The Lab: A Look At Lineup Chemistry (Part 3)

  • By John Comey, Day 95, 2022


From eight to seven to just four teams today, it feels like a reading regression. Apologies all around. The remaining eleven teams, you will be analyzed soon. Promise.

Mexico City

Kahlil Hooker-Nwosu Odiambo-Reggie Burke-Jamaal Adams-Ashley Winters: +19.8 (109.5-89.7) in 46:40

To be honest, the Jaguars are confounding. Their top lineup, which has Jordan Carstensen at the 2 and Antonio Vega at the 3, is +18.9, with solid defensive rates. Their next two lineups, which have Adams at the 2 with Winters at the 1, and then a Winters/Adams/Carstensen backcourt, are both decidedly negative. Move Vega to the 2 with Adams at the 1, and put Carstensen in, and suddenly you’re +22.3.

This lineup was picked because it is just as confounding. Adams has a high usage rate, and he has not been efficient whatsoever. His PER is okay (16.5), but his DRtg is not great (110.5). Their percentage from deep drops to 31.3%, mainly because Vega, a 42% shooter from outside, is missing. Burke is a low-usage player with a high TS (57.3), which helps the overall efficiency of this offense (48.1%). He is also a better defender (105.8 DRtg) than nearly anyone else on the team, and better than any guard.

One wonders if you insert Vega into the 2, and move Adams to the point, if that would be Mexico City’s most efficient lineup. That lineup has not been tried this season. But the staff here would venture to guess that, if that lineup were given some run, it would see excellent results.

Outside of that, your guess is as good as ours.

Miami

Jamell Doaks-Tyree Chappell-Liu Jinghau-Jamaine Curry-Josh Gamble: -21.0 (101.9-123.0) in 156:34

Miami has been quite good, getting out to a 31-15 record. Two of their three most used lineups, which have Kelvin Black at the 5 and Reggie Fortier are one of the two forward spots, net a positive rating of about 12.7.

This lineup explains a couple of things about the Cyclones’ success…and what could be their downfall.

First, Black and Fortier are the lynchpins for two-way consistency; both offer ORtgs of 119, and each offers a DRtg of about 103.5. Both have solid true shooting percentages. When combined wit Gamble (126.5 ORtg, 55.7% TS) and Chappell (107.6 DRtg, 59.3 TS%), they help negate Jamaine Curry’s black hole offensive game and neutral two-way play.

Losing Fortier in favor of Jinghau, who can be hidden somewhat defensively when Chappell and Black are on the floor, makes them nearly neutral (Net +1.1 in 243:52). Take Black’s usage out of the lineup, and insert Doaks’ 16.6 usage, and it’s free reign for Curry to go nuts. Doaks is not the player Black is; this is felt especially so on the defensive end. This lineup produces the worst DRtg of any grouping for the Cyclones.

Allowing Curry’s shooting spree to send Miami sprawling into offensive mediocrity puts Miami into a hole.

As a result, there are two simple conclusions to draw.

1) Do not let Jinghau take the floor without Black. This creates a void defensively that the Cyclones have difficulty getting out from.

2) Do not let Doaks take the floor without Fortier. Any lineup in which Doaks is on the floor without Fortier nets a negative result for the Cyclones. The other two lineups that have seen heavy play with this setup have each netted -12.0 ratings.

Minneapolis

Jiri Palacek-Shaheed Duke-Jacob Rogers-Derek Snow-Jason Rees: +5.9 (112.2-106.3) in 69:29

The Blizzards have had difficulty this year, toiling to a 7-38 mark. Only one of their top thirteen lineups net a positive mark, and it’s this one (#cherrypickstats).

What is it about this lineup that has done the job? It is, technically, their least efficient offensive lineup, shooting at a 40.6% clip. Yet, they have outscored opposing lineups by five points. They are very solid from three (45.3%), whereas no other lineup is remotely close.

The answer for that last part, at least, is that Snow is easily their best outside shooter (40.5%). It also means that Rifkind is not jacking up one of his 6.6 threes a game, at a 31.3% clip. Sure, Rogers is only below average (34.4%) and Reese is terrible (31.5), but most of those are contested threes. Putting Snow with this group has helped the ball movement, and, thus, better looks at shots.

The other part here is Palacek. Donovan Galloway has been flat out bad on offense this year. He has a 48.8% true shooting mark, which is deadly to victory attempts when you’re averaging 10.4 shots per game. Palacek shoots it just 2.4 times a game, which opens things up for more efficient players.

(Yes, Shaheed Duke is out there too, and he is just as bad. But Moses Wentworth is not much better, shooting 47.5% on eight attempts a game. The point here: If your bigs are all shooting under 50% from the field, and shoot a lot, you are destined to have a lot of long nights.)

It may be that this lineup loses effectiveness if played more. But it’s worth a shot.

Nashville

Bryant Rodgers-Ashton Kolder-Tezale Craig-Cameron Nix-Mohammed Shakur: -14.6 (96.7-111.3) in 160:35

A lot of discussion was had on just what was wrong with the Stars, outside of the obvious (the backcourt is the worst in the league, defensively, and it isn’t even close). This lineup, in particular, drew a lot of discussion. Rodgers and Kolder are both very efficient scorers around the basket. Nix has been a solid shooter to space the floor. Shakur hasn’t been as efficient, but he has been very effective from three. Craig is Craig.

Then it dawned.

Combined, this lineup shoots it 71.5 times per 36 minutes. In per game stats, this five shoots it 60.8 times per game.

How many basketballs are there, exactly, for them to shoot?

(That’s a rhetorical question.)

Craig is the Alpha (and a very unhappy Alpha, at that). But Nix shoots it 14.5 times a game, to an offensive rating of 101.7. Shakur is more efficient (110.3) despite shooting worse. Rogers and Kolder are wildly efficient (sure, maybe because they don’t shoot as much).

If we’re the Kings, we’re limiting Nix’s shots per game, and telling him to deal with it. This team can contend for a playoff spot. The possibility is there. But, truthfully, Nix seems to be the one holding them back. (Well, that and the absolutely abhorrent backcourt defense, which probably cannot be fixed.)

The Stars have to realize who they are. They run through Craig and scoring at the basket. Craig and Rodgers are both great at drawing fouls. Both lead the team in PER, and in EWA (6.9 and 4.9, respectively). What is Nix’s EWA? It’s ZERO. Flat out 0.0. Why is this guy you’re second-leading scorer? Why does he have the second-highest usage rate on the team (and it’s not close)?

The change, from this seat, is clear. Craig has a point. And the ball is going to the wrong place.