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John Schuhmann

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Here's four-fifths of the Lakers' starting lineup ... not necessarily their best lineup.
Gary Dineen/NBAE via Getty Images

Best five-man units among Western playoff teams


Posted Apr 16 2010 11:41AM

It's playoff time, so every possession counts from here on out, so you had better know who on your team can help you put points on the board, and who can prevent your opponent from doing the same.

With the intensity of the action about to go up several levels, coaches need as much information as they can get. So there's no better time to use the data that has been gathered over the last six months. Unless you're Mike Brown, Nate McMillan or Scott Skiles, the time for experimenting with your lineups is over. If you want to shorten your rotation, you need to know which lineups work best together.

With the help of StatsCube, we put together the best five-man units each Western Conference playoff team has used for a minimum of 100 minutes this season. We've got the best offensive unit, the best defensive unit and the best overall unit for each team, as well as a look at how their starting lineup compares.

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Here's a look at the best lineups in the Eastern Conference and a look at the best overall.

Min: Total minutes played together this season
Off: Points scored per 100 possessions
Def: Points allowed per 100 possessions
Diff: Point differential per 100 possessions

LOS ANGELES LAKERS

Lineups with 100-plus minutes: 7

Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum each missed 17 games this season, and Kobe Bryant took nine games off, so the Lakers haven't had as much continuity as they would have liked this season. Incredibly, with all the talent they have, the Lakers ranked 11th in the league offensively, scoring 105.9 points per 100 possessions. Last season, they ranked third (109.8).

Starting Lineup: Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Ron Artest, Lamar Odom, Pau Gasol
Min: 432, Off: 106.2, Def: 101.6, Diff: +4.6

The lineup data seems to blame Odom for a lot of the Lakers' offensive issues, because this same group with Bynum instead of Odom is much better offensively, as you'll see below.

Best Overall Lineup, Best Defensive Lineup: Derek Fisher, Shannon Brown, Ron Artest, Lamar Odom, Pau Gasol
Min: 142, Off: 107.5, Def: 85.2, Diff: +21.6

This group played in only 12 games together, but it's not the smallest sample size. The Lakers went 4-1 when Bryant sat out five games before the All-Star break, beating the Blazers, Spurs and Jazz. So while it seems preposterous that the Lakers' best unit didn't include its best player, the data can't be dismissed entirely. Bottom line, this is a very good defensive lineup.

Best Offensive Lineup: Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Ron Artest, Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum
Min: 669, Off: 111.4, Def: 101.0, Diff: +10.5

This is the Lakers' starting unit when Bynum is healthy, and it's the kind of production they should be getting offensively. Bynum hasn't played since March 19, so if he returns in Game 1 against the Thunder, he'll likely come off the bench. But Phil Jackson should go back to this lineup once Bynum is ready.

One additional Lakers lineup is noteworthy: Jordan Farmar, Brown, Bryant, Odom and Bynum. This unit played 127 minutes in 38 games, but performed terribly. They scored just 99.6 points per 100 possessions and gave up 107.7.

DALLAS MAVERICKS

Lineups with 100-plus minutes: 3

The Mavs made major changes at the All-Star break, and a by looking at the lineup data, you can clearly see why they made them. A lot of their most-used units that included Drew Gooden or Josh Howard didn't outscore their opponents by much.

Erick Dampier was injured after the trade and wasn't back in the starting lineup permanently until April 3. With Shawn Marion missing three games down the stretch, the Mavs' starting lineup (Jason Kidd, Caron Butler, Marion, Dirk Nowitzki and Dampier) has played only 47 minutes together. And while they've defended well (allowing just 90.4 points per 100 possessions), they've been absolutely anemic offensively (89.3).

The Mavs have one lineup that has been dominant, but just missed the 100-minute qualifier. Kidd, Jason Terry, Butler, Nowitzki and Haywood have scored 107.2 points per 100 possessions and allowed just 84.3 in 94 minutes together.

Of the lineups that have played at least 100 minutes ...

Best Overall Lineup, Best Defensive Lineup: Jason Kidd, Jason Terry, Shawn Marion, Dirk Nowitzki, Erick Dampier
Min: 342, Off: 112.0, Def: 92.2, Diff: +19.8

Individual stats aside, Terry deserves to be a Sixth Man of the Year candidate because he's been a part of some the Mavs' best overall lineups.

Best Offensive Lineup: Jason Kidd, J.J. Barea, Shawn Marion, Dirk Nowitzki, Erick Dampier
Min: 177, Off: 114.7, Def: 98.8, Diff: +15.9

Exchange Terry for Barea and the Mavs are a little more potent. The defense falls off, but still allows less than a point per possession, which is excellent.

