Grading Every NBA Team’s Most Used Lineup This Season

Grading Every NBA Team’s Most Used Lineup This Season

Grading Every NBA Team’s Most Used Lineup This Season

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    Stephen Curry and Draymond Green

    Stephen Curry and Draymond GreenJustin Ford/Getty Images

    NBA teams have up to 17 players under contract during the regular season. An organization’s success or failure has at least something to do with all of them, but there are only five on the court at a time. So, the players in the most used lineup are naturally going to outpace the rest in terms of impact.

    And they’re the subject of today’s report card.

    Each of the league’s 30 squads has exactly one most used lineup (based on total possessions played), and some obviously performed better than others this season.

    Looking at factors like availability, net rating (point differential per 100 possessions when that group is on the floor), star power, expectations (if you were better or worse than advertised, that could influence the analysis) and a healthy portion of subjectivity, each one will be graded on the good old-fashioned A-F scale.

    The only caveat worth mentioning is that consideration in this exercise requires the lineup to include five players who are currently on the team. For example, the group that logged the most minutes for the Charlotte Hornets includes Mason Plumlee, but he’s now a Los Angeles Clipper. So, you’ll see a non-Plumlee lineup on that slide.

    For the most part, though, that rule didn’t change much.

Atlanta Hawks

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    Trae Young and Dejounte Murray

    Trae Young and Dejounte MurrayTodd Kirkland/Getty Images

    Trae Young, Dejounte Murray, De’Andre Hunter, John Collins and Clint Capela

    Possessions: 1,515

    Net Rating: +6.7

    Given the Atlanta Hawks’ proximity to a .500 record this season, you’d think their most used lineup would be thoroughly mediocre. That was not the case with this group.

    For the most part, the new, sort of two-pilot approach to the offense worked. Trae Young handled the bulk of the playmaking, but having Dejounte Murray in place as the secondary playmaker made Atlanta’s offense less predictable.

    And Murray, De’Andre Hunter and Clint Capela did a solid job of covering for Young’s defensive shortcomings. This lineup’s points allowed per 100 possessions ranked in the 88th percentile.

    The only real downsides here are what happened to John Collins (his usage percentage tumbled this season, and his true shooting percentage is below average when he shares the floor with these four).

    Grade: B+

Boston Celtics

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    Derrick White, Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum and Al Horford

    Derrick White, Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum and Al HorfordNed Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images

    Marcus Smart, Derrick White, Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum and Al Horford

    Possessions: 909

    Net Rating: +12.2

    No surprise here. The Boston Celtics had one of the most dominant lineups in basketball last season with Marcus Smart, Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, Al Horford and Robert Williams III, and they didn’t lose much (if anything) with Derrick White in place of Williams.

    The change was one of necessity, as Williams was hurt for much of the season, but this is a lineup Boston surely would’ve spent a lot of time with anyway.

    Smart and White make up one of the league’s stingiest defensive backcourts, and both are solid playmakers too. They don’t have to expend a ton of energy on that latter portion of their games either, since Brown and Tatum handle such a significant load of the offense.

    Throw in Horford (one of the best shooters in the NBA this season) with his veteran savvy, point center skills and defensive versatility, and this is among the most complete lineups in the game.

    Grade: A

Brooklyn Nets

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    Cameron Johnson, Mikal Bridges, Spencer Dinwiddie and Dorian Finney-Smith

    Cameron Johnson, Mikal Bridges, Spencer Dinwiddie and Dorian Finney-SmithNathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

    Spencer Dinwiddie, Mikal Bridges, Cameron Johnson, Dorian Finney-Smith and Nic Claxton

    Possessions: 633

    Net Rating: +3.0

    It’s incredible that this group has only been in place since mid-February, and it’s already played the most possessions of any Brooklyn Nets lineup this season (the caveat from the intro wasn’t even necessary here).

    Or, if you’ve paid much attention to the Nets over the last few years, maybe it’s not all that incredible.

    Bleacher Report @BleacherReport

    Mikal Bridges, Cam Johnson and Spencer Dinwiddie have played MORE MIN together in Brooklyn than KD, Kyrie and Harden 🤯 pic.twitter.com/OXvSUEc9Ip

    Either way, this lineup isn’t just fun. It’s darn-near every hipster NBA writer’s dream scenario.

    With Mikal Bridges, Cameron Johnson and Dorian Finney-Smith, there is total switchability at spots 2 through 4. Even Spencer Dinwiddie (6’5″) has some wing characteristics. And Nic Claxton is far more mobile than most traditional 5s.

