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The Numbers Game: Digging Into Lineup Data

Each week during the 2019 WNBA season, we will showcase some of the new data available to analyze the game from the new WNBA Stats site. Today, we take a look at lineup data to see which combinations of players have had the most success through the first six weeks of the season.

Note: All screenshots and numbers referenced are through games played on July 7, 2019.

The Basics

Lineup data can be found on a league-wide level and on a team-by-team basis. To access the league-wide data in order to compare teams, open the menu on the left, select Lineups, then select which type of stats you would like to view (Traditional, Advanced, Misc, Four Factors, Scoring or Opponent).

Once you have made your selection, this page will load – for purposes of the example, we have selected Traditional stats. From this page, you can compare all lineups across the league. Every stats category (PTS, REB, AST, etc.) can be clicked to sort by that stat; you can change between per game and total stats, change between 5-player, 4-player, 3-player or 2-player lineups and add any custom filters that you want.

The custom filters really come in handy when it comes to lineup data. With so many player combinations used across the league, it is helpful to use custom filters to add minimums for games played and minutes played together. Otherwise, some of the rankings may be skewed by a player combo that played only a couple minutes together, rather than the more heavily used lineup combos.

In the screenshot below – you can also go to the page here – we have added a minutes played minimum of 60 minutes, and sorted by FG% in order to see which 5-player lineup shot the best from the field among heavily used combos. Only 16 lineups across the league meet this threshold.

To access team-by-team lineup data, you can a few options. First, you can stay on the league-wide page and use the team filter in the top menu to select that team you want to find.

You can also access the lineup data on each team’s individual stats page (use the Teams link at the top of the page, or type the team name into the search bar in order to get there). Once you are on there, click on Team Stats to launch the drop down menu and click ‘Lineups’. When that page loads, you can change the stats type (Traditional, Advanced, Misc, Four Factors, Scoring or Opponent) and use the Advanced Filters to further dig into the data.

For example, if you want to see all Las Vegas lineups that feature Liz Cambage, click ‘Advanced Filters’, click ‘Add Custom Filter’, use the ‘Lineups’ field and type Cambage. Now, you will only see lineups that include Liz Cambage. You can add additional Custom Filters to add more players. Here is a look at the seven Las Vegas 5-player lineups that include Liz Cambage, A’ja Wilson and Kelsey Plum.

You could also see how these three players perform together across all lineups, by changing the Lineup Type from 5-Player Lineups to 3-Player Lineups. This will provide all 3-player lineups for the Aces and again you can use the custom filters to find the players you want (in this case Cambage, Wilson and Plum).

Now that we’ve covered the basics about how and where to access the lineup data, let’s put these numbers to work and give some examples of what can this data can provide.

Most Used Lineups

Which combination of players have spent the most time on the court together this season? That would be the starting five of the Connecticut Sun – Jasmine Thomas, Shekinna Stricklen, Alyssa Thomas, Jonquel Jones and Courtney Williams – who have shared the court for 221 minutes over 13 games. As a point of comparison, this same five-player lineup played only 88 minutes together over 18 games last season.

Most Used Lineups (Total Minutes) TEAM GP MIN
J. Thomas, S. Stricklen, A. Thomas, J. Jones, C. Williams CON 13 221
A. Quigley, J. Lavender, C. Vandersloot, S. Dolson, D. DeShields CHI 14 187
L. Sanders, K. Toliver, E. Delle Donne, N. Cloud, A. Atkins WAS 12 182
S. Fowles, D. Robinson, D. Dantas, O. Sims, N. Collier MIN 11 155
L. Cambage, K. McBride, K. Plum, A. Wilson, J. Young LVA 13 145

 

These are the only five teams that have a lineup that has played at least 125 minutes together, and all five teams rank in the top half of the WNBA standings entering Tuesday’s games. The Phoenix Mercury and Dallas Wings are the only teams that have not had a lineup play together for at least 75 minutes this season.

Most Successful Lineups

While the Sun have the most-used lineup in the WNBA, the Las Vegas Aces have the lineup with the highest net rating so far this season among 5-player groups that have played at least 60 minutes together.

There are five lineups with a double-digit net rating so far this season, with two of them belonging to the defending champion Seattle Storm. Alysha Clark, Natasha Howard, Jordin Canada and Mercedes Russell appearing in both lineups, while Sami Whitcomb has filled in quite nicely for the injured Jewell Loyd. Perhaps more impressive is that neither of those groups include the injured Breanna Stewart or Sue Bird, who were part of last season’s most used lineup in the WNBA (538 minutes) and ranked second in net rating (plus 20.8).

Most Successful Lineups (NetRtg, Min. 60 Minutes) TEAM GP MIN NetRtg
L. Cambage, K. McBride, K. Plum, A. Wilson, J. Young LVA 13 