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Lineups!

People are still crazy about them! We last talked about them in this space Jan. 24, a couple of weeks before the trade deadline. Looking back now, what a foolish endeavor to throw these lineups out there without truly considering how many of them would change once the trade deadline swept through the NBA like the Santa Ana winds trying to cool off all of the hot air in Los Angeles being spouted about whether or not the Lakers can get it together for the playoffs. Several of the promising and questionable lineups for each team that I threw out there a couple of months ago just don’t exist or simply aren’t relevant anymore. Such is life.

As we get ready for the final playoff push, I wanted to revisit them one more time: Update the ones that held strong through the transaction season, discuss the ones that can no longer play together and replace them with something to consider in the new roster construction. These lineups can be reasons a team finds extended success or continues to falter. They can provide hope for the future. And it’s just interesting to a lot of us to see the combinations that work for certain coaches or teams.

Once again, we’ve got a promising lineup and a questionable lineup for each squad. We’ll take a look at the hope and potential despair if it exists for them. And, of course, we’re ranking these teams 1-30.

Just a reminder, the Power Rankings this season don’t just rank the 30 teams. We’ve divided these teams up into tiers, which any of the teams can move in and out of all season long. Since we’re near the end of the season, we’re altering the final two tiers in the Power Rankings. Here are the six tiers that teams can fall into:

  • Eliminated – Self-explanatory. They officially, mathematically, and legally are out of the playoff race.
  • On the brink of elimination – Hanging by a thread as the inevitable approaches.
  • Play-In Tournament gives them life – Normally, this team would be headed toward Tank-a-palooza, but the Play-In Tournament is keeping them alive.
  • Playoff hopefuls – Too good to be firmly considered a Play-In Tournament team, but not good enough to really make noise in the postseason.
  • On the brink of contention – A piece away from believing they can win the title.
  • Contender – Self-explanatory.
  • As always, I am sure we will all agree on the placement of all 30 teams, especially your favorite team.

    Here’s how the Power Rankings work:

  • It’s up to my discretion how the rankings shake out each week. For some teams, they’ll be hit in the short term. Others will be given the benefit for the long term. Yes, it is entirely subjective.
  • I do not believe in the transitive property with these teams. If Team X beats Team Y and Team Y beats Team Z, it doesn’t mean Team X is automatically better than Team Z. 
  • If I have a team ahead of another team, there’s no reason to ask why they’re ranked above the team you like. The answer is pretty simple: I think that team is set up better for success.
  • Yes, I watch the games. And yes, I watch your favorite team.
  • Only 15 teams will be deemed worthy of a GIF or video each week. That’s to limit how much we eat up your data and computer’s processor.
  • This is supposed to be fun, so let’s have fun with it. 
  • The Athletic’s NBA Power Rankings for the 2021-22 season, Week 24! Let’s update those lineups we checked out back in late January!

    Tier 1: The Contenders

    1. Phoenix Suns (Previously 1st), 61-14, +8.5 net rating

    Weekly slate: Win at Wolves, Win at Nuggets, Win over Sixers

    Promising lineup: Chris Paul | Devin Booker | Mikal Bridges | Jae Crowder | JaVale McGee
    Last time we checked: 116 minutes | +19.8 net rating
    Updated numbers: 124 minutes | +18.5 net rating

    At the time, this lineup sans Deandre Ayton with McGee replacing him really intrigued me. But due to some injuries (mostly Paul), we haven’t seen it much since I wrote about it in late January. Let’s find a new lineup for the promising angle. Instead of trying to find some obscure but impressive lineup for the Phoenix Suns here, let’s just go with their main lineup of Paul, Booker, Bridges, Crowder and Ayton. Despite CP3’s injury, this is the most used lineup of the past two months. Monty Williams has run it out there for 215 minutes during that time, and it outscores opponents by 14.0 points per 100 possessions. Complete domination. That moves it to +7.6 per 100 possessions on the season in 659 minutes.

    Questionable lineup: Chris Paul | Landry Shamet | Mikal Bridges | Jae Crowder | JaVale McGee |
    Last time we checked: 31 minutes | -9.5 net rating
    Updated numbers: 31 minutes | -9.5 net rating

    No movement on this lineup so we’ll find a new one here too. CP3, Book, Bridges, Cam Johnson and Bismack Biyombo. They’ve played this lineup 87 minutes this season (fifth-most used), and it’s one of the few negative lineups they have. It gets outscored by 1.7 points per 100 possessions, and the reason for that is shocking. This lineup hasn’t defended well at all. Maybe it’s still a lack of familiarity with Biyombo, even though he’s been excellent since they picked him up. But it gives up 118.0 points per 100 possessions. It doesn’t really make any sense. This lineup should have enough to at least be competitive on that end of the floor.

    GIF ON THE BEAT: 

    2. Memphis Grizzlies (Previously 4th), 52-23, +5.6 net rating 

    Weekly slate: Win over Nets, Win over Pacers, Win over Bucks

    Promising lineup: Ja Morant | Dillon Brooks | Desmond Bane | Jaren Jackson Jr. | Steven Adams
    Last time we checked: 74 minutes | +17.9 net rating
    Updated numbers: 96 minutes | +22.4 net rating

    This is the lineup the Memphis Grizzlies want to be able to deploy when it gets to the tough time of the postseason. They haven’t been able to play it much due to injuries to Brooks and Morant. Brooks is back, and the Grizzlies look like they haven’t missed a beat with bringing him back onto the court. But just as we were getting this lineup again, Morant has to miss time, and it may not even be worth it to bring him back during the regular season. The Grizzlies have all but locked up the No. 2 seed. This lineup, in its few minutes on the floor this season, has been dominant. They’ve completely locked up opponents defensively. The Grizzlies are for real, and this lineup will hopefully be there in the postseason to tell everybody about it.

    Questionable lineup: Ja Morant | Desmond Bane | Kyle Anderson | Jaren Jackson Jr. | Steven Adams
    Last time we checked: 48 minutes | -20.3 net rating
    Updated numbers: 58 minutes | -19.1 net rating

    The Grizzlies are so good that I have to nitpick with this lineup because there just isn’t a lot of lineup data in which you can really poke holes. This lineup in particular? I’m not sure if we’ll see it the rest of the season or even in the playoffs. Morant and Kyle Anderson do tend to play at different paces, so I can see why it wouldn’t totally line up to have them on the floor together. Maybe not to this extreme. But the reason this lineup fails is because it gets shredded defensively. Ultimately, I just assume this is a small sample size at play.

    3. Milwaukee Bucks (Previously 2nd), 46-28, +3.6 net rating

    Weekly slate: Win over Bulls, Win over Wizards, Loss at Grizzlies

    Promising lineup: Jrue Holiday | Grayson Allen | Khris Middleton | Giannis Antetokounmpo | Bobby Portis
    Last time we checked: 158 minutes | +2.2 net rating
    Updated numbers: 331 minutes | +6.4 net rating

    The Milwaukee Bucks have had so many absences throughout this season that this is the only lineup they’ve played with extended minutes. There isn’t a single lineup outside of this one with more than 54 minutes of action together. What we’ve seen with this lineup since late January is they’ve really been able to extend it from being good to being much more dominant. That’s what you expect from the defending champs. Over the past two months, this Bucks lineup has outscored opponents by 10.1 points per 100 possessions, and it has a true shooting of nearly 65 percent. This lineup just can’t be stopped on offense most nights. We’ll see how things look as they work Brook Lopez back, but this is a reliable lineup for them and then some.

