clippers (nERD: 70.6, Record: 47-25, last week: 2)
Which lineup has a better offense than the Cavaliers right now? The Clippers.
|M. Barnes, B. Griffin, D. Jordan, C. Paul, J.J Redick||117.2||100||17.2||39.6||57.3||59.6|
But the Clippers are a mixed bag -- of the 15 lineups being evaluated, they have the ninth-worst Defensive Rating (100.0), placing them third of the six lineups in Net Rating (17.2). Offensively, they are shooting just 0.7% less than the Cavaliers in effective field goal percentage and and 1.4% less in true shooting percentage. The Clippers are currently pegged as the most likely team to take down the Warriors in the West, too, with a 10.9% chance to hoist the championship trophy, the third-best chance in the league, and just 1% behind the Hawks' chances.
#1 Golden State Warriors (nERD: 82.5, Record: 58-13, last week: 1)
Of the 15 lineups we've been looking at, the second-best lineup (by just 1.5 points per 100 possessions) belongs to the top team in the league. The Warriors have the inside game to go with their hot handed three-point shooting and a defense to back it all up with this five-man lineup.
|H. Barnes, A. Bogut, S. Curry, D. Green, K. Tompson||113.2||94.5||18.7||45.1||57.8||60|
This lineup is just inches behind the Cavaliers in Net Rating, but they have the advantage on defense with a 94.5 Defensive Rating. Let's face it, there's not much left to say about this team, especially when their best lineup's total nERD is better than 10 other teams in the league.
They're the Kentucky of the NBA right now -- it's them versus the rest of the league. It will be fun to sit back and watch this team make some history.