Now that the annual slate of Christmas games has come and gone, signaling the start of what many consider to be the real NBA season, we have ourselves what I like to call a “significant sample size of data” to evaluate how things have been going to far. Kenny Atkinson has played around with a lot of different lineups, and with the injury to Caris Levert and emergence of Rodions Kurucs, it’ll be interesting to see how things start to shake out rotation-wise in the next couple of months.
Here are some lineups that are interesting and have implications going forward (notice there’s not a single Shabazz Napier in sight. Sad).
Lineups We’ve Seen A Lot Of And Will Probably Feature Either Rodions Kurucs Or Caris Levert In The Future (minimum 25 minutes)
Spencer Dinwiddie, Joe Harris, Rodions Kurucs, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Jarrett Allen - 37 Minutes total.
- 96.3 Offensive Rating
- 101.2 Defensive Rating
- -4.9 Net Rating
- 75% Assist Percentage
I like this lineup a lot and think there’s an obvious spot for Caris Levert, once healthy to slide in at the 3 and have Kurucs play the 4 while RHJ sits. Dinwiddie and Caris Levert makes more sense than Dinwiddie and Russell (we’ll get to that) and this lineup has a lot of potential. It isn’t great at anything and has a little trouble scoring but the bones are there for something really special. This is the kind of lineup, when right, that could close out games. Especially when LeVert is healthy.
D’Angelo Russell, Caris LeVert, Joe Harris, Jared Dudley, Jarrett Allen - 161 Minutes total.
- 106 Offensive Rating
- 108.4 Defensive Rating
- Net Rating -2.4
- 71% Assist Percentage
- 99.57 Pace
This is the lineup the Nets have used most frequently this season, which is bizarre because it feels like Caris LeVert has been injured for a millennium. It’s also another lineup Rodions Kurucs will slot into nicely. Kurucs, according to Tommy Beer of Forbes, has been unbelievably effective this season, leading the Nets in Net Rating. They outscore their opponents by 53 points in his 322 minutes on the floor this year which is extraordinarily effective. He’s going to continue to be a big part of the Nets rotations and his style of play will mesh nicely with LeVert who is quite possibly the Nets best drive-and-kick guy. Also, don’t be too freaked out by the negative Net ratings on the first two lineups. A really bad Net rating is something more in the range of -12 or -20. Those are decent lineups, not great, but decent.
Lineups That We’ve Seen A Lot Of And Have Worked Well And Will Probably See More Of (still a minimum of 25 minutes)
The Starters: D’Angelo Russell, Joe Harris, Rodions Kurucs, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Jarrett Allen - 70 minutes total.
- 125.7 Offensive Rating
- 107.1 Defensive Rating
- 18.6 Net Rating
- 64.1% True Shooting Percentage
Now THIS is a really good lineup, and some more data to back up those Kurucs numbers. The Defensive Rating is really solid but that Offensive Rating is out of this world. And it’s not like they’ve played a couple possessions with each other, 70 minutes is a lot of time! It’s the third most used Nets lineup this entire season! Their offensive rating is the highest in the NBA among all lineups with at least 70 minutes played together. This is a group that can be played even when Levert is back, giving him and Dinwiddie a breather and letting D’Angelo cook with some high energy guys around him. This is one of my favorite lineups to watch and I hope we see more of it.
D’Angelo Russell, Rodions Kurucs, Demarre Carroll, Jared Dudley, Ed Davis - 40 minutes total.
- 109.8 Offensive Rating
- 78.6 Defensive Rating
- 31.2 Net Rating
- 54.5% Rebound Percentage
Now here’s a fun and weird and different lineup. That Defensive Rating is absolutely nuts. To put it in perspective, the Oklahoma City Thunder lead the league in DRTG with a mark of 102.2 which is very good. This lineup beats that rating by 23.6 points! That’s a bigger differential than the Thunder have between them and the last ranked Cavaliers! And it isn’t like this lineup is a complete fluke, although that Defensive Rating just cannot hold up over an entire season. But it is widely accepted that Ed Davis and DeMarre Carroll are two of if not the two best Nets defenders, and paired with the High Energy Kurucs, Jared Dudley who knows how to play in a defensive system, and D’Angelo Russell who, when engaged, can be quite solid, this passes the sniff test as a lineup that can continue to be a defensive stalwart going forward, even if that production doesn’t hold up to it’s ridiculously high level so far.
Lineups That Haven’t Quite Worked And Should Probably Be Tinkered With (Again, minimum of 25 minutes)
D’Angelo Russell, Spencer Dinwiddie, Joe Harris, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Jarrett Allen - 26 minutes total.
- 72.2 Offensive Rating
- 84.6 Defensive Rating
- -12.4 Net Rating
- 39.6% True Shooting Percentage
This lineup has some WONKY stats. They’ve essentially been incompetent offensively and amazing defensively which like, almost makes sense. On defense it’s definitely a switchy lineup all the way through, Joe Harris doesn’t get enough credit for being a high-effort individual defender with a solid ability to get around screens and Jarrett Allen and RHJ can take on plenty of other teams big men together, especially second units. What also kind of makes sense is the poor offense in the Dinwiddie/Russell lineup. Earlier in the season these two just did not click together whatsoever which is ok if you stagger them. They’ve been looking a little better of late, but the return of Caris Levert to play with one of these guys while the other is out is going to really help open up the rotations. Also, just as a rule of thumb because it cannot be said enough, put Kurucs in there and let them figure it out.
D’Angelo Russell, Spencer Dinwiddie, Caris LeVert, Jared Dudley, Jarrett Allen - 30 minutes total.
- 106.1 Offensive Rating
- 126.6 Defensive Rating
- -20.5 Net Rating
- 104.47 Pace
- 47.8% Assist Percentage
Another Dinwiddie/Russell lineup that didn’t quite work. This lineup will likely return when Caris LeVert does and while it’s obviously small and has trouble scoring and rebounding, it’s a solid option for the Three-Headed Snake (I’m adding LeVert to the moniker) to play with space. I’m not too scared of that poor Net Rating just because I trust the Nets guards to at least prove themselves to be a little better than that together over the course of a whole season. Kurucs obviously will be slotted into that 4-spot at some point, but I don’t think that helps the rebounding much. It does however probably bump that Net rating up a bit, even though it’s very clear Dudley isn’t going anywhere.
Things We Learned
Staggering DLo, Dinwiddie, and Levert is probably the best option going forward. It just gives the Nets the most options and most consistently solid lineups. Also: play Kurucs all the time with everyone and anyone. Play him until he proves himself to be bad in a certain lineup or not fit with certain guys because so far we’ve not seen that from him. He makes it work regardless of who is on the floor with him.
With LeVert coming back there’s going to be a minutes crunch and that’s ok. The Staggering will be good for the Nets stamina and long term health. Dinwiddie and Russell have both been playing over 30 minutes per game since the injury, and I’m sure if given the opportunity Kenny would like get them down to a really effective 28.
The Nets are in good shape right now, believe it or not, with a 9-1 record in their last 10 and a decent chance to move into the Eastern Conference Playoff picture. It’ll be fun seeing how all of these different lineups shake out in the New Year, and even more fun when LeVert finally, finally comes back. Until then, we can keep watching Rodi run through teams.