The Golden State Warriors are the pioneers and gold standard when it comes to concocting a devastating positionless lineup. The Death Lineup, as it is rightly called, has killed the competition en route to three championships so far.
Since its proven success, other teams are following suit on modern positionless basketball on their lineups. While the Warriors are arguably the best right now, here five lineups that could break the NBA soon.
We are going to take a peak at other lineups that are closing in on Golden State. Maybe not yet with the full star-power Steve Kerr and company trot out each night during the regular season, but the sort that is growing due to potential and could eventually catch up with the original Death Lineup.
5. Philadelphia 76ers
There is only one thing that will determine the success of this lineup, Markelle Fultz. If the former 1st overall pick performs within or beyond his draft billing, this would definitely be a go-to lineup.
Length is definitely there with Fultz being the smallest at 6’4. Moreover, Embiid and Simmons will always give the opposing defense matchup problems. For the occasional kick out to the outside, everyone except Simmons is a capable enough shooter from the outside, space won’t be a problem.
Ultimately, the growth of their young stars will be the gauge on how far this lineup can go. On paper, this lineup is solid enough to compete with a skillset varied enough to be versatile in any position.
4. Toronto Raptors
Kawhi Leonard, Danny Green. Kyle Lowry, Serge Ibaka, and OG Anunoby
I imagine this would be every wing player not named LeBron James’ nightmare. Very physical and disruptive on the defensive end, single coverage on the best player of the opposing team can be done by Leonard, Green, or Anunoby.
Everybody can space the floor even as Anunoby develops his outside stroke close to decent. It will be a tough cover inside and out for anybody left unchecked. Elite big men may pose a problem, but double teams with Ibaka and any of the four can cover that lapse up.
All in all, this is an elite defensive unit with enough scoring punch to take a game over. The only issue is the new pieces to assimilate in Leonard and Green. How well they fit and perform will figure out how dangerous this will work.
The loss of Trevor Ariza and Luc Mbah a Moute will definitely be felt this season. Defense definitely wins championships, but if somebody can make switching gears work, it would be head coach Mike D’Antoni.
If Carmelo Anthony embraces the inner defender in him, this wouldn’t be a problem at all. Considering the strengths of three out of the five players on the lineup, putting your foot on the gas when it comes to the offense sounds like a better idea than trying to develop something that is not innate in someone, which is defending.
The good thing is, basketball is a team sport and this Rockets unit may lack the brilliant single defensive coverage it once had, defending as a team will now be its defensive mantra.
On the offensive end, the reigning MVP, the Point God, and Melo can easily put up buckets. Tucker’s physical three-and-D acumen paired with Capela’s athletic rim running will always be valued as defenses collapse on three other scorers.
If Melo accepts third-fiddle duties and develops a consistent catch-and-shoot stroke, I cannot see how this can’t work out.
2. Milwaukee Bucks
Giannis Antetekounmpo, Eric Bledsoe, Khris Middleton, Malcom Brogdon, and Thon Maker
This unit is young enough to run the opposing team down. Handling and facilitating the rock will be a piece of cake with each player gifted enough to do both.
Running down the break will be a sight to behold with a lot of finishers and outside capable shooters. How oiled this machine will work will fall on the shoulders of the Greek Freak. His do utility knife-like skill set will provide and keep everything needed.
Without Antetekounpo and Middleton, the defense isn’t exactly a strong suit for the group, which could be its Achilles heel all in all.
1. Los Angeles Lakers
LeBron James, Kyle Kuzma, Brandon Ingram, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, and Lonzo Ball
Any team with LeBron James is going to be considered as a contender, a testament to how great he really is. At first glance, this may not look like the ideal lineup with James playing center, but in small-ball situations, this may actually work with the length, and youth that this unit has.
Caldwell-Pope and Ball are capable enough defenders, while Ingram and Kuzma not exactly known for defense, defensive schemes can work around their weaknesses. Aside from that, this unit has it mostly covered from shooting, creating shots, and defending.
The only factor on how this will efficiently work is LeBron James. Playing with the best player in the world, there is no way but to take your game to another level when you play with him. If there is someone who can make the team better, it would definitely be him.