    Questionable lineup: George Hill | Grayson Allen | Pat Connaughton | Khris Middleton | Giannis Antetokounmpo
    Last time we checked: 53 minutes | -11.3 net rating
    Updated numbers: 53 minutes | -11.3 net rating

    Again, there isn’t a ton of lineup data for the Bucks where it feels we can truly extrapolate a whole lot. This is one of the most used lineups on the season, and it hasn’t played in the past two months. For the Bucks, they still have some depth issues on the wings, but they’ve pretty much solved any interior depth concerns. Even if Lopez can’t come back to 100 percent or a prominent role, Portis has been willing to do whatever is asked for his changing role, and Serge Ibaka is a steady presence they hope can mirror some of what PJ Tucker did for them last season.

    GIF ON THE BEAT:

    4. Boston Celtics (Previously 5th), 47-28, +6.9 net rating

    Weekly slate: Win at Thunder, Win over Jazz, Win over Wolves

    Promising lineup: Marcus Smart | Jaylen Brown | Jayson Tatum | Al Horford | Robert Williams III
    Last time we checked: 160 minutes | +17.8 net rating
    Updated numbers: 443 minutes | +24.6 net rating

    Since the last time we checked in on this lineup for the Boston Celtics, they have pushed things to a new level of dominance. The Celtics have to be considered contenders at this point, simply because of their defense. This lineup over the past two months has outscored opponents by 28.3 points per 100 possessions in 282 minutes. The continuity and the defensive execution of this lineup are through the roof. They’ve held opponents to 95.1 points per 100 possessions in this stretch, which is the equivalent of being squeezed by two anacondas. The Celtics are 19-2 in their last 21 games in which this lineup has hit the floor. Nobody wants to operate against this lineup at all. It’s so good that it wouldn’t shock me to see it carry them to the NBA Finals.

    Questionable lineup: Marcus Smart | Dennis Schröder | Jayson Tatum | Al Horford | Robert Williams III
    Last time we checked: 103 minutes | -17.0 net rating
    Updated numbers: 103 minutes | -17.0 net rating

    Schröder is gone, and this lineup hasn’t been seen since that last checkup. So let’s do some nitpicking to find any kind of flaw in the Celtics in the last two months. What about the lineup of Marcus Smart, Derrick White, Jaylen Brown, Grant Williams and Robert Williams III? This is one of the few combinations Ime Udoka has put together that doesn’t defend well. It’s giving up 124.5 points per 100 possessions and giving up nearly a 40 percent offensive rebounding rate. It’s just unacceptable. It’s also 43 minutes of floor time, so I’m not sure how much we can even believe in this small sample. The Celtics are just flat-out elite.

    UPDATE: On Monday, morning The Athletic’s Shams Charania reported there is real concern Robert Williams III suffered a meniscus tear. If so, the Celtics probably will lose a DPOY candidate for the playoff run and would have to rely on an Al Horford-Daniel Theis combo.

    5. Philadelphia 76ers (Previously 7th), 46-28, +2.4 net rating

    Weekly slate: Win over Heat, Win at Lakers, Win at Clippers, Loss at Suns

    Promising lineup: Tyrese Maxey | Seth Curry | Danny Green | Tobias Harris | Joel Embiid
    Last time we checked: 221 minutes | +11.7 net rating
    Updated numbers: 250 minutes | +8.2 net rating

    Obviously none of this lineup stuff from late January matters because it was prior to the James Harden trade. So let’s take a look at the Philadelphia 76ers lineups since the deadline. Their most used lineup in this time has been James Harden, Tyrese Maxey, Matisse Thybulle, Tobias Harris and Joel Embiid. Doc Rivers has played this lineup 230 minutes already. It’s +20.3 points per 100 possessions. It’s entirely dominant on both ends of the floor. The Sixers are 10-4 in the 14 games they’ve played this lineup. Sure, some of it has come against lesser competition (couple of games against the Knicks), but it’s so dominant in a large enough sample size that the rest of the East has to be praying that infamous Harden playoff implosion carries over to this team.

    Questionable lineup: Tyrese Maxey | Seth Curry | Matisse Thybulle | Tobias Harris | Joel Embiid
    Last time we checked: 202 minutes | -11.6 net rating
    Updated numbers: 256 minutes | -10.6 net rating

    Let’s find another questionable lineup, and it’s not hard to spot one. The second most-used lineup for the Sixers since the trade is the Maxey-Thybulle-Harris-Embiid quartet with Green in there instead of Harden. It’s only 37 minutes so it needs to come with some big grains of salt, but the Sixers have been destroyed with this lineup on the floor. It’s -24.3 per 100 possessions, and it just can’t score or defend. It relies too much on Embiid getting to the free-throw line, and a lineup of mostly good shooters can’t seem to find the bottom of the net. I’d never expect that lineup to fail to break 100 points per 100 possessions on offense, so hopefully more time together means it can start hitting some shots.

    GIF ON THE BEAT:

    6. Miami Heat (Previously 3rd), 47-28, +4.0 net rating

    Weekly slate: Loss at Sixers, Loss to Warriors, Loss to Knicks, Loss to Nets

    Promising lineup: Kyle Lowry | Jimmy Butler | Duncan Robinson | P.J. Tucker | Bam Adebayo
    Last time we checked: 185 minutes | +8.6 net rating
    Updated numbers: 398 minutes | +12.8 net rating

    I’ve got good news and bad news for the Miami Heat. The good news is this Heat lineup has been unreal over the past two months. In 237 minutes, this Heat lineup since late January has outscored opponents by 15.7 points per 100 possessions. They barely give up 100 points per 100 possessions, and this lineup has just expanded on what was already a pretty dominating quintet for Erik Spoelstra to throw on the floor. The bad news is nobody is focusing on the good right now with the latest four-game spiral. The Heat had three really bad losses in a row to Philly (without its best players), Golden State (without its best players) and the Knicks (who are still the Knicks). Then Brooklyn came in there and pounced on them. The Heat need to stop the spiral and get back to doing what this lineup has done.

    Questionable lineup: Tyler Herro | Jimmy Butler | Duncan Robinson | P.J. Tucker | Bam Adebayo
    Last time we checked: 55 minutes | -14.6 net rating
    Updated numbers: 112 minutes | +5.4 net rating

    Here’s some more good news. This lineup truly figured things out the last couple months. They went from being completely dominated in its first 55 minutes together to destroying opponents by 24.2 points per 100 possessions over the last 57 minutes of court time. The offense of this lineup clicks the way you’d hope it would. They rarely turn the ball over and do a great job of making shots, so we’re seeing a nearly 3:1 assist-to-turnover ratio. The Heat will need this lineup a lot if they want to be successful in the postseason. When Herro can be a lead guard for them with the floor spread, a lot of good things tend to happen this season.

    Tier 2: Brink of Contention

    7. Dallas Mavericks (Previously 8th), 46-29, +2.8 net rating

    Weekly slate: Win over Wolves, Win over Rockets, Loss at Wolves, Win over Jazz

    Promising lineup: Luka Doncic | Jalen Brunson | Tim Hardaway Jr. | Dorian Finney-Smith | Dwight Powell
    Last time we checked: 95 minutes | +11.8 net rating
    Updated numbers: 95 minutes | +12.3 net rating

    Right after we published the Power Rankings with these lineups in late January, Hardaway broke his foot, and he hasn’t been back since, so there isn’t any update on the lineup data in this case. Let’s find a new promising lineup for the surging Dallas Mavericks under Jason Kidd. And let’s look at it since their Christmas Day loss, which is when this turnaround started. Their most used lineup (216 minutes) in this time has Doncic, Brunson, Reggie Bullock, Finney-Smith and Powell. This has been a really good lineup for them. It’s actually not very good defensively (113.2), which is different from most of why Dallas has been winning. But offensively, it reminds us of the Mavs from a couple years ago. They’re playing slow, barely turning the ball over and picking apart opposing defenses for 122.7 points per 100 possessions. Kidd would like more competition from their defense, but this is a pretty good balance for them.

