The Lab: A Look At Lineup Chemistry (Part 2)

  • By Joe Simpson, Day 92, 2022


If you saw Part One of this series (found here: http://jblfl.com/articles?id=338) , then you may be wondering, well, that was okay, chap. But where are the next seven teams in the league, from an alphabetical standpoint?

Look no more, friend. You've come to the right place.

Denver

Rodrick Guinn-Clay Stanback-Mitchell van Bree-Dejuan Jefferies-Jevon Novak: -28.1 (109.3-137.4) in 60:38

The Dragons are just better than even with their two most used lineups, which have Cedric Durant starting at center, and Odell Bracey starting at the 2. The culprit here seems to be C Rodrick Gunn, who is the center in their three most deficient lineups. This is definitely the case on defense, where this lineup gives up an absurd 137.4 DRtg. His personal defensive rating is 106.0, which is not particularly great.

Truth be told, lineups 3 through 10 with this team net a negative rating. So, the problem is not just with Gunn. However, Gunn is the constant with these three lineups in particular. So is bad three-point shooting. This lineup results in a 24% effectiveness from deep. The third-most used lineup, wich has Clay Stanback added to the fray in place of Cliff McCaffrey, shoots an abysmal 25.3% from three (151:42).

Detroit

Reggie Dawkins-Jesse Zalys-Pace LaGarde-Demetric Vaughn-Bryce Cleveland: +13.2 (115.7-102.6) in 79:41

The Mustangs are a net negative with each of their four top lineups. This is where things turn the tide. The main problem with the first four lineups is defense; three of the four post at least a 110.1 DRtg. (The second-most used lineup, which has starters Dawkins, Hassan Bundu, LaGarde, Vaughn, and Ceddy Bell at the point, post a 96.6 DRtg, but just a 92.6 ORtg for reasons unknown by basic statistics.) This lineup manages a more effective 102.6, while posting a solid 115.7 ORtg. The difference with this lineup, which has rookie Bryce Cleveland at the point, is from deep. This unit has shot 50% from three, compared to 35% (at best) with the four lineups ahead of it. This is honestly attributable to small sample size; Cleveland is 30.8% from deep, while Zalys doesn’t even attempt a three per game. Maybe it’s more getting the ball into the hands of their marksmen, rather than anyone just jacking them up.

Their first four lineups, which shows the frustrating at the point (each of their three lead guards show up in each of the three top lineups), also has frustration on consistently stopping anyone. They play well enough to be just below .500 at this point. However, if these hold, expect the Mustangs to trend downward as the second half of the season marches on. Or expect more Cleveland; the team seems to be at its best when he is on the floor (again, small sample size, but lineups with him in it have yielded the best results).

Houston

Isaiah Clarkson-Kenny Ollrich-Dontay Sowder-Orpheus Swayda-Stephan Hood: +15.4 (111.0-95.6) in 135.17

Want to see why Houston is one of the best teams in basketball? You have to get to their 13th lineup to find one that posts a negative rating. The most consistent thing about this team…well, there’s two. The first is defense. The second is their consistency with it. Their top five lineups yield ratings between 95.6 and 106.2. That figure is the highest DRtg the team yields until you get to that 13th lineup (123.8).

This lineup in particular gets highlighted because of their defensive powess, offering the best rating for the team outside of one that yields a 79.7 rating in just 33:37 (=49.1 Net). The only difference with this group and the most used five is Kenny Ollrich at the 4, in place of Ryan Collinson. Ollrich is perfect in his role as big off the bench; he has a higher PER than Collinson, though if you swapped the minutes, he would not be as effective. He is actually worse than Collinson in DRtg, but way more efficient offensively. The Lightning have seen consistent runs with Ollrich on the floor, which is why you see teams frantically trying to play catch up. That is the primary reason for their solid DRtg.

The team could stand to see KaVaughn Slaughter play a few more minutes; he has the best DRtg of anyone on the team (96.0), while not suffering much on offense. He has been way more efficient than Dondrell Blake, who has seen similar minutes.

Kansas City

Kelvin Hawes-Rahmond Thompson-Tarvis McWilliams-Aaron Honeycutt-Dyron Mays: +18.3 (118.0-99.7) in 326:20

The Knights are just like the Lightning in their positive consistency. Their top twelve lineups all yield positive ratings, and only two of their top seventeen yield negative results. This lineup os singled out because the Knights have been reported to be searching for point guard help since veteran stalwart Curtis Price went down. Dyron Mays was viewed as a solid backup, but not the solution at the point. The top overall lineup, usage-wise, had Price in place of Mays. It yielded a rating of +7.8. The next three lineups usage-wise, each with Mays, have double-digit net ratings, and generally solid defensive ratings. This one is maybe the best in particular, though it is their worst shooting lineup (44.3%/31.8%). It has, by far, the biggest point differential (+115, compared to +58 with Price).

