Grading Every NBA Team's Most Used Lineup so Far
At about the halfway point of the 2022-23 NBA season, it's time to take stock of how every team's most used lineup is performing.
To do so, we'll utilize the good, old-fashioned "A+ through F" grading rubric everyone knows and loves. And the marks will be every bit as objective as your high school English teacher. That is to say, they'll be entirely subjective.
Of course, we're not flying without navigation. As you'll see, the net rating—net points per 100 possessions when a given player or group of players is on the floor—of every team's most used lineup is on each slide. Individual performance of members of the lineups is accounted for too.
And to a certain degree, lineups will be graded on a curve. It might be easier for a team with little to no expectations prior to the season to get a passing grade than it would be for a group presumed to contend for a title.
So, with all of that in mind, let's get to the first semester report cards.
Trae Young, Dejounte Murray, De'Andre Hunter, John Collins and Clint Capela: +10.5 points per 100 possessions (75th percentile offense, 97th percentile defense)
There's plenty of rightful handwringing over the general state of the Atlanta Hawks. They're below .500, and rival executives don't think a trade request from Trae Young is out of the question, according to Bleacher Report's Chris Haynes.
But in terms of what's happening on the floor, the foundation is in pretty good shape. This is Atlanta's when-healthy starting five, and it's beating opponents fairly handily.
As expected, Murray has been solid in covering for Young's defensive woes. And while the division of labor between those two sometimes breaks down to a "your turn, my turn" approach, that doesn't outweigh the benefit of having this much playmaking in a lineup.
Collins is having a down year, Hunter's consistency remains a concern and Capela's offense is limited outside of the paint, but all three can convert when set up by playmakers like Young and Murray.
Marcus Smart, Derrick White, Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum and Al Horford: +13.4 points per 100 possessions (92nd percentile offense, 97th percentile defense)
For the second year in a row, the Boston Celtics have one of the game's best lineups, and it's essentially just a downsized version of the one that dominated the second half of last season.
Smart's defense and playmaking, the scoring and switchability of Brown and Tatum and the general fill-in-the-gaps game of Horford were in the 2021-22 lineup. The difference is a boost in playmaking and perimeter defense that White provides in place of Robert Williams III.
This group can create and shoot from all five positions (something most other teams aspire to) and can switch 1 through 5 on the other end.
Ben Simmons, Kyrie Irving, Royce O'Neale, Kevin Durant, Nic Claxton: +3.1 points per 100 possessions (66th percentile offense, 65th percentile defense)
With Simmons seemingly giving up on scoring altogether, the Brooklyn Nets have a lineup that's well-tailored to the high-volume attacks of Irving and Durant.
The three role players (Simmons, O'Neale and Claxton) are all happy to play ancillary roles and funnel most of the shots to the stars. And those two have lived up to their top billing.
The numbers, though, show that this group is sort of a ho-hum, just-above-average unit, which isn't good enough for a lineup that has three players making at least $35 million this season.
Getting no shooting from both the point guard and center is a tough hole to dig out of, even for KD and Kyrie. And while Claxton is playing like a top-30 to -40 player, he's part of why this group gets destroyed on the boards.
Terry Rozier, Jalen McDaniels, Kelly Oubre Jr., P.J. Washington and Mason Plumlee: +3.3 points per 100 possessions (11th percentile offense, 98th percentile defense)
The fact that this group is struggling on offense probably isn't all that surprising. Their domination on the other end might be until you consider some of the factors at play.
At positions 2 through 4, McDaniels, Oubre and Washington have plenty of length and switchability. Rozier is undersized at 6'1", but his aggression helps the Charlotte Hornets force a lot of turnovers. Plumlee is better than people give him credit for on the perimeter and always plays hard (the most important ingredient for any defender).
If he'd been healthy for more of the season, LaMelo Ball would certainly be in this team's most used lineup, but he'd likely detract from the high-end defense too.