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    Questionable lineup: Luka Doncic | Tim Hardaway Jr. | Dorian Finney-Smith | Kristaps Porzingis | Dwight Powell
    Last time we checked: 103 minutes | -17.1 net rating
    Updated numbers: 103 minutes | -17.1 net rating

    Porzingis is gone, and Spencer Dinwiddie is in. But I want to focus on a tweak to the lineup I broke down above. Remove Bullock from that lineup and let’s go more traditional with Maxi Kleber in there. This lineup has been getting torched for the Mavs. Second most-used lineup since Christmas Day, and it’s giving up over 117 points per 100 possessions. It isn’t scoring well at all, showing a lot of the droughts we’ve seen from them in the first part of the season. At some point, they’ll need this lineup against bigger frontcourts in the playoffs. They can’t get shredded like this. They have to compete.

    GIF ON THE BEAT: 

    8. Brooklyn Nets (Previously 10th), 39-36, +0.4 net rating

    Weekly slate: Win over Jazz, Loss at Grizzlies, Win at Heat, Loss to Hornets

    Promising lineup: James Harden | Patty Mills | DeAndre’ Bembry | Kevin Durant | LaMarcus Aldridge
    Last time we checked: 94 minutes | +8.3 net rating
    Updated numbers: 94 minutes | +8.3 net rating

    Obviously none of this data matters because Harden got himself traded and Bembry isn’t on the team anymore either. The lineup we’re going to see the most from the Nets moving forward (assuming Ben Simmons’ back doesn’t get better in time) is Durant, Kyrie Irving, Seth Curry, Bruce Brown and the rejuvenated Andre Drummond. It’s only played 64 minutes together on the season, and it’s -5.2 per 100 possessions. It was actually +6.5 per 100 prior to the loss on Sunday to Charlotte, and then they got killed in the 14 minutes they were on the floor. It just goes to show you these teams with so many players in and out of the lineup are really hard to find good data for. Sometimes it just comes down to, “I’ll take KD and some dudes” to win and live with my risk here.

    Questionable lineup: James Harden | Bruce Brown | Joe Harris | Kevin Durant | Blake Griffin
    Last time we checked: 171 minutes | +5.1 net rating
    Updated numbers: 171 minutes | +5.1 net rating

    As you can probably surmise, there isn’t a lot of useful lineup data for this Nets team, so let’s just talk a bit about the threat of the Nets. At what point do people stop saying, “Yeah, but they’re only in the Play-In Tournament” when it comes to discounting their potential for turning the Eastern Conference on its head? It’s not that this team’s plan is foolproof, but at a certain point, we have to give this possible No. 8 seed the same understanding as some team like the 1999 New York Knicks. Low playoff seed because of injuries isn’t the same as a low playoff seed because of talent. If the Nets have Durant and Irving available all playoffs, the seeding doesn’t really matter. They’re on pace to win 54 games when Durant plays this season. This isn’t some bad team sneaking in.

    9. Golden State Warriors (Previously 6th), 48-27, +5.5 net rating

    Weekly slate: Loss at Magic, Win at Heat, Loss at Hawks, Loss at Wizards

    Promising lineup: Steph Curry | Klay Thompson | Andrew Wiggins | Otto Porter | Draymond Green
    Last time we checked: 0 minutes | 0.0 net rating
    Updated numbers: 0 minutes | 0.0 net rating

    We’ve only seen six minutes of a Golden State Warriors lineup that features Curry, Thompson and Green, except the other two players on the floor are Jordan Poole and Kevon Looney. In those six minutes, the Warriors were on pace to outscore opponents by 61.5 points per 100 possessions. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that’s a product of small sample size and not something you can put a whole lot of stock into. However, the Warriors expect that championship trio to perform in a dominant fashion, and opponents probably worry about it too. But the Curry injury puts everything into doubt, and the Warriors just have to hope he’s back at 100 percent for the first round.

    Questionable lineup: Steph Curry | Gary Payton II | Juan Toscano-Anderson | Otto Porter | Nemanja Bjelica
    Last time we checked: 38 minutes | -7.0 net rating
    Updated numbers: 38 minutes | -7.0 net rating

    I don’t really have a lot of lineup data when taking Curry off the floor since I last posted this exercise in late January, so let’s just take a second to talk about how worried this team should be. Everything feels theoretical right now because of their physical state. Curry’s foot injury is extremely concerning. We know they can’t survive, and probably not even truly compete, without Curry healthy for the postseason. Green has looked pretty good in his limited minutes since returning, but a back injury will always loom. And then Thompson has really struggled as of late, until the explosion against a bad Atlanta defense. The Warriors have all the makings of a deep playoff run, but they’re going to need their big three healthy.

    GIF ON THE BEAT: 

    10. Denver Nuggets (Previously 11th), 44-31, +2.5 net rating

    Weekly slate: Win over Clippers, Loss to Suns, Win over Thunder

    Promising lineup: Monte Morris | Will Barton | Jeff Green | Aaron Gordon | Nikola Jokic
    Last time we checked: 344 minutes | +15.5 net rating
    Updated numbers: 687 minutes | +8.8 net rating

    This is the lineup Michael Malone and the Denver Nuggets rely on the absolute most because they just don’t have a lot of other options when it comes to this stuff, not with the injuries to Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. This lineup in particular was dominant through late January when we highlighted it. Since then, things have fallen off because the offense is good but not insane, and the defense has really faltered. It’s still going to be the Nuggets giving Jokic his most help possible, and it’s still been successful. They’re +2.3 per 100 possessions and 13-5 when this lineup plays over the last two months. But the Nuggets have to be exhausted. It’s the most used lineup in the NBA this season.

    Questionable lineup: Monte Morris | Will Barton | Jeff Green | Aaron Gordon | JaMychal Green
    Last time we checked: 71 minutes | -22.0 net rating
    Updated numbers: 78 minutes | -17.9 net rating

    Not much movement here, but I decided to look at combinations of players with Jokic. It was interesting to me to look at him and Bones Hyland. When they’re on the floor, the Nuggets are +1.9 per 100, which is positive but not great. Then I decided to add Austin Rivers into the mix, and the Nuggets drop to -4.0 per 100. Then I expanded that to adding Jeff Green to the mix, and they dropped to a shockingly low -11.5 per 100. For the most part, it doesn’t really matter who ends up being the fifth player. Almost all of these lineups are impressively bad. It’s a combination Malone will hope to avoid, but they only have so much guard depth.

    Tier 3: Playoff Hopefuls

    11. Toronto Raptors (Previously 14th), 42-32, +1.9 net rating

    Weekly slate: Loss at Bulls, Win over Cavs, Win over Pacers

    Promising lineup: Fred VanVleet | Scottie Barnes | OG Anunoby | Pascal Siakam | Chris Boucher
    Last time we checked: 26 minutes | -2.0 net rating
    Updated numbers: 36 minutes | +2.9 net rating

    Well, this Toronto Raptors lineup didn’t exactly get fleshed out over the past two months, so let’s look at something different. The second most-used lineup for the Raptors this season has VanVleet, Gary Trent Jr., Barnes, Anunoby and Precious Achiuwa. This lineup has played 158 minutes, they defend the air out of the ball and they’re beating teams down by 7.9 points per 100 possessions. I love this lineup for them because it has so much versatility, and I think it’s impressive to see how successful they’re capable of being without relying on Siakam to be out there. The Raptors have been resilient for a couple of years now, and it shows they don’t necessarily need their top guy to play great basketball.

