Lakers News: Advanced Statistics Support D’Antoni’s Small Ball Lineup

Lakers News: Advanced Statistics Support D’Antoni’s Small Ball Lineup


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Since arriving in Los Angeles, Mike D’Antoni has been heavily criticized for his coaching philosophy, his penchant to rely on small lineups regardless of the opponent and not being Phil Jackson, among other criticisms.  In their two seasons together, D’Antoni and Pau Gasol have sparred through the media, with the latest episode coming after yet another loss.

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However, according to Mike Trudell of, the Lakers have seen their best success when using a smaller lineup.  Trudell identifies a small lineup as one that forgoes having a traditional power forward. Trudell then examined the Lakers’ 10 most used lineups and arrived at the conclusion that the lineup of Kendall Marshall, Steve Blake, Wesley Johnson, Shawne Williams and Chris Kaman had the best disparity in +/-:

Lineup: Marshall/Blake/Johnson/Williams/Kaman (SMALL)
Minutes: 53
OffRtg: 106.4
DefRtg: 100.3
NetRtg: +6.2*
*This group outscored opponents by 6.2 points per 100 possessions.

When given the opportunity to play, Kaman has proven to be a serviceable backup center.  His primary issue has been getting the call from D’Antoni to enter the game.  While that lineup may own the best point disparity when the stats are adjusted for 100 possessions, it’s a group that the Lakers will no longer be able to employ.  Blake was traded to the Golden State Warriors and Williams is back with the Los Angeles D-Fenders after the Lakers didn’t re-sign him when his latest 10-day contract expired.

The next best lineup the Lakers could use is Jordan Farmar, Xavier Henry, Jordan Hill, Johnson and Jodie Meeks:

Lineup: Farmar/Meeks/Henry/Johnson/Hill (SMALL)
Minutes: 49
OffRtg: 112.8
DefRtg: 110.4
NetRtg: +2.4

Under Trudell’s methodology, the Lakers do not own a positive +/- with any of their “big” lineups.  The group that has performed the worst is Marshall, Meeks, Johnson, Gasol and Sacre:

Lineup: Marshall/Meeks/Johnson/Gasol/Sacre (BIG)
Minutes: 51
OffRtg: 91.8
DefRtg: 130.1
NetRtg: -38.2

While the stats may indicate the Lakers perform most optimally with a smaller lineup, the fact of the matter remains they are 19-39 this season.  The record can certainly be taken with a grain of salt as injuries have cost a combined 211 games, but the same can be said for the lineups.  What the stats don’t reflect is who the opponents were, their potential injuries, and other important aspects of the games.  Despite what lineup D’Antoni may favor as the season winds down, the Lakers will find themselves under .500 and out of the playoffs.
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