    This group can fly all over the floor on defense, hit threes, attack from multiple positions and is headlined by a potential star.

    Since joining the Nets, Bridges is averaging 27.4 points and 2.7 threes while shooting 39.6 percent from deep.

    Of course, much of the praise is of the “in theory” variety right now. Again, they’ve only been together since February, and the offense, which scores 113.4 points, ranks in the 38th percentile leaguewide.

    Grade: B

Charlotte Hornets

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    Gordon Hayward and P.J. Washington

    Gordon Hayward and P.J. WashingtonJacob Kupferman/Getty Images

    Terry Rozier, Kelly Oubre Jr., Gordon Hayward, P.J. Washington and Nick Richards

    Possessions: 203

    Net Rating: -4.5

    It’s tough to provide meaningful analysis on the Charlotte Hornets without wandering into the possible addition of Victor Wembanyama this season.

    Their best player, LaMelo Ball, only played in 36 games. Mason Plumlee is third on the team in minutes, and he’s now a Los Angeles Clipper.

    In a game this week, the Hornets started Bryce McGowens, Svi Mykhailiuk, Théo Maledon, JT Thor and Nick Richards.

    If it wasn’t abundantly clear already, this most recent stretch signals that this season has largely been about lottery odds.

    And that leaves us with a lineup that has three veterans (Terry Rozier, Kelly Oubre Jr. and Gordon Hayward) who’ve been below average, according to box plus/minus, P.J. Washington (a 24-year old who profiles as a solid rotation player) and Nick Richards (a paint-bound big with significantly more turnovers than assists during his career).

    Charlotte had a slightly above-average offense when all five were on the floor, but they gave up 119.8 points per 100 possessions and comfortably lost their playing time together.

    Grade: D

Chicago Bulls

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    DeMar DeRozan and Ayo Dosunmu

    DeMar DeRozan and Ayo DosunmuMichael Reaves/Getty Images

    Ayo Dosunmu, Zach LaVine, DeMar DeRozan, Patrick Williams and Nikola Vučević

    Possessions: 1,231

    Net Rating: +1.3

    This one’s interesting, because the answer to the sub-.500 Chicago Bulls’ woes may have been coming off the bench for about half the season.

    If you replace Ayo Dosunmu with Alex Caruso, the sample size plummets to 405 possessions (probably too small for sweeping takeaways), but the net rating climbs to plus-8.0.

    With Zach LaVine, DeMar DeRozan and Nikola Vučević in the lineup, whoever filled Dosunmu’s spot was going to be a nominal point guard. Chicago would’ve been wise to dedicate it to Caruso’s defense and experience.

    The fifth spot, occupied by Patrick Williams, doesn’t feel quite as significant. And his career 41.3 three-point percentage suggests he’s filling the role just fine, but Chicago’s net rating was significantly better when Williams was on the bench for the third season in a row.

    Grade: C

Cleveland Cavaliers

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    Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen

    Evan Mobley and Jarrett AllenJason Miller/Getty Images

    Darius Garland, Donovan Mitchell, Isaac Okoro, Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen

    Possessions: 800

    Net Rating: +7.8

    This lineup’s net rating doesn’t leap off the screen, but the beauty of these Cleveland Cavaliers (and a big reason they’re second in the league in overall net rating) is that they can deploy a number of solid lineups beyond this one.

    On the year, Cleveland is plus-8.1 points per 100 possessions when Darius Garland plays without Donovan Mitchell and plus-3.4 when Mitchell plays without Garland. Being positive in both scenarios is big, and it means the Cavs should be able to deploy 48 minutes of starter-level basketball in the playoffs.

    For this lineup, specifically, backing up those two guards with high-end defenders in Isaac Okoro, Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen helps this group be above average on both ends of the floor, despite having an undersized backcourt.

    Grade: A-

Dallas Mavericks

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    Kyrie Irving and Luka Dončić

    Kyrie Irving and Luka DončićKevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Luka Dončić, Kyrie Irving, Josh Green, Reggie Bullock and Dwight Powell

    Possessions: 184

    Net Rating: +5.5

    For all the talk of what a disaster this young Kyrie Irving era has been for the Dallas Mavericks, they’re actually playing pretty well when he and Luka Dončić are both on the floor.

    And unsurprisingly, that has a lot to do with the offense.

