One Team, One Stat: Philadelphia 76ers had the league's best starting lineup
NBA.com’s John Schuhmann gets you ready for the 2018-19 season with a key stat for each team in the league and shows you why it matters. Today, we look at the Philadelphia 76ers, who had the league’s best starting lineup.
The Sixers’ regular starting lineup — Ben Simmons, J.J. Redick, Robert Covington, Dario Saric and Joel Embiid — outscored its opponents by 21.4 points per 100 possessions, the best mark among 29 lineups that played at least 300 minutes together.
Among 48 lineups that played at least 200 minutes together, only a Minnesota Timberwolves lineup, with reserve Tyus Jones in place of starter Jeff Teague, was better (plus-23.5 points per 100 possessions).
In total, the Sixers’ starting lineup outscored its opponents by 268 points, 100 more than any other lineup in the league. That was a product of both how much it played – the 600 minutes it logged ranked sixth among all lineups last season – and how good it was on both ends of the floor.
Among the 48 lineups that played at least 200 minutes last season, the Sixers’ starters ranked fifth both offensively (117.1 points scored per 100 possessions) and defensively (95.7 points allowed per 100). It held opponents to an effective field goal percentage of just 45.9 percent, the lowest opponent mark among the same group of 48 lineups.
Because of how good the starting lineup was, the Sixers were the league’s best team in the first six minutes of the first quarter, outscoring their opponents by more than 21 points per 100 possessions. That was the best mark for any team in either the first or last six minutes of any quarter last season.
With consistently strong starts, the Sixers held the lead for 63 percent of their regular-season minutes. Only the Houston Rockets (66 percent) held a lead for a greater percentage of their minutes. But sustaining leads was more difficult for the Sixers. They tied for the league lead in most losses after leading by 15 points or more (seven) and the most losses after leading by 20 points or more (four).
Philly saw the league’s biggest drop in NetRtg from the first half (plus-9.4 points per 100 possessions) to the second half (plus-1.3) of games.
The starting lineup wasn’t as good in the second half of games as it was in the first half, but that’s because it outscored their opponents by an incredible 30 points per 100 possessions in 251 minutes before halftime. It’s mark of plus-15.8 per 100 possessions in the second half still ranked sixth among lineups that played at least 100 second-half minutes.
The bench was another story. The Sixers’ bench wasn’t terrible, but they had the league’s biggest discrepancy between aggregate starters NetRtg (plus-8.9 points per 100 possessions — third in the league) and aggregate bench NetRtg (minus-0.6 – 15th). In 2,442 minutes with three or more of their regular starters on the floor, the Sixers outscored their opponents by 10.8 points per 100 possessions. In 1,511 minutes with fewer than three of their regular starters on the floor, they were outscored by 3.0 points per 100 possessions.
Brett Brown staggered the minutes of his starters, so that he rarely had fewer than two on the floor during non-garbage time, and he’ll surely continue to do the same this season. But the Sixers will need more from players 6-10 on the roster if they’re going to take another step forward.
They did get a lift from Marco Belinelli and Ersan Ilyasova after adding the pair in February last season. But both of them have moved on, replaced by Wilson Chandler and Mike Muscala. And of course, the biggest variable on the Sixers’ bench is Markelle Fultz, who played just 14 games last season. If Fultz rebounds from a rough year and starts to show why he was selected with the No. 1 pick in the 2017 Draft, the Sixers will be that much deeper and more equipped to hold onto big leads.
Note: The above table is based on true possession counts. Other efficiency stats here are based on possession estimates (typically higher than true possession counts).
SIXERS NOTES – GENERAL
- Have seen the league’s biggest jump in winning percentage in each of the last two seasons, from 10-72 in 2015-16 to 28-54 in ’16-17 and 52-30 last season.
- Last season’s jump of 24 wins was the fifth biggest increase of the last 10 years. The Sixers were also 11.1 points per 100 possessions better than they were in ’16-17. That was the sixth biggest NetRtg improvement of the last 40 years.
- Were both the league’s best and most improved rebounding team, grabbing 52.9 percent of available rebounds, up from 48.8 percent (23rd in the league) in 2016-17. Also led the postseason in rebounding percentage at 54.6 percent.
- One of three teams – Golden State and Phoenix are the others – that have ranked in the top 10 in pace in each of the last five seasons.
SIXERS NOTES – OFFENSE
- After ranking 30th in offensive efficiency in each of Brett Brown’s first four seasons, the Sixers were the league’s most improved offensive team last season, scoring 5.6 more points per 100 possessions than they did in ’16-17.
- One of two teams – Golden State (first, first and first) was the other – that ranked in the top 10 in field goal percentage in the paint (56.6 percent – 8th), mid-range field goal percentage (41.5 percent – ninth) and 3-point percentage (36.9 percent – 10th). Saw the league’s second biggest increase in 3-point percentage from 2016-17 (34.0 percent – 25th in the league) to ’17-18.
- Ranked 13th in the percentage of their shots that came from 3-point range (34 percent) and last in the percentage of their 3-point attempts that came from the corners (16 percent), but attempted only 4.1 pull-up 3-pointers per game, fewest in the league.
- Saw the league’s biggest increase in offensive rebounding percentage, grabbing 25.3 percent of available offensive boards (third in the league) last season, up from 22.4 percent (19th) in 2016-17. Had the highest offensive rebounding percentage (29.4 percent) in the postseason.