    Questionable lineup: Fred VanVleet | Gary Trent Jr. | Scottie Barnes | OG Anunoby | Pascal Siakam
    Last time we checked: 122 minutes | -6.4 net rating
    Updated numbers: 299 minutes | -0.3 net rating

    When they do go small with Siakam at the five, it doesn’t exactly go great. This lineup over the course of nearly 300 minutes this season is a coin flip that a little more often than not lands on the negative. But look at that improvement since we checked this. Is that something you might be interested in? In the past 176 minutes with this lineup on the floor, they’ve just been extremely solid, outscoring by 3.9 points per 100 possessions with average offense but elite defense. That’s a great sign for this lineup and the combinations Nick Nurse might cook up during the postseason.

    GIF ON THE BEAT:

    12. Utah Jazz (Previously 9th), 45-30, +5.8 net rating

    Weekly slate: Loss at Nets, Loss at Celtics, Loss at Hornets, Loss at Mavs

    Promising lineup: Mike Conley | Donovan Mitchell | Royce O’Neale | Bojan Bogdanovic | Rudy Gobert
    Last time we checked: 481 minutes | +13.1 net rating
    Updated numbers: 604 minutes | +9.1 net rating

    This lineup for the Utah Jazz has only played in eight games over the past two months, but it has been pretty bad in that time. Its last 124 minutes on the floor have seen the offense fall completely flat and the defense go away. They get outscored by 7.3 points per 100 possessions. The big problem with it lately is a problem that has plagued the Jazz a lot under Quin Snyder. While Snyder’s playbook is vast and complicated to prepare for, the Jazz have a perennial problem with taking care of the ball. This stretch has seen this Jazz lineup turn the ball over roughly 18 percent of their possessions. You can’t give the ball away once every five times down the floor and expect good things.

    Questionable lineup: Donovan Mitchell | Jordan Clarkson | Royce O’Neale | Bojan Bogdanovic | Rudy Gay
    Last time we checked: 39 minutes | -25.3 net rating
    Updated numbers: 39 minutes | -25.3 net rating

    We haven’t seen this lineup since the late January post, but I still wonder how successful they can be with Gay at the five. In theory, he should be able to give them some minutes. The Jazz have struggled against smaller lineups in the postseason before, and that blueprint is shared throughout the NBA on how to combat their strengths. If Gay isn’t going to be able to play the five effectively in the playoffs, that means the answer is one of two things: Hassan Whiteside will fill in for Gobert and they’ll be fine. That’s not going to happen. Or, Gobert plays against smaller lineups and punishes them at the rim to play them off the floor. More likely than Whiteside being effective but still too pie-in-the-sky for now.  

    13. Minnesota Timberwolves (Previously 12th), 43-33, +3.3 net rating

    Weekly slate: Loss at Mavs, Loss to Suns, Win over Mavs, Loss at Celtics

    Promising lineup: D’Angelo Russell | Patrick Beverley | Anthony Edwards | Jarred Vanderbilt | Karl-Anthony Towns
    Last time we checked: 204 minutes | +30.7 net rating
    Updated numbers: 412 minutes | +13.7 net rating

    To the Minnesota Timberwolves’ credit, when they were touting those 24 games of Towns, Russell and Edwards playing together last season as to why this will work, they were actually correct. This lineup has been extremely good all season long. It just couldn’t keep the ridiculous dominance we saw through Jan. 23. Since then, we’ve seen this lineup be a negative by 2.3 points per 100 possessions, but the Wolves are also above .500 (9-7) in those games with the lineup on the floor. This Wolves core is already the second most successful team in franchise history without Kevin Garnett involved. The Wolves banked on what they saw, and it’ll probably get them somewhere they rarely go: the playoffs.

    Questionable lineup: Patrick Beverley | Malik Beasley | Anthony Edwards | Jarred Vanderbilt | Karl-Anthony Towns
    Last time we checked: 57 minutes | -15.1 net rating
    Updated numbers: 76 minutes | -14.3 net rating

    Even when he’s not shooting well, the Russell playmaking experience greatly benefits the Wolves. His shot selection can still be lazy, but he can really sling the ball around the court to his teammates. They don’t have that on the floor with this lineup where they ask Beverley and Edwards to create too much. The Wolves could use more playmaking from Towns in these lineups, but he’s struggled with passing out of the double team. They really miss having a solid backup point guard, but they tend to hope outside shooting in this lineup can thrive with Beasley on the floor. It hasn’t so far.

    GIF ON THE BEAT:

    14. Chicago Bulls (Previously 13th), 43-31, +0.2 net rating

    Weekly slate: Win over Raptors, Loss at Bucks, Loss at Pelicans, Win at Cavs

    Promising lineup: Lonzo Ball | Alex Caruso | Zach LaVine | DeMar DeRozan | Nikola Vucevic
    Last time we checked: 95 minutes | +12.5 net rating
    Updated numbers: 95 minutes | +12.5 net rating

    Ball hasn’t played since mid-January, so there’s no update on this lineup or the lineup below for the Chicago Bulls. This was a lineup wreaking havoc on both ends of the floor, so let’s see if we can find a lineup from the past two months that does the same. See the lineup listed above? Remove the backcourt of Ball and Alex Caruso, and replace them with Coby White and rookie Ayo Dosunmu. It’s only 59 minutes of action, but it’s the second most-used lineup for Chicago in the past two months, and it’s outscoring opponents by 19.0 points per 100 possessions. White has always been a little up and down, but Dosunmu has been a jolt of adrenaline every time he steps onto the floor. He’s already someone Billy Donovan can count on to make an impact in a positive way, which doesn’t typically happen for second-round rookie point guards. This lineup is a ton of fun.

    Questionable lineup: Lonzo Ball | Zach LaVine | DeMar DeRozan | Derrick Jones Jr. | Nikola Vucevic
    Last time we checked: 65 minutes | -3.1 net rating
    Updated numbers: 65 minutes | -3.1 net rating

    One lineup that has been surprisingly bad on defense during this stretch is also the lineup the Bulls have used the most in the past two months while trying to piece together units with duct tape. LaVine, DeRozan and Vucevic paired with Dosunmu and Javonte Green just hasn’t worked. It has a -5.3 net rating, and more alarmingly, it’s giving up 119.7 points per 100 possessions in 233 minutes. It just can’t stop anybody despite rebounding relatively well and not giving up a lot of transition opportunities — thanks to good scoring efficiency and low turnover rate. The Bulls are a team fewer and fewer people are believing in as the season goes on, especially because of their record against good teams. But I’d like to see them regain that early-season sparkle if they can get healthy soon.

    15. Cleveland Cavaliers (Previously 15th), 41-33, +2.4 net rating

    Weekly slate: Loss to Lakers, Loss at Raptors, Loss to Bulls

    Promising lineup: Darius Garland | Isaac Okoro | Lauri Markkanen | Evan Mobley | Jarrett Allen
    Last time we checked: 197 minutes | +13.8 net rating
    Updated numbers: 225 minutes | +11.6 net rating

    We don’t have a lot of added minutes to examine with this promising Cleveland Cavaliers lineup from late January, so let’s take a look at another lineup since the trade deadline. There have been some curiosities about whether or not the Cavs need both Allen and Mobley on the floor to flourish. They’re fine without either one, but can they really dominate without both? How much flexibility with the lineup can J.B. Bickerstaff utilize? The most used lineup since the deadline has Mobley, Garland, Lamar Stevens, Isaac Okoro and Markkanen. In 69 minutes, it’s +12.1 per 100 possessions and scoring over 120 points per 100 possessions. Some of that is fueled by Okoro’s hot outside shooting since the All-Star break. The Cavs still keep one of their All-Stars on the floor, compete defensively without Allen there and blitz the opposing defense.

