The Golden State Warriors have only played five games. There are 77 more to go. It’s a bit too early for any grand proclamations.
But is it too early for mild proclamations? Never!
The Dubs lineups have been ... interesting. They’ve been openly toeing the line between playing the win-now lineups and the win-later lineups. It’s an understandable strategy, but it’s made for some borderline unwatchable second units.
They’ve already abandoned the strategy, or at least modified it. Jonathan Kuminga’s been cut out of the rotation (for now). James Wiseman’s minutes have decreased (for now). Moses Moody’s have increased (for now), and so have the roles for the veterans.
It’s helped, as that rotation change played a huge role in the team’s 123-110 win over the Miami Heat on Thursday.
So let’s jump into it a little bit by looking at the lineup data to see what teammate combinations are playing the best to start the year. Take all of this data with a grain of salt and a lot of context. There’s meaning to be found in it, but the salt and context are required.
All of this data is from NBA.com, and is based on net rating ... the number of points that the team outscores (or underscores) their opponents per 100 possessions.
The five best two-man lineups (minimum 30 minutes)
- Steph Curry and Kevon Looney (+27.8)
- Draymond Green and Kevon Looney (+27.2)
- Klay Thompson and Kevon Looney (+27.2)
- Andrew Wiggins and Kevon Looney (+26.7)
- Steph Curry and Moses Moody (+25.0)
It’s worth noting that if I’d set the minimum minutes to 20 (as I will with larger lineups), then the top combo would have been JaMychal Green and Kevon Looney ... making for an all-Looney top five.
There are two ways to look at this Looney-centric data. The first perspective is that Looney is really good. The second is that he rarely ever shares the court with Wiseman and Kuminga, who are struggling.
The reality is that both are true.
The five worst two-man lineups (minimum 30 minutes)
- James Wiseman and Jonathan Kuminga (-56.5)
- Jordan Poole and Jonathan Kuminga (-47.4)
- Donte DiVincenzo and Jordan Poole (-26.8)
- JaMychal Green and James Wiseman (-26.1)
- JaMychal Green and Donte DiVincenzo (-25.8)
Well this confirms things we already knew. The youngsters on the bench — especially Kuminga — are really struggling. I wouldn’t worry much about Green, DiVincenzo, and Poole being featured here. As Poole and Green showed against Miami, they play really well when in decent lineups.
The five best three-man lineups (minimum 25 minutes)
- Draymond Green, Klay Thompson, and Kevon Looney (+32.2)
- Andrew Wiggins, Klay Thompson, and Kevon Looney (+30.9)
- Andrew Wiggins, Steph Curry, and Kevon Looney (+30.8)
- Andrew Wiggins, Draymond Green, and Kevon Looney (+30.1)
- Steph Curry, Draymond Green, and Kevon Looney (+29.2)
The Warriors bench may be getting the headlines to start the year, but let’s not forget that the starters are really, really, really, really good. More on that later.
But for now: Looney and Wiggins forever, y’all. Looney and Wiggins forever.
The five worst three-man lineups (minimum 25 minutes)
- Jonathan Kuminga, James Wiseman, and Jordan Poole (-49.4)
- JaMychal Green, Donte DiVincenzo, and Jordan Poole (-31.1)
- James Wiseman, Donte DiVincenzo, and Jordan Poole (-31.0)
- Klay Thompson, Steph Curry, and Jordan Poole (-23.8)
- Klay Thompson, Andrew Wiggins, and Jordan Poole (-22.3)
Should we be worried about Poole? Absolutely the heck not. But two things are abundantly clear. First, he’s not good enough to carry a poor, inexperienced bench unit with minimal shooting. And second, the new death lineup is not working yet.
The five best four-man lineups (minimum 20 minutes)
- Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, Andrew Wiggins, and Kevon Looney (+36.3)
- Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, Steph Curry, and Kevon Looney (+32.2)
- Klay Thompson, Steph Curry, Andrew Wiggins, and Kevon Looney (+30.9)
- Draymond Green, Steph Curry, Andrew Wiggins, and Kevon Looney (+30.1)
- Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, Steph Curry, and Andrew Wiggins (+20.5)
Well, this should be the least surprising segment in this article. The Warriors top-five four-mn lineups are the five different permutations of the starting five. That checks out. That starting five is good. The bench is not. Nothing to see here.
The five worst four-man lineups (minimum 20 minutes)
- James Wiseman, JaMychal Green, Donte DiVincenzo, and Jordan Poole (-36.4)
- Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Andrew Wiggins, and Jordan Poole (-22.3)
- Steph Curry, Draymond Green, Andrew Wiggins, and Jordan Poole (-13.9)
- Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, and Jordan Poole (-9.6)
- Andrew Wiggins, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, and Jordan Poole (-7.7)
Look, I’m just trying to get through this article without getting an angry letter from Poole’s agent. That’s my only motive here.
Once again, it’s clear that the new death lineup — the starters, but with Poole replacing Looney — isn’t working. And the offensive and defensive ratings suggest that it’s not working on either end of the court. But it’s extreme early days. Give it time.
The other takeaway here is that the Warriors aren’t sticking with bad lineups for very long, hence there only being one bench rotation here.
The Warriors haven’t played enough games to have any meaningful data here. They have only two five-man lineups that have played 20 minutes together this year.
The bad news is that the aforementioned super death lineup is, as discussed, struggling. In 21 minutes, that fivesome has a net rating of -7.7.
The good news? The starting lineup has been thoroughly dominant, recording a net rating of +36.3 in 67 minutes. No five-man lineup with more than 30 minutes played has a higher mark.