🍒 Five Small-Ball Lineups That Could Challenge Golden State’s Dominance - The Ringer

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Denver Nuggets: W. Barton | K.


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Houston Rockets: The small-ball formula is working
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Golden State's trump card is the Lineup of Death, with Steph Curry, With that in mind, here's a look at five small-ball lineups that might Boston has been one of the best stories in the NBA in the first month of the season.


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The Rockets' ultra-small lineups haven't just been good — they've They're in their last 10 games when playing this small-ball lineup and.


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Golden State's trump card is the Lineup of Death, with Steph Curry, With that in mind, here's a look at five small-ball lineups that might Boston has been one of the best stories in the NBA in the first month of the season.


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A Dive into the lineup of Kemba Walker, Marcus Smart, Jaylen Brown, Gordon of their attack was their Death Lineup, a grouping of the team's five best Most teams now play multiple ball handlers, have a small ball center.


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It's worth examining the origins of the small-ball revolution, even if there the Orlando Magic, everything changed for good on May 13, the NBA saw a massive drop in two-big lineup usage the following season.


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The Rockets' ultra-small lineups haven't just been good — they've They're in their last 10 games when playing this small-ball lineup and.


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The Lakers have had the good fortune of treating their small-ball lineup like a secret weapon so far this season. They have been so dominant.


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Denver Nuggets: W. Barton | K. Faried | D.


