Best Lineups of the Week - 11/3/18
Welcome to the weekly column where I will be picking lineups around the league that I like on both sides of the court. Let's get to it!
Defensive Lineup I Like
Morris - Harris - Craig - Millsap - Jokic
This is a different Denver Nuggets team. They are winning games they used to lose, like the Chicago Bulls games this week.This team is getting stops when they need to. Denver is 7-1 and is the only team to beat the Golden State Warriors. They are an incredible 4th in defense, with a +8.9 point differential. There has been lots of reason for the improvements on defense. Paul Millsap being healthy is huge, Nikola Jokic has been much better, Gary Harris has been a boss on both ends and they are getting contributions from guys like Torrey Craig and Monte Morris. Craig has stepped up admirably in the absence of Will Barton and has been a tough and versatile defender. Morris has been steady playing back up point, and he is big enough to guard multiple positions on defense and on offense he can play off the ball because he is shooting 43% from deep.
Craig, in particular, gives them a presence. Watch this play.
Lou Williams looks like he has a blow by drive, but Craig recovers to block the ball off the backboard and ignite the Nuggets break. Craig is huge, athletic, and strong. His offense has also been much better this year. They have a real find with him.
This group is big, long and versatile. They are posting an absurd 70 defensive rating in 21 minutes. This is a lineup that can also score though. They are getting buckets posting a 129 offensive rating, giving them an absurd +59 net rating. Denver's bench and the defense have been a problem for years, they finally figured it out. When Barton comes back, and if they get anything from Isaiah Thomas and Michael Porter Jr. Watch out.
Offensive Lineup I Like
Teodosic - Williams - Gilgeous-Alexander - Scott - Harrell
The Los Angeles Clippers don't have a lot of ball movement, they are getting nothing offensively from their starting guards in Pat Beverley and Avery Bradley, yet they find ways to score the rock. They are playing at a blistering pace, 9th in the league and Tobias Harris and Danilo Gallinari are straight up doing work right now. Sometimes they're not enough and Doc Rivers has gone to a wacky bench lineup to generate points.
That lineup is sixth man extraordinaire Lou Williams, passing maestro Milos Teodosic, human wrecking ball Montrezl Harrell, a fun rookie in Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and head of Dunder Mifflin Mike Scott. We all know Lou Will, he gets buckets in his sleep, that is a given. It is the others who have stepped up their games in surprising ways. Teodosic may be the only good passer on the team, and he unlocks, cuts, and open shots that other teammates simply don't see.
Gilgeous-Alexander gives them a guard who can play on or off the ball and has a good change of pace game. Scott is there to space the floor and from time to time unleash a snaky cut at the right time. Then there is Harrell who is one of the most improved players in the league. He is lethal as a roller, with great timing, hands, and touch around the basket. Harrell fits perfectly for this group that likes to run.
You can see Harrell’s improvement in this play. He goes to set a screen for Williams, but Williams gives him the ball, he then attacks Embiid. Harrell takes two dribbles; spin move and finishes over Embiid. Nice move!
Add it up and this group has an absurd 140 offensive rating in 29 minutes. On the other end, they struggle, posting a 128 defensive rating, giving them a +12 net rating. It's worth it, earlier in the year the Clippers were struggling to find an offensive lineup that worked off the bench, and it looks they finally found one. They have been so potent that it's worth the defensive struggles.
Lineup I Hate
Payne - LaVine - Holiday - Parker - Carter
Last week I did a two-man lineup that has been killing it. This week I have to go the other way. We all knew the Chicago Bulls would stink on defense, but man this is bad. The Warriors dropped 92 on them at the half and Klay Thompson dropped an NBA record of threes on them. Chicago is 28th in defense and there is one lineup in particular that is beyond a train wreck.
That lineup is Cameron Payne, Zach LaVine, Justin Holiday, Jabari Parker, and Wendell Carter. I know, it’s “shocking” a lineup with both LaVine and Parker is bleeding points. This lineup has an atrocious 146 defensive rating in 35 minutes. Also, it's not like their killing it on offense to justify it. They have a 94 offensive rating, which adds up to an atrocious -51.6 defensive rating. Woof
Now I know the Bulls have limited options. I realize they made sizeable investments in LaVine and Parker. They need to stagnate their minutes, even more, it just can't work. Unfortunately, I think you're going to keep seeing this lineup and that is why the Bulls are so bad.
Look at this play here. Kevin Durant swings it to Draymond Green at the top of the key. Cameron Payne and Zach LaVine switch an off-ball screen, and Green passes it to Alfonzo Mckinnie on the wing. Mckinnie then passes back to Green, sets a screen for Curry and Green delivers it to Curry for an easy three. This is a hard play to stop. The devil is in the details though, Payne just gives up and LaVine chooses to stick with McKinnie rather than Curry. That is a no-no.