Maybe Mays is the answer. While his DRtg (110.3) is definitely lackluster, he is the caretaker of the ball the team has coveted.

Maybe Xavier Yates is, too. While the mercurial Tarvis McWilliams continues to be a solid player, the youthful Yates has been more explosive and ultimately more efficient than McWilliams (16.4-15.7 PER) in half of the minutes. Yates has a 54.6 true shooting percentage, compared to just 50.8% for McWilliams. Being that Tarvis probably will not be with the team next season, at least in his current role, it may behoove the Knights to start giving Yates more responsibility. He has earned it, it would appear.

Las Vegas

Omar Grant-Wesley Sherman-Derrick Griffin-Lamar Francis-Jason Barrett: +5.1 (127.9-122.8) in 71:58

The Scorpions, owners of the best record in basketball, certainly do have not have the consistency of their Midwestern counterparts. Two of their top five lineups yield a negative rating, and their second-most used lineup, which has Tex Ireland at the point with the other four included here, yields just a 1.8 net. But this one gets the nod, because of their ridiculous offensive efficiency. The Scorpions have shot 61.4% with this five on the floor. (In full disclosure, this is a cherrypicked stat: The rest of their top eight lineups shoot no better than 48.9% from the field, and none shoot any better than 31.1% from three. This group shoots 39.1% from deep. But their ninth and tenth lineups are also very efficient on offense, shooting 53.4 and 62.2%, respectively.)

The Scorpions seem to play two different brands of basketball. They play mostly a faster pace, as both their ORtg and DRtg suggest. But where this team shines is with their most used lineup, with has Grant, Sherman, Griffin, Francis, and Mehdy Brown. The five is not efficient on offense (.449/.286/.654, 106.0 ORtg). But they throttle teams on defense, playing to a 96.0 DRtg. This is where the Scorpions win games, as the rest of their lineups play to a general standstill. It’s as if, for three quarters, the Scorpions decide to trade buckets. Then, in comes Closing Time (the nickname for this lineup, which hopefully sticks), and they shut the game down. It is a recipe that has worked well, but also means the Scorpions are walking a very fine line with their dominance.

Los Angeles

Keemar Campbell-Colin Stafford-Garrett Cue-Hilton Phillips-Chris LaCruz: +14.8 (124.4-109.6) in 87:51

The Fireballs are a conundrum. More on that in a second, though. This lineup is their most offiensively efficient lineup, yielding a 124.4 ORtg. They are shooting 47.4% from the floor, and 43.3% from three. These are, by far, the best combined rates by a Fireballs lineup It appears their main difference is the lack of McCarty; he is shooting 35.5% from three, on a team-high 7.5 attempts a game. Phillips, at 39%, is more efficient than Tyson, who is 33.6% on 4.9 attempts from deep.

Now, this is where they are confounding. Their lead lineup, which has Cassius Tyson at the 2 and Isaiah McCarty at the 3, yields a -13.3 net rating, and an abysmal 95.6 ORtg. It makes sense; LaCruz, Tyson, and McCarty have high usage rates, and they are not efficient. The result: the team has been outscored by 49 in 230:34 when this unit is on the floor. The difference here may be Tyson, at least at the 2. Their second-most used lineup, which has Phillips in Tyson’s place, yields a 96.8 Drat, which is the best of their top six by far. Tyson is the likely culprit here; his PER is not good (14.6), and he’s a 111.9 DRtg, compared to a 107.9 for Phillips. In short, for Los Angeles to be better, the Tyson experience needs to be limited. Though, that is but just one opinion.

Louisville

Omar Croyle-Stoyanov Vitas-Trendon Knox-Jack Donlon-Uman Akele: -13.3 (95.2-108.5) in 83:47

The Colonels are another team that sit in that hodgepodge of teams that teeter on the edge of being good or not, depending on one or two pieces. In other words, the next several words, phrases and sentences are not good for Stroyanov Viltas.

If the Colonels are to be a contender, he has to either go, or sit somewhere else and watch the game. He cannot be an active participant.

Of the Colonels top seven lineups, Vitas appears in five. Four of them have negative ratings, three by double digits. Their second-most used lineup, which has Vitas in place of starter Simon Hartford, has outscored opponents by a single point. Their offensive ratings with Vitas on the floor are not good (generally about a 94), and the team shoots poorly (roughly 40%, with a couple of exceptions).

It should be noted that the lineup that utilizes him the most also has their best defensive rating, which does not make much sense (that may be more due to the departed Jack Donlon than anything else). The only thing that does is, when Simon Hartford returns from injury, Vitas has to be sat down. The Colonels may be in full throw-things-against-the-wall mode in the backcourt, but it appears that there is at least one glaring frontcourt issue that can be remedied.