NBA coaches are constantly tinkering with their five-man units. Whether someone starts or not really takes a back seat to the primary concern of which players work well together, and only then, how match-ups can be exploited. In the very least, lineup data can tell us which combinations of Wizards have best played together with success (must less whom they are doing it against… high- or low-quality opponents). The lineup statistics for these 2011-12 Wizards also tell of a failed plan from the start. But if the ultimate goal was to get a top four pick in the 2012 NBA Draft, then maybe Ernie Grunfeld & Co. haven’t failed after all.
Eighteen different five-man units have played 25 or more minutes together for Washington this season. Below is the distribution of those lineups ranked by minutes played, and including the plus/minus per 48 minutes for that lineup. Yes, one lineup this season played 41 minutes together and would have been down by 38.4 points had they hypothetically played an entire game together against hypothetical competition. It’s hypothetically pretty sad. I’ve bolded the five lineups with a positive plus/minus per 48 minutes, if that helps.
OK, so what if we were to rank those 18 lineups by best to worst plus/minus per 48 minutes, but hiding all names except for those of JaVale McGee, Nick Young, Andray Blatche and Nene. What if…
|McGee.JaVale – Young.Nick||26||5.6|
|McGee.JaVale – Young.Nick||78||-4.9|
|McGee.JaVale – Young.Nick||63||-8.3|
|Blatche.Andray – McGee.JaVale – Young.Nick||110||-8.7|
|McGee.JaVale – Young.Nick||201||-9.8|
|Blatche.Andray – McGee.JaVale||25||-9.8|
|Blatche.Andray – McGee.JaVale – Young.Nick||61||-18.1|
|McGee.JaVale – Young.Nick||37||-24.9|
|McGee.JaVale – Young.Nick||43||-26.7|
|Blatche.Andray – McGee.JaVale||41||-38.4|
Interesting. McGee was certainly capable of playing in the best lineup per 48, for 28 minutes; Young in the second best for 25 minutes; even both of them in the fifth best lineup together for 26 minutes. But out of the five positive plus/minus lineups, Nene already is heavily present in the two five-man units with the most minutes together — 93 minutes with a plus-6.7 per 48, and 31 with a plus-6.2 per 48.
The negative lineups — a strong indicator of the Wizards’ horrendous season to-date — heavily feature Young, Blatche and McGee. All three of them are featured in two prominently failing lineups — 110 minutes with a minus-8.7, and 61 minutes with a minus-18.1. The proof is in the pudding, dearly departed.
Do other players get away with not being analyzed? No. The below table does the same as above, except only reveals the names of John Wall, Jordan Crawford, Shelvin Mack and Chris Singleton in said lineups.
|Crawford.Jordan – Wall.John||28||12.2|
|Singleton.Chris – Wall.John||25||7.7|
|Crawford.Jordan – Singleton.Chris – Wall.John||93||6.7|
|Crawford.Jordan – Singleton.Chris – Wall.John||31||6.2|
|Singleton.Chris – Wall.John||26||5.6|
|Crawford.Jordan – Wall.John||25||-2|
|Crawford.Jordan – Singleton.Chris – Wall.John||107||-4.5|
|Crawford.Jordan – Wall.John||78||-4.9|
|Singleton.Chris – Wall.John||201||-9.8|
|Crawford.Jordan – Singleton.Chris – Wall.John||25||-9.8|
|Crawford.Jordan – Singleton.Chris – Wall.John||109||-16.8|
|Crawford.Jordan – Mack.Shelvin – Singleton.Chris||25||-17.6|
|Singleton.Chris – Wall.John||61||-18.1|
|Crawford.Jordan – Wall.John||37||-24.9|
|Crawford.Jordan - Wall.John||41||-38.4|
The distribution of these players amongst lineups good and bad is more even, indicating, to me at least, that they are not necessarily part of the problem. They can just as easily be part of good Wizards basketball as they can with bad, it just depends on their influencing surroundings.
OK, so let’s do the same thing with the young Wizards bigs — Trevor Booker, Kevin Serpahin and Jan Vesely.
|Booker.Trevor – Seraphin.Kevin||25||7.7|
|Seraphin.Kevin – Vesely.Jan||25||-2|
|Booker.Trevor – Seraphin.Kevin||107||-4.5|
Clearly these young pups have been less involved in the truly horrendous five-man units, and more involved in the decent to understandably bad five-man units.
Finally, let’s look at all of the names in their entirety for the Wizards’ top 18 lineups in minutes with corresponding plus/minus per 48 minutes.
|Crawford.Jordan – Lewis.Rashard – McGee.JaVale – Vesely.Jan – Wall.John||28||12.2|
|Booker.Trevor – Seraphin.Kevin – Singleton.Chris – Wall.John – Young.Nick||25||7.7|
|Booker.Trevor – Crawford.Jordan – Hilario.Nene – Singleton.Chris – Wall.John||93||6.7|
|Crawford.Jordan – Hilario.Nene – Seraphin.Kevin – Singleton.Chris – Wall.John||31||6.2|
|Lewis.Rashard – McGee.JaVale – Singleton.Chris – Wall.John – Young.Nick||26||5.6|
|Crawford.Jordan – Lewis.Rashard – Seraphin.Kevin – Vesely.Jan – Wall.John||25||-2|
|Booker.Trevor – Crawford.Jordan – Seraphin.Kevin – Singleton.Chris – Wall.John||107||-4.5|
|Booker.Trevor – Crawford.Jordan – McGee.JaVale – Wall.John – Young.Nick||78||-4.9|
|Lewis.Rashard – McGee.JaVale – Vesely.Jan – Wall.John – Young.Nick||63||-8.3|
|Blatche.Andray – Lewis.Rashard – McGee.JaVale – Wall.John – Young.Nick||110||-8.7|
|Booker.Trevor – McGee.JaVale – Singleton.Chris – Wall.John – Young.Nick||201||-9.8|
|Blatche.Andray – Crawford.Jordan – McGee.JaVale – Singleton.Chris – Wall.John||25||-9.8|
|Booker.Trevor – Crawford.Jordan – McGee.JaVale – Singleton.Chris – Wall.John||109||-16.8|
|Crawford.Jordan – Mack.Shelvin – Seraphin.Kevin – Singleton.Chris – Vesely.Jan||25||-17.6|
|Blatche.Andray – McGee.JaVale – Singleton.Chris – Wall.John – Young.Nick||61||-18.1|
|Crawford.Jordan – Lewis.Rashard – McGee.JaVale – Wall.John – Young.Nick||37||-24.9|
|Booker.Trevor – Lewis.Rashard – McGee.JaVale – Wall.John – Young.Nick||43||-26.7|
|Blatche.Andray – Crawford.Jordan – Lewis.Rashard – McGee.JaVale – Wall.John||41||-38.4|
Yes, these five-man units provide a telling story of this 2011-12 Wizards season. The data points to the idea that, although still young and very raw, this franchise is already seeing better days now that they’ve flushed most of the poison out of the system. But cleansing is only a minor part, the decisions (and luck) going forward will determine if Washington truly wants to be the next Oklahoma City Thunder, or if bad luck and planning will keep the stomachs of fans in a spin cycle.
[All stats in this post according to NBA.com/Stats.]