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    Questionable lineup: Darius Garland | Cedi Osman | Lauri Markkanen | Evan Mobley | Jarrett Allen
    Last time we checked: 20 minutes | -0.6 net rating
    Updated numbers: 21 minutes | -7.5 net rating

    There’s not a lot of deep lineup data in the past two months outside of the lineup mentioned above, so let’s just talk about the Cavs’ recent slide. They find themselves battling Chicago and Toronto to stay in the top six in the East. The Cavs have won just six of their last 18 games. They’ve struggled without Allen as he recovers from the finger fracture. We see that primarily on the defensive end of the floor. During this stretch of games, the Cavs rank 25th in defensive rating. That doesn’t sound anything like the team we’ve been watching all season. Allen’s impact is big, obviously. He’s an All-Star. But they can’t fall apart like this, even with all of the injuries they’ve had.

    GIF ON THE BEAT: 

    Tier 4: Play-In Tournament Gives Them Life

    16. Charlotte Hornets (Previously 16th), 39-36, +0.5 net rating

    Weekly slate: Win over Pelicans, Loss to Knicks, Win over Jazz, Win at Nets

    Promising lineup: LaMelo Ball | Terry Rozier | Gordon Hayward | Miles Bridges | Mason Plumlee
    Last time we checked: 336 minutes | +0.6 net rating
    Updated numbers: 372 minutes | -2.3 net rating

    The last time we checked on the most-used lineup by the Charlotte Hornets, it was essentially a coin flip when it was on the floor. The reason we haven’t seen much of this lineup since might be because it was obliterated in the 36 minutes it’s played since I last wrote about it, and of course, the Hayward injury. The lineup they have going now that is absolutely destroying opponents has Ball, Rozier, Bridges, Plumlee and P.J. Washington over the injured Hayward. It’s logged 252 minutes since Jan. 24, and it’s outscoring opponents by 13.9 points per 100 possessions. The offense is in full force, the defense has been really good and nearly 75 percent of the buckets are assisted. The Hornets look like they don’t really need Hayward much moving forward. Unfortunately, he’s owed $61 million over the next two seasons.

    Questionable lineup: LaMelo Ball | Terry Rozier | Gordon Hayward | Miles Bridges | P.J. Washington
    Last time we checked: 83 minutes | -17.0 net rating
    Updated numbers: 84 minutes | -17.7 net rating

    Again, Hayward has missed a bunch of time, so we need to find another questionable lineup since we last visited this exercise. Throw Ball, Rozier, Bridges, Plumlee and Kelly Oubre Jr. on the floor together over the last two months, and it hasn’t gone well. It kind of highlights the lowlights of having Oubre on your team when he isn’t able to make an impact. This lineup is the third most used over the last two months, and it’s getting beaten by over 11 points per 100 possessions. It can’t score. It can’t defend. It doesn’t make shots. It can’t rebound at all. It’s been sort of meandering when it’s out there. We’re only talking 61 minutes of action, but it’s been brutal enough that I don’t know if I can talk myself into it improving in this final stretch.

    17. Atlanta Hawks (Previously 17th), 37-37, +0.7 net rating

    Weekly slate: Win at Knicks, Loss at Pistons, Win over Warriors

    Promising lineup: Trae Young | Bogdan Bogdanovic | Kevin Huerter | John Collins | Clint Capela
    Last time we checked: 144 minutes | +34.8 net rating
    Updated numbers: 164 minutes | +30.8 net rating

    What a crazy dominant lineup this has been for the Atlanta Hawks this season. We haven’t seen a ton of minutes for it since we last checked in, and it fell off a little bit in those extra minutes, but the Hawks just can’t be stopped when it’s on the floor. The offensive rating is pushing 130 points per 100 possessions. For context, the 2016-17 Warriors scored 114.8 points per 100 possessions. Since we last checked in, the defense of this lineup has slipped quite a bit, but it’s also a 20-minute sample. A lot of chaos can happen there. The Hawks should focus on Trae Young orchestrating this lineup to a true shooting of 63.5 percent on the entire season and hope this can blitz their opponent(s?) in the Play-In.

    Questionable lineup: Trae Young | Bogdan Bogdanovic | De’Andre Hunter | John Collins | Clint Capela
    Last time we checked: 214 minutes | +2.7 net rating
    Updated numbers: 246 minutes | +6.4 net rating

    Turns out this lineup for the Hawks really wasn’t that questionable. The reason at the time was my surprise this wasn’t a dominant lineup for the Hawks. Atlanta so desperately needs someone to defend, and a combination of Capela and Hunter should really help that. They’re going to need Hunter on the floor to carve their way into a playoff seed. This isn’t the same focused Hawks team was saw in the second half of last season. But this is the most used lineup for Atlanta, and it’s been great since we last checked on it. In those 32 minutes since, it outscored opponents with a +34.3 net rating.

    GIF ON THE BEAT:

    18. LA Clippers (Previously 18th), 36-39, -1.7 net rating

    Weekly slate: Loss at Nuggets, Loss to Sixers

    Promising lineup: Reggie Jackson | Luke Kennard | Terance Mann | Paul George | Ivica Zubac
    Last time we checked: 56 minutes | +4.1 net rating
    Updated numbers: 56 minutes | +4.1 net rating

    The tough thing for the LA Clippers here is George hasn’t played for them since Dec. 22. That elbow issue has been very serious, and it’s kept him out for the past 43 games. However, there is some good news for the Clippers with it looking like PG will return to the court before we get into the Play-In Tournament. Barring an insane collapse in the final two weeks, the Clippers are locked into playing the No. 7 team for the right to the No. 7 seed. As of right now, that would be Minnesota, and a loss in that game still gives them another shot to beat the winner of the Pelicans and Lakers (assuming those two teams make it). George has enough time to return to the court and get a good chunk of his form back. That could spell trouble for any of these teams.

    Questionable lineup: Reggie Jackson | Eric Bledsoe | Paul George | Nicolas Batum | Ivica Zubac
    Last time we checked: 167 minutes | -9.3 net rating
    Updated numbers: 167 minutes | -9.3 net rating

    This lineup also hasn’t played, obviously, with George out and Eric Bledsoe jettisoned to Portland in the Norman Powell trade. So let’s take a quick moment to give a reminder of how much George means to this team. Jackson has been brilliant filling the role of lead guy, but the Clippers desperately want George to return to that until Kawhi Leonard can return to that. When George is on the court with Jackson and Kennard, the Clippers outscore their opponents by 12.7 points per 100 possessions this season. That is crazy dominant play. It’s happened in 263 minutes, so it’s a decent enough sample size to expect it not to just go the other way when he comes back. The Clippers have been scrappy under Tyronn Lue and they’re tough to play, but nobody can truly be scared of them unless a star returns to the court.

    19. San Antonio Spurs (Previously 21st), 30-44, -0.2 net rating

    Weekly slate: Win at Blazers, Win at Pelicans

    Promising lineup: Dejounte Murray | Derrick White | Doug McDermott | Keldon Johnson | Jakob Poeltl
    Last time we checked: 241 minutes | +3.5 net rating
    Updated numbers: 308 minutes | +5.4 net rating

    The San Antonio Spurs trading Derrick White to Boston at the deadline means we have to find a new promising lineup to highlight here. That one we mentioned in late January really was something quite impressive, especially considering the bad luck the Spurs have had in winning games. Since the deadline, the Spurs’ lineup of Murray, Devin Vassell, McDermott, Johnson and Poeltl has logged 120 minutes, and it’s even better than the previous promising lineup. It’s outscoring opponents by 8.5 points per 100 possessions and scoring over 120 points per 100 possessions. Vassell was a lottery pick the Spurs were very excited about a couple of years ago, so getting him into these super-positive lineups is big for the development of this core.

