The Atlanta Hawks have gone 15-5 with Kent Bazemore as the team's starting small forward, but it is the bench combinations behind that unit that are making the biggest difference for the team.
Throughout the early part of the season, Mike Budenholzer tinkered with his rotation trying out different combinations with different players. Bazemore opened the season as the team's starting small forward before losing the job briefly to Thabo Sefolosha. Coming into the season, Sefolosha was the odds on favorite to replace DeMarre Carroll as the team's starter provided he was sufficiently recovered from the leg and ankle injuries suffered at the hands of the NYPD last April.
However, with the team floundering a bit, Budenholzer went back to Bazemore looking for a spark. The team has gone 6-1 since Bazemore reentered the starting lineup but surprisingly its the bench combinations that are making the most difference.
On the season, the Bazemore starting lineup has been on the floor together for 250 minutes according to NBA.com and has produced an offensive rating of 99.1 and a defensive rating of 105.2 for a net rating of -6.1. That combination has the fourth worst used by the Hawks for at least 25 minutes this season.
On the other hand, the starting lineup featuring Thabo Sefolosha at small forward has produced an offensive rating of 107.0, a defensive rating of 99.7 for a net rating of 7.3 in 151 minutes.
I'm not suggesting that Bazemore has been a detriment but looking at lineup data like this is interesting and gives insight into what combinations are actually producing which brings me to Dennis Schröder.
For the season, Schröder net rating of 8.2 is third best on the team. Jeff Teague's on the other hand is -1.6. With that in mind, it is not terribly surprising to see that four of Atlanta's top six lineup combinations according to net rating feature Schröder at point guard.
Take the afore mentioned starting group with Bazemore as an example. Sub Schröder for Teague and the numbers change dramatically to net rating of 22.5 in 36 minutes. Again the minutes played skew the numbers a bit but we can make the argument that lineup has performed well and probably deserves more minutes.
So what does that really mean? It depends. On one hand, the combinations behind that lineup have been so good that the Hawks are overcoming that group's deficiencies. On the other hand, the next time you are looking for reasons that Atlanta often gets off to slow starts in games, remember the starting group's net rating together.