    When those two are flanked by Josh Green, Reggie Bullock and Dwight Powell, Dallas is scoring a whopping 122.8 points per 100 possessions (96th percentile). And the division of labor between Irving and Dončić doesn’t feel terribly “your turn, my turn”-ish.

    Both have been willing to defer, especially when one star is rolling, as Irving was during the Mavericks’ win on Wednesday.

    The rest of this lineup has a decent mix of shooting (from Green and Bullock), defense (from Green) and rim-running (from Powell). The problem, of course, is that it can’t play all 48 minutes.

    Grade: B

Denver Nuggets

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    Michael Porter Jr., Aaron Gordon, Jamal Murray and Nikola Jokić

    Michael Porter Jr., Aaron Gordon, Jamal Murray and Nikola JokićAAron Ontiveroz/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images

    Jamal Murray, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Michael Porter Jr., Aaron Gordon and Nikola Jokić

    Possessions: 1,424

    Net Rating: +13.8

    Over the balance of the season, this has arguably been the best lineup in basketball, and it is led by arguably the best player in basketball.

    The Denver Nuggets are plus-13.4 points per 100 possessions with Nikola Jokić on the floor this season, and this lineup checks every box you’d want in a lineup surrounding him.

    Michael Porter Jr. and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope are both shooting over 40 percent from three (and both have learned the art of cutting from the three-point line to earn an easy layup from Jokić). KCP and Aaron Gordon are both plus defenders, and the latter’s chemistry with the center has led to loads of open dunks. And Jamal Murray’s nose for the big moments is part of why Denver is the best clutch team in the NBA.

    The Nuggets are a league-leading plus-17.6 points per 100 possessions in the final five minutes of games within five points. And these five have played most of those clutch minutes.

    Grade: A

Detroit Pistons

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    Killian Hayes and Jalen Duren

    Killian Hayes and Jalen DurenChris Schwegler/NBAE via Getty Images

    Killian Hayes, Jaden Ivey, Bojan Bogdanović, Isaiah Stewart and Jalen Duren

    Possessions: 507

    Net Rating: -15.4

    Yes, the Detroit Pistons were supposed to be bad this season. But often, even for a rebuilding team, the most used lineup can at least be competitive.

    This one, clearly, was not.

    So, instead of drilling on why this mostly young group was so bad, let’s give Detroit Pistons fans some reasons for optimism.

    • Killian Hayes is 15th in the NBA in assist percentage.
    • Jaden Ivey has averaged 23.5 points, 8.2 assists and 3.0 threes while shooting 42.9 percent from three over his last six games.
    • Bojan Bogdanović’s 21.6 points and 41.1 three-point percentage mean he should have real trade value this summer.
    • No one matches or exceeds both of Isaiah Stewart’s averages for threes and offensive rebounds per game this season.
    • Jalen Duren is averaging 9.2 points and 8.7 rebounds and is sixth among rookies in estimated wins (the cumulative version of Dunks and Threes’ estimated plus-minus, one of the most trusted catch-all metrics in basketball).

    But even with all those potential sources of hope, I have to fail this lineup.

    Grade: F

Golden State Warriors

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    Stephen Curry and Andrew Wiggins

    Stephen Curry and Andrew WigginsAlex Bierens de Haan/Getty Images

    Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Andrew Wiggins, Draymond Green and Kevon Looney

    Possessions: 705

    Net Rating: +22.1

    There may be a small temptation to dock the Golden State Warriors’ lineup a few grade points for coming in so far below 1,000 possessions played, but Andrew Wiggins attending to a family medical situation is pretty uncommon in terms of NBA absences.

    And when he, Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and Kevon Looney were all on the floor, the Warriors looked every bit like the team that won the championship last season.

    There’s a level of familiarity between Curry, Thompson and Green that’s unrivaled in the NBA. And Wiggins and Looney seem to be nearing the same page. Golden State’s offense operates like one organism, rather than five separate players all doing their own thing. And the front-line defense of Wiggins, Green and Looney is title-worthy, as well.

    Having this group back for the playoffs means the Warriors are very much in the hunt for Curry, Thompson and Green’s fifth championship.

    Grade: A+

Houston Rockets

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    Jalen Green and Alperen Şengün

    Jalen Green and Alperen ŞengünLogan Riely/NBAE via Getty Images

    Kevin Porter Jr., Jalen Green, Kenyon Martin Jr., Jabari Smith Jr. and Alperen Şengün

    Possessions: 846

    Net Rating: -9.2

    Like the Pistons, the Houston Rockets’ most used lineup was just flat-out bad this season (though not quite as bad as Detroit’s group), but it also features plenty of potential.