    Questionable lineup: Dejounte Murray | Derrick White | Doug McDermott | Keldon Johnson | Drew Eubanks
    Last time we checked: 103 minutes | -12.4 net rating
    Updated numbers: 108 minutes | -11.3 net rating

    Take McDermott out of the new lineup above and replace him with Lonnie Walker IV, and you have a Spurs lineup that just isn’t working since the deadline. Granted, it’s only 41 minutes on the court together, so a lot can change with just the next time they play extended minutes together. But that lineup is getting blitzed defensively and getting slaughtered on the floor. A net rating of 11.9 is not going to cut it for Gregg Popovich, and they have to find a way to stay in front of opponents. The biggest problem is that lineup does an atrocious job of rebounding; it’s not like we’re confusing McDermott for Dennis Rodman most nights.

    GIF ON THE BEAT: 

    20. New Orleans Pelicans (Previously 19th), 32-43, -0.7 net rating

    Weekly slate: Loss at Hornets, Win over Bulls, Loss to Spurs, Win over Lakers

    Promising lineup: Devonte’ Graham | Josh Hart | Brandon Ingram | Zion Williamson | Jonas Valanciunas
    Last time we checked: 0 minutes | 0.0 net rating
    Updated numbers: 0 minutes | 0.0 net rating

    Clearly, we’re not seeing anything from this hopeful New Orleans Pelicans lineup this season because 1) Williamson still hasn’t played, and 2) Hart isn’t on the team anymore. We can talk about Williamson and everything confusing surrounding him, or we can talk about a fun, fighting lineup for the Pelicans now that CJ McCollum is on the squad. I vote for the latter. Willie Green has been running this odd, big lineup out there of McCollum, Ingram, Herb Jones, Jaxson Hayes and Valanciunas. Maybe he’s taking a page out of J.B. Bickerstaff in Cleveland with such a massive, court-shrinking quintet. This lineup with CJ, BI and Valaciunas is scoring all over the place. They put up 121.6 points per 100 possessions, and it’s their most-used lineup (99 minutes) since the trade deadline. It outscores opponents by 7.0 points per 100, and we’re seeing them absolutely dominate the boards. They rebound 37.6 percent of all offensive rebound opportunities. For context, that would be 3.5 percentage points more than the league-leading Grizzlies if extrapolated over the entire season.

    Questionable lineup: Devonte’ Graham | Josh Hart | Garrett Temple | Nickeil Alexander-Walker | Jonas Valanciunas
    Last time we checked: 133 minutes | -8.8 net rating
    Updated numbers: 135 minutes | -9.4 net rating

    A bunch of guys no longer on the team in this lineup too, so let’s go over another lineup that has had great success for the Pelicans since the trade. Their second most-used lineup since the deadline has McCollum, Jones, Valanciunas, Hayes and Graham, instead of Ingram. That lineup in 76 minutes has outscored opponents by 28.8 points per 100 possessions. However, I’m far more skeptical of it despite its dominance, mostly just because I believe the Pels really need Ingram on the floor with McCollum to truly maximize what’s available for this roster. And while you’re often dealing with a lot of randomness when it comes to these small samples, this lineup being elite defensively doesn’t make sense to me by putting a small guard next to McCollum, even with all that length and size. But I’m willing to consider a guy like Jones — much like Jarred Vanderbilt in Minnesota — might just be chaotic enough on defense to make anything work.

    21. Los Angeles Lakers (Previously 20th), 31-43, -2.6 net rating

    Weekly slate: Win at Cavs, Loss to Sixers, Loss at Pelicans

    Promising lineup: Russell Westbrook | Malik Monk | Trevor Ariza | LeBron James | Anthony Davis
    Last time we checked: 0 minutes | 0.0 net rating
    Updated numbers: 21 minutes | -49.1 net rating

    While I do not think this is even close to a conclusive sample size to judge this lineup I deemed “promising,” it does feel like a perfect microcosm of what the Los Angeles Lakers season has been. “Hey, this should work!” And then you realize you’re staring into the abyss of mediocrity while we get distracted by LeBron scoring binges that don’t lead to wins, Westbrook jumpers that inexplicably only lead to the top of the backboard and then Westbrook press conferences postgame news conferences that lead to content for the next two days. The Lakers are waiting to see if Davis looks like the guy in the bubble when he returns, and if so, they’ll talk themselves into being dangerous in the playoffs.

    Questionable lineup: Russell Westbrook | Kent Bazemore | LeBron James | Anthony Davis | DeAndre Jordan
    Last time we checked: 47 minutes | -14.2 net rating
    Updated numbers: 47 minutes | -14.2 net rating

    This lineup doesn’t exist anymore because Jordan finds himself on a good team in Philadelphia. There isn’t much to say here until we see Davis back on the floor. The second most used lineup since we did this exercise in late January is Westbrook, Avery Bradley, Monk, Stanley Johnson and AD. It was -12.3 points per 100 possessions in 53 minutes. It couldn’t score, and it couldn’t defend. Davis is a remarkable individual player, but none of that translates into winning basketball unless LeBron is out there. The Lakers may never figure out how to survive without James on the court.

    GIF ON THE BEAT:

    Tier 5: On the brink of elimination

    22. New York Knicks (Previously 23rd), 33-42, -0.9 net rating

    Weekly slate: Loss to Hawks, Win at Hornets, Win at Heat, Win at Pistons

    Promising lineup: Derrick Rose | Immanuel Quickley | Alec Burks | Obi Toppin | Taj Gibson
    Last time we checked: 89 minutes | +28.0 net rating
    Updated numbers: 89 minutes | +28.0 net rating

    Rose hasn’t played since the middle of December, so we never got to see this lineup again after I first wrote about it in late January. We need to find another promising lineup for the New York Knicks outside of this specific bench mob. There was a Kemba Walker lineup with Quentin Grimes that performed extremely well, but the Knicks and Walker decided they don’t need to keep this charade going any longer, and he hasn’t played since the All-Star break. Their third most-used lineup since the deadline has Burks, Evan Fournier, RJ Barrett, Julius Randle and rookie Jericho Sims. It sits at a +11.2 net rating fueled by defense, even though it’s only 45 minutes on the floor. But it’s a nice reminder to the front office that they don’t have to pay Mitchell Robinson this summer. They can get a lot of what they get from him by developing Sims on the cheap.

    Questionable lineup: Kemba Walker | Evan Fournier | RJ Barrett | Julius Randle | Mitchell Robinson
    Last time we checked: 350 minutes | -11.5 net rating
    Updated numbers: 428 minutes | -13.8 net rating

    Knicks and Walker decided to call it quits with each other, and we don’t think Tom Thibodeau is going anywhere (as of right now), so I can’t imagine a reunion with Walker and this franchise at any point. It’s still crazy to me that this lineup was so horrendous. Even if you never believed in this Knicks team, there’s no way anybody reasonably saw this lineup getting dominated like they’re a bunch of 10-day contracts off the street just trying to get some NBA run. The thing that blows me away about this lineup’s performance is they were +1.8 net rating in first quarters and -25.8 net rating in the third quarter. It borderline quit coming out of halftime, and that gives off an aggressive amount of red flags that you may not even find in a dating app profile.