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The quintet is neck-and-neck with Milwaukee's dominant opening five for the title of best starting lineup in the NBA, trailing by only 0. While he sat out Utah's last two games before the All-Star Break, he started the previous four after an impressive bench stint that should have been proof of his ideal role. But as well as that group has played, it isn't without its flaws. Five players take the floor, share it for a few minutes, and then a new combination takes over. Far from it. The best Clippers center is The best Rockets center Clint Capela now plays for the Hawks. A starting point guard shooting below 40 percent from the field and averaging only 4. Their fifth-ranked clutch offense looks great on paper, but falls apart upon closer examination. The entire ball-handling burden on that lineup still falls on James unless Kuzma can pick up his slack. They won't be able to control the terms of engagement as easily in the playoffs. It's not an exaggeration to suggest overreliance on bench mobs cost Denver a trip to the Western Conference finals. That is bound to change when the load-management training wheels are removed in the playoffs, but the Clippers aren't getting this time back. There is a reasonable argument to be made that the starting group Utah used for most of December and January is the single-best five-man lineup in all of basketball. That's hardly a surprise. Lineups that don't tend not to. They have been so dominant that they've been able to cherry-pick matchups and game situations to use it in. Fortunately, their preferred small-ball alignment has been sensational this season. The Lakers have had the good fortune of treating their small-ball lineup like a secret weapon so far this season. But Denver doesn't need its bench to win games. While the Rockets have seen significant improvement from the early-season disaster of Russell Westbrook 's solo minutes, they have still been outscored as a whole during the minutes he has played without Harden.{/INSERTKEYS}{/PARAGRAPH} Utah is a relatively mediocre in games he starts, but are an excellent in games he doesn't. The Lakers could list dozens of reasons for playing a true center nearly all of the time, but the simplest is that it works. The Rockets are fairly simple from a lineup perspective. But such lineups are built into Malone's DNA as a coach, and if he goes back to them this time around, it puts his youngest rotation player in a very interesting position. The Lakers are already surprisingly vulnerable on the boards. Malone will tinker with the group surrounding him, but the fundamental idea of Porter plus role players is likely going to be Denver's plan entering the playoffs. How that group performs without the regular-season reps every other team is accumulating right now is anyone's guess. So let's take a look at the lineups that will make or break potential championship runs for each contender in the Western Conference. Lineups that include James Harden tend to play fairly well. Utah is currently ranked 25th in the NBA in bench points per game. Most of their struggles have come on defense, where they are ranked 28th in clutch settings, and the notion of a unit with Leonard, George and Beverley playing so poorly on that end of the floor when all are healthy is unfathomable. And Mike Conley could still ruin everything. Some of those groups contribute very little. Michael Porter Jr. What's concerning is how unconcerned the Clippers appear to be with finding it. Neither of those series will be winnable with brute force alone. For the time being, the Lakers aren't going to bother fixing what isn't broken. O'Neale has become one of the NBA's most underrated defenders. He's not Michael Jordan. At some point or another, Davis is going to have to play 30 minutes at center in a Game 6 or 7. Practically every Murray-Jokic alignment posts championship-caliber numbers. It has played over 1, total possessions this season and ranks in the 99th percentile offensively and 95th defensively, per Cleaning the Glass. Nuggets coach Mike Malone tends to fall back on old-school substitution patterns. This was especially true in the playoffs. The wrong player in the wrong spot can swing a series. Denver's starting lineup of Jokic, Murray, Gary Harris , Paul Millsap and Will Barton has played the second-most minutes of any five-man group in the NBA despite the players that comprise it missing 46 total games so far this season. The three Clippers who led last season's feel-good story have played only 96 total possessions alongside the team's two new stars. Murray played only 94 possessions without Jokic last season compared to nearly with him. Lineups featuring either haven't presented any glaring deficiencies. Lineups featuring Porter without Jokic and Murray have largely played opponents to a draw so far this season, getting outscored by 0. For all of the press Kawhi gets, the Clippers generate most of their clutch points off the same Lou Williams-Montrezl Harrell pick-and-roll that carried them a year ago. The defense falls off of a cliff whenever Gobert sits. The Lakers are going to have to go small. None of this is meant to suggest that the Clippers should keep the ball out of Leonard's hands in big moments. And each team relies on different ones for different things. Eschewing the analytically-approved method of staggering his stars, Malone prefers to handcuff Nikola Jokic to Jamal Murray and handle substitutions in waves. Bogdanovic isn't far behind. This year's Clippers combined the best of all three Their plus There are a number of plausible explanations for this, and availability is the easiest. But a time is going to come in which playing two centers -- either Howard or McGee alongside Davis -- is not going to work. With the playoffs so heavily based on matchups, the choices that go into building those five-man groups are absolutely critical. In a limited sample, that lineup has outscored opponents by While the group is clearly more offensively-inclined on paper, it has allowed only 84 points per so far this season, and the Williams-Harrell-Beverley trio held its own even without Leonard and George last season. The Nuggets played total possessions with both benched in those playoffs, and were decimated by over 36 points per possessions. Every team in the West has at least one major lineup-driven question to answer, so we'll start with the team standing atop the conference. {PARAGRAPH}{INSERTKEYS}The idea of a basketball game is, in itself, something of a misnomer. Much of Kuzma's offensive utility relies on defenses treating him like a consistent shooter. Surviving the minutes they sit is going to be one of their keys to an extended playoff run. Kawhi, still dining off of his historic dagger against Philadelphia, has quietly shot only Positive regression is coming, but those numbers are much closer to Leonard's norms than his incredible Raptors run would suggest. Even when Beverley is removed from the equation, the number jumps only to All season long, the Clippers have hesitated to deploy their five best players together at the same time despite overwhelmingly positive results. Ingles has been one of the NBA's best shooters since moving into the starting lineup. At , wholesale changes just haven't been necessary. Conley is their best chance at finding such a player, but not if they continue to insist that he's the sort of must-start veteran they thought they were trading for last summer. While some teams need more out of their star-driven lineups, others need a boost from unheralded bench groups. We've seen what such lineups can do in small samples, but if that tactic is going to win the Lakers a championship, there are still kinks that need to be worked out. Over the course of 48 minutes, a team might use over a dozen different combinations, with the final score ultimately owed to what those groups did in the aggregate. At last blush, though, Conley remained a Jazz starter. Williams and Leonard are scoring essentially evenly in the clutch, but Williams is shooting Harrell is hitting over 70 percent of his clutch shots. Potential series against the Clippers and Rockets come to mind. He isn't one, and playoff-caliber game-planning is going to lead to that adjustment. Kuzma is the only leaky cog defensively, but his size is helpful and his specific offensive talents mesh well with Green and Caldwell-Pope's shooting. The Toronto Raptors weren't far behind in finishing fifth, and the Oklahoma City Thunder were at least above-average at 12th. There is a healthier mix of the old Clippers and the new in there somewhere. Malone plays them together, and as a result, usually rests them together. Really, it is a series of microgames. Instead, the Jazz seem determined to reintegrate Conley back into the starting lineup. Others, quite a bit. Last season's Clippers had the best clutch net rating in the NBA, blitzing opponents by over 17 points per possessions late in close games. They are ranked only ninth in rebound rate even with their two giants playing the majority of games, and Davis-at-center lineups have struggled on the glass. The Jazz could really use a veteran guard to stabilize both sides of its reserve units and potentially serve as occasional crunchtime reinforcements when another ball-handler is necessary. The Lakers have outscored opponents by over 16 points per possessions when Kuzma replaces Howard or McGee, per Cleaning the Glass, and that number rises to That fivesome strikes the ideal two-way balance for this roster. It just needs it not to lose them. With the pressure Williams and Harrell have proven to take off of Kawhi in late-game situations, it makes absolutely no sense that we haven't seen more of this group as a whole.