The regular season is rapidly approaching. That means it’s time for the now-annual tradition of our Calculated Countdown series examining a particular stat that corresponds to the number of days until tipoff. Today, that figure focuses on a few intriguing 5-man lineups from last year.
5 Days to Tipoff
An examination of several “5-man” lineups Milwaukee trotted out last season
Lineup statistics are some of the most fickle data to evaluate. You’re usually dealing with small sample sizes. It’s tough to parcel through how those folks interacted together beyond extrapolating assumptions from who the lineup’s focal points were. All of this is doubly difficult when you’re looking at a team who is staring at a radical schematic overhaul and the injection of fresh blood into the roster. With that being said, let’s do just that and peek at a few notable 5-man lineups the Bucks trotted out last year.
The primary starting lineup from last year posted gaudy advanced stats to the tune of +7.0 net rating in just over 600 minutes of play. This has been a continuing trend for this Bucks team over the last few years; its starters play positive ball, only to have the lead splinter away when players start rising up from the pine. The more important part of that positive net rating, in my opinion, is their stingier defensive rating of 104.2, nearly a full 3 points lower than the team’s season average. Any unit that managed a secure blockade is of more interest to me, as I expect almost any lineup with the marquee three to be competent offensively. There’s not a lot more to glean from this crew, particularly with Henson likely relegated to a secondary role with Brook in the fold.
With just 95 minutes under their belt, caveats abound with this crew. However, I was intrigued by the juiced up pace this squad put up. Their 101.1 rating was well above the Bucks’ 98.5 season-long mark that ranked 20th in the league. This lineup’s mark would’ve been nearly equal with the Nets’ 6th ranked mark for the season, notably sprinting under the tutelage of Bud disciple Kenny Atkinson. Bud’s Hawks, meanwhile, ranked 8th in the league at 100.6. Pace certainly doesn’t have an exact correlation to offensive aptitude, but it’s been an oft-discussed potential adjustment for a potential transition terror like this Bucks team. More importantly, Maker found himself part of a lineup that posted a 104.6 defensive rating (+8.6 overall). There’s plenty of switchability there, and this seems like a reasonable facsimile of Milwaukee’s playoff crew should Bledsoe need a blow or is hampered by an injury.
Unsurprisingly though, given the lack of someone with Bledsoe’s nitro-speed, that pace didn’t translate to many fast break points as just 11.7% of their scoring came from that area. Swap Bledsoe in for Brogdon, and the pace goes down to ~99, but 17.2% of their scoring came from fast breaks. The more useful stat, and one that may be relevant going forward, was that 36.3% of their scoring came from 3-pointers. That’s one of the highest marks among all the Bucks primary 5-man lineups. Chalking that up to the Bledsoe-Brogdon swap is probably fair, as the mirror lineup with Eric saw 25.3% of their points from three, but there’s something to be said for surrounding Giannis with four shooters and letting him go to work. Bud should have that option at his disposal plenty this year with a full cupboard of wings and bigs he’s encouraging to sling from deep.
Unfortunately, if you look at Milwaukee’s most-played lineups without Giannis Antetokounmpo last year, the results are suboptimal. Their net ratings are -4.3, -20.6 and -19.6 respectively. All of them included Bledsoe, Snell, Middleton, Henson and a rotating cast of Jabari Parker, Brogdon and Sterling Brown. I’ve chosen the Parker lineup if only because swapping in Ersan seems like a reasonable backup lineup for Bud to trot out. It also posted the most minutes (88). Thankfully, this was the shiniest of all those turds, even with its unseemly 114.3 defensive rating. Still, they could score, which was more than the other two mustered in their roughly 40 minutes each. Both posted sub-100 offensive ratings even the sad-sack Suns could’ve justifiably laughed at.
There was plenty of fluky stuff here though. An unreasonably high 31.9% offensive rebounding rate wouldn’t hold up with Ersan’s battered body in there. Neither will the snail-slow pace (95.2). Bud’s urging will likely speed them up, not to mention Ersan’s savvy as a trailer who can fire quick threes. They also had a decent chunk of midrange points, something we hope will be eliminated given Ersan’s spacing and Bud’s general philosophies.
Like we said at the outset, lineup analysis is tricky, so we’re going to stop here. But hopefully these are a few chunks to chew on as Bud starts to round out how he’ll dole out the team’s minutes. Outside of the starters, what sort of theoretical 5-man lineups are you hoping will take the court for the Bucks this year?