DimeMag

The 20 Best Small-Ball Lineups In The NBA

Just a short year ago, we were blessed to watch the USA Men’s basketball team storm into London and pick apart each opponent with a variety of different tactics that emphasized speed and transition defense. Those lineups, at times, were sorely lacking in the height department. We would occasionally find the 6-8 Carmelo Anthony at the center position where he would rebound and “attempt” to guard opposing centers. Beyond the obvious — Anthony’s unlikely willingness to participate in this type of system long-term — it brings up interesting questions in how effective these type of rotations can be and how valuable it was to the USA team at the time.

Devoid of more than one center (Kevin Love is clearly a power forward and Anthony Davis hadn’t even participated in an NBA training camp yet), the team resorted to a specialized way of playing that stressed the strength of their team, which was their incredible ball skills and athleticism.

That type of basketball has been reinvigorated into the NBA for the past couple of seasons and has been led by the best basketball player in the world on the best team in the NBA. Erik Spoelstra is using innovative measures in his time with the Miami Heat to identify a style that would best fit the Heat’s skill-set (suffocating defense and transition-led defense).

This paved the way for the team to focus on using small lineups, mostly because of LeBron‘s unique skill-set but also because of the matchups it created. These types of matchups are used by nearly every team in the league but the success that they have is highly debatable.

Here’s a list of the best small ball lineups in the NBA, based on projections and prior success.

Evaluation process:
Simply searching through different lineup’s points per 100 possessions and giving the best plus rating system would be no fun for me as a writer so, even though that will be heavily considered, it won’t be the only measurement I use in my rankings. Sorry for all those readers that enjoy non-biased research.

Some type of projection measure needs to be used so I will do my best to consider the many variables that can make a rotation effective. Those include chemistry, specific skills, coaching, age, intelligence and likelihood.

The definition of a small-ball lineup is kind of the tricky part about distinguishing what lineup can qualify to be a part of this list. To make things easier, I’ll allow some leeway in distinguishing between focusing in on just three guard lineups, lineups with two point guards and lineups that lack a true center or power forward.

Each team is only allowed to have one lineup and variations of that lineup may be discussed.

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20. Isaiah Thomas/Greivis Vásquez/Ben McLemore/Travis Outlaw/DeMarcus Cousins
Besides this lineup having abnormally long names, it has the chance to actually be quite effective during the regular season. The additions of Vasquez and McLemore to the team don’t allow for any stats to back up the effectiveness of this particular unit, but they do have the 3-man units listed on Basketballreference.com. The Thompson/Thomas/Cousins trio performed horridly during their time on the floor last year, allowing more points than they scored, but I think a lot of that is due to poor coaching and an inability to put Cousins in a good position to succeed. Regardless, I’d prefer not to play Thompson and Cousins together, so sliding the 6-9 Outlaw into the power forward position makes a little more sense for spacing reasons.

Cousins can be a vacuum, soaking up possessions and space on the floor but his versatility in playing the high or low post should allow for Outlaw to stretch longer forwards to the perimeter.

Both Vasquez and Thomas are players who need to have the ball in their hands but Vasquez could be effective in running the offense with Thomas playing off the ball as a quick scoring punch. Vasquez showed his command of the New Orleans offense last year and the Kings have already given small minutes to lineups with both Thomas and Vasquez this year.

19. Brandon Jennings/Chauncey Billups/Kentavious Caldwell-Pope/Josh Smith/Greg Monroe
Surprisingly, Billups still plays in the NBA (I double checked) and it turns out that he is still a pretty effective shooter. He shot a career-high number of 3-point attempts per 36 minutes last season and still connected on 37 percent of his shots. The importance of Billups being able to shoot the three is based around not only on his ability to hit the open three in the half-court set but to do so as the trail player. Obviously, his defense is a major question mark for this lineup and I seriously question whether he can play significant minutes at shooting guard, but he can be effective if hidden properly on defense.

Josh Smith’s defensive versatility is rooted primarily in his ability to create turnovers, which he does at a high rate. This would allow the Pistons to push the pace, putting Jennings in a system that fits more to his tempo. Smith’s athleticism in running the floor coupled with Monoroe’s great outlet passing should allow Jennings a stronger supporting cast than he found in Milwaukee. The athleticism in this lineup is nothing short of amazing and it doesn’t even have one of it’s best players in this set.

