NBA Lineups of the Week: 1/19/18
The Pelicans’ best lineup: Anthony Davis, Nikola Mirotic, Elfrid Payton, Jrue Holiday, E'Twaun Moore
It has been a rough season for the Pelicans: injuries have hit a team that has no depth, they have been a disaster in close games, and their defense is non-existent on most nights. When healthy, though, their five best players together are still dominant. I wrote about this lineup at the start of the season, and it is still as formidable as ever.
Right now the biggest obstacle is not health -- it’s Alvin Gentry, who insists on starting Julius Randle over Nikola Mirotic. Mirotic may be coming off an injury, but it's time to put him back in: his shooting opens things up more, and he is a better defender than Randle.
The lineup of Davis, Payton, Holiday, Moore and Mirotic has +29 net rating in 71 minutes of action, with a 124 offensive rating and a 95 defensive rating. Substitute Randle in for Mirotic, and it’s still a positive net rating, but less potent on offense and much worse defensively. The Mirotic lineup is the Pelicans at their best.
It allows Davis to protect the rim, Holiday to pester the opposing team’s best scorer, and Payton to take some of the load from Holiday on offense. It was clear how much the Pelicans missed Payton when he was out, but the key may be Moore, who after a hot start to the season, fell off a cliff. He’s showing signs of life in the past few games, and the Pelicans need it desperately.
The spacing here is a thing of beauty. As Payton crosses the court, Mirotic and Holiday are on the opposite side behind the arc, allowing Davis and Moore to work their two-man game -- this is the best way to get Moore going. It also allows Davis the room to post-up effectively: another crucial component of the offense. A straightforward Davis and Moore give-and-go later, Moore finds himself with an easy lay-up. This lineup is so skilled, it doesn’t need to make things complicated.
Though this has hardly been an ideal season in New Orleans, but the Pelicans can still make the playoffs. They’re only 3.5 games out of the last spot, and have a better point differential than two current playoff teams. New Orleans will look to upgrade at the trade deadline, but can’t wait to start putting their best foot forward. They need to make a push, and it's up to this group to be at their best every night, and they can be.
I don’t think we’ve seen the last of the Pelicans.
The Hawks get buckets: Dewayne Dedmon, John Collins, De'Andre Bembry, Kevin Huerter, and Trae Young
You may not have noticed, but the Hawks are a competitive team. They’re 8-7 in their last 15 games, and they’ve found a lineup that works, and has really been pouring it in. Dedmon, Collins, Bembry, Huerter, and Young has a +14.2 net rating in 74 minutes together, with a 121 offensive rating and a 107 defensive rating.
It starts with Collins, who has been playing like an All-Star, but likely won't make it in part because he missed 15 games to start the season, and in part because he’s on the Hawks. Collins has been balling out, though, averaging 19.1ppg and 10.4 rpg with great efficiency: his 21.6 PER puts him just outside the league’s top 20. It’s not a stretch to say that a healthy Collins will be an All-Star next year.
Then there is Dedmon, who has been excellent of late. He’s hitting threes, finishing at the rim and protecting it on the defensive end, as well. He’s one of Atlanta’s most enticing deadline pieces -- a lot of contenders can use Dedmon -- and despite his strong play, he’s worth more to Atlanta in what he would bring in, rather than what he can contribute in a rebuilding season.
Young, despite some poor shooting, keeps the offense humming with expert passing made more impressive by the fact that he’s still in his first year: he is already one of the best drive-and-dish passers in the league. Fellow rookie Huerter is justifying his first round selection as well. He was excellent in the surprise win at Philadelphia, in large part because Huerter -- a great shooter -- is always moving. A sneaky-good cutter, a solid passer, and burgeoning post-up player, Huerter is going to good.
The Hawks offense is unexpected: Huerter comes off a screen, drives, and is suddenly stuck under the basket. Instead of panicking, Huerter posts up J.J. Reddick, backs him down, and hits a little turnaround hook off the glass. Impressive stuff from the rookie.
Bembry rounds out the group, and he has improved leaps and bounds. His passing, finishing and shooting all have taken significant leaps this year. The core of Young, Huerter, and Collins, plus role players like Bembry, Taurean Prince, and Omari Spellman looks like something to build upon. And since Atlanta has a lot more draft picks coming and with more likely on the way after flipping Dedmon, Jeremy Lin, and Kent Bazemore at the deadline, means the future is bright in Atlanta!
The Kings get defensive: De'Aaron Fox, Buddy Hield, Justin Jackson, Nemanja Bjelica, and Willie Cauley-Stein
The key to the Kings’ surprising season has been their offense: they play at a ridiculous pace and shoot a ton of threes, and De'Aaron Fox, Buddy Hield and Bogdan Bogdanovic all have grown up before our eyes. Still, if the Kings wants to go anywhere, they are going to have to improve their defense, and they may have found the line-up to lead them there.
The lineup of Fox, Hield, Jackson, Bjelica and Cauley-Stein has a stingy 91 defensive rating in 85 minutes together, with a 110 offensive rating to boot! With its +18 net rating, it has become the Kings’ most balanced lineup, and their best lineup when they need a stop.
The key is Cauley-Stein: he is by far the Kings best rim protector, especially in comparison to his back-up who are too young and raw on defense. Jackson is starting to figure it out on both ends as well. On offense, he is a good shooter and a slippery driver, and defensively he gives the Kings some size at the three, where he competes.
Bjelica has always been an underrated defender: he knows where to be and is nastier than you think; Hield is strong, and getting better at getting through picks and contesting shots; and Fox is a pest who can force a lot of turnovers and get the Kings running, where they are at their best.
Here are the Kings forcing turnovers and getting out and running. Hield pokes the ball away takes off, going coast-to-coast and finishing with a layup over two defenders. With their youth and team speed, the Kings excel when they can turn defense into easy offense off the turnover, and with no first round pick this year, expect their aggressive nature on the court to extend to the front office. Sacramento definitely wants to make the playoffs, so expect some moves by the deadline to ensure they get there.