Ayo Dosunmu, Zach LaVine, DeMar DeRozan, Patrick Williams and Nikola Vučević: -2.0 points per 100 possessions (24th percentile offense, 64th percentile defense)
This lineup has three multi-time All-Stars, two players averaging over 23 points (LaVine and DeRozan) and one player averaging double-figure rebounds (Vučević).
But an unwise shot profile—this group takes way too many mid-range jumpers—little to no offensive rebounding, too few trips to the line and the absence of a point guard like the injured Lonzo Ball (knee) contribute to this lineup being way below average on offense.
They deserve some credit for playing solid defense despite having at least three players (LaVine, DeRozan and Vučević) with shaky reputations on that end, but it's not good enough to overcome the inefficient scoring.
Darius Garland, Donovan Mitchell, Lamar Stevens, Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen: -3.1 points per 100 possessions (67th percentile offense, 12th percentile defense)
This lineup has a blistering 61.7 effective field-goal percentage that ranks in the 99th percentile. With the shooting of Mitchell and Garland and the rim-running abilities of Mobley and Allen, that mark may be easy to buy.
But it doesn't make up for the dreadful defense that's almost certainly a product of Mitchell's and Garland's lack of size (both are 6'1").
Any lineup that features both Mobley and Allen should at least be passable on that end of the floor, but this one is surrendering a ton of threes and giving up an effective field-goal percentage that isn't far off from the one the Cleveland Cavaliers have on the other end.
Luka Dončić, Spencer Dinwiddie, Tim Hardaway Jr., Reggie Bullock and Christian Wood: -0.8 points per 100 possessions (74th percentile offense, 20th percentile defense)
That number isn't great, especially for a team many fancy a contender, but there's also a pretty simple fix that supercharges it. When Dončić, Dinwiddie, Hardaway and Wood are on the floor without Bullock, that net rating skyrockets to plus-14.8.
Of course, that's on a much smaller sample size, but the result is pretty predictable. Bullock's three-point attempt rate is way above-average, while his three-point percentage is way below. Removing that from the equation gives Dallas an attack that would rank in the 99th percentile.
Even a lineup without a dominant defense is good enough when you're putting up a staggering 126.5 points per 100 possessions.
Jamal Murray, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Michael Porter Jr., Aaron Gordon and Nikola Jokić: +16.4 points per 100 possessions (97th percentile offense, 97th percentile defense)
There may not be another lineup in the NBA that's more talented and better balanced than the Denver Nuggets' starting five.
There's an abundance of shooting from Murray, KCP, MPJ and Jokić. Even Gordon is above-average from the outside this season, but his greater contribution is the balance he provides by playing bully ball inside.
Defensively, the length of Gordon and Porter can cause problems for opposing forwards. Caldwell-Pope has had the reputation of a plus perimeter defender for years. Murray is stouter than given credit for on that end.
And of course, tying everything together on both ends is the responsibility of the two-time reigning MVP, who once again leads the league in estimated plus-minus.
Cade Cunningham, Jaden Ivey, Bojan Bogdanović, Saddiq Bey and Isaiah Stewart: -6.3 points per 100 possessions (58th percentile offense, 5th percentile defense)
This is actually the final report card for this group, since Cunningham underwent a season-ending surgery on his shin in mid-December.
In theory, it's a lineup that should be able to space the floor around Ivey's slashing. In practice, Cunningham has been nowhere near the shooter he was billed as coming out of college (his career three-point percentage is 30.9), and Stewart and Bey are both hovering below-average from deep.
This group having an offense ranked in the 58th percentile is really a testament to Bogdanović, who averages 20.0 points per 75 possessions with a red-hot 66.1 true shooting percentage when sharing the floor with these four.
Grade: D (because they probably couldn't have been expected to be any better than the Mavs lineup)
Golden State Warriors
Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Andrew Wiggins, Draymond Green and Kevon Looney: +21.4 points per 100 possessions (100th percentile offense, 95th percentile defense)
This lineup has the talent and balance mentioned on the Nuggets slide, plus doses of continuity and championship experience that Denver doesn't have.
