The off season means prediction time and one of the more interesting prediction models we’ve seen is Jacob Goldstein & B-Ball Index’s lineup projection model that allows anyone to plug in any combination of five players to see what their projected net rating would be. It’s a super fun tool and you should all go play with it.
Anyway, I took the liberty in putting together three of my favorite starting and bench lineups to see what the projections would say. Some of the conclusions may shock you. So without further ado, let’s get into it.
This is the lineup that most Celtics fans are expecting to be the starters and the returns are stellar. The 119.4 offensive rating would dwarf the best mark in the league. However, it’s dwarfed by the Warriors’ Death Lineup that posts a 122.7 offensive rating.
The biggest points of contention here are the defense, which the model predicts will be about league average based on last seasons statistics (16th to be exact), and that it’s not as bullish on the offense. Though 119.4 is high, it’s still beat out by lineups like Kyle Lowry, C.J Miles, Kawhi Leonard, O.G Anunoby, and Jonas Valanciunas (124 offensive rating). My guess is guys like Leonard, Durant, and Curry project very well on these models while guys like Brown, Hayward, and Tatum aren’t loved the same way. However, even more interestingly than that, this wasn’t even projected to be the Celtics best lineup.
According to this model, replacing Aron Baynes with Horford doesn’t change much with the offensive and gives the defense a slight facelift. Baynes was a net rating darling last year. He was among the league leaders in defensive rating and was involved in the team’s two best lineups last year.
This lineup is a more traditional one with Baynes replacing Tatum, but the model still projects a heavily offensive-oriented offense with mediocre defense. This appears to suggest that the model is very down on Irving’s defense, because it’s using a compilation of individual stats and not how they work within a team construct and it isn’t properly adjusting to how Irving would actually impact defense surrounded by 3-4 plus defenders. The theme based off this model is that the Celtics starters are going to be able to score. But let’s get into some of the interesting 2nd unit opportunities.
In this lineup, I was thinking about how the Celtics could stay big and switchy in the second unit and came up with this beauty. The model likes its potential offensively, but is having a hard time seeing the vision on the defensive end. I do think this could be a lineup that really has some success because it basically gives the Celtics the ability to switch everything while having multiple creators on the court at once.
The famous three-guard lineup grades out as a plus on the model with a stronger than expected offense. The rationale here would be that Stevens loves to go to his three-guard lineups and it gives Irving a chance to play off-ball and go into more of an attack mode. In order not to get killed due to lack of size, the team would pair with them two of the smarter defenders on the team who also happen to provide much needed height and length to protect the interior.
Finally, this is one of the lineups I’m pretty confident will be prominently featured if the starting five is who we all expect it to be. Based on this model it would be one of our better defensive units with a very respectable offensive punch. In reality, the spacing could be an issue if one of Theis/Baynes doesn’t have much comfortability launching from beyond the arc. However, it’s one of those lineups where you just put a bunch of smart basketball players together and let them figure stuff out.
Overall, I think the model is really well done for what it’s trying to do and is another fun way to analyze what will be a fun regular season of mix-and-match for the Celtics. I think defensively, the Celtics will be much more stout then the numbers show, but it’s hard to disagree with the offensive punch that will be coming with the additions of Irving and Hayward. Training camp can’t get here soon enough.