With the Cavs’ season concluding last night in a nice, comfortable win over the Brooklyn Nets, it’s time to look back at what made this season such a strange time in our lives. One of the biggest things that skewed this season in the direction that it went was the lack of consistency in the rotation. Now, two major trades, an exiling of a starter, and major injuries to three-fifths of the team’s opening night starting lineup will do that. However, the Cavs had very little semblance of consistency in the 5-man units they rolled out together, even from game to game. Their most commonly used lineup played just 240 minutes together in 13 games.
The lineup they used in the most games played in just 25. The Cavs used 20 different starting lineups this year, as well. There was nothing even close to consistency here. With a ton of lineups to examine, however, it allows us to look at groupings that played well together, groupings that were either bad or horrendous, and pairings or threesomes of players that worked well together. From this, we can both try to put this season into context, and pinpoint groups of players who should play more, or less, together in the future. Limiting five-man lineups that played at least 50 minutes together, and 4-man lineups to at least 100 minutes together in an attempt to reduce small sample-size numbers, let’s look at the good, the bad, and the ugly of Mike Brown’s rotation management.
Strongest 5-Man Lineup: Matthew Dellavedova, Jarrett Jack, Dion Waiters, Anderson Varejao, Tyler Zeller
12G, 74 Min, 127.0 ORtg, 90.5 DRtg, +36.5 NetRtg
Well, this is unexpected. The Cavs did run a lot of bench-heavy units this season, and this was by far the best of any of them. Logically, I can see why this group would work; Varejao and Zeller both play well inside and out, so there isn’t much clogged space inside. Jack worked primarily as the distributor, with Waiters attacking off the dribble and Delly spotting up. Offensively, it makes sense. The baffling parts: A 90.5 defensive rating while playing without either of the Cavs’ best perimeter defenders, C.J. Miles and Luol Deng; a 63.6 eFG%; and a 60.6 total rebounding rate, which was the Cavs’ best effort. A lot of this could have been sample size, of course, as they only did play 74 minutes together, mostly against other bench-heavy units. But still, it’s very interesting that this, of all groupings, posted the Cavs’ best ORtg, DRtg, and Net Rtg of any five-man unit.
Worst 5-Man Lineup: Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters, Luol Deng, Tristan Thompson, Anderson Varejao
13G, 67 Min, 91.5 ORtg, 105.2 DRtg, -13.6 Net Rtg
This group got a lot of run during the dark days of January, prior to the trade deadline and just prior to the Chris Grant firing. Naturally, things are skewed here by morale being at an all-time low, but it became very clear very quickly that this was not a good lineup. A lack of consistent outside shooting doomed this group, which had a 40.9 eFG%, and watched Dion and Kyrie throw up tons of contested jumpers while Andy’s midrange game was relied upon far too much. It’s a really, really good thing that the Cavs didn’t use this unit too often.
Worst Defensive Lineup: Jarrett Jack, Dion Waiters, Luol Deng, Tristan Thompson, Spencer Hawes
7G, 104 Min, 113.6 ORtg, 123.4 DRtg, -9.8 Net Rtg
The lineup above was also the worst offensive unit the Cavs used this season, but this group took the cake on the defensive end. The starting lineup when Kyrie was out with a biceps injury, these guys tried to play at a quick pace, and that wasn’t very helpful. With Hawes and Thompson in the frontcourt against teams like the Raptors, Pistons, and Pacers, the Cavs got bashed inside repeatedly, and Jack and a gimpy Luol Deng didn’t help matters on the perimeter. They scored at a pretty solid rate, and the Cavs did go 4-1 when this group was the starting lineup, but these five were a clear negative on defense.
Most Commonly Used Lineup: Kyrie Irving, Jarrett Jack, Luol Deng, Tristan Thompson, Spencer Hawes
13G, 240 Min, 107.1 ORtg, 104.5 DRtg, +2.6 Net Rtg
The Cavs’ most common starting lineup wasn’t awful! Irving and Jack playing together didn’t doom the Cavs, and this group had solid spacing thanks to Hawes and Jack sharing the floor, giving the team multiple shooters. There wasn’t really one area where this unit excelled, but they were above-average on offense and not horrible on defense. It’s a shame we didn’t get to see this group play more together thanks to injuries.
Remember This?: Kyrie Irving, C.J. Miles, Alonzo Gee, Tristan Thompson, Andrew Bynum
11G, 138 Min, 102.3 ORtg, 100.4 DRtg, +1.9 Net Rtg
This group ended the season as the fourth-most commonly used lineup by the Cavs this season. WELP.
Best 4-Man Lineup: Jarrett Jack, Matthew Dellavedova, Dion Waiters, Anderson Varejao
29G, 220 Min, 115.8 ORtg, 88.3 DRtg, +27.5 Net Rtg
Four-man units were more consistent for the Cavs, even if Mike Brown loved to change around the fifth player with each group. It’s unsurprising, though, that the 4-man unit that was the most successful was another bench-heavy group. Jack, Delly, Waiters, and Varejao gave the Cavs a variety of options in the backcourt and one really good rebounder and post defender. I’m still really confused by the defensive prowess here, but this was a versatile group that could really prey on opponents’ bench squads.
