clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

The 5 best Dallas Maverick five-man lineups this season

New, comments

Some are surprises, others are expected.

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

With constant substitutions and a nine- or 10-man rotation that coaches uses to their utmost advantage, most five-man lineups just don't play a lot of time together.

Fifty minutes seems like it would be a low bar, right? Yes, if you're talking about individual players, but 50 minutes is an eternity for a five-man unit. The Mavericks only have three lineups that crack that seemingly low requirement -- the starting five, the closing five and a bench unit that includes Dirk.

For this exercise, I decided I'm only going to look at lineups with five or more games and 10 or more minutes played. Just those two measurements narrowed it down to 11 lineups, of which the most frequently used one had only appeared in 13 games (because of injuries and other factors).

Barea / Harris / Aminu / Dirk / Wright

Minutes: 72 | Offensive Rating: 128.3 | Defensive Rating: 103.8 | Net Rating: 24.5

This lineup was passed around Twitter today because of the graphic below, packaged into Drew Garrison's excellent SB Nation power rankings.

FiveManLineups

While the graphic shows the dominance of Golden State early this season, it also displays Rick Carlisle's genius: the third-best unit in the league features four players making less than $5 million.

This is nothing new, though. Last year, this lineup was known as the Harris/Carter/Crowder/Dirk/Wright squad -- four bench players and the brilliant Nowitzki. It was easily the best Mavericks' lineup by net rating in the 24 games it played together, generating a 115 offensive rating and an 89 defensive one.

If it isn't obvious already, this unit works so well because of how it's employed. No, of course the Mavericks wouldn't be better off with a Barea/Harris backcourt with Aminu and Wright in the frontcourt closing out games, but against an opponent's second unit, these five are absolutely devastating on the court. Dirk's the biggest part of it; he's already a matchup nightmare for starting forwards, so when he's guarded by the Jason Smith's and James Johnson's of this league, it's game over. But the other four guys deserve plenty of credit, of course. The most impressive bit about this unit is a stunning assist to turnover ratio of 4.08.

Carlisle might be the best coach in the league at manipulating his rotations just right and it's no surprise the Mavericks' best quarter has been their second, when teams rely most heavily on the bench and substitution patterns.

I motion to lovingly call this group 'The German Bench Bombers.' Wait, no, that's terrible. Please forget I ever said that.

Nelson / Ellis / Parsons / Wright / Tyson

Minutes: 27 | OR: 116.5 | DR: 86.9 | Net: 29.6

While that bench unit is the best qualifying Mavericks lineup, this five actually claims the no. 1 spot when using my much easier qualifications (more than 5 games and 10 minutes). Yes, it's actually a lineup without Dirk.

The Tyson/Wright duo took a little bit to surface, but as Brandan Wright continued to produce a career levels and the Mavericks pitiful attempts at defensive rebounding grew worse and worse, Carlisle gave them a shot. I made a point to check their stats after their first couple of games together. Surprisingly, they hadn't been good -- a net rating somewhere close to zero.

What the hell has happened since then? Tyson and Wright have appeared in four of the last five games registering 21 minutes, with a 121 offensive rating and a 69 defensive one for a ridiculous, unsustainable net rating of 53. Some of those minutes came in the Nelson-led lineup above, and the quintet has a 77 percent defensive rebounding percentage (the Mavericks are grabbing 70 percent of defensive rebounds as a team this season).

Two non-shooters in the same lineup hurts the spacing, and, in turn, the passing; this unit's assist to turnover ratio is about one. But so far, it's working, and you can't argue with results.

Harris / Ellis / Aminu / Parsons / Wright

Minutes: 21 | OR: 105.1 | DR: 81 | Net: 24.1

It should go without saying, but when we're dealing with lineups that only have 21 minutes played, it's still too early to definitively judge what they can and can't do -- even if five-man lineups play together less than we might imagine.

With that said, Dirk is only present in one of the Mavericks' top three units. That's very cool -- in years past, Dallas would revert to basketball-playing cavemen when he left the floor. The situation is not nearly as dire early this season.

This lineup is your classic smallball look with Parsons playing the power forward. Of the 11 qualifying lineups, this one has the lowest defensive rating, and is one of only two (also the one above) with a defensive rating in the 80's.

While this analogy is already running its course, Aminu really does have a Shawn Marion-like ability to bind a unit of bad defenders together. Even though Devin Harris has had a disappointing season defensively, he's been better on that end when paired with 'the Matrix Reloaded' -- a nickname that Aminu doesn't really like because he didn't enjoy that movie, he told Bobby Karalla a few weeks back rather hilariously.

It's not a good rebounding squad, though, grabbing just 48.6 percent of available rebounds. That's third lowest of qualifying units.

Nelson / Ellis / Parsons / Dirk / Wright

Minutes: 25 | OR: 122.4 | DR: 100.5 | Net: 21.9

I don't have much to say about this five except that they don't miss shots ever. Like, never ever under any circumstances. With a 63.8 percent TS%, this lineup won't play much defense but may score enough points that it doesn't matter.

Nelson / Ellis / Parsons / Dirk / Tyson

Minutes: 181 | OR: 116.2 | DR: 97.5 | Net: 18.7

Obviously, our largest sample size lies with the starting unit here. Even falling to huge deficits in some early games (Sacramento) and the third quarter struggles, this squad still boasts an excellent net rating and manhandles pretty much any weaker unit it comes across.

Just because Nelson is present, though, doesn't mean that he has to stay. You could argue that it's surprising this lineup is doing so well despite his relative inefficiencies. Perhaps another article should look at Nelson's effectiveness with the starting lineup vs. when he's in a lineup mixed with bench players. His struggles do seem more apparent later in games when he's asked to create offense without Dirk or another star on the floor.

But look: when you put Monta Ellis, Chandler Parsons and Dirk together with a fantastic two-way center in Tyson, good things are going to happen to you regardless of Jameer Nelson's abilities. That's a given.

If you replace Nelson with Devin Harris, this lineup (in 55 minutes) actually falls to a 105 offensive rating and a 109 defensive one for a negative net rating. There's many reasons for that, and I think the small sample size is definitely in play here more than Harris' presence over Nelson. We can all agree that Harris is the preferred option in the closing lineups in almost every situation.

That's the top five. For fun, let's look at the worst lineup that meets this qualifications -- and it's one that is both infamous and beloved.

Nelson / Harris / Ellis / Parsons / Tyson

Minutes: 23 | OR: 86.3 | DR: 116.2 | Net: -29.9

Ahh, the beloved three-guard lineup has lost all its magic this year. I don't doubt that Rick will find a moment to spring it effectively on an unexpecting opponent at some point this season, but using it as a reliable change of pace unit is probably not meant to be this year. Any lineup that gives up a 116 defensive rating isn't meant to be, really, especially when it's not providing equal dividends on offense.

We'll depart on this stat, which previously I wasn't even sure was possible: this five-man lineup has grabbed just 33 percent of all available rebounds. Nope nope NOPE NOPE.