    23. Washington Wizards (Previously 24th), 32-42, -3.1 net rating

    Weekly slate: Loss at Rockets, Loss at Bucks, Win at Pistons, Win over Warriors

    Promising lineup: Spencer Dinwiddie | Bradley Beal | Kentavious Caldwell-Pope | Kyle Kuzma | Montrezl Harrell
    Last time we checked: 111 minutes | -1.5 net rating
    Updated numbers: 121 minutes | -6.4 net rating

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    Dinwiddie and Harrell are gone. Beal is out for the year and trying to figure out his next contract. And the Washington Wizards are just waiting for the math to catch up to eliminate them from the postseason picture officially. It doesn’t do any good to dive into the 10 extra minutes of this lineup when 60 percent of it doesn’t exist on the court for them anymore this season. Here’s a positive lineup since the trade deadline though: Raul Neto, Caldwell-Pope, Corey Kispert, Kuzma and the recently acquired Kristaps Porzingis. It’s their most-used lineup since the deadline, and it’s +1.9 points per 100 possessions for the net rating. Having a maximized Porzingis is going to be their focus until they can bring Beal back into the mix next season. They’ll see if they can do what the Mavs couldn’t, which is feel good about the pairing of Porzingis with their All-NBA guard.

    Questionable lineup: Spencer Dinwiddie | Bradley Beal | Kentavious Caldwell-Pope | Kyle Kuzma | Daniel Gafford
    Last time we checked: 307 minutes | -6.4 net rating
    Updated numbers: 319 minutes | -5.4 net rating

    Again, throw this lineup sheet in the trash can because the trade deadline happened. What about that Porzingis lineup above, but instead of Porzingis, we swap in Daniel Gafford — the darling of their deadline acquisitions last season. Neto, KCP, Kispert, Kuzma and Gafford have been their third most-used lineup since the deadline, and it can’t defend at all, giving up over 126 points per 100 possessions in 66 minutes. It’s crazy to think about because Gafford is supposed to be one of those elite rim protectors, but we haven’t seen the same magic from him this season as we saw a year ago. I’d still expect that lineup to do a lot better on that end of the floor the more it plays, and at least it’s scoring extremely well (123.0per 100).

    GIF ON THE BEAT:

    24. Sacramento Kings (Previously 25th), 27-48, -4.9 net rating

    Weekly slate: Win at Pacers, Win at Magic

    Promising lineup: De’Aaron Fox | Tyrese Haliburton | Moe Harkless | Harrison Barnes | Richaun Holmes
    Last time we checked: 106 minutes | +3.9 net rating
    Updated numbers: 106 minutes | +3.9 net rating

    The funny thing about that lineup for the Sacramento Kings is Haliburton was traded in the deal for Domantas Sabonis. It was one of the few lineups working for the Kings, but now it’s irrelevant forever. Here’s a lineup the Kings have used since that trade that looks promising: The lineup of Fox, Donte DiVincenzo, Barnes, Trey Lyles and Sabonis has played 34 minutes since the deadline, and it’s +31.9 points per 100 possessions. It’s tied for the fourth most-used lineup in this stretch, and it’s the only positive lineup they have from their seven most-used lineups during this time. The defense has been good, the offense has been good and the Kings have actually done well here. But it’s a small sample.

    Questionable lineup: De’Aaron Fox | Tyrese Haliburton | Buddy Hield | Harrison Barnes | Richaun Holmes
    Last time we checked: 67 minutes | -7.4 net rating
    Updated numbers: 67 minutes | -7.4 net rating

    Two of these guys (Haliburton and Buddy Hield) were traded at the deadline,  so let’s take a look at another lineup that has raised some eyebrows in a negative way since that acquisition. The Kings’ second most-used lineup since the trade has Fox, Justin Holiday, Moe Harkless, Barnes and Sabonis on the floor. They’ve played this lineup 69 minutes, and it’s getting shredded. It gets outscored by 16.2 points per 100 possessions, and it has a 127.7 defensive rating. It exposes all of the defensive problems we’ve seen from the Kings the last two years. This is supposed to feature three versatile defenders with Fox and Sabonis leading them, and they can’t stop anybody.

    25. Portland Trail Blazers (Previously 22nd), 27-47, -7.8 net rating

    Weekly slate: Win at Pistons, Loss to Spurs, Loss to Rockets, Loss to Rockets

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    Promising lineup: Anfernee Simons | Ben McLemore | Nassir Little | Robert Covington | Jusuf Nurkic
    Last time we checked: 74 minutes | +27.5 net rating
    Updated numbers: 74 minutes | +27.5 net rating

    Simons has been out with a knee injury for the past 11 games, and the Portland Trail Blazers should probably just keep him out for the rest of the season to not risk anything with him entering restricted free agency. Covington isn’t on the team anymore, and Nurkic probably shouldn’t come back this season either since there’s nothing left to play for. The Blazers are just running out the clock on this transition season and hoping to revitalize this roster like a two-in-one shampoo treating damaged hair follicles. Their -16.5 net rating since the All-Star break is approaching historic levels of getting destroyed over an extended stretch of games. Somehow, they’ve won five of their 18 games in this time with that kind of net rating.

    Questionable lineup: Damian Lillard | CJ McCollum | Norman Powell | Robert Covington | Jusuf Nurkic
    Last time we checked: 274 minutes | +0.8 net rating
    Updated numbers: 274 minutes | +0.8 net rating

    Three of these guys aren’t on the team anymore, one of them hasn’t played since New Year’s Eve and the other one is throwing the phones of disrespectful fans who should be banned from the arena. It’s safe to say this lineup may be excused from the table. Lately, the Blazers have been starting CJ Elleby, Trendon Watford, Drew Eubanks and Brandon Williams. No disrespect meant for those NBA players, but fans of teams hosting the Blazers right now have no idea who their favorite team is playing against. They’re within shouting distance of sliding below Sacramento and increasing their odds at the No. 1 pick from 7.5 percent to 9.0 percent.

    GIF ON THE BEAT:

    Tier 6: Eliminated

    26. Detroit Pistons (Previously 28th), 20-55, -7.8 net rating

    Weekly slate Loss to Blazers, Win over Hawks, Loss to Wizards, Loss to Knicks

    Promising lineup: Cory Joseph | Saddiq Bey | Cade Cunningham | Jerami Grant | Isaiah Stewart
    Last time we checked: 19 minutes | +26.0 net rating
    Updated numbers: 273 minutes | +4.7 net rating

    While the minuscule sample of 19 minutes and the domination that happened for this Detroit Pistons lineup haven’t held, seeing this lineup cross 250 minutes on the season and still be a significant positive net rating is such a great sign for this team. The Pistons have been actually good since the start of 2022. Dwane Casey has been coaching his ass off, and you’re seeing a team know it can try to win games without worrying about burning its lottery odds. This lineup with Cunningham, Grant and Bey out there with Stewart and Joseph has so much length and intelligence out there. They can really score the ball. It’s a big reason they’re 15-27 since the calendar turned, which is a huge improvement from the first 33 games (5-28). And they’re 810 over their last 18 games.

    Questionable lineup: Killian Hayes | Saddiq Bey | Cade Cunningham | Jerami Grant | Isaiah Stewart
    Last time we checked: 232 minutes | -17.4 net rating
    Updated numbers: 256 minutes | -17.6 net rating

    As we noted back in January, these lineups with Hayes are just a disaster. He’s a placeholder for the Pistons in their backcourt until they’re able to acquire a better player in free agency or trade, or perhaps draft someone like Jaden Ivey if he’s the guy for them (depending on lottery positioning). Hayes hasn’t panned out so far, and I’m not sure if his shot-making ability (or lack thereof) shows any promise of improving. He flat-out can’t shoot outside of 16 feet (27 percent), and he can’t get to the paint enough to raise his field goal percentage. Joseph may not be everybody’s favorite in Detroit, but he’s a veteran who knows what he can’t do. Maybe Hayes will forever be left behind because of that early hip injury, but it’s been a brutal process for him so far.