18. Jose Calderon/Monta Ellis/Vince Carter/Shawn Marion/Dirk Nowitzki
The thought of Carter, Marion and Nowitzki playing zero minutes together during the season is astounding to me. This isn’t a lineup you would rely on nightly, probably not even on a regular basis, but it could be very effective in smaller lineups due to their ability to shoot the three and slash and score. With the news of Ellis looking to take more shots, it looks like Carlisle will have his work cut out for him in his flowing offense.

The offense should look a lot different this year with Ellis and Calderon leading as the guard duo after they were both signed as free agents this summer. Calderon’s willingness to pass and be patient with the ball should allow others on the team to get the looks that they are hoping for. Calderon is an efficient shooter, placing third in the NBA in effective shooting percentage for the 2012-13 season. That forces teams to push up on Calderon, which gives him a better passing lane to dish to rollers in the pick and roll game.

Carter has proven to be a worthwhile investment for the Mavericks over the past couple of seasons because of his consistency on defense and ability to hit threes from the wing. This team will be reliant on Nowitzki, though. It is most likely one of his last years to put up a vintage “Dirk” season and it couldn’t come at a better time as the Mavericks are looking to capture a playoff berth after missing out last season.

17. Brandon Knight/Carlos Delfino/O.J. Mayo/Ersan Ilyasova/Larry Sanders
As reserved as I am to hand over a top-20 small-ball lineup to Brandon Knight, I am equally confident in handing it over to the four other players that make the list. Delfino and Mayo are two excellent examples of players that excelled in small-ball lineups during their previous destinations in the Western Conference. The shooting guards would typically see time at either their natural position or the small forward spot on the floor because of their size and willingness to rebound. Of the top 10 Rockets lineups during the 2012-13 season, Delfino was on nine of them, showing his versatility in playing in a variety of lineups. The Mavericks lineup was given a boon every time Mayo was inserted into the lineup as their top nine lineups featured the sharpshooter.

The best part is the prospects of a small-ball lineup being so formidable inside the paint. Larry Sanders was used in a Kirk Goldsberry analytics paper that used a defensive metric to show the defensive impact big men have on the game. Sanders proved the most effective in disrupting shots near the rim last season. His progression in defending the basket allows for Ilyasova to stretch the floor with his silky jump shot. Ilyasova finished last season shooting 44 percent from 3-point range and 50 percent on jump shots 10 to 16 feet from the basket.

16. Ty Lawson/Nate Robinson/Evan Fournier/Wilson Chandler/Kenneth Faried
It will be interesting to see the direction the Nuggets choose to go in throughout the regular season because it looks as if head coach Brian Shaw might have a strategy that deviates from the one that George Karl had planned out. The offensive system of outrunning and outgunning the opponent with high speed transition points and open floor spacing seems to be long gone in Shaw’s big man-centered team. That doesn’t mean he won’t experiment with a smaller lineup, though.

The pairing of Lawson and Robinson would give the Nuggets the speed and interior penetration that will allow for both Chandler and Fournier to excel. Without a cluttered paint area they will have the occasional space they need to get to the basket to draw the foul or kick out to either Chandler or Fournier for an easy 3-pointer. Chandler shot 40 percent from 3-point range last season and shot 47 percent from the corner three zone. As a rookie, Fournier matched Chandler’s 3-point percentage but did so on only 1.5 attempts a game. With Fournier’s numbers set to jump this year, it seems that the spacing will be available for success. The question isn’t the likelihood of success with this lineup but rather the chance that Shaw actually trots this lineup out onto the court.

15. George Hill/Lance Stephenson/Paul George/Danny Granger/Roy Hibbert
The two names that will probably surprise you in this lineup are Danny Granger and Roy Hibbert. A team that is serious in their contention for a championship shouldn’t typically have a journeyman in their best “small ball” lineup so I was forced to exclude Chris Copeland. Copeland had the pleasure of playing against lesser competition during his time in New York but was still incredibly efficient during his minutes on the court. Copeland had a 16.8 player efficiency rating for the Knicks last season and an effective field goal percentage of 56. But Copeland hasn’t played much this season because of his role.

The problem with playing Granger in this lineup is that Frank Vogel hasn’t showed a willingness to sacrifice size, opting to pack the paint with typically large-sized power forwards and centers. As much as he appreciates players like David West and Luis Scola who can stretch the floor with their good midrange game, he is willing to play them because of their size and ability to cover in the post. Granger could be an interesting fit on the court in this lineup, giving it a jolt of instant offense when it gets stagnant.