- Were the league’s second most improved offensive team after the All-Star break, scoring 111.5 points per 100 possessions (third in the league), up from 105.4 (14th) before the break.
- Best shooting team in the clutch, with an effective field goal percentage of 56.6 percent with the score within five in the last five minutes of the fourth quarter or overtime. Had the league’s highest clutch assist percentage, assisting on 73 percent of their field goals with the score within five in the last five minutes.
- Have ranked 30th in turnover rate in four of Brown’s five seasons, and ranked 29th in the other (2015-16).
- Ranked last in the percentage of their possessions that were pick-and-roll ball-handler possessions (10.8 percent), the percentage of their possessions that were pick-and-roll roll-man possessions (3.8 percent), and the percentage that were isolations (3.9 percent), according to Synergy tracking.
- Led the postseason in player movement (11.2 miles traveled per 24 minutes of possession), ball movement (379 passes per 24 minutes of possession) and assist percentage (recording assists on 66.3 percent of their possessions.
SIXERS NOTES – DEFENSE
- Were the league’s fourth most improved defensive team, allowing 103.8 points per 100 possessions (third in the league), down from 108.2 (16th) in 2016-17.
- Only team that ranked in the top five in both opponent field goal percentage in the paint (ranked third at 52.0 percent) and in opponent effective field goal percentage on shots from outside the paint (ranked second at 46.8 percent).
- Allowed the fewest points in the paint per game (41.6). Allowed their opponents to take only 28 percent of their shots in the restricted area, the second lowest rate in the league, down from 33 percent (the sixth highest rate) last season. That was the league’s biggest drop in the percentage of opponent shots that came in the restricted area.
- Allowed a league-low 0.94 points per possession on roll-man possessions.
- Have ranked in the bottom six in opponent free throw rate (FTA/FGA) in each of the last five seasons.
SIXERS NOTES – LINEUPS
- 41 percent of their minutes were played by rookies or second-year players, the sixth highest rate in the league and the highest rate among teams that made the playoffs last season.
- Among 83 three-man combinations that played at least 1,000 minutes together, the Sixers had four of the top five combinations in NetRtg. All four included Ben Simmons and three of the four included Robert Covington.
- Outscored their opponents by 444 points with Covington and Simmons on the floor together. That was the best plus-minus among two-man combinations last season. The Sixers had the top three and five of the top seven combinations.
- Were 15.0 points per 100 possessions better with Covington on the floor (plus-10.9) than they were with him off the floor (minus-4.1). That was the biggest on-off NetRtg differential among 266 players who played at least 1,000 minutes for a single team last season. Embiid had the sixth biggest differential (11.8 points per 100 possessions) among that same group.
- Fultz and Simmons played a total of 51 minutes together, but 44 of those 51 minutes took place in October (before Fultz’ extended absence) and they didn’t play together at all in the three playoff games that Fultz appeared in.
SIXERS NOTES – INDIVIDUAL
- Wilson Chandler saw a drop in usage rate from 22.1 percent in 2016-17 to 14.5 percent last season. That was the biggest drop among players who played at least 1,000 minutes both seasons.
- Robert Covington led the league with 3.9 deflections per game and 4.4 deflections per 36 minutes.
- Covington also led the league with 189 catch-and-shoot 3-pointers. In total, He was assisted on 90 percent (312/345) of his buckets, the highest rate among 129 players with at least 300 field goals.
- Covington (76) and J.J. Redick (73) ranked second and third, respectively, (behind Klay Thompson) in 3-pointers in the first six seconds of the shot clock, according to Second Spectrum tracking.
- Joel Embiid ranked second in the league in usage rate, using 34 percent of the Sixers’ possessions while he was on the floor.
- Embiid led the league with 9.0 points per game on post-ups.
- Opponents shot 52.4 percent at the rim when Embiid was there to protect it. That was the third best rim-protection mark among 41 players who defended at least four shots at the rim per game in 40 games or more.
- Markelle Fultz and T.J. McConnell were two of the three players to record a triple-double off the bench. McConnell led the league in total steals off the bench (89) and ranked third in total assists off the bench (290).
- McConnell’s average speed of 4.79 miles per hour ranked third among players who played at least 1,000 minutes.
- Mike Muscala took 54 percent of his shots from 3-point range, up from 33 percent in ’16-17. That was the third biggest jump among 206 players with at least 300 field goal attempts both seasons.
- Redick has shot 44.0 percent from 3-point range over the last three seasons. That’s the best mark among 231 players with at least 300 3-point attempts over those three years.
- Last season, only 14 percent of Redick’s shots came in the paint. That was the fourth lowest rate among 180 players with at least 500 field goal attempts.
- Dario Saric shot 39 percent from 3-point range, up from 31 percent in ’16-17. That was the biggest jump in 3-point percentage among 100 players who attempted at least 200 threes each season.
- Ben Simmons led all rookies in total minutes, rebounds, assists, and steals. His 38 double-doubles were more than twice as many as any other rookie recorded, and his 12 triple-doubles rank second all-time among rookies.
- Simmons was the first rookie in the 22 years for which we have shot location data to shoot 70 percent or better on at least 300 shots in the restricted area. He also led the league in non-restricted area paint shots.
NBA TV’s Sixers preview premieres at 7 ET on Tuesday, Sept. 25.
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