The Golden State Warriors have dominated the league for the last four years, winning three championships. Following their Finals loss in 2016, Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Andre Igoudala, and Draymond Green crashed Kevin Durant’s pad in the Hamptons. Thus formed the
popular boy band, the Hampton’s 5, NBA Death Lineup.
The Death Lineup is a lineup that creates offensive mismatches all over the floor and allows for almost total switchability on the defensive end. The Warriors with Durant in the fold had the perfect combination of players to do both.
They have two elite one-on-one defenders in Klay Thompson and Draymond Green. Kevin Durant is an excellent weak side rim protector. Andre Igoudala is a high IQ defender and Steph Curry is improving, but who cares when you he can shoot like that.
All five players are also threats from the perimeter, creating an insane amount of spacing for incredible one-on-one scorers like Durant and Curry.
A “Death Lineup” is a lineup that will place fear into the hearts of the opponents, the opposing coaches and their fans. It is a lineup that destroys the wills of teams. A “Death Lineup” is where the NBA is headed; position-less basketball with maximum floor spacing and ultimate defensive flexibility.
Can It Be Reproduced?
If you can convince a couple of superstars to not take max deals and join forces to form the NBA version of the Avengers, then sure. Teams will try to build their own versions of death lineups in an attempt to overthrow the Warriors.
You know how the Avengers and the Marvel Universe has just been dominating the superhero movie game? Then, DC Comics wants to jump and try to mimic what they are doing. I mean, it makes sense to copy what works and put your own spin on it. But Justice League was an absolute flop and did not compare to a single Avengers Movie.
Any attempt, by any current roster in the NBA to run out a death lineup to try and beat the Warriors, will be like Justice League, a flop.
PG - Lonzo Ball— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) July 19, 2018
SG - Josh Hart
SF - Brandon Ingram
PF - Kyle Kuzma
C - LeBron James
Lakers exec is excited to unleash L.A.’s version of the Death Lineup with Bron at small-ball center https://t.co/WGFtkv2eZQ pic.twitter.com/BxZujSCx1N
Here is a decent attempt at a death lineup. The biggest problem is that neither Lonzo Ball nor Brandon Ingram are consistent perimeter shooters, at least at this stage (although Ingram shot 39% last season from range). This lineup also features four, second and third year players. Josh Hart is probably the only above average defender outside of LeBron.
Sorry Magic, its a solid idea, but its also not close.
Going against the flow is a grind
The answer is NO. But stay with me.
It is well documented at this point that the Grizzlies are planting that Grit ’N’ Grind flag in the ground and committing to it. The front office made no effort to retain Tyreke Evans, a one-on-one offensive (and really, a me-first) kind of player. They drafted arguably the best two defensive players in the 2018 NBA Draft. They signed the Spurs’ second best defender and traded for a three-and-D player from Sacramento.
This doubling down on defense and team play coupled with nothing but high basketball IQ players gives the team a clear sense of direction.
This direction is clearly against the flow of the 29 other teams in the Association. While everyone is trying to catch the Warriors by trying to build a team like theirs, the Grizzlies are doing the opposite.
They do not care to try and outscore you (yes, they do know that you have to do that to win the game). The Grizzlies are going to show up each night and are going to make every team earn every single point all night long.
Teams will know the next day when they wake up that they just played the Memphis Grizzlies.
Memphis clearly does not have the talent to match the top teams in the Western Conference. Yes Marc Gasol is an All-Star and Mike Conley should be, but neither are superstars dripping in athleticism. The Grizzlies will not be able to run a death lineup on the floor in the manner of Golden State. They simply do not employ the kind of personnel to do so. Kyle Anderson’s nickname is Slow-Mo, for crying out loud. Garrett Temple is older and not going to jump out of the gym. We all love Dillon Brooks but he’s got more guts and brains than athleticism.
It just is not in the cards for a Warriors-like death lineup to be used by J.B. Bickerstaff.
But it is in the cards for the Grizz to continue to buck the trend in the NBA and throw out a lineup each night that will grind teams to dust.
Our own kind of death
Go ahead, NBA. Roll out your so called “death lineups” that are supposed to scare opponents, create mismatches and dominate. Here in Memphis we can throw something special at you. The Grizzlies can use a lineup that will grind teams to their own slow, drawn out deaths.
Think about this:
PG: Mike Conley (6’1”, 41% from 3 in 2016-17)
SG: Garrett Temple (6’6”, 39% from 3 last season)
SF: Dillon Brooks (6’6”, 36% from 3)
PF: Kyle Anderson (6’9”, #6 in the NBA in Defensive Rating, 33% from 3)
C: Jaren Jackson Jr. (6’11”, 40% from 3, 3.0 blocks per game, defensive rating of 86.4)
PG: Andrew Harrison (6’6”, 33% from 3)
SG: Garrett Temple
SF: Dillon Brooks
PF: Kyle Anderson
C: Jaren Jackson Jr.
I personally prefer the lineup with Mike Conley because of his more efficient scoring and ability to conduct the offense. The lineup with Harrison however, is very intriguing. A lineup that has three players at 6’6” being the shortest on the floor, could create havoc for opposing offenses.
The Grizzlies may actually have one of the best lineups to defend the Hamptons 5. Conley is one of the better point guard defenders in the league, but if you take Conley out and replace him with Harrison, then Harrison can attempt the task.
Temple has the IQ and length to run around with Klay Thompson. Kyle Anderson would be tasked with the impossible duty of having to guard Durant, but he is one of the most capable defenders on the team to do it. Brooks would take Iggy if Harrison is on the floor, but if it is Conley, then Temple moves to Curry and Brooks takes Klay.
Finally, Jackson Jr. anchors the defense matching up with Draymond, but he will be able to switch on any screen he may set due to his excellent foot work and length.
The future and past have arrived
Finally, the Grizzlies have a roster that can resemble what the NBA is heading towards: having multiple wings and bigs who can switch and spread the floor. The Grizzlies will no longer run out two traditional front court players to try and be the mismatch.
The Grizz have embraced the future while securing the past. The identity of this team has always been defense. The Grizzlies, although missing the Grindfather Tony Allen, might be capable of having the best team defense in franchise history this season.
The death lineup in Memphis won't be as good as the similar lineups in the West, but it will be their own unique version that teams will hate to see.