We've watched and analyzed the interplay between Curry, Thompson and Green for over a decade now. They know one another as well as any trio in the league. The more recent additions of Wiggins and Looney (recent at least in terms to the experience the other three have together) are clearly additive.
Golden State turned Wiggins into a bona fide three-and-D forward and essentially a supercharged version of what Harrison Barnes was for the Warriors early in the dynasty. And Looney provides relentless defense, rebounding and unselfishness.
Kevin Porter Jr., Jalen Green, Eric Gordon, Jabari Smith Jr. and Alperen Şengün: -10.3 points per 100 possessions (11th percentile offense, 14th percentile defense)
Yes, we said there'd be some leeway for teams that weren't expected to win much this season, but the players in this lineup have looked disconnected from one another on offense and uninterested on defense for too much of this season.
And that net rating is more than enough evidence of that.
The more concerning issue for a lineup this young is that it doesn't seem to be getting any better.
Ideally, between now and the end of the season, we'll see less seemingly aimless dribbling from Green, better shot selection from him and Porter, more committed defense from Smith and Şengün and maybe a tad more optimism from Gordon (assuming he isn't dealt by the Feb. 9 deadline).
Tyrese Haliburton, Andrew Nembhard, Buddy Hield, Aaron Nesmith and Myles Turner: -2.9 points per 100 possessions (67th percentile offense, 14th percentile defense)
There's a lot to like about this group's offense. With Haliburton at the controls, Hield, Turner and Nembhard all shoot 40-plus percent from three while all five of the above players are on the floor.
Hield in particular is a dynamic weapon when surrounded by the other four. When playing in this lineup, he averages 23.6 points and an almost Curry-like 4.8 threes per 75 possessions while posting a 65.4 true shooting percentage.
On the other end, though, Turner is doing all he can, but opposing shooters are lighting up Indiana's defense.
Los Angeles Clippers
Reggie Jackson, Paul George, Kawhi Leonard, Marcus Morris Sr. and Ivica Zubac: +4.7 points per 100 possessions (51st percentile offense, 91st percentile defense)
The Los Angeles Clippers are stretching the concept of load management as thin as they possibly can without forfeiting a shot at the playoffs, so we haven't had many chances to see this group in action.
And when it is on the floor, it's probably not quite as dominant as you might expect a lineup with Kawhi and PG to be.
After missing all of last season recovering from a torn ACL, Kawhi needs on-court reps to adjust to and develop chemistry with his teammates (and vice versa), and L.A. has punted a bunch of those.
The flip side of this is that the group is already comfortably in the black even without that chemistry. Once that's fostered, this team might start to look like a contender again.
Los Angeles Lakers
Dennis Schröder, Patrick Beverley, Lonnie Walker IV, LeBron James and Thomas Bryant: -12.7 points per 100 possessions (0th percentile offense, 76th percentile defense)
Why yes, that's a "zeroth" you see there. Glad you asked.
Offensively, this lineup is a mess, but the bigger takeaways here might be just how devastated this team has been by Anthony Davis' injuries and the acquisition of Patrick Beverley.
The net rating above is dreadful, but L.A. is plus-8.0 points per 100 possessions when LeBron and AD play without Bev.
Fortunately, it's still early enough for head coach Darvin Ham to course correct upon the return of Davis (which could happen soon).
Ja Morant, John Konchar, Dillon Brooks, Jaren Jackson Jr. and Steven Adams: +14.2 points per 100 possessions (82nd percentile offense, 99th percentile defense)
With the constant pressure Morant puts on opposing defenses, shooters like Konchar, Brooks and JJJ get plenty of open looks within this lineup, while Adams is able to bully would-be rebounders who are out of position trying to scramble to Morant.
Like the lineups of the Nuggets and Warriors, this one checks just about every box, though the lack of three-point shooting from Morant and Adams probably limits the offensive ceiling more than those of the other two.
