NBA Lineups of the Week - 12/28/18
The Warriors Lineup That Still Works!
The Golden State Warriors are having some struggles. They just lost back-to-back home games to the Lakers and Blazers, Klay Thompson is in a slump, Draymond Green is not playing well, and they lack energy. The bench has also been worse this season; something is not right. Does it mean I am worried? No, not at all: they know they can kick it up a notch when they want to. The slump will not last forever.
Another reason I am not worried is that they still have four all-stars, and when they play Curry-Durant-Green-Thompson and Kevin Looney, they have still destroyed the opposition, despite the team not playing well overall. In 104 minutes that fivesome has a +23.5 net rating with a 113 offensive rating and a 90 defensive rating.
Looney’s contributions on full display. Green drives and misses after not being guarded, but Looney is there to get the offensive rebound and put it back in. Looney does the dirty work, is a good screener and brings the Warriors what they need most: energy.
Durant and Curry can still explode as few others can, Green brings defense and passing, and Thompson still provides a ton of space despite his shooting woes (in addition to his still-underrated defensive skills). When the Warriors play their big guns together, they are still as lethal as it gets. Oh, and they’re about to get some guy named DeMarcus Cousins.
The Big Nets Lineup of Doom!
Holy cow, the Nets have been on fire! They have won nine of eleven and are back in the playoff race in the East. Brooklyn is deep, versatile, and has players stepping up right and left. Furthermore, after a season’s worth of horrible collapses in the first two months, they are finally learning to win close games. And while Spencer Dinwiddie has been earning every penny of his new contract, we're not here to talk about him. We're here to discuss a weird big lineup that is doing work.
The lineup of D'Angelo Russell, Jarrett Allen, Rondae Hollis Jefferson, Joe Harris, and Rodion Kurucs has been killing it. It’s massive, and in today’s small-and-fast NBA it doesn’t seem to make a ton of sense, but it works. In 61 minutes it has a 128 offensive rating, a 106 defensive rating and a +21 net rating.
Allen is already one of the best rim protectors in the league, a great roll guy and can shoot just well enough to provide a little extra spacing. Hollis-Jefferson is the Tasmanian devil, hustling and finding ways to score off cuts, crazy drives, and duck-ins. Kurucs can shoot and is super long. Get to know him, folks; he is going to be good.
Then there is Harris, who may be the best shooter in the league. Yeah, I said it! He is a deadly catch-and-shoot guy, can shoot off the dribble, and is a sneaky-good driver - all in all one of the most underrated players in the league. But the talisman is D'Angelo Russell, who is starting to figure it all out. He’s taking and making more threes, his playmaking has never been better, and when the Nets need it, he can get them a bucket.
Russell passes to Harris at the top of the key who runs an impromptu pick and roll with Allen. Harris penetrates and then finds Allen with a nice feed for a layup. Harris' game is starting to expand, and Allen is getting better by the minute.
This group is fun, energetic, and skilled. I didn’t pick the Nets to make the playoffs to start the season, but they have a real shot. Brooklyn is probably better than Detroit, Miami, and Orlando. And after splitting a home-and-home with the Hornets, is at least neck-and-neck with Charlotte. When they get LeVert back, watch out!
The Thunder Lineup That Lacks Boom!
The Thunder have been impressive this year. They are nasty and physical and one of the best defensive teams in the league, Steven Adams is a destroyer of worlds, and Paul George is playing like an MVP. But there are issues: shooting and depth still plague them.
One lineup, in particular, is killing them. The bench five of Dennis Schroder, Alex Abrines, Hamidou Diallo, Patrick Patterson, and Nerlens Noel has been a disaster. In 76 minutes this group has a -19 net rating, with a horrible 93 offensive rating and a 113 defensive rating.
Patterson has forgotten how to play basketball. Abrines is good once every five games. Diallo is still a rookie. Noel is half good, half knucklehead. As good as Schroder has been for OKC this season, he is not good enough to rescue this spacing disaster.
What is Nerlens Noel doing? He wanders off and leaves Clint Capela under the basket for an easy offensive rebound, before he kicks it out to House for a three. These second-chance points kill. Noel likes to play centerfield, patrolling for steals and blocks, but here it backfires on him - and it’s not the only time by a long shot.
I know it’s the regular season, but Billy Donovan needs to make sure either Paul George or Russell Westbrook is on the floor at all times. He’d never let the Thunder go without a star on the floor in the playoffs, so he might as well sort it out now. Every game matters in the West, and this lineup has already cost them a few games; it needs to stop playing.