The reason Hibbert may be surprising is simply because associating this man with small in any sense seems to be a crime in itself. Hibbert’s presence on the court allows for Copeland to actually play because of his ability to protect the rim. Last season, the NBA average for an opponent’s field goal percentage at the rim was 48 percent, but Hibbert allowed an average of merely 38 percent. This will allow the Pacers to play with a smaller lineup, even though they have one of the biggest centers in the league.

14. Kyrie Irving/Jarrett Jack/C.J. Miles/Tristan Thompson/Anderson Varejao
Injuries are the only thing separating this lineup from producing big numbers. Irving hasn’t played more than 59 games in either of his two seasons and Varejao hasn’t logged more than 31 games since the 2009-10 season when he played in 76 games. Varejao’s presence in this lineup is invaluable to the success because of his ability to clean up on the offensive glass, where he averaged 5.5 offensive rebounds a game during the 2012-13. What Varejao lacks in offensive acumen he gives in defensive prowess. Varejao looked poised to be locked into an All-Star appearance last season but was sidelined for the season with a blood clot in his right lung.

Jack played fabulously last season for the Warriors, becoming a great asset off the bench with his scoring prowess and ability to dish the ball to his teammates. Jack averaged 13 points and 5.5 assists in 30 minutes a game off of the bench, becoming a candidate for Sixth Man of the Year. This lineup lacks some outside shooting but they can run and penetrate the lane with two quality-scoring guards. Dion Waiters and Anthony Bennett were heavily considered for the list but Waiters isn’t suited for this lineup do to his high percentage of shots and inefficiency and I’m not sure how Bennett’s game is going to translate to the NBA.

13. Ricky Rubio/J.J. Barea/Kevin Martin/Dante Cunningham/Kevin Love
Rubio and Love have shown the dominance of their high pick and roll but it would be interesting to see how they fair with a full season playing together. The chemistry they have shown so far is fantastic but it will only be so if they are both able to remain healthy. Love played poorly to start last season before an injury to his hand two different times limited him to 18 games.

Love playing at center gives the Timberwolves tons of spacing but it’s important for him to play closer to the basket in these sets in order to get better looks for Martin and Barea. Barea topped the list at shooting guard over Alexey Shved mostly because of his improvement in moving the ball last season and his consistency from shooting the 3-pointer. In Rick Adelman‘s offensive system, Barea posted his highest assist percentage during the 2011-12 season and his third-highest last season. It’s extremely important that Barea moves the ball in this lineup because of the effectiveness that a ball swinger in a two-point guard system can have on a team.

Martin provides the scoring punch and Cunningham has a consistent midrange jumper coupled with flexibility in covering multiple positions.

12. John Wall/Bradley Beal/Martell Webster/Trevor Ariza/Nene
This may be the smallest lineup we’ll see in the article but it made it this high on the list for a reason: the development of John Wall. Last season Wall started hitting his jump shot at a much more efficient rate and started to have more control in general. He shot 38 percent on his jump shots and turned the ball over 3.2 times a game, which were both career-bests. These numbers don’t jump off the page but they help illustrate how effective Wall can be when he’s posting those numbers while generating a 20.8 player efficiency rating.

Beal was getting some Rookie of the Year consideration from bloggers before he suffered a stress fracture in his right fibula that made him miss most of April. Before the injury, Beal had turned it on during the second half of the season. In his final 30 games, he posted a 45.8 shooting percentage and an unfathomable 48.4 3-point shooting percentage while averaging 15.5 points per game. Getting a full season of Beal and Wall on the court together will help keep the wins coming and will be needed to keep offensive production.

Beal’s emphasis on driving to the basket becomes essential in this lineup due to the lack of scoring punch and the deadliness of Webster from deep. Webster shot 42 percent on 3-pointers last season, which will give Beal enough spacing and options to stretch the floor or take it to the basket. Ariza gives the team a solid wing defender and Nene gives them everything from passing to scoring to setting picks. Otto Porter was up for serious consideration but Webster proved consistent last season, so he got the nod.

11. Damian Lillard/C.J. McCollum/Wes Matthews/Nicolas Batum/LaMarcus Aldridge
The Trail Blazers were heavily reliant on their starters last season, which caused Lillard to play the most minutes of anyone in the NBA. The Trail Blazers are much deeper this season and this will allow them to play around with different lineups, hopefully playing Aldridge for longer periods of time at center.

Most might question my inclusion of McCollum in this lineup, skipping out on placing Dorell Wright in at small forward to stretch the floor, but I’m a big believer in McCollum this season once he returns from his right foot injury. He has all the tools to play well off the ball with a combination of natural scoring and willingness to move the ball. He is the ideal fit for this lineup simply because Batum, Matthews and Lillard already give this lineup so much great 3-point shooting and it can use a player who can get off his own shot.