    In this case, 22-year-olds Kevin Porter Jr. and Kenyon Martin Jr. are the oldest of the group. Jalen Green, Alperen Şengün and Jabari Smith Jr. are 21, 20 and 19, respectively. There are college lineups that were older than that this season.

    And again, each of the five players featured here have had their moments this season. In a year in which offensive numbers have exploded, Green is still 23rd in the league in scoring. KPJ averaged 19.0 points, 5.7 assists and 2.4 threes. Martin averaged double figures and looks like one of the game’s more dynamic offensive rebounders and finishers. And Şengün notched a pair of triple-doubles while looking like a facsimile of his idol, Nikola Jokić.

    The biggest question mark may be Smith, who was billed as a potential three-and-D specialist who shot only 30.6 percent from deep this season. But panic there would be overblown. Again, he’s 19.

    Grade: D-

Indiana Pacers

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    Tyrese Haliburton and Buddy Hield

    Tyrese Haliburton and Buddy HieldRon Hoskins/NBAE via Getty Images

    Tyrese Haliburton, Andrew Nembhard, Buddy Hield, Aaron Nesmith and Myles Turner

    Possessions: 849

    Net Rating: +3.0

    The Indiana Pacers cleared their preseason over/under of 24.5 wins in early February, and that 25th win came after a 1-11 stretch that had a lot to do with the absence of Tyrese Haliburton.

    When healthy, the Pacers were an unexpected playoff contender, and this lineup is largely responsible for the feel-good story.

    It had high-end playmaking with Haliburton, a solid secondary creator in rookie Andrew Nembhard and plenty of shooting from Haliburton, Buddy Hield and Myles Turner. Even Aaron Nesmith, who’d struggled with his shot as a Boston Celtic, found new life during his third season (and first in Indiana) as a three-and-D forward.

    Grade: B+

Los Angeles Clippers

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    Kawhi Leonard and Paul George

    Kawhi Leonard and Paul GeorgeWinslow Townson/Getty Images

    Terance Mann, Paul George, Kawhi Leonard, Marcus Morris Sr. and Ivica Zubac

    Possessions: 268

    Net Rating: +13.3

    This one’s interesting for a few reasons.

    Terance Mann had ascended to the role of starting point guard (perhaps in name only, but still) prior to the acquisition of Russell Westbrook. He, of course, no longer has that role. And Marcus Morris Sr. has fallen out of the rotation entirely.

    Still, absent Reggie Jackson (now with the Denver Nuggets), this is the Los Angeles Clippers’ most used lineup, and it’s unsurprisingly dominant.

    Really, any group headlined by Kawhi Leonard and Paul George is probably going to be good, but this one provided plenty of floor spacing from Mann and Morris. And though he doesn’t put up huge numbers, Ivica Zubac is one of the game’s more reliable paint-fillers on both ends of the floor.

    The only reasons this group gets a little knock is the minuscule sample size and a 13th percentile defense.

    Grade: A-

Los Angeles Lakers

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    D'Angelo Russell and Anthony Davis

    D’Angelo Russell and Anthony DavisAdam Pantozzi/NBAE via Getty Images

    D’Angelo Russell, Malik Beasley, Troy Brown Jr., Jarred Vanderbilt and Anthony Davis

    Possessions: 157

    Net Rating: -12.2

    The Los Angeles Lakers make me want to throw the rules out entirely, but even their most used lineup with former players only has 250 possessions. And the one we’re all most intrigued by—D’Angelo Russell, Austin Reaves, LeBron James, Jarred Vanderbilt and Anthony Davis—is at 106 possessions.

    That leaves us with a group that tried to hold down the fort while LeBron was out with a foot injury, and it’s one that clearly struggled.

    The Lakers went 8-5 during James’ most recent extended absence, but this lineup comfortably lost its minutes.

    And though Troy Brown Jr. has had his moments this season (he’s shooting 37.7 percent from three), replacing him with the 38-year-old version one of the greatest players of all time predictably helped. And the bigger needle mover may have been plugging Reaves (6.5 free throws made, an 85.8 free-throw percentage and a 40.4 three-point percentage over his last 15 games) in for Beasley (0.3 free throws, a 57.1 free-throw percentage and a 35.1 three-point percentage as a Laker).

