Jared Wade: The Truth Behind NBA Chemistry - Who Has It?
We talk about chemistry in the NBA all the time, but it's hard to say what it actually
means. The off-court variety is almost impossible to define. You can be in a locker room
and sense it, at times, but to actually come up with a written description of what ideal
chemistry should be is pointless.
On the court, however, we can at least come closer to figuring out which players excel
when paired together. And the results often don't follow the narrative we hear from the
For example, Russell Westbrook's recent on-court outburst
had many pundits questioning
whether there is something rotten within the Oklahoma City Thunder's dynamic duo.
Going back even further, many like to say that Westbrook takes too many shots late in
games and that this will be the fatal flaw that prevents this team from winning a title.
But if you look at the way that Westbrook and Durant play together, everything seems
Looking at the league's five-man units, in terms of plus/minus (per 48 minutes) so far
this season, the largest trend of the lineup data stands out: The league's better teams
are the ones with the better lineups.
This is intuitive, but it is interesting that the Orlando Magic are the only team below .500
that has proven capable of producing more than plus-5.0 points per 48 minutes.
As a baseline, all the lineups in the NBA that have played at least 200 minutes together
are listed, even those that haven't performed well. There should be little surprise that
the Miami Heat are very good, but it is impressive that they have the top two lineups in
the entire league.
The Thunder, too, have a pair of the best, although it is interesting that the team's big
lineup, with both Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins, has fared so well this season.
During the NBA Finals last year, many people thought that the team should have played
smaller rather than rely so much on the traditional center/power forward combination.
With basketball being a five-man sport, it's easy to analyze the five-player units and
leave it at that, but if we look at smaller four- and three-man groupings, we can more
specifically analyze what player pairings are most responsible for their teams' success.
Miami's dominance in the four-man units is almost comical. There are many things that
can be interpreted from such data, but the most obvious is that LeBron James is an
unbelievably good basketball player. The four best four-man lineups in the NBA all
If you needed any additional evidence other than the game tape to prove that he
deserves another MVP trophy, there you go.
Another interesting wrinkle: The Eastern Conference dominates these rankings, holding
down the top nine spots.
Almost as impressive as the Heat are the Indiana Pacers, which show how far a team
built around a strong starting lineup can go. It really doesn't seem to matter what
combination of George Hill, Lance Stephenson, Paul George, David West and Roy
Hibbert the team puts on the floor; as long as four of them are involved, the team
This may speak to the importance of continuity.
Obviously, the emergence of Stephenson, who appears in the top four Indiana lineups,
is a change from last season, but the Pacers' starting lineup was the best in the NBA
in terms of net rating (points scored per 100 possessions minus points allowed
Generally, NBA fans clamor...CONTINUE READING AT BLEACHER REPORT