    27. Oklahoma City Thunder (Previously 26th), 21-53, -7.5 net rating

    Weekly slate: Loss to Celtics, Win over Magic, Loss at Nuggets

    Promising lineup: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander | Josh Giddey | Lu Dort | Darius Bazley | Mike Muscala
    Last time we checked: 44 minutes | +10.1 net rating
    Updated numbers: 45 minutes | +9.9 net rating

    Muscala and Dort are out for the season, and we didn’t really see any more from this lineup, other than one extra minute. Dort’s season ended because of that shoulder issue, and Muscala has an ankle problem. While those injuries are very real for them and the Thunder, the decline of the Thunder post-trade deadline has happened … as expected. Last season, the Thunder went 3-25 after the deadline and were outscored by 17.9 points per 100 possessions in those 28 games, which is an insane level of being dominated. You usually need a safe word for that kind of thing. This season has been less extreme with the Thunder going 416 so far with a -9.6 net rating since the deadline. That’s second-worst (Portland at -16.5!) in the NBA during that stretch. The Thunder are here to get to the lottery.

    Questionable lineup: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander | Josh Giddey | Lu Dort | Darius Bazley | Derrick Favors
    Last time we checked: 105 minutes | -21.4 net rating
    Updated numbers: 105 minutes | -21.4 net rating

    Obviously, this lineup didn’t get updated either with Dort being out since right around the trade deadline. Their most used lineup (56 minutes) in this stretch since the trade deadline has Gilgeous-Alexander, Aaron Wiggins, Tre Mann, Isaiah Roby and Bazley. It has been outscored by 40.1 points per 100 possessions. That was not a typo. It gives up 141.0 points per 100 possessions. It doesn’t mean anything because they’re not trying to win right now anyway. I just wanted to type out those numbers because of how absurd they are.

    GIF ON THE BEAT: 

    28. Houston Rockets (Previously 30th), 20-55, -8.3 net rating

    Weekly slate: Win over Wizards, Loss at Mavs, Win at Blazers, Win at Blazers

    Promising lineup: Kevin Porter Jr. | Eric Gordon | Jalen Green | Jae’Sean Tate | Christian Wood
    Last time we checked: 169 minutes | +0.5 net rating
    Updated numbers: 352 minutes | +0.2 net rating

    I actually think this is a massive positive for the Houston Rockets over the course of a season. The Rockets aren’t good, and they’re not trying to be good. They’re just trying to be developmental in the way they approach mixing these young guys with the veterans. This lineup shows a great example of this. They’ve managed to score well and not get entirely embarrassed defensively. Considering Porter and Green aren’t equipped to contribute to winning basketball yet, this means their level of competitiveness has stayed steady all season. Both young guys show great promise, and Green still feels like a budding star who will take a leap next season. Great coaching from Stephen Silas here.

    Questionable lineup: Kevin Porter Jr. | Jalen Green | Jae’Sean Tate | Christian Wood | Daniel Theis
    Last time we checked: 172 minutes | -26.1 net rating
    Updated numbers: 172 minutes | -26.1 net rating

    The Rockets never added to this brutal lineup’s minutes, and they ended up trading Theis back to Boston at the deadline, so we’ll never get a chance to see if this pairing of big men could work over an even greater extended stretch. That’s fine for the Rockets though. It netted them Dennis Schröder, whom they decided to keep and play, and Bruno Fernando, who’s had a sprinkling of minutes. The Rockets have guaranteed they’ll finish with top-four odds in the lottery, and we’ve seen some fun growth from the young guys. Successful rebuilding season.

    29. Orlando Magic (Previously 29th), 20-55, -7.8 net rating

    Weekly slate: Win over Warriors, Loss at Thunder, Loss to Kings

    Promising lineup: Jalen Suggs | Cole Anthony | Franz Wagner | Wendell Carter Jr. | Mo Bamba
    Last time we checked: 170 minutes | +9.9 net rating
    Updated numbers: 424 minutes | -1.1 net rating

    I was so excited about this lineup for the Orlando Magic back in late January because it was dominating in significant minutes despite the fact the team was so bad overall. These five are their core moving forward (at least for now), so seeing them play so well together right away had to get the prognosticating juices flowing. Since then? Well, they’ve made those juices disappear. This was a lineup that couldn’t score, but they were defending. In the two months since? They still can’t score, and they haven’t defended anybody much. High turnover rate, which is expected with three perimeter players with such little experience. It’s now a negative for the season, but I still like this quintet together long-term.

    Questionable lineup: Cole Anthony | Terrence Ross | Franz Wagner | Wendell Carter Jr. | Mo Bamba
    Last time we checked: 38 minutes | -11.3 net rating
    Updated numbers: 43 minutes | -2.8 net rating

    This one hasn’t really played much for the season, let alone since late January, so I don’t feel like it’s meaningful to examine the five-minute addition. Let’s check out another lineup. You see that lineup above? Swap out Suggs for R.J. Hampton, and it’s been a troublingly bad lineup for the Magic this season. It’s their third most-used lineup, and the Hampton addition to it has meant the Magic get outscored by 9.9 points per 100 possessions. It flat-out can’t defend, and it gives you a little more appreciation for the type of defender Suggs is as a rookie and what he should turn into during his career. He reminds me a lot of Dejounte Murray on that end of the floor, especially with the way he can bother shots. The lineup with Hampton has been brutal, but he’s not nearly as important in their long-term view of this stable of guards.

    GIF ON THE BEAT: 

    30. Indiana Pacers (Previously 27th), 25-50, -3.1 net rating

    Weekly slate: Loss to Kings, Loss at Grizzlies, Loss at Raptors

    Promising lineup: Malcolm Brogdon | Chris Duarte | Caris LeVert | Domantas Sabonis | Myles Turner
    Last time we checked: 148 minutes | +14.6 net rating
    Updated numbers: 148 minutes | +14.6 net rating

    The Indiana Pacers have been one of the worst teams in the NBA recently, so I feel fairly confident putting them 30th here. Like a few other teams in this post, their lineups previously featured no longer have some of those players on the team. Sabonis and LeVert are elsewhere, with LeVert trying to help Cleveland be a formidable playoff team and Sabonis trying to help Sacramento not be Sacramento. But let’s focus on a lineup the Pacers do have in this final stretch since the deadline. There aren’t a lot of positive net ratings with decent minutes, but the lineup of Brogdon, Tyrese Haliburton, Buddy Hield, Oshae Brissett and Jalen Smith has put up 131.8 points per 100 possessions in 21 minutes on the floor. They’ve given up 131.1, but at least they’re scoring!

    Questionable lineup: Malcolm Brogdon | Chris Duarte | Justin Holiday | Domantas Sabonis | Myles Turner
    Last time we checked: 80 minutes | -9.2 net rating
    Updated numbers: 80 minutes | -9.2 net rating

    The Pacers’ three most-used lineups since the Sabonis trade all possess net ratings of -20.0 points per 100 possessions or worse, so I’m not sure it does any good to think of a questionable lineup. All of them are questionable lineups, and it’s all by design at this point. The Pacers are embracing the tank, and it’s putting them in a better lottery position. They won’t catch the Thunder for top-four odds when it comes to lottery night, but their loss to Sacramento this week was key. The Pacers have the fifth-worst record, and our friends at Tankathon.com inform us they have a 42.1 percent chance of grabbing a top-four pick. They’re currently a game behind Sacramento in the standings, showing just how big it was to lose to them.

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    (Top photo of Devin Booker: Aaron Ontiveroz / MediaNews Group / The Denver Post via Getty Images; illustration by Wes McCabe / The Athletic)

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