Play-off spots are ‘reserved’ for those teams:
This was the second most-used lineup (254 minutes) in Dallas last season and it put up a stellar plus-12.9 net rating. When you swapped Jameer out for Rajon Rondo, the Mavs fell to a minus-3.8 net rating. That’s a massive drop-off that doesn’t just take away the effectiveness of Rick Carlisle coaching these weapons, but it also puts Dallas in a hole they have to climb out of. The reason it worked so well is because you had two initiators with Nelson and Ellis, who could run a pick-and-roll as a scoring threat. You also had Chandler finishing lobs and the perimeter defense remaining offense trying to shadow Parsons and Nowitzki.
This Season: Devin Harris, Wesley Matthews, Chandler Parsons, Dirk Nowitzki, Zaza Pachulia
Golden State Warriors
This was the best lineup in basketball last season. It had the third-most minutes (813) in the NBA and it had the highest net rating (plus-19.6) of the 25 most-used lineups in the league. Some people analyzed their championship run and said it was the future of basketball, which missed the point of their dominance completely. It’s not the future; it’s the present and everybody else is playing catch-up at the moment. They boasted a 100-possession pace, 60.3 percent true shooting, 114.4 offensive rating and a 94.8 defensive rating. That is pretty much perfection right there.
This Season: Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Harrison Barnes, Draymond Green, Andrew Bogut
This was the 15th most-used lineup (360 minutes) in the NBA and the Rockets outscored opponents by 11.5 points per 100 with it. It wasn’t Warriors dominant, but it was pretty dominant — and we know the Warriors aren’t even that good. This lineup was the Frankenstein that Daryl Morey cooked up in a lab somewhere. They shot 30.4 3s per 48 minutes and connected on 39.9 percent of them. The defense was great at 96.7, the offense was really good at 108.1, and they were over a 98-possession pace. The question is can they be just as effective swapping out Beverley for Lawson?
This Season: Ty Lawson, James Harden, Trevor Ariza, Donatas Motiejunas, Dwight Howard
Los Angeles Clippers
This was the most-used lineup in basketball in 2014-15 and the only lineup to log over 1,000 minutes. In fact, they went 1,217 minutes on the court together — over 300 minutes more than second place. It was unstoppable too, posting a plus-17.7 net rating. The defense was great (100.0), the turnovers were low (12.3 percent), the true shooting was spectacular (59.5 percent), and the offense was absurd (117.7). All of that was done with Barnes in the lineup, and they may have a couple of upgrades over him between Paul Pierce, Wesley Johnson and Lance Stephenson.
This Season: Chris Paul, JJ Redick, Wesley Johnson, Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan
I can’t believe how effective this lineup was. They played just 109 minutes together (fourth-most on Memphis), but the plus-26.7 net rating is too high to be ignored. It was potent offensively with a 114.5 and suffocating defensively with an 87.9 defensive rating. They didn’t move the ball well and they played at a snail’s pace of 90-possessions. The way they won is they dominated the boards on both ends and they were a shade under 60 percent true shooting. By the time the playoffs came around, the idea of playing Green at the 3 became a nightmare for some reason, but this was their top lineup last season.
This Season: Mike Conley, Tony Allen, Courtney Lee, Zach Randolph, Marc Gasol
Oklahoma City Thunder
Despite all of the injuries to the Thunder and especially Kevin Durant last season, this was still the lineup they used the most (249 minutes). And it murdered. They were plus-13.4 with this lineup, incredible defensively (96.4), and a world-beater offensively (109.8). You throw Durant, Westbrook and Ibaka out there together and they’ll dominate. You put a good big man like Adams next to Ibaka and they’ll still dominate. Throw in the defensive-minded wing like Roberson and it’s a complete attack. If they can get Roberson to hit corner 3s in Billy Donovan’s offense, the possibilities of domination with this lineup are endless.
This Season: Russell Westbrook, Andre Roberson, Kevin Durant, Serge Ibaka, Steven Adams
This was the 12th most-used lineup (392 minutes) in all of basketball last season, and it posted a plus-9.4 net rating. Defensively, it was a monster by allowing just 94.5 points per 100 possessions. They forced quite a few shots off the 3-point line, protected the rim, and made the midrange area a barren wasteland. They did receive a bit of fortune with this lineup, as opponents shot just 66.7 percent from the free-throw line against it. I have no rhyme or reason for the 9.2 percent difference from their opponents’ typical free-throw accuracy.
This Season: Brandon Knight, Eric Bledsoe, P.J. Tucker, Markieff Morris, Tyson Chandler
San Antonio Spurs
This will shock you but of the 30 most-used lineups in the NBA last season, the Spurs had the one that played the best basketball. The problem is we only saw it for 265 minutes (27th in the NBA), so it didn’t hold the same weight as say the Clippers or Warriors’ lineups. But this one was insanely dominant. Their net rating was a plus-23.6. Assist-to-turnover ratio was nearly 2.5-to-1. True shooting was 60.1 percent. Defense gave up just 93.2 points per 100. They shot 45 percent from 3-point range. This lineup was perfect.
This Season: Tony Parker, Danny Green, Kawhi Leonard, LaMarcus Aldridge, Tim Duncan