Worst 4-Man Lineup: Jarrett Jack, Dion Waiters, Tristan Thompson, Spencer Hawes
18G, 175 Min, 102.4 ORtg, 126.4 DRtg, -24.0 Net Rtg
Spencer Hawes and Tristan Thompson was not a good defensive pairing. Jack and Waiters really struggled without Delly paired with them or Varejao behind them. Offensively this unit was decent, but 126.4 points/100 possessions is horrendous.
Best three-man Unit: Jarrett Jack, Matthew Dellavedova, Luol Deng
25G, 104 Min, 114.2 ORtg, 88.1 DRtg, +26.1 Net Rtg
Jack/Delly impervious defense strikes again! This one actually makes sense, though. Pairing these two with Luol Deng allowed the Cavs to account for big wings and small wings on the defensive end, and offensively, had the shooters and cutters to compliment pretty much any frontcourt pairing. I lament that Deng didn’t play more with the second team; his presence on bench-heavy units as the main guy on both ends worked well in small doses.
Worst three-man Unit: Jarrett Jack, Kyrie Irving, Andrew Bynum
21G, 110 Min, 85.2 ORtg, 110.3 DRtg, -25.1 Net Rtg
God, November was horrible.
Worst Perimeter Unit: Kyrie Irving, Jarrett Jack, Earl Clark
28G, 119 Min, 94.0 ORtg, 115.6 DRtg, -21.5 Net Rtg
November was REALLY horrible.
Best 2-Man Unit: Matthew Dellavedova, C.J. Miles
22G, 163 Min, 112.7 ORtg, 99.6 DRtg, +13.1 Net Rtg
This pairing didn’t get enough use because of Miles’s ankle injury, but it was still a really fun pair on the wing. The Cavs went small a lot and pushed the pace when these two shared the floor, and it resulted in some great ball movement on offense. It is here that I will note that the Cavs’ top 5 2-man lineup pairings by Net Rating are as follows:
Dellavedova was apparently pretty good at basketball this year.
Worst 2-Man Unit: Dion Waiters, Andrew Bynum
17G, 109 Min, 80.1 ORtg, 115.4 DRtg, -35.4 Net Rt
The Cavs did a lot of bench units early in the season with Bynum and Waiters as the primary scorers. The Cavs started the season 5-12. The two may have been related, as that 80.1 ORtg would lead you to believe.
Best Frontcourt Pairing: Anderson Varejao and Tyler Zeller
33G, 243 Min, 104.0 ORtg, 96.5 DRtg, +7.5 Net Rtg
For all the reasons explained when these two paired in the best 5-man lineup. Varejao/Zeller have a lot of versatility when paired together, and the two grabbed 54.8 percent of available rebounds, by far one of the best rebounding rates on the team. This was a pairing I expected to see a lot of throughout the season; unfortunately thanks to Andrew Bynum, Spencer Hawes, and Varejao’s injuries, we didn’t get to see it as much as they probably warranted with their play.
Worst Front court Pairing: Tristan Thompson, Andrew Bynum
23G, 374 Min, 92.9 ORtg, 106.3 DRtg, -13.5 Net Rtg
This is my shocked face.
Who Played Best/Worst With Who?
Finally, let’s look at the best and worst partners for each player still on the roster at the end of the season. We’ll exclude Sergey Karasev, Carrick Felix, and the 10-day guys for simplicity’s sake.
Best Teammate (Net Rtg)
Worst Teammate (Net Rtg)
Anderson Varejao (+1.3)
Tristan Thompson (-27.5)
C.J. Miles (+13.1)
Kyrie Irving (-7.8)
Matthew Dellavedova (+12.9)
Anthony Bennett (-14.2)
C.J. Miles (+2.5)
Jarrett Jack (-17.8)
Matthew Dellavedova (+8.6)
Jarrett Jack (-9.7)
C.J. Miles (+4.1)
Jarrett Jack (-8.0)
Matthew Dellavedova (+6.2)
Alonzo Gee (-17.8)
Matthew Dellavedova (+13.1)
Jarrett Jack (-9.1)
Matthew Dellavedova (+3.3)
Anthony Bennett (-27.5)
Matthew Dellavedova (+10.0)
Alonzo Gee (-10.5)
Matthew Dellavedova (+11.6)
Spencer Hawes (-9.3)
Anderson Varejao (+7.5)
Alonzo Gee (-7.2)
-That’s a lot of Dellavedova on the best side.
-When Jack wasn’t paired with Dellavedova in some way, he was pretty bad.
-Waiters/Hawes was bad, which is surprising considering how much they played together on somewhat positive lineups.
-Delly didn’t help everyone. Pairing Kyrie Irving with another point guard was a complete failure of an experiment.
-I expect moving forward, we’ll see Bennett have more positive impact, and Dellavedova to have less of a positive impact. Unless he’s the guard version of Amir Johnson. That would be great.
Finally, here’s the pre-All-Star Game and post-All-Star Game numbers for when Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters shared the floor:
Pre: 45G, 807 Min, 100.5 ORtg, 106.7 DRtg, -6.3 Net Rtg
Post: 14G, 249 Min, 100.3 ORtg, 106.3 DRtg, -6.1 Net Rtg