10. Tony Parker/Manu Ginobili/Danny Green/Kawhi Leonard/Tim Duncan
This lineup truly could have been much lower or higher on this list because of how they played last season as a unit. On paper, this lineup makes a lot of sense and has enough balance of defense and offense to make it extremely effective, yet they only played 37 minutes last season. That is most likely due to Ginobili’s limited minutes and Popovich‘s reluctance to play Duncan long minutes at center. Regardless, this unit performed horribly in those limited minutes, allowing 18.7 more points than they scored per 100 possessions.

Kawhi Leonard is what transfers this lineup from good to great. Spurs fans are hoping he can continue his play in the NBA Finals where he averaged 14.6 points and 11.1 rebounds per game. That is why I’m slightly hesitant in placing them any further on this list because of what small sample size we do have on them and the chance that they actually play major minutes together.

9. Jrue Holiday/Eric Gordon/Tyreke Evans/Ryan Anderson/Anthony Davis
There are two lineups I am downright giddy about and this is one of them. The preseason has been somewhat of a playground scrimmage for Davis as he has simply annihilated the competition. Sure, it’s preseason but it comes on the heals of a rookie season in which he averaged 13.5 points, 8.2 rebounds and 1.8 blocks per game. Those stats should bump up this season, which should put him on some All-Star ballots if all things go well.

Last season Holiday had a fantastic first half of the season, averaging 19 points and nine assists by the time All-Star weekend rolled around. Those numbers, along with his efficiency, sunk as he became sucked into the failure of his middling team. The rejuvenation of a stacked lineup that takes scoring pressures off of his shoulders should allow him to make better decisions.

Evans has cooled off since his rookie season but he played much better last season than he did in years prior. It was the most efficient season he’s had since his rookie year and one in which he took the least amount of shots per game. Evans started to player better off the ball and will need to continue to be a relentless driver to the basket to be effective, getting back to his rookie number of 6.5 free throws a game.

Gordon, if healthy, provides a strong shooting guard who shoots well from deep (36 percent in his career) and a natural scorer (he’s never averaged less that 16 points in a season). He complements Evans in that he does most of his work from outside the paint area and relied primarily on jump shooting rather than recklessly penetrating the lane.

8. Russell Westbrook/Reggie Jackson/Thabo Sefolosha/Kevin Durant/Serge Ibaka
This lineup really hasn’t been explored much, actually it only played a total of 25 minutes last season, but it’s something that head coach Scott Brooks will have to heavily consider using with Westbrook back on the court. Brooks has to take a much harder look at giving Jackson over 15 minutes a game, which he happened to do last season. Jackson isn’t the sharpshooter that the Thunder have been accustomed to over the past few seasons, but he could be the scoring punch that they need next to Westbrook. The duo would give the Thunder a new dynamic that they haven’t had since Harden was traded to the Rockets, if Jackson can continue his progression from the postseason, where he shot 64.4 percent inside the paint.

This lineup may work better with a player like Collison who sets hard screens and plays well enough in the post to command attention, but Ibaka allows for Durant, Westbrook, and Jackson to relentlessly get to the basket with little worry of clogging in the paint. Even if they do manage to pack the paint when they drive to the basket, Ibaka has a strong enough midrange game — he shot 44.7 percent on 2-pointers past 16 feet — to make teams pay when they leave him open.

7. Steph Curry/Klay Thompson/Andre Iguodala/Harrison Barnes/David Lee
I mentioned earlier that I am quite fond of the small lineup that the New Orleans Pelicans will be trotting out on a regular basis, but my excitement dials up a few notches when I see the potential of this lineup. Am I terrified of the interior defense of this lineup? Sure hell I am, but I’m also terrified of him and I still root for the Pelicans anyway. So moving onwards with the rankings we address the awesome-ness that can be the Golden State Warriors this season.

Let’s start with the guards as they were dubbed the title of “Greatest Shooting Backcourt of All Time” during the 2012-13 regular season. Thompson is a sharpshooter who does the vast majority of his damage on jump shots, especially beyond the 3-point arc where he shot 40.1 percent last season. As good of a shooter as Thompson is, Curry makes him look downright average. Curry shot 600 3-pointers last season, which led the league, but he somehow was able to drain 45.3 percent of those shots. He finished the league third in 3-point percentage but the only other player in the top 50 to eclipse 500 attempts was his teammate, Thompson. If there is the slimmest of doubts in Curry’s shooting ability than you should probably know that he shot 58.8 percent from the right corner.