    Grade: D-

Memphis Grizzlies

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    Jaren Jackson Jr. and Ja Morant

    Jaren Jackson Jr. and Ja MorantJustin Ford/Getty Images

    Ja Morant, Dillon Brooks, John Konchar, Jaren Jackson Jr. and Steven Adams

    Possessions: 346

    Net Rating: +14.2

    Similar to the Los Angeles Clippers, the Memphis Grizzlies’ most used lineup is winning its minutes in a landslide, but we just haven’t seen many of those minutes due to a variety of absences.

    Of course, this group is closer to what Memphis figures to deploy most in the playoffs than L.A.’s is. The only switch necessary here is Desmond Bane for John Konchar, but the numbers above are a good illustration of just how deep the Grizzlies are.

    Even when missing one or two mainstays, Memphis can typically remain competitive (and often flat-out good).

    Ja Morant’s dynamic slashing, Dillon Brooks’ defense, Jaren Jackson Jr.’s outside shooting and rim protection and Steven Adams’ toughness and defense all meld together brilliantly. And while Bane certainly gives them a higher ceiling, having a low-usage gap-filler like Konchar in this lineup gives stars like Morant and JJJ even more room to shine.

    Grade: A-

Miami Heat

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    Kyle Lowry, Caleb Martin, Bam Adebayo and Jimmy Butler

    Kyle Lowry, Caleb Martin, Bam Adebayo and Jimmy ButlerJustin Ford/Getty Images

    Kyle Lowry, Tyler Herro, Jimmy Butler, Caleb Martin and Bam Adebayo

    Possessions: 608

    Net Rating: +5.2

    This group has struggled to score at anywhere near a league-average rate this season, but it brings a stifling defense that should translate well to the postseason (assuming Miami escapes the play-in tournament). That and Playoff Jimmy Butler make the Heat dangerous.

    Bam Adebayo is another constant, with his ability to both protect the rim and guard all over the floor. And when Tyler Herro and Caleb Martin are hitting threes, this lineup is suddenly pretty dangerous.

    The big question, at this point, is probably Kyle Lowry. The 37-year-old is shooting 34.1 percent from three (his lowest mark since 2014-15) and averaging 11.4 points (lowest since 2009-10).

    Grade: B+

Milwaukee Bucks

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    Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jrue Holiday

    Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jrue HolidayRocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images

    Jrue Holiday, Grayson Allen, Pat Connaughton, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Brook Lopez

    Possessions: 508

    Net Rating: +7.2

    The Milwaukee Bucks are another team that have been without various players for extended stretches of the season, including Khris Middleton, who missed all but seven of the team’s first 46 games.

    That means the most used lineup is a little different than what many may have expected before the season started, but it still features three perennial All-Defensive contenders in Jrue Holiday, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Brook Lopez, and is flanked by good floor spacing from Grayson Allen and Pat Connaughton.

    Really, any five-man unit that surrounds Giannis with halfway decent shooting is probably going to be good, and this group more than clears that low bar.

    Even without Middleton, this lineup is loaded and way above average on both sides of the court.

    Grade: A-

Minnesota Timberwolves

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    Mike Conley, Rudy Gobert, Kyle Anderson and Anthony Edwards

    Mike Conley, Rudy Gobert, Kyle Anderson and Anthony EdwardsRocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images

    Mike Conley, Anthony Edwards, Jaden McDaniels, Kyle Anderson and Rudy Gobert

    Possessions: 506

    Net Rating: +6.5

    With Anthony Edwards, Jaden McDaniels, Kyle Anderson and Rudy Gobert all in the lineup, you’d think this group would make its mark on the defensive end of the floor. They’re good there (70th percentile), but it’s actually an 88th percentile offensive rating that’s really driving this squad’s strong plus-minus.

    That may come as a bit of a surprise, until you realize that Mike Conley, Edwards, McDaniels and Anderson all have above-average three-point percentages this season. And surrounding Gobert with shooting was a recipe for success for years with the Utah Jazz.

    Of course, long term, the Minnesota Timberwolves would probably prefer to have things work with both Karl-Anthony Towns and Gobert on the floor, but Anderson’s influence on the big man acquired last summer has been among this season’s more interesting storylines.

    When Anderson is on the floor, Gobert averages 17.5 points per 75 possessions, with a 70.0 true shooting percentage. When Anderson is off, Gobert is at 14.5 points per 75 possessions, with a 64.6 true shooting percentage.