What's scary for the rest of the league is that this is only Memphis' most-used lineup because Desmond Bane missed about half of the season with an injury.
Swap him in for Konchar, and the net rating skyrockets to plus-21.4, a mark that would certainly warrant a plus sign the end of this grade.
Kyle Lowry, Tyler Herro, Jimmy Butler, Caleb Martin and Bam Adebayo: +9.4 points per 100 possessions (58th percentile offense, 98th percentile defense)
It's probably not that surprising to see an Erik Spoelstra-coached lineup with Butler and Bam dominate on defense.
With those two, the versatility of Martin and the headiness of Lowry, there's more than enough talent and grit on that end to overcome any shortcomings Herro might have. And even he's close to the middle of the league in defensive estimated plus-minus this season.
Of course, this group takes a bit of a report-card hit for being just above-average on offense. Butler and Adebayo can both be categorized as non-three-point shooters. Even Lowry, who takes 6.5 threes per game, is converting them at a well-below-average clip. And in today's game, it's tough to dig yourself out of that kind of hole.
Jrue Holiday, Jevon Carter, Grayson Allen, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Brook Lopez: +16.9 points per 100 possessions (52nd percentile offense, 100th percentile defense)
There has been some consternation among media and Milwaukee Bucks fans over the absence of Khris Middleton for all but seven games this season, but the starting lineup they deployed for most of the first 20 contests was one of the game's best.
With both Holiday and Carter on the floor, this group has some of the most tenacious perimeter defense in the league. Back that up with Lopez protecting the rim and Giannis playing free safety, and it's no wonder that this lineup is producing a 100th percentile defense.
Of course, Giannis' high volume of attempts and average effective field-goal percentage leave some heavy lifting on the shooting front for Holiday, Allen and Lopez. Hence, the middling offense of this group.
With a defense this dominant, though, you can justify middling on the other end.
D'Angelo Russell, Anthony Edwards, Jaden McDaniels, Karl-Anthony Towns and Rudy Gobert: +5.4 points per 100 possessions (19th percentile offense, 98th percentile defense)
Seemingly every NBA fan, analyst and their dog (or cat, as the case may be) is eager to take a victory lap over the failure of the Gobert experiment with the Minnesota Timberwolves, but these numbers suggest there's still a glimmer of hope.
Even with a lineup that includes a pair of notoriously bad defenders like Russell and Towns, Edwards, McDaniels and Gobert have been good enough on that end to produce a plainly dominant defense.
Now, the offense, of course, is a different story. And Gobert's fit with everyone in that regard has been clunky at best. Without forfeiting some time and touches near the rim for Edwards and Towns, there may be no fixing that.
New Orleans Pelicans
CJ McCollum, Brandon Ingram, Herbert Jones, Zion Williamson and Jonas Valančiūnas: +10.1 points per 100 possessions (94th percentile offense, 83rd percentile defense)
This may be the New Orleans Pelicans' most used lineup, but injuries (particularly to Ingram) have severely limited the amount of time it's had on the floor.
Still, in the 232 possessions it has been deployed, it's clear this is a group that can dominate on both ends of the floor.
On offense, Zion can get to and score at the rim better than most players in league history. McCollum and Ingram bring balance with their jump shooting. And even Valančiūnas has stretches of brilliance as a post scorer.
On the other end, the athleticism, length and switchability of Jones, Williamson and Ingram make this defense more versatile than expected and good enough to cover for some of the issues McCollum and Valančiūnas have.
New York Knicks
Jalen Brunson, Quentin Grimes, RJ Barrett, Julius Randle and Mitchell Robinson: +11.0 points per 100 possessions (98th percentile offense, 56th percentile defense)
The New York Knicks' season flipped when head coach Tom Thibodeau finally put Grimes in the starting five for Evan Fournier. This same group, with the latter in place of the former, is minus-8.8 points per 100 possessions.
The steady shooting, unselfishness and Swiss army knife defense of Grimes have lifted the Knicks on both ends and freed up some of the other fixtures in this lineup to chase more buckets.