They can shoot the ball, is that it? Well, Andre Iguodala proved during his short time in Denver that he excels in playing in an uptempo system, which you’d have to assume this lineup would stress doing, by getting after opponents with tenacious defense and pushing the ball up the court. Iguodala gives this lineup the versatility it needs offensively and defensively to succeed because of his size and ability to both create and finish at the basket (Iguodala made a higher percentage of his shots at the rim than James Harden).

Harrison Barnes proved his worth last season and amped it up during the playoffs where he raised his scoring total by nearly seven points and his minutes increased by 13 per game. Iguodala might have to rotate in guarding the power forward position but not many teams will be able to keep up with this lineup with their perfect offensive balance of shooting and propensity to get to the rim.

6. Patrick Beverley/Jeremy Lin/James Harden/Chandler Parsons/Dwight Howard
Twitter was abuzz when it was announced that Patrick Beverley would be starting in lieu of Jeremy Lin to start the season. Whether your opinion leans toward the positive or the negative on the decision it really doesn’t matter in my world of small ball because they both get to start! Lin was touted in New York as a player that could be successful off the ball because of his ability to draw fouls and get into the lane. He could work with Beverley, who is more concentrated on moving the ball rather than looking for his own shot. Best of all, Beverley is an excellent defender who puts less pressure on Howard to protect the rim.

Harden playing at the three on defense looks like a travesty but it works more so as an advantage because you also have to look at the inverse and ask, how can a small forward cover Harden? Most players in the NBA are unable to carry out that monumental task but it becomes even tougher for a small forward because of Harden’s quickness.

This lineup doesn’t come without concerns but if Chandler Parsons and Harden continue to shoot well from 3-point range this lineup could be dangerous with Howard anchoring the post. The two keys will be Lin and Howard. If Lin can play like he did after the All-Star Game, averaging 14.9 points per game, 5.9 assists per game, and a 37.5 3-point percentage, the Rockets will be in good shape. Howard will have to improve his defense at the basket and his efficiency, but both seem likely with better health and a system that better fits his style.

5. Deron Williams/Jason Terry/Joe Johnson/Andrei Kirilenko/Kevin Garnett
Most may question why I didn’t include Paul Pierce and Brook Lopez on the list but the article is about lineups that are small so the only way to include them would be to replace them for Joe Johnson or Kevin Garnett, which I didn’t agree with. Kevin Garnet and Andrei Kirilenko give the Nets a fantastic defensive frontcourt that can help the rebound woes that the Nets are accustomed to when Lopez takes the court. Garnett can space the floor because of his consistent jump shot, which got even better last year, hitting 46.9 percent of his jump shots past 16 feet last season.

Johnson give the team floor spacing at the small forward position. He can not only hit 3-pointers, he shot 37.5 percent last season, but isn’t a liability when defending small forwards. Terry gives the Nets strong 3-point shooting but the defensive backcourt is a bit scary. Williams is big enough to cover bigger guards but struggles against quicker guards. It is easier to accept these qualms when you have Garnett on the floor but he’s shown signs of aging, showing cracks in his once impenetrable armor of defense. The Nets will need Garnett to play to his old level of production for this lineup to be effective.

4. Raymond Felton/Pablo Prigioni/J.R. Smith/Carmelo Anthony/Tyson Chandler
Zach Lowe and other NBA writers have taken a look at the Knicks roster and questioned exactly how the pieces fit together. As deep as this team is, that is a completely legitimate question to ask considering the glut of power forwards they are storing on the roster. Most are assuming that the Knicks will have to go big most of the time because of the way they were beat up by the Indiana Pacers.

The mainstream perception of how the Knicks SHOULD play is with a big lineup that features Anthony-Bargnani-Chandler but in order to get back to the basketball Knicks fans saw during the early part of last season, they will need to play this two-point guard lineup. Anthony is at his best when playing at the power forward position with two different points guards. The key is having a completely selfless swing passer at shooting guard who only shoots when wide open. This kind of lineup proved to work greatly last season as the Knicks outscored their opponents by 27 points per 100 possessions, but the only difference was that they had Jason Kidd inserted at the shooting guard position instead of Prigioni.

Kidd excelled in that role during the early part of last season, but wear and tear eventually led to an inconsistent 3-point shot so the lineup suffered without the ability to rely on him when he had an open look. Prigioni may not rebound as well as Kidd but he does a lot of similar things so it isn’t unrealistic to think he can provide similar qualities to the team. Prigioni will have to continue his shooting efficiency that he had during the playoffs, when he shot 43.3 percent on 2.7 attempts per game and be a little bit more confident when he has a wide open look.

Smith, returning from his knee surgery and coming off an early season suspension for violating the league’s substance abuse policy, needs to return to his 2012-13 regular season self. His play dropped off dramatically after the infamous elbow to Jason Terry’s head during Game 3 of the first round of the playoffs against the Boston Celtics. Smith has to regain his aggressiveness in driving to the lane where he once had a 10-game stretch during the regular season where he averaged 8.9 free throw attempts and 25 points per game. If he continues to get to the free throw line and shoot spot up 3-pointers, this Knicks lineup will repeat it’s success from last season. Iman Shumpert is perfectly suited for this lineup, playing better defense than Smith, but he needs to become more consistent in driving to the paint this season.

3. Chris Paul/J.J. Redick/Jared Dudley/Matt Barnes/Blake Griffin
The Clippers are truly a contender and it will be a team that relies heavily on 3-point shooting, which is why they are currently ranked seventh in the league in 3-point attempts. The biggest concern is the interior defense without DeAndre Jordan on the court but Griffin is improving in this category and Barnes is a versatile defender who can cover a wide array of positions.

Defensively, the frontcourt may have some trouble against certain matchups, but they should be able to hold their own against both bigger and smaller lineups due to Paul and Dudley’s defensive acumen. Paul had trouble guarding Steph Curry the other night, actually that seemed to be a problem that the entire Clippers team had, but that is just the exception due to Curry’s length. Dudley and Redick should get better looks playing next to one of the best point guards in the league and a post player who constantly attracts help defense.

Griffin has to continue his development on the post, where he played much better than people have been giving him credit for. He has the reputation of being a highflying monster that is more athletically gifted than technical. That evaluation of Griffin should be gone by season’s end as head coach Doc Rivers will help Griffin exploit matchups.

2. Derrick Rose/Kirk Hinrich/Jimmy Butler/Luol Deng/Joakim Noah
My lone issue with this lineup stems from the same area of concern that I have with the Indiana Pacers, which is the system that the team has in place. Tom Thibodeau likes to go bigger on both the frontcourt and backcourt. He hasn’t experimented much with two-point guard lineups but it could fit perfectly in their goal of finding an equilibrium between offensive firepower without sacrificing anything defensively.

Hinrich is a very good defensive player and, in playing with Rose, could actually extend Rose’s minutes. In handling the opposing team’s best offensive guard, Hinrich could allow Rose to play a slightly less intense defensive responsibility and offensively Rose could play off the ball looking to create his own shot instead of trying to make plays and getting others involved. This is by no means to say that Rose isn’t capable of handling the point guard position, but it would allow Thibodeau to fully exploit Rose’s talents while using his minutes appropriately.

Jimmy Butler and Luol Deng are perfectly capable of defending opposing forwards and are not, in any case, offensive liabilities. Butler struggled with his jump shooting last season but was a strong finisher around the basket, where he shot 65.7 percent at the rim.

Noah just needs to be healthy. When healthy Noah is a fearsome protector of the rim, great screener, fantastic rebounder, and worthy of hilarious .gifs.

1. Mario Chalmers/Dwyane Wade/Ray Allen/LeBron James/Chris Bosh
The full circle effect was a nice touch, right? Well, there’s really not much to say that you don’t already know about this lineup. They finished last season playing 112 minutes together and outscoring their opponents by 28 points per 100 possessions. The one surprising statistic you may find about this unit is their ability to edge their opponents in rebounding and blocked shots.

The biggest question in choosing this lineup is that I chose it over another one of Miami’s formidable lineups. If you plug in Shane Battier for Ray Allen you actually get a team that played quite well, especially when you consider the amount of minutes they played together. They logged 299 total minutes last year, outscoring their opponents by 18.7 points per 100 possessions. That mark is incredibly impressive but Allen can do more things off the dribble and he allows for Wade to do more of his damage inside the paint because he commands attention on the perimeter due to reputation alone.

James is the reason that the Heat can be versatile in the lineups they use. His ability to play a variety of positions and take on different roles within those lineups is incredible, showing why he is so valuable to the Heat. That role is every growing and it’ll be important for both Wade and Bosh to step up in order reduce some of the burden off of James.

What do you think?

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