    Grade: B+

New Orleans Pelicans

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    Brandon Ingram and CJ McCollum

    Brandon Ingram and CJ McCollumSean Gardner/Getty Images

    CJ McCollum, Brandon Ingram, Herbert Jones, Trey Murphy III and Jonas Valančiūnas

    Possessions: 670

    Net Rating: -3.6

    In theory, this lineup should work.

    According to box plus/minus, CJ McCollum, Brandon Ingram and Trey Murphy III have been above-average players this season. McCollum and Ingram can both score like, at worst, a good No. 2 option. Herbert Jones, Murphy and Ingram bring a lot of switchability on the defensive end. And Jonas Valančiūnas can punish bigs inside with his bully-ball brand of post play and rebounding.

    But even with the length at spots 2 through 4, this lineup has a 12th percentile defense that cannot force turnovers or bother opposing shooters.

    These five score at a solid rate (70th percentile), but they’re hemorrhaging so many on the other end that they’re well below zero in net.

    Grade: D+

New York Knicks

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    Quentin Grimes and Jalen Brunson

    Quentin Grimes and Jalen BrunsonNathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

    Jalen Brunson, Quentin Grimes, RJ Barrett, Julius Randle and Mitchell Robinson

    Possessions: 1,061

    Net Rating: +7.0

    Congratulations if you had the “New York Knicks’ starting lineup will play like an offensive juggernaut” on your preseason bingo card.

    Even with the addition of Jalen Brunson in free agency, few could’ve imagined him piloting this group to a 98th percentile offense, but that’s exactly what’s happening. And that’s with Julius Randle and RJ Barrett posting below-average three-point percentages and Mitchell Robinson abstaining from threes altogether.

    With the ability of Brunson, Randle and Barrett to get to the paint and Quentin Grimes and Brunson providing just enough spacing, this lineup is more than overcoming a lack of shooting talent.

    The problem, of course, is on the other end, where this Knicks lineup is way below average, despite plenty of rebounding from Randle and rim protection from Robinson.

    Grade: B+

Oklahoma City Thunder

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    Jalen Williams, Josh Giddey and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander

    Jalen Williams, Josh Giddey and Shai Gilgeous-AlexanderMitchell Leff/Getty Images

    Josh Giddey, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Jalen Williams, Luguentz Dort and Jaylin Williams

    Possessions: 591

    Net Rating: -4.9

    It’s hard to not get excited about the future of this lineup (or at least four members of it).

    The combination of size and playmaking deployed with Josh Giddey (6’8″), Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (6’6″) and Jalen Williams (6’6″) feels unparalleled.

    Luguentz Dort is, at the very least, a pain to try to score on. If he ever develops an average outside shot, he’ll be a valuable three-and-D player.

    And Jaylin Williams, who’s shooting 39.8 percent from three and averaging 2.9 assists per 75 possessions, has an interesting skill set (though he may get jumped in the pecking order by Chet Holmgren as early as this summer).

    When all five are together, however, the Oklahoma City Thunder simply can’t score. Or, more accurately, they’re scoring 108.0 points per 100 possessions, which ranks in the 8th percentile.

    More consistent long-range shooting from everyone but Jaylin Williams could be the key.

    Grade: D+

Orlando Magic

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    Franz Wagner, Wendell Carter Jr., Paolo Banchero and Markelle Fultz

    Franz Wagner, Wendell Carter Jr., Paolo Banchero and Markelle FultzJulio Aguilar/Getty Images

    Markelle Fultz, Gary Harris, Franz Wagner, Paolo Banchero and Wendell Carter Jr.

    Possessions: 1,184

    Net Rating: +1.0

    Like the Indiana Pacers, despite their sub-.500 record, it’s safe to say the Orlando Magic outperformed expectations this season.

    They cleared their preseason over/under of 26.5 wins in early March, and that was after a dismal 5-20 start to the season. Since then, they’re 29-25, and this lineup has a lot to do with it.

    Markelle Fultz is the floor general, having (by far) the best season of his career and driving with a confidence we haven’t seen since he was at Washington. Gary Harris has been a steady-handed veteran floor-spacer. Franz Wagner and Paolo Banchero, both 6’10”, make up one of the game’s most intriguing and dynamic young forward combos. And Wendell Carter Jr. is starting to look like the kind of Swiss Army knife big that we expected when he came out of Duke.

    With more potential lottery picks incoming this summer, the future is bright for Orlando. But even if this is a key lineup again next season, internal development and the last few months suggest the Magic could push for a 2024 playoff spot.

