Five-Man Lineups: Data Access

How many five-man rotations have been employed in the league this season? How often do players play together on the court? What are the offensive and defensive ratings associated with every five-man unit this season? Does one particular line-up outscore opponents? Some of these questions can be answered with the following data below. Each link should take you to a team break-down that identifies every five-man rotation for every team this season.

Want to know how how well the Washington Wizards play when Ian Mahinmi is substituted in for Dwight Howard? We can take a cursory glance at the five-man data:


Top two line-ups for the Washington Wizards through December 12th, 2018.


Just note that we aggregate the data; and that match-up data is effectively scrubbed. Therefore this is not a proxy for interaction in offense-defense match-ups.

Using the image above, the files are Excel dumps with five-man offensive lineup and their corresponding defensive lineup beneath them. In this case, we see that the lineup with Dwight Howard has played 7,627 seconds together for 264 offensive possessions, while the the Ian Mahinmi lineup has played 4,146 seconds together for 152 offensive possessions.

Similarly, we see that the Howard-led unit has an offensive rating of 111.36 with a defensive rating of 124.15; while the Mahinmi-led unit has an offensive rating of 104.61 with a defensive rating of 118.06. There’s not much difference here as the net ratings are -12.79 versus -13.45, respectively.

Also note how I aggregate possessions. There are some zero-valued defensive possessions with a defensive FGA. These occur on the backs of free-throws with substitutions; as I refuse to partition possessions and refuse to double count.

The biggest take-away is that most of the five-man lineups have only a handful of possessions. Across the entire league, less than ten percent of all five-man lineups has more than 27 offensive possessions played. In fact, the median is six possessions. So be careful using lineup data to make concrete decisions.

One interesting tidbit is also the number of unique lineups. Typically, teams with small numbers have roster stability. Teams broken up by trades or injuries will tend to have many unique lineups. Similarly, teams that are floundering will also have a high number as they are trying out new ideas in the midst of a seemingly lost-cause season. Apologies, Atlanta.

One of the things we can do with lineup data (not with the summaries below) is break out the maximum likelihood rotation for a team and identify if that team makes the most sense. For example, here is the Orlando Magic from this season; the team with the least amount of unique five-man lineups:


Note that the optimal Orlando Magic lineup performs exceptionally well around the half-time periods; closing the second quarter and starting the third quarter. We see that the standard rotation usually struggles to start games and put away games; with the final five minutes being a dramatic drop-off. Note: The darker the red, the worse the team is outscored; the darker the green, the better the team outscores their opponent.

Through December 12th, here are the teams ranked by least amount of unique rotations:

  1. Orlando Magic – 103
  2. Indiana Pacers – 112
  3. Minnesota Timberwolves – 123
  4. Denver Nuggets – 125
  5. Portland Trail Blazers – 132
  6. Washington Wizards – 143
  7. Los Angeles Clippers – 146
  8. Dallas Mavericks – 159
  9. Oklahoma City Thunder – 175
  10. Chicago Bulls – 176
  11. Brooklyn Nets – 184
  12. Houston Rockets – 189
  13. Boston Celtics – 198
  14. San Antonio Spurs – 200
  15. Toronto Raptors – 205
  16. Detroit Pistons – 208
  17. Los Angeles Lakers – 209
  18. Philadelphia 76ers – 213
  19. Sacramento Kings – 218
  20. Charlotte Hornets – 223
  21. New Orleans Pelicans – 230
  22. Milwaukee Bucks – 231
  23. Memphis Grizzlies – 234
  24. Miami Heat – 234
  25. Golden State Warriors – 236
  26. Cleveland Cavaliers – 239
  27. New York Knicks – 249
  28. Utah Jazz – 250
  29. Phoenix Suns – 255
  30. Atlanta Hawks – 329

Yes, that last one is not a typo. Here are all the teams’ five-man lineup summary statistics:

Atlanta Hawks: ATL12DEC2018

Brooklyn Nets: BKN12DEC2018

Boston Celtics: BOS12DEC2018

Charlotte Hornets: CHA12DEC2018

Chicago Bulls: CHI12DEC2018

Cleveland Cavaliers: CLE12DEC2018

Dallas Mavericks: DAL12DEC2018

Denver Nuggets: DEN12DEC2018

Detroit Pistons: DET12DEC2018

Golden State Warriors: GSW12DEC2018

Houston Rockets: HOU12DEC2018

Indiana Pacers: IND12DEC2018

Los Angeles Clippers: LAC12DEC2018

Los Angeles Lakers: LAL12DEC2018

Memphis Grizzlies: MEM12DEC2018

Miami Heat: MIA12DEC2018

Milwaukee Bucks: MIL12DEC2018

Minnesota Timberwolves: MIN12DEC2018

New Orleans Pelicans: NOP12DEC2018

New York Knicks: NYK12DEC2018

Oklahoma City Thunder: OKC12DEC2018

Orlando Magic: ORL12DEC2018

Philadelphia 76ers: PHI12DEC2018

Phoenix Suns: PHX12DEC2018

Portland Trail Blazers: POR12DEC2018

Sacramento Kings: SAC12DEC2018

San Antonio Spurs: SAS12DEC2018

Toronto Raptors: TOR12DEC2018

Utah Jazz: UTA12DEC2018

Washington Wizards: WAS12DEC2018




2 thoughts on “Five-Man Lineups: Data Access

  1. Pingback: The Basketball analytics site of EuropeFive-Man Lineups: Data Access

  2. Pingback: Weekly Sports Analytics News Roundup - December 18th, 2018 - StatSheetStuffer

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