Stat: Golden State’s lineup of Stephen Curry, Monta Ellis, Brandon Rush, David Lee, and Ekpe Udoh leads every five-man unit in the league in adjusted +/- with a mark of 55.10. Second place – comprised of Luol Deng and Chicago’s bench mob – boasts a rating of 40.71, nearly 15 points lower than that of the Warriors’ best quintet.
Take: Coaches often develop a certain liking or loyalty to some players just as they often develop a specific apathy or antagonism for others. Such is the case especially with first year coaches like Warriors head man Mark Jackson, who until last night had decided against giving the lion’s share of center minutes to Udoh, one of the league’s +/- superstars.
With Udoh finally in the starting lineup for good, Jackson would be wise to make a similar switch at small forward from Dorell Wright to Brandon Rush to get by far his best but one of his least-utilized lineups on the floor. This group has played just under 44 minutes together this season so the sample size is admittedly small and wrought with potential margin for error and regression to the mean, but the pieces of this unit fit undeniably well. Here’s why:
- Curry and Rush space the floor incredibly well for a ball-dominating penetrator like Ellis.
- Those same long-distance threats provided by Curry and Rush make teams more reluctant to double-team Lee, a skilled scorer and passer, when he gets the ball in the post.
- Rush is extremely averse to putting the ball on the floor and taking anything less than an open shot, a huge positive for a team with high-usage guards like Curry and Ellis.
- Similarly, Udoh plays a thankless role on offense that involves setting screens, getting offensive boards, and shooting almost solely at the rim after receiving a pass.
- Defensively, Rush and Udoh help make up for the errors of sieves like Curry, Ellis, and Lee.
- Rush is one of the league’s most underrated perimeter defenders, capable of guarding point guards and wings and frequently getting his hands on the ball.
- Udoh is a fantastic shot-blocker and moves far better than most bigs, challenging shots at the rim and disrupting penetration before it even gets there.
- Plus, there’s the tangible but undeniable effect that two left-handed post players has on a defense’s comfort.
- This unit can move. Rush, Lee, and Udoh are thoroughbreds for their respective positions, while both Curry and Ellis love to push the pace and play in the open floor.
Obviously, the extreme success of this group could be a statistical anomaly; they haven’t had enough time on the court to definitively prove otherwise. But they also haven’t had enough time to prove the numbers wrong, and considering the Warriors’ are 4 1/2 games back of the West’s eighth playoff spot in an ever-shortening season, it’s time to give them the chance to do so.