PHOENIX SUNS

Lineups with 100-plus minutes: 6

The Suns will be missing Robin Lopez for the first round, and if you look at the numbers for their current starting unit, Lopez's absence seems to really hurt. But the starting lineup with Lopez in it was just a +3.9 per 100 possessions in 453 minutes this season. The Suns were better (+7.6) with Channing Frye as a starter, and they're really at their best when the second unit gets on the floor.

Starting Lineup: Steve Nash, Jason Richardson, Grant Hill, Amar'e Stoudemire, Jarron Collins
Min: 130, Off: 102.5, Def: 108.1, Diff: -5.6

Collins really hurts the Suns offensively. He's taken just 31 shots in 263 minutes, and it's not clear why he's a starter, because he hasn't done much for them on the defensive end either.

Best Overall Lineup: Goran Dragic, Leandro Barbosa, Jared Dudley, Louis Amundson, Channing Frye
Min: 121, Off: 114.5, Def: 99.3, Diff: +15.2

Actually, maybe it is clear why Collins is starting, because the Suns' second unit has been terrific and it would be smart to keep this group together.

Best Offensive Lineup: Steve Nash, Jason Richardson, Jared Dudley, Amar'e Stoudemire, Channing Frye
Min: 223, Off: 119.8, Def: 104.7, Diff: +15.1

This lineup is lethal. You had better keep Nash in front of you, because if any of your teammates are forced to help, he's got four guys who can shoot on the floor with him.

Best Defensive Lineup: Goran Dragic, Grant Hill, Jared Dudley, Louis Amundson, Channing Frye
Min: 131, Off: 109.3, Def: 97.0, Diff: +12.3

This is the second unit with Hill instead of Barbosa. Who knew that any incarnation of the Suns could hold teams under a point per possession?

DENVER NUGGETS

Lineups with 100-plus minutes: 8

Carmelo Anthony (69 games), Chauncey Billups (73 games) and Kenyon Martin (57 games) each missed time, but the Nuggets didn't make a single roster move until they signed two D-Leaguers in the final week of the season, so their lineup data should be pretty reliable. In addition to the eight units that have played at least 100 minutes, Denver has another 10 that have played at least 50 minutes together.

Starting Lineup, Best Defensive Lineup: Chauncey Billups, Arron Afflalo, Carmelo Anthony, Kenyon Martin, Nenê
Min: 537, Off: 106.2, Def: 99.5, Diff: +6.7

You would think that replacing Nenê with Andersen would get better defensive results, but that lineup has played only 44 minutes together and allowed 103.9 points per 100 possessions.

How important is Anthony to the Nuggets? Replace him with Joey Graham and you have a unit that has allowed 115.9 points per 100 possessions and is a -13.7 in 106 minutes together.

Best Overall Lineup, Best Offensive Lineup: Chauncey Billups, J.R. Smith, Carmelo Anthony, Kenyon Martin, Chris Andersen
Min: 122, Off: 118.6, Def: 101.7, Diff: +16.9

It shouldn't be a surprise that the Nuggets are most potent with the flammable Smith on the floor. But it's interesting to see the offensively deficient Andersen in their best offensive lineup.

UTAH JAZZ

Lineups with 100-plus minutes: 5

The Jazz actually had nine lineups play at least 100 minutes, but four of those included Ronnie Brewer, who was sent to Memphis at the trade deadline. Injuries to Andrei Kirilenko (who played just 58 games) and C.J. Miles (63 games) kept the Jazz from using any lineup for more than 328 minutes together this season.

Starting Lineup: Deron Williams, Wesley Matthews, Andrei Kirilenko, Carlos Boozer, Mehmet Okur
Min: 142, Off: 100.1, Def: 117.8, Diff: -17.7

They played in only 14 games together, but you're not going to find a starting unit in the playoffs that has played nearly as bad as this one, even in Milwaukee or Portland, where teams are missing their best player.

Best Overall Lineup, Best Defensive Lineup: Deron Williams, Wesley Matthews, Andrei Kirilenko, Paul Millsap, Carlos Boozer
Min: 110, Off: 110.4, Def: 92.8, Diff: +17.6

The big question in Utah last summer was Boozer vs. Millsap. It turns out that the two play pretty well together. Of course Kirilenko is the key to Utah's defense. They were almost five points per 100 possessions better defensively in games that he played (101.4) than those he didn't (106.3).

