Best NBA Lineups of the Week - 11/10/18
This week's lineups feature a lineup that has finally clicked after years of struggling, a defensive lineup that is suffocating, and a lineup that we should all keep an eye on for various reasons. Let's get it jumping!
Two Way Lineup I Like- Damian Lillard, C.J McCollum, Evan Turner, Al-Farouq Aminu, Jusuf Nurkic
It's year three, but the Blazers have finally made Evan Turner useful. Turner was one of the bad contracts that got signed during the bananas summer that was 2016. E.T signed for four years and $70 million, and he played awful in the first two years of that deal. This year the Blazers have made him their backup point guard, which was long overdue and have finally made him work with the starters. Turner has fit in with Lillard, McCollum, Nurkic, and Aminu and they are clicking. This lineup has a +49.2 net rating in 47 minutes, with a 131 offensive rating and an 82 defensive rating.
There are a lot of reasons this is working. Lillard, first of all, has never been better. McCollum after a slow start is cooking. Nurkic has re-learned to pass and has improved his finishing. Aminu is their swiss army knife. Turner is now getting more ball handling opportunities, and since Lillard and McCollum are good enough shooters, it's working. Turner is posting the second highest assist ratio of his career and that in turn has opened up more opportunities for him. He has a career-high 54.9 true shooting percentage. Turner still can't shoot, he is only hitting 23% of his threes, but he has done well enough as a secondary pick and roll ball handler and as a post up player that it hasn't mattered. He is in the 90th percentile in post ups.
Here Turner is the primary ball handler. Simple high pick and roll with Nurkic. Nurkic sets the screen, Turner drives, gets to his spot and pull-ups for a midrange jumper. He is still good from the midrange, and the Blazers are doing a good job putting the ball in his hands more.
Defensively, this group has been excellent. Aminu and Turner are huge and long and can switch across multiple positions. Nurkic for all his faults, is excellent at verticality and fits Portland's drop back defensive system well. Lillard and McCollum will never be elite, but they compete, and they are smart. Credit to Portland for keeping the band together after a brutal playoff sweep and then taking the next step. I thought they wouldn't make the playoffs; I am probably going to be wrong.
Defensive Lineup I Like- Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton, Eric Bledsoe, Brook Lopez, Ersan Ilyasova
Thursday night the Milwaukee Bucks shellacked the Golden State Warriors in Oracle. The Bucks have been one of the best two-way teams in the league, but it is their defense that has impressed me most. They've had a few bad outings like at Boston and Portland, but for the most part, they have been suffocating. Milwaukee is 3rd in defense right now.
One lineup that has been particularly ferocious is their starters, but with Ilyasova instead of Malcolm Brogdon. In 30 minutes, this group has an 84 defensive rating and a 106 offensive rating, for a +22.5 net rating. Lopez gives them good rim protection; Giannis is a destroyer of worlds who can guard positions one through five. Ilyasova is big and long and has always been solid on that end. Middleton is having his best defensive season, defending multiple positions and getting steals. Bledsoe is a bulldog when engaged and also has the size to switch multiple positions.
This group is so big that it's hard to move. Passing lanes are tiny, driving lanes are nonexistent at times, they all rebound, and they can close out on shooters. It's a difficult group to attack. Mike Budenholzer is doing the right thing by starting Brogdon, but this group may be their closing time lineup.
It helps to have Giannis. Giannis has a chance to win MVP and Defensive Player of the Year. Few players can reject Kevin Durant like this. Durant drives to the lane for an easy layup; Giannis comes over to help and swats the hell out of this. Even if the first line of defense for Milwaukee fails, Giannis can clean up a lot of mistakes.
Lineup to Watch- Ricky Rubio, Donovan Mitchell, Joe Ingles, Derrick Favors, Rudy Gobert.
The Jazz starters. What a conundrum. Last year they started terribly, and in the second half of the season, they were the best starting five in basketball. This year they are once again starting slow, and old problems are coming back to haunt them. In 76 minutes, this group has a -7.6 net rating with a woeful 97.5 offensive rating and 105 defensive rating.
Everyone points to the Favors and Gobert pairing and rightfully so. Utah refuses to give up on this pairing because it has shown flashes, like in the second half of last year, but they have never been able to put it together for a season. Favors still can't shoot threes and space is tight. Gobert has never been better, but he has limited room to roll to the rim with Favors. Rubio's passing can mitigate some of the spacing issues, but his jumper, which caught fire last year, has fallen back to old ways. Right now, Rubio is shooting 31% from the field and 28% from three. Woof.
Ingles is still doing his thing, but they are putting a ton of pressure on Mitchell. He has been a little banged up and as good as he is, it's a huge load for a second-year player. Even he is not that great of a three-point shooter at 32% right now. In the modern NBA, it's hard to survive with lineups that feature three non-shooters. Defensively, they are still pretty good, but not elite enough to make up for a poor offense. Favors is even struggling on that end.
Here Luka Doncic is pushing the ball in semi-transition and Favors is there to pick him up, but Doncic blows right by him for the easy layup. Favors has always been solid on this end, but he doesn't look right this year, and the modern NBA continues to go away from players like him.
There is a chance they catch fire again, but there is also a chance that they need to bite the bullet and insert Jae Crowder into the starting lineup. This is a lineup to keep an eye on all season.