BY ERIK GUNDERSEN
As we look back on the Trail Blazers season, we are looking back on the best units from the season and remember the good times. On this list, we will break down the best five-man units all the way to the best two-man combinations for the 2012-2013 Trail Blazers.
In breaking these down, we will choose the best line-ups based on their offensive and defensive efficiencies, which is the amount of points scored (offensive) or given up (defensive) per 100 possessions, how they shot (effective field goal percentage, or eFG% for short, which is weighted for the value of the three-point shot) and how much the line-ups were used. Only seven five-man line-ups logged over a game's worth of minutes so we're going to be a little more lenient with regards to sample size on that. So, without further ado…
Best Five Man Line-Up
22 games, 79 minutes, offensive efficiency: 125.0, defensive efficiency: 94.5, eFG% 61.1
This line-up was the comeback line-up. The first time Stotts brought out this line-up was during an epic 18-point comeback done in under five minutes in Charlotte. Throughout the season, Terry Stotts would turn to this line-up when his team needed a boost of energy and they almost always seemed to come through. With Babbitt playing a small-ball stretch four creating space along with Matthews and Batum for Aldridge in the middle, as well as for Lillard to penetrate, provided the Trail Blazers with their best offensive and defensive line-up that logged at least a game''s worth of minutes. This line-up also rebounded better than any five-man line-up (grabbed 57 percent of all available rebounds), turned it over less, had the best assist-to-turnover ratio and just simply played the best. Perhaps the fact that this line-up always came on the floor when the Trail Blazers were always behind had something to do with it, but that doesn't change that almost every time Stotts asked this unit to get his team back in the game, they succeeded in doing so. This unit also pushed the pace, averaging over 10 possessions more per 48 than the team's average (93.7 possessions per 48 minutes) and Stotts was adamant all year about wanting Portland to run more.
27 games, 118 minutes, offensive efficiency: 116.8, defensive efficiency: 105, eFG% 57.9%
10 games, 33 minutes, offensive efficiency: 118, defensive efficiency: 85.4, eFG% 55.3%
60 games, 1143 minutes, offensive efficiency: 104.1, defensive efficiency: 105.8, eFG% 51.3%
The youth movement happened in April due to injuries to Batum, Matthews and even Aldridge, robbing us of getting to see more of the starters along with Leonard down the stretch. That line-up rebounded slightly worse than the starting line-up, grabbing 48.1 percent of all available rebounds instead of 49.1 percent for the starters. The starting line-up featuring Hickson at center undoubtedly kept the Trail Blazers competitive for most of the season and make honorable mention because they were Portland's most used line-up, despite finishing in the negative. Portland's two point guard back court with Leonard alongside Batum and Aldridge was also very effective, albeit in a small sample.
Best Four Man Unit
61 games, 1426 minutes, offensive efficiency: 106.4, defensive efficiency: 105.9, eFG% 52%
As the amount of people we are measuring decreases, there are larger samples to chose from than the five-man lineups. Five, four-man units logged over 1100 minutes for the Trail Blazers this year and this one was the only one with a positive net rating (the difference between their offensive and defensive efficiencies). The "core four" as Olshey calls them, was a positive, when they were on the court together. This is a case when the stats match the eye test.
Honorable mentions/Smaller Samples
31 games, 138 minutes, off. eff: 123.1, def. eff.: 97.4, eFG% 58%
25 games, 100 minutes, off.eff.: 116.6, def.eff: 95.0, eFG% 56.4%
43 games, 198 minutes, off. eff. 113.3, def.eff: 100.1, eFG% 55.6%
Portland's top-three four man units that logged over 100 minutes featured Babbitt. Leonard along with Lillard, Batum and Aldridge also provided an effective four-man unit.
Best Three Man Unit
68 games, 1891 minutes, off. eff.: 107, def. eff.: 105.3, eFG% 51.8%
Of 10 units that logged over 1000 minutes, this was the only three-man unit that finished with a positive net rating, being 1.7 points better than their opponents per 100 possessions. All of this, despite the fact that Batum's production tailed off down the stretch due to his wrist injury which affected him both mentally and physically.
Honorable mention/Smaller Samples
33 games, 169 minutes, off. eff: 121.3, def. eff: 99.6, eFG% 56%
38 games, 216 minutes, off. eff.: 112.5, def. eff: 95.1, eFG% 55.8%
49 games, 331 minutes, off. eff.: 107.5, def.eff: 99.5, eFG% 54.6%
Obviously you've likely noticed a trend by now, that line-ups with Babbitt did very well this season. Again, the small sample size is something you must be careful with. Interestingly enough, the line-up which represents a possible front-court for the future of Aldridge, Batum and Leonard also a positive this season. Another interesting trend was that the Trail Blazers grabbed more available rebounds when Aldridge and Babbitt shared the court.
Best Two Man Unit
74 games, 2286 minutes, off.eff: 105.7, def.eff: 105.2, eFG% 50.7%
Once again, the numbers are matching what we see. Portland looked completely discombobulated without the two and it's no wonder they are one of only two units for the Trail Blazers this year that logged over 1000 minutes and still managed to finish with a positive net rating. The other? Aldridge and Batum who finished with a net rating of .3, having the same offensive efficiency and a slightly lower defensive one.
Aldridge-Batum (explained above)
33 games, 193 minutes, off.eff: 112.8, def. eff: 97.2, eFG% 52.3%
40 games, 276 minutes, off. eff: 108.3, def.eff: 98.1, eFG% 49.6%
56 games, 518 minutes, off.eff: 108.9, def.eff: 107.2, eFG% 51.9%
As we keep going down the list, we continue to see things that we likely expected. Portland's best two-man defensive unit has Jared Jeffries, the team's smartest center as well as Matthews, who never stops trying on the defensive end. Also, we continue to see the Babbitt-Aldridge front court was a beast on the boards against opposing teams this year.
All of units listed here, except the Babbitt-Aldridge line-up had an eFG% higher than the team average. Line-up data is an effective way to both confirm what your eyes see and perhaps shed light on things you can't.