Best Offensive Lineup: Deron Williams, Wesley Matthews, Kyle Korver, Paul Millsap, Carlos Boozer
Min: 109, Off: 117.6, Def: 108.4, Diff: +9.2

Korver's shooting is a critical weapon for the Jazz, but he clearly hurts them on defense, especially if he's replacing Kirilenko. This lineup shot 51 percent, 48 percent (23-for-48) from 3-point range.

PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS

Lineups with 100-plus minutes: 1

No playoff team was decimated by injuries as much as the Blazers, and things got much worse when Brandon Roy tore his meniscus against the Lakers on Sunday. Of the seven Blazer lineups that played at least 100 minutes together this season, six included Roy. So as Nate McMillan prepares for the Suns, he doesn't have much to go on as far as lineup data.

The starting lineup that the Blazers used on Monday against the Thunder and will likely use against Phoenix has played very well together, but for just 34 total minutes in six games. Andre Miller, Rudy Fernandez, Nicolas Batum, LaMarcus Aldridge and Marcus Camby have scored 123.9 points per 100 possessions and allowed just 94.2.

When McMillan goes to his bench, he'll have just one lineup that has played together somewhat extensively, the only one that meats our 100-minute minimum ...

Best Overall Lineup: Andre Miller, Jerryd Bayless, Martell Webster, LaMarcus Aldridge, Juwan Howard
Min: 188, Off: 107.1, Def: 102.2, Diff: +4.9

This lineup started several games together when Roy was out before the All-Star break (and before the Camby trade), with Fernandez and Batum (who was just coming back from his own injury) coming off the bench.

SAN ANTONIO SPURS

Lineups with 100-plus minutes: 3

Tony Parker's broken hand and a lot of lineup shuffling have kept Gregg Popovich from getting a good look at any combination. A total of 13 guys have started for the Spurs this season, all for at least three games.

Parker came off the bench when he returned for the final six games of the season, and the last time he started (in early March), both Manu Ginobili and Richard Jefferson were coming off the bench. So it's hard to predict what lineup Popovich will go with to start Game 1 in Dallas.

Best Overall Lineup, Best Offensive Lineup: George Hill, Manu Ginobili, Richard Jefferson, Tim Duncan, Antonio McDyess
Min: 231, Off: 108.2, Def: 98.3, Diff: +10.0

This was the Spurs' most-used starting lineup when Parker was out and when Ginobili went on his tear in March. McDyess at the five gives the Spurs another big who can shoot, but who doesn't hurt them defensively.

Best Defensive Lineup: Tony Parker, Keith Bogans, Richard Jefferson, Tim Duncan, DeJuan Blair
Min: 124, Off: 95.9, Def: 95.1, Diff: +0.8

Swap Blair for McDyess in this group and you have a lineup that was just a hair worse defensively (95.5) and a lot better offensively (105.4) in 191 minutes. Blair has had a terrific rookie season and is a monster on the boards, but he can't spread the floor like McDyess and Matt Bonner. So it will be interesting to see how much playing time he gets in the playoffs.

OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER

Lineups with 100-plus minutes: 3

Four of the Thunder's five starters played all 82 games this season and the fifth, Nenad Krstic, played 76. No five-man unit in the playoffs has played more minutes together than the Thunder starters, and the only real change to their rotation came when they traded for Eric Maynor in December.

Starting Lineup: Russell Westbrook, Thabo Sefolosha, Kevin Durant, Jeff Green, Nenad Krstic
Min: 1,309, Off: 105.3, Def: 104.1, Diff: +1.2

Scott Brooks isn't going to change things up, but this isn't his best lineup on either side of the ball.

Best Overall Lineup, Best Defensive Lineup: Eric Maynor, James Harden, Kevin Durant, Nick Collison, Serge Ibaka
Min: 152, Off: 110.2, Def: 79.1, Diff: +31.1

The sample size is relatively small, but this lineup has played together in 38 games and has dominated. For the most part, the Thunder bench has performed much better defensively than the starters. While Sefolosha is generally considered Oklahoma City's best defender and will get the assignment of guarding Kobe Bryant, the numbers say that the Thunder have been a little better defensively with Sefolosha on the sideline.

Best Offensive Lineup: Russell Westbrook, James Harden, Kevin Durant, Jeff Green, Nick Collison
Min: 153, Off: 118.4, Def: 108.7, Diff: +9.7

Green had the worst on-off court differential when it comes to defensive efficiency in the league, and Collison had one of the best. But both have been positives offensively.

All stats are through the end of the regular season and were compiled with the help of the NBA and StatsCube.

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John Schuhmann is a staff writer for NBA.com. You can e-mail him here and follow him on twitter.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting.

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