NBA Lineups of the Week - 1/4/19
Two Way Lineup I Like - Toronto Raptors- Kyle Lowry, Fred Van Fleet, Danny Green, Pascal Siakam, Serge Ibaka
The Toronto Raptors just got smacked in Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green's return to San Antonio. Toronto has been quite average recently, going 8-8 in their last 16 games. Kawhi and Kyle Lowry have taken turns being out, and Jonas Valanciunas has sidelined for a while as well.
I want to make this clear; the Raptors are not a better team without Leonard. This lineup is more about the Lowry’s value. It also speaks to the Raptors’ versatility and behooves them to have such a potent lineup without Leonard. The lineup is Lowry, Ibaka, Green, Siakam and Van Fleet.
This group has crushed it this year. In 72 minutes they have a +30.4 net rating, with a 117.9 offensive rating and an 87.5 defensive rating.
Having two ball handlers and creators in Lowry and Van Fleet than can both shoot is a major benefit. On defense, these two have the size to switch across multiple positions, too. Toronto may miss Lowry more on defense. Green continues to be a plus/minus god, who plays solid defense, shoots threes and can attack a closeout when needed. Ibaka has had a resurgence at center, making every mid-range shot, hitting enough threes, providing enough rim protection and can pass just well enough.
The there is Siakam. Wow, this guy is going to be good, and he is getting better by the game. Siakam is faster than just about the whole league. He runs the floor constantly, faces up and blows by defenders even those who give him a cushion. On defense, he can legitimately guard every position.
Here the Raptors get a steal off a Klay Thompson drive. Notice how fast Siakam is sprinting in the other direction? Lowry hits Siakam in stride, and he is able to finish over Kevin Durant. Lowry and Van Fleet are both great at getting the ball up quick in a hurry, and Siakam is usually there waiting. This group is excellent at turning defense into offense.
Toronto hasn't even played their best basketball yet. They have been injured, some players are still finding their stride, and head coach Nick Nurse has been forced to play a ton of different lineups. The good news is they already have a lineup without their best player that is deadly. When they put it all together, watch out!
Kings with Two Bigs Offensive lineup - Iman Shumpert, Willie Cauley-Stein, Marvin Bagley, Buddy Hield, De’Aaron Fox
The Sacramento Kings are coming down to earth a bit, but that is mainly due to their poor defense. They are young and inexperienced; it’s hard to be good on defense when everyone on the team is under 23 years old.
The good news is the Kings are playing at a blistering pace and still getting buckets. Their starters have been killing it all season, but now the team is starting to find a good feng shui between Marvin Bagley with Willey Cauley-Stein.
Previously the Kings paired Bagley with one of the backup bigs, or as the lone big. These line-ups haven’t played in a bit due to Bagley's knee injury, but it was finding its stride before he went down.
The group I love for Sacramento is Bagley and Cauley Stein, surrounded by De'Aaron Fox, Buddy Hield, and Iman Shumpert. Hield provides a ton of gravity, running off a million screens and defenders can't give him any room. With the ball in his hands, he has become a great secondary creator. Fox pushes the tempo like few can, and gets good looks for his teammates in transition. He also can collapse the defense, score, find shooters and hit the bigs inside with lobs and drop off passes. Shumpert is enjoying resurgence, hitting threes, keeping the ball moving and playing solid defense.
This play starts with Bagley at the left elbow. The action goes the other way as Fox darts towards a double-screen set by Shumpert and Cauley-Stein. Fox comes off the first pick, but before Cauley-Stein spins and rolls towards the basket. Fox hits him for an alley-oop.
Head coach Dave Joerger has done an excellent job stationing both bigs at the elbows and then running creative sets to spring his big men free. Fox's speed also helps make up for some of the lack of shooting. This group has a blistering 125 offensive rating in 50 minutes of playing time, with a solid 98 defensive rating and a +27 net rating to boot.
Making it work with both bigs is huge for this year and the Kings future. Especially if they plan on returning Cauley-Stein next season. Both run the floor and both crash the glass. Cauley-Stein primarily serves as the roll man while Bagley is in the dunker spot. Bagley is becoming more aggressive with his face up game as well.
A Lineup that Should Stop Playing - Cavs - Tristan Thompson, Larry Nance Jr, Colin Sexton, Cedi Osman Jr, Rodney Hood
I shouldn't be mean to bad teams like the Cavs, but sometimes it’s just warranted. Cleveland head coach Larry Drew doesn't have a lot of options, and sometimes he has to play lineups through necessity. However, some lineups could use some tinkering.
The lineup is Tristan Thompson, Larry Nance Jr, Collin Sexton, Rodney Hood, and Cedi Osman Jr in particular should be abolished. In 79 minutes this group has a -32 net rating with a brutal 92 offensive rating and 125 defensive rating. It stinks.
Playing Thompson and Nance together has not worked. The spacing is too tight. Nance is particular struggles in this lineup although he is starting to take more threes. When the Cavs play Nance alone, they actually can run a little offense through him due to his improved passing. With another non-shooter on the floor that is harder to do.
Sexton and Osman are still poor deep shooters, who take more long-twos then just about anyone in the league. Especially Sexton. Cleveland needs to play Sexton for development reasons, but he is simply not ready to run an NBA offense, which makes everything difficult.
Osman is alright, but just alright can't lift other players. Hood can get hot, but he remains one of the streakiest players in the game. On defense, this group isn’t stop anybody.
Playing Nance and Thompson together mean both have to guard on the perimeter a lot. It’s an awkward assignment, and doing too much can lead to breakdowns and miscommunications. Guards are baiting the two of them into the same pick and roll.
Above, Thompson thinks there’s a switch coming, Nance does not. That makes both of them lunge towards Fox, and Fox hits Cauley-Stein for an easy lob.
Cleveland has already traded some veterans this season and should look to do so with Thompson. Before the season his contract looked unmovable, but he has played well this year, and a contender may be interested in him. That would allow Nance more minutes, and maybe Cleveland can add a young shooter, or draft picks.