    Grade: B

Philadelphia 76ers

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    James Harden and Joel Embiid

    James Harden and Joel EmbiidJesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images

    James Harden, De’Anthony Melton, Tobias Harris, P.J. Tucker and Joel Embiid

    Possessions: 998

    Net Rating: +7.0

    With all due respect to De’Anthony Melton (who I thought was one of this past offseason’s best and most underrated acquisitions), the Philadelphia 76ers would have an A or with Tyrese Maxey in his spot. That lineup has played 715 possessions and has a plus-13.1 net rating.

    But we’re not here to talk about every team’s second-most used lineup, and the one that features Melton is still elite, particularly on offense.

    With James Harden and Joel Embiid operating an unstoppable two-man game in the middle of the floor, and Melton, Tobias Harris and P.J. Tucker flanking as floor-spacers, Philadelphia scores at will (or 121.5 points per 100 possessions).

    And really, it’s that two-man game that matters more than anything else for the Sixers. Harden has assisted Embiid on 242 buckets this season. The distance between that mark and second place is the same as the distance between second and 36th.

    On the other end of the floor, a 56th percentile defense isn’t quite what you’d expect from a lineup with Embiid and Melton, but there’s more than enough offense here to overcome that.

    Grade: A-

Phoenix Suns

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    Chris Paul, Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton

    Chris Paul, Devin Booker and Deandre AytonChristian Petersen/Getty Images

    Chris Paul, Devin Booker, Josh Okogie, Torrey Craig and Deandre Ayton

    Possessions: 466

    Net Rating: +11.6

    Mikal Bridges was traded for Kevin Durant in February. The latter has only appeared in seven games since then. Chris Paul and Devin Booker have each played fewer than 60. And Deandre Ayton has played fewer than 70.

    Hence, the small sample size for this group.

    But even without a ton of time to develop (or solidify) chemistry, the Phoenix Suns’ most used lineup has been dominant when deployed.

    And that dominance makes sense.

    Few players in NBA history are as good at engineering individual possessions as CP3. Josh Okogie and Torrey Craig are plus perimeter defenders. Ayton’s an opportunistic scorer and rebounder. And surrounding Booker, arguably the game’s best shooting guard, with all that grit has given him the freedom he needs to cook on offense.

    Now, just think about the fact that this team is integrating KD into a system that already runs this smoothly.

    Grade: A

Portland Trail Blazers

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    Damian Lillard

    Damian LillardSam Forencich/NBAE via Getty Images

    Damian Lillard, Matisse Thybulle, Cam Reddish, Jerami Grant and Drew Eubanks

    Possessions: 174

    Net Rating: -1.1

    It was another wasted season for the Portland Trail Blazers, who shut down Damian Lillard early for the second year in a row.

    Before they made that call, though, we got at least an inkling of how the remade roster might’ve functioned around him.

    Matisse Thybulle and Cam Reddish were both acquired midseason, and at least in theory, they should be able to cover for some of Lillard’s defensive shortcomings. Jerami Grant checks that box too while also being able to average 20-plus points and shoot 40-plus percent from three. And with Jusuf Nurkić missing much of the season with injuries, we also get a better look at the hustle and athleticism Drew Eubanks can add to the equation.

    Of course, all that added up to a mediocre (or slightly worse) point differential, which is part of why we saw this group for fewer than 200 total possessions.

    Grade: C-

Sacramento Kings

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    De'Aaron Fox and Domantas Sabonis

    De’Aaron Fox and Domantas SabonisRocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images

    De’Aaron Fox, Kevin Huerter, Keegan Murray, Harrison Barnes and Domantas Sabonis

    Possessions: 1,875

    Net Rating: +3.0

    This lineup doesn’t have quite as high a net rating as some of the other B+ teams in the slideshow, but it gets a bump to that level for being more available than anyone else (this the highest possession count in the league by a significant amount) and smashing expectations.

    The Sacramento Kings’ preseason over/under was 34.5, and the lineup of De’Aaron Fox, Kevin Huerter, Keegan Murray, Harrison Barnes and Domantas Sabonis has a lot to do with blowing past it.

    Fox and Sabonis were both All-Stars who can set teammates up from the middle of the floor, and their floor-spacers—Huerter, Murray and Barnes—are shooting a combined 39.8 percent from three.

    The defense isn’t quite as effective for this group, but it can win a shootout against anyone.

    Grade: B+

San Antonio Spurs

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    Keldon Johnson and Devin Vassell

    Keldon Johnson and Devin VassellRonald Cortes/Getty Images

    Tre Jones, Devin Vassell, Keldon Johnson, Keita Bates-Diop and Zach Collins

    Possessions: 105

    Net Rating: -24.9

    Yeah, this is really bad. And even if we ditch the rule about not being able to include players who are no longer with the team, there isn’t a single lineup over 400 possessions or many with positive point differentials.

    That’s not much of a surprise for the team that’s dead last in overall net rating (and has been for most of the season).

    Having said that, there are at least kernels of optimism with each of the players above.

    Tre Jones is following in his brother Tyus’ footsteps as a sure-handed point guard who rarely turns the ball over. Devin Vassell is averaging 18.5 points and shooting 38.7 percent from three. Keldon Johnson is at 22.0 points. Twenty-seven-year-old Keita Bates-Diop may have defended and shot well enough to earn another contract this summer. And Zach Collins has averaged 16.4 points, 7.8 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 1.1 steals and 1.1 blocks since the trade deadline.

    Grade: F

Toronto Raptors

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    Fred VanVleet and Pascal Siakam

    Fred VanVleet and Pascal SiakamMitchell Leff/Getty Images

    Fred VanVleet, Gary Trent Jr., O.G. Anunoby, Scottie Barnes and Pascal Siakam

    Possessions: 767

    Net Rating: +1.9

    This is another team that has a second-most used lineup that easily outpaces the first. If you replace Gary Trent Jr. with Jakob Poeltl for a more traditional-looking lineup, you get 591 possessions and a plus-10.3 net rating.

    It’s a pretty clear indication that the Toronto Raptors’ commitment to positionless basketball may have been a little misplaced, but the lineup above is still winning its minutes. And the ability to shift to a smaller lineup that features Pascal Siakam at the 5 could come in handy in the playoffs.

    With him, Scottie Barnes and O.G. Anunoby manning the frontcourt, Toronto has loads of length and switchability. And Trent and Fred VanVleet can, in theory, overcome the lack of shooting from Barnes and Siakam.

    Grade: C+

Utah Jazz

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    Walker Kessler, Talen Horton-Tucker, Lauri Markkanen and Ochai Agbaji

    Walker Kessler, Talen Horton-Tucker, Lauri Markkanen and Ochai AgbajiRocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images

    Talen Horton-Tucker, Ochai Agbaji, Lauri Markkanen, Kelly Olynyk and Walker Kessler

    Possessions: 310

    Net Rating: +9.8

    Imagine telling someone before the season started that Talen Horton-Tucker, Ochai Agbaji and Walker Kessler would be featured here, and that the lineup would be on the verge of a double-digit net rating.

    The Utah Jazz weren’t supposed to be anywhere near as good as they’ve been (as evidenced by their preseason over/under of 23.5 wins), and these five players deserve a lot of credit for destroying expectations.

    Lauri Markkanen started the All-Star Game and appears on track for an All-NBA nod. Kessler is 21 and already seems to be 80-85 percent of the way to Rudy Gobert’s level (whom Utah traded for him). Agbaji looks like he’ll be, at the very least, a longtime three-and-D role player. Twenty-two-year-old Horton-Tucker has averaged 20.9 points, 6.6 assists and 5.2 rebounds over his last 14 games. And Kelly Olynyk has been a great glue guy who can hit threes and distribute a bit.

    Grade: A

Washington Wizards

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    Bradley Beal and Kristap Porziņģis

    Bradley Beal and Kristap PorziņģisG Fiume/Getty Images

    Monte Morris, Bradley Beal, Deni Avdija, Kyle Kuzma and Kristaps Porziņģis

    Possessions: 317

    Net Rating: +14.2

    I’m not sure if Washington Wizards fans should feel encouraged or annoyed by this slide.

    If Bradley Beal (who’s only played in 50 games), Kristaps Porziņģis (65), Kyle Kuzma (64) and Monte Morris (62) had been generally more available this season, the Wizards would almost certainly be in the mix for at least a spot in the play-in tournament.

    When you add Deni Avdija to this mix, this is a lineup with plenty of length. And Morris, Beal, Kuzma and Porziņģis can all shoot from the outside.

    With this amount of offensive talent in one lineup, it’s maybe not shocking to learn Washington scored 125.6 points per 100 possessions when all five were on the floor.

    Grade: A


    Stats via Cleaning the Glass, NBA.com, Basketball Reference and PBPStats unless otherwise noted and up to date entering Thursday’s games.

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