With Brunson, Randle and Barrett averaging a combined 60-plus points per game, there's plenty of scoring here. Grimes and the rim protection provided by Robinson give New York just enough on the other end.
Oklahoma City Thunder
Josh Giddey, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Jalen Williams, Luguentz Dort and Aleksej Pokusevski: -24.5 points per 100 possessions (3rd percentile offense, 0th percentile defense)
This one's tricky. The Oklahoma City Thunder have exceeded expectations this season, but they're still technically in a rebuild (even if it's the late stages of one).
That means a lot of lineup experimentation, which is why this is the only group that barely cracks 200 possessions played (and why it hasn't played much more than their second-most used lineup).
That makes it a little tougher to analyze, but there's at least one thing that stands out. If you add just one veteran to this mix (in this case, Mike Muscala in place of Poku), the net rating skyrockets to plus-23.1.
Playing Pokusevski is understandable. The 21-year-old needs on-court reps to develop, but the floor spacing Muscala provides in a lineup with Giddey, SGA and Williams' playmaking is huge. And even if there aren't a ton of plus defenders outside of Dort, just the size of a lineup with Giddey (6'8"), SGA (6'6") and Williams (6'6") can cause some problems for opponents.
Markelle Fultz, Franz Wagner, Paolo Banchero, Bol Bol and Moritz Wagner: -4.8 points per 100 possessions (10th percentile offense, 63rd percentile defense)
Wendell Carter Jr. missing just over a month from mid-November to mid-December has something to do with this lineup being featured, but the gap in playing time between it and No. 2 could take a while to erase.
And at least on the defensive end, where an abundance of length comes in handy, this group has actually developed some pretty good chemistry. Fultz is the shortest player here at 6'3", but his wingspan is 6'9". The tallest player, Bol Bol, is 7'2". The athleticism and switchability between those two have the potential to be nightmarish.
Of course, that number above for the offense is ugly, but it can probably be explained away with the absence of Carter. In the 700-plus possessions he's played with Franz and Banchero (regardless of who the last two spots go to), Orlando is plus-7.9 points per 100 possessions with an 84th percentile offense.
James Harden, De'Anthony Melton, Tobias Harris, P.J. Tucker and Joel Embiid: +13.6 points per 100 possessions (99th percentile offense, 77th percentile defense)
The Philadelphia 76ers may have a bit of an awkward situation on their hands. Tyrese Maxey is one of their best and most intriguing young players, but the starters' net rating is slightly better when he's replaced by Melton.
And, surprisingly enough, offense is the driving force behind that difference.
With more of a catch-and-shoot option in that spot, more ball-handling and time of possession is reserved for Philadelphia's top two players, Harden and Embiid. Surrounding those two with three players who know they're just out there for support—like Melton, Harris and Tucker—might give Philly a higher ceiling.
Cameron Payne, Devin Booker, Mikal Bridges, Torrey Craig and Deandre Ayton: -0.4 points per 100 possessions (68th percentile offense, 27th percentile defense)
This obviously isn't the lineup the Phoenix Suns intended to be their most used when the season started. Injuries and the still-hard-to-wrap-your-head-around holdout of Jae Crowder have devastated this team.
The two players conspicuously absent from this group are Chris Paul and Cameron Johnson. And when Booker played with those two in 2021-22, Phoenix was plus-12.8 points per 100 possessions.
Plugging Payne and Craig into those spots has simply put too much stress on the rest of the lineup, particularly on the defensive end.
Better rim protection from Ayton would help on that front. Reversing a slip (at least according to estimated plus-minus) in Bridges' defense would be good too.
Portland Trail Blazers
Damian Lillard, Anfernee Simons, Josh Hart, Jerami Grant and Jusuf Nurkić: +3.5 points per 100 possessions (75th percentile offense, 58th percentile defense)
The Portland Trail Blazers are under .500 and battling for a spot to simply make the play-in tournament.
Blaming the bench for those troubles is easy enough, given this lineup's positive plus-minus, but the five above don't get off the hook that easy.
There should be enough offensive talent here to produce an attack that ranks higher than the 75th percentile, but achieving that may take a bit more focus and commitment.
This lineup struggles to take care of the ball, which might have as much to do with Nurkić and Hart as it does Lillard and Simons. The frontcourt, especially Grant, can probably give a little more on the offensive boards too.
De'Aaron Fox, Kevin Huerter, Keegan Murray, Harrison Barnes and Domantas Sabonis: +11.1 points per 100 possessions (94th percentile offense, 89th percentile defense)
The Sacramento Kings continue to be one of the best stories in the league this season, and their starting lineup is one of the biggest reasons why.
With Fox and Sabonis operating and creating for everyone from the middle of the floor, the shooters (Huerter, Murray and Barnes) are getting plenty of good looks from all over.
And the length and switchability of those three have given this group a better-than-expected defense too.
San Antonio Spurs
Tre Jones, Keldon Johnson, Devin Vassell, Jeremy Sochan and Jakob Poeltl: +0.9 points per 100 possessions (25th percentile offense, 86th percentile defense)
For a team trending toward top-five lottery odds, the San Antonio Spurs having their most used lineup in the black is a bit of a surprise.
When you look at the individual players and how they balance one another out, though, it's a little easier to understand.
Jones is a sure-handed old-school point who gets everyone organized and involved. Johnson and Vassell provide scoring and floor spacing. Sochan is a defensive-minded utility man. And Poeltl is an underrated creator (with his offensive rebounding and passing) and rim protector who can cover for a lot of deficiencies from the rest of the lineup.
Fred VanVleet, Gary Trent Jr., OG Anunoby, Scottie Barnes and Pascal Siakam: +5.4 points per 100 possessions (91st percentile offense, 44th percentile defense)
Like Portland, the Toronto Raptors are below .500 with a starting five that's comfortably winning its minutes (though not dominating them).
The bigger issue for Toronto, though, is defense.
The Raptors' insistence on and pursuit of positionless basketball that allows them to switch everything on defense is interesting (maybe even admirable), but it might also be inadvertently proving the value of rim protection.
Anunoby, Barnes and Siakam can put a lot of pressure on opposing frontcourts on the perimeter, but they offer little resistance inside. And as valuable as VanVleet's and Trent's volume shooting is, their lack of size on the other end might be another factor frustrating the positionless philosophy.
Mike Conley, Jordan Clarkson, Lauri Markkanen, Jarred Vanderbilt and Kelly Olynyk: -0.7 points per 100 possessions (42nd percentile offense, 55th percentile defense)
The Utah Jazz are 11-20 since their 10-3 start, and struggles from the starting lineup are a contributing factor in that slide.
Defensively, Conley (6'1") and Clarkson (6'4") are undersized. And there isn't really any rim protection to cover for them. But, surprisingly enough, this group's bigger problem is on the other end.
After a red-hot start to the season, Clarkson and Conley both have below-average effective field-goal percentages. Despite the presence of Vanderbilt, the whole group struggles to grab offensive boards. And this lineup has one of the lowest free-throw-attempt rates of any in this slideshow.
Essentially, it's just the shooting of Markkanen and Olynyk keeping this group near average on offense.
Monte Morris, Bradley Beal, Deni Avdija, Kyle Kuzma and Kristaps Porziņģis: +14.7 points per 100 possessions (97th percentile offense, 93rd percentile defense)
There's still plenty of time for the Washington Wizards to secure a spot in the play-in tournament (or even push for the top six), but any potential climb will likely depend on the health of this starting five.
Like others detailed above, this lineup wins its minutes in large part because of great balance.
Morris is a reliable old-school point guard, and Avdija is a gap-filling defender and underrated passer. And their willingness to thrive in smaller roles allows Beal, Kuzma and Porziņģis to focus on scoring.
Lineup data courtesy of Cleaning the Glass and current heading into play Jan. 13, 2023.