NBA Lineups of the Week - 12/11/18
The New Pelicans Starting Five
It’s been an up and down season for the New Orleans Pelicans. Injuries and inconsistent play have led to a 14-14 record. At least Alvin Gentry has found a new starting lineup that has worked. Jrue Holiday was being asked to do too much as the lead guard, and by inserting Tim Frazier into the starting lineup, Jrue has flourished. Holiday destroyed the Pistons last night with a 37-point outburst. Frazier himself has enjoyed a nice little renaissance. The other big move has been inserting Julius Randle into the starting lineup for Nikola Mirotic.
You would think having Mirotic's spacing would make more sense, but sometimes you have to ride the hot hand. Randle has been on fire, destroying everything in front of him and his passing is much needed in the starting unit. Randle and Davis inside have been monsters. Even though the spacing isn't perfect, both are so good inside, off the dribble and finishing around the rim it almost doesn't matter.
Like Frazier, another player who has enjoyed a renaissance is Solomon Hill. Hill was unplayable to begin the season and got benched. Since rejoining the starters, he has given the Pelicans good wing defense and has shot well enough.
Add it up and this lineup in 53 minutes has a +40 net rating with a 135 offensive rating and a 94 defensive rating. They have been killing it on both ends. When the Pelicans get Elfrid Payton back and are fully healthy, this is a dangerous team. They are way better than a .500 team. Watch out!
Celtics Finding an Offensive Lineup
The Celtics had a rough start to the season, but are starting to find their groove. They are coming off a million-point beat down of the Chicago Bulls. Boston's defense has been good all season, ranking third for the season. It was their offense that was holding them back. Now they are starting to find themselves on that end.
Inserting Marcus Morris and Marcus Smart into the starting lineup was a nice move, but Boston has found one lineup that has been their deadliest. The group is Kyrie Irving, Marcus Smart, Jayson Tatum, Al Horford, and Gordon Hayward.
The biggest difference has been Hayward, who after a slow start has been looking more and more like himself by the game. His 30-point outburst in Minnesota showed he is getting close to being fully back. Then there is Al Horford who also had a slow start, but is starting to find himself as well. Boston is always better with Horford, his passing is necessary, and he is the glue that holds it all together.
Irving has been incredible this season and probably the best point guard of the east. His elite-shot making separates him from everyone else. Then there is Marcus Smart, who doesn't need the ball and provides energy none others can match. His shooting has also been better this year, and he is a sneaky good passer and rebounder.
Finally, there is Tatum, who has improved his shot selection and is taking and making more threes. He is also starting to drive more and get to the line, something the Celtics desperately needed.
This group in 31 minutes has a blistering 126 offensive rating, with a 110 defensive rating and a net rating of +16.3. Expect to see this group a lot more in the future. Boston is figuring things out and may still be the one seed in the east when all is said and done.
Heat Finding a Defensive Identity
If Miami was going to do anything this season, it was because of their defense. They simply don't have the firepower to make up for anything less than a top ten defense. Once again they started slowly as they did the past two seasons. Now their defense is getting back on track and was excellent the past tw mo games at Phoenix and against the Clippers.
The group is Dwyane Wade, Kelly Olynyk, Bam Adebayo, Justise Winslow, and Rodney McGruder. The key is Bam, who has replaced Hassan Whiteside in the starting lineup because Whiteside is a salty camper. Bam has more versatility and is willing to defend out on the perimeter.
Then there are Winslow and McGruder. Two in your face defenders who can be suffocating and defend multiple positions. More importantly, they can protect Wade from the tougher matchups. Wade, when he wants too, can still turn up the defensive intensity as well.
Olynyk has never been known as a defender, but he competes and is not a total liability. He knows where to be, is a solid rebounder, and is a good fit next to Bam.
The Heat have been searching for answers all season; they are to starting to find some. Getting James Johnsons back has also helped, but this should be their go-to lineup when they need a stop. In 47 minutes it has a 79 defensive rating, with a 113 offensive rating for a +34 net rating. I think Miami still makes the playoffs.