Yes, it’s true that Doc Rivers has had to use 18 different starting line-ups this season with the Los Angeles Clippers. (Frame of reference, Quin Snyder has used 23 for the Utah Jazz). But even with all of the injuries the Clippers have enjoyed stellar on-court production, chemistry, and co-hesion from their normal starting line-up. Chris Paul, J.J. Redick, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, Blake Griffin, and DeAndre Jordan have been killing teams this year. According to the line-up data over at NBA.com we see that this group is a +250 on the season in +/-. And that’s a +250 in just 46 games together. That’s insanely effectively.
But even with just the 46 games on hand in 2016-2017, this squad has already logged 871 minutes together. That’s the third highest value in the entire NBA after the Wizards’ John Wall, Bradley Beal, Otto Porter, Markieff Morris, and Marcin Gortat (1347 minutes); and the Timberwolves’ Ricky Rubio, Zach LaVine, Andrew Wiggins, Gorgui Dieng, and Karl-Anthony Towns (880 minutes). The next team is nearly 100 minutes behind the Clippers group, and the team after that to round out the Top 5 is 150 minutes behind LAC.
These guys know each other. They play well together. And they have been through some battles before over the last few seasons.
As a point of direct contrast the Utah Jazz really have no unit that comes close to that level of on-court chemistry. These are the Top 5 most seen Jazz units this season (again, data from NBA.com):
- George Hill, Rodney Hood, Gordon Hayward, Derrick Favors, Rudy Gobert - 152 min
- Hill, Joe Ingles, Hayward, Favors, Gobert - 149 min
- Hill, Ingles, Hayward, Joe Johnson, Gobert - 141 min
- Dante Exum, Hood, Hayward, Boris Diaw, Gobert - 128 mins
- Hill, Hood, Hayward, Diaw, Gobert - 119 mins
Those are the only squads to break 100 minutes on the season together. If you add them all up they are still behind that one group that starts for LAC in total 2016-2017 minutes.
You’re not going to beat those guys from LAC by trying to play against their strength in system. They’ve just been too together to be flustered. So I propose trying out some crazy line-ups to shake things up. This doesn’t mean start these groups, necessarily, but for 2-3 minutes here or there they could cause enough havoc to keep LAC on their toes for a bit.
Line-up 1: What should have been
According to the media notes submitted by the Jazz to NBA.com these are not the guys starting Game 1. These are the guys that we all though should be starting this season together, though. These are the “on paper” starters in all of our minds, including the front office. And the results for this group are positive. They are 11-2 when they all start together, and 12-2 when they all play at least one second on the floor together. You have two bigs to counter DeAndre and Blake. You have a defensive point guard with a 6’9.5” wingspan to try to deal with Christina. Neither Hood nor Hayward can stay with J.J. through all his screens, but they can hurt him on the other side. Or take turns with whomever isn’t being guarded by Luc at that moment.
This is a good group. This is the most used group for Quin Snyder this season. They hit threes and get to the line, while crashing the boards. More of this group please.
Line-up 2: Four out to the Max
This is like the last group, but with two substitutions. First, the streaky Hood is replaced by the more reliable Joe Ingles. Ingles is a better defender, more versatile on offense and defense, a better play maker, has much more experience, and is the best damn shooter in the league from deep. (Shut up Kyle Korver. You don’t even attempt shots anymore.) It also moves Favors to the bench in favor of Joe Johnson.
While these guys aren’t as scary as some other defensive quintets, all of the guys who are ‘four out’ can switch on defense with almost no problems. Hill is strong enough to at least slow down a power forward to the point that Rudy Gobert can come over and give help defense.
This is already the third most frequently used line-up in Snyder’s arsenal. That means people are scouting it.
Line-up 3: The Change-up
No one is scouting this one. And no, it’s not a four person line-up. It is one that goes Neto - Exum - Johnson - Joel Bolomboy - Favors; 2kmtcentral just doesn’t have a Bolomboy card to use here. The goal here was to create a line-up that could play, perhaps 90 to 240 seconds together of game action while allowing both Gordon and Rudy to rest at the same time. I also took Hill out of there just for fun to challenge myself.
Now this is a line-up that has Raul Neto in it, and he’s not healthy right now. Does this line-up work with Shelvin Mack? I don’t know. But It’s a line-up that should have very little scouting reports behind it. Neto and Exum are natural pick and roll point guards who are pass-first. They can run pick and pop with Johnson, or roll with Favors. I also see Favors getting posted up here with this group — and having Exum cut down the lane like Shandon Anderson used to do.
The ace up the sleeve is Bolomboy, who can defend three positions and doesn’t give up on the glass. Doc Rivers has nothing on this guy, so his players will be even more willing to give him wide open jumpers. And he can hit them.
Also, this line-up makes Joe Johnson the primary scorer. It’s a slower line-up, and using Johnsons’ torpor with two guys who can crash the boards and two fast guards who can run back and play defense gives this team a fast-break breaking line-up. If LAC isn’t getting easy buckets GH and RG can rest for even longer.
Line-up 4: Remember the Flex Offense?
Post up Diaw, have the other four guys revolve and rotate around his orbit. Confuse the defense. Allow them into giving up Diaw layups because they’re playing the pass and not the ball. Also, this line-up presupposed that the refs have called some BS fouls on the other guys on the team, and we’re seeing Exum have some sort of Bryon Russell -like playoff emergence on defense.
Line-up 5: “All my Children”
I can’t play six guys, so Bolomboy rests while Trey Lyles and Jeff Withey are in the game. These guys, especially my guy Alec Burks, are “all my children” and I will defend all of them to the death. Beyond death even. If these five guys are in the game things have either gone very well or very wrong. Or both. Withey gets stops, Lyles can trail on the break - but the other three guys can run like deer. They may not be able to reliably hit a three or even make a lay-up. But hey, write your own damn blog post about line-ups if you don’t like it!
Honestly, not all of these line-ups will see the light of day in this series. But when you’re facing the experience and co-hesion of the Clippers you just have to try something.