Mid-season Review: Talking Lineups

Published: January 22, 2013

The Sacramento game marked the halfway mark for the Hornets – 41 games of up and down, injury-marred basketball that is currently soaring along on an extended high note.  With half the season in the books, it’s time to do a little review, and the first set of data I decided to present was five-man line-ups.

This is good stuff because it tells us which sets of teammates work best together, which lineups are potent, and which have proven terrible.  Of course, even with half a season of games, these sample sizes aren’t too large due to injuries.  Still, it does unearth some fun stuff.

The Hornets only have 5 five-man lineups that have managed to play at least a full game worth of minutes together.  Of those five, three have been outscored by their opponents.  Two have not.  All three of the poor ones contain Austin Rivers.  Surprise!  Or not.  Here’s those lineups and their strengths and weaknesses.


Outscores opponents by 0.3 points per 48 minutes.
Time on court: 157 minutes
Strengths: great perimeter shooting, high assist rates, good rebounding.
Weaknesses: horrid ability to get free throws, low steals, awful defense, high turnover rate

This was the most common lineup prior to Gordon’s return, and it almost never hit the floor before the end of November as Monty gave Austin Rivers time to hang himself.  Overall, it’s offensive rating is magnificient, scoring a whopping 113.5 points per 100 possessions.  The problem is it allowed opponents to score 112.7 points per 100 possessions, erasing any advantage gained.


Outscores opponents by 5.3 points per 48 minutes
Time on court: 118 minutes.
Strengths:  good assist rate, huge steals and block rates, low foul rate, tremendous rebound rates, good defense
Weaknesses: very low three point attempts,  poor ability to draw free throws.

This, of course, is the most common line-up for the Hornets since Gordon’s return.  For all the lack of perimeter shooting, this lineup is fairly average when it comes to overall shooting numbers but does so many other things so well it easily outscores its opponents.   Overall, this line-up scores 108.1 points per 100 possessions while it allows 101.0.


Outscored by 4.9 points per 48 minutes
Time on court: 108 minutes
Strengths: good steals and block numbers.
Weaknesses: awful Shooting,  terrible assist numbers

This line-up has seen only 2 minutes since Gordon returned, and that’s hardly a bad thing.  It’s hard not to emphasize just how badly this line-up shot the ball en route to just 95.9 points per 100 possessions.  43.2% from the field and 33.2% from deep.  Combine that with barely 13 free throws per 48 minutes and you’ve got an offensive wreck.  Combine it with a mediocre defense, and it adds up to a lot of losing


Outscored by 1.0 points per 48 minutes
Time on court: 100 minutes
Strengths: great defensive rebounding, good defense.  low turnovers, low foul rate.
Weaknesses:  low 3-point attempts, no free throws.  bad overall shooting

These 100 minutes are a result of Aminu falling out of favor.  At first, you’ll probably shake your head based on the successful line-ups we just reviewed and Aminu’s presence on them.  Wait until we get to the next line-up, though, which is the same one, but with Aminu instead of Thomas.  This line-up lived on hustle and effort, but didn’t have enough shooting to balance it out.   The result was only 99.9 points per posession and a defense that allowed 100.9.



Outscored by 7.7 points per 48 minutes
Time on court: 81 minutes
Strengths:  good free throw percentage, high assist rate, excellent offensive rebound rate.
Weaknesses: awful number of 3-point attempts, TERRIBLE defense, terrible shooting, bad defensive rebound rate.

So this is what happened early on in the season while Michael and I were lamenting on the podcast the terrible perimeter defense.  This lineup allowed 114.7 points per possession.  The Bobcats last year didn’t match that, and they were the worst team of all time.   The offense actually wasn’t that awful, posting 105.7 points per 100.  It’s hard to understand how this team only managed to grab 62% of the available defensive boards too.   All I can say was this team clearly hadn’t figured each other out, was playing two rookies just trying to get up to NBA speed, and the group as a whole ended up looking horribly lost.

Best Lineup

You’ll die of shock at this one.  This group has simply dominated when on the floor together and needs to play together more often.  Anyone have Monty’s direct number?


Outscored opponents by 22.3 points per 48 minutes
Time on court: only 28 minutes
Strengths: exceptional FG%, massive 3-pt attempt numbers, high number of FTs, high assist rate, low turnover rate, huge steals and block numbers, extremely low foul rate
Weaknesses: awful free throw percentage, poor defensive rebounding, mediocre 3-point shooting percentage

Yeah, it’s 28 minutes, but a lot of these minutes are even coming in crunch time when the pressure ratchets up.  Some of the numbers here are draw dropping.  This group averages 32 three-point attempts per 48 minutes. (Yes, it would be league leading)  It averages a pretty 25 free throw attempts per 48.   This squad dominates the glass posting numbers that would rank in the top 10 in the league on both ends of the court.  it’s a monster.

Worst Lineup

This lineup has received 24 minutes this season, helping it beat out another lineup that had a slightly worse +/- because it has had twice as much time to make my eyes bleed.  Hey look, it’s Rivers again!


Outscored by 54.9 points per 48 minutes(!)
Time on court: 24 minutes
Strengths: low turnover rate
Weaknesses: Everything else

This lineup has appeared momentarily in 10 separate games and averaged 29.7 FG%, 30.0 3pt%, 45.5% FT%, a total Rebound rate of 34%(73% is league average) and  amazingly managed to be even worse on the other side of the floor while posting a defensive rating of 140.7 points per 100 possessions.

That amount of sucking can’t be found this side of a porn set.  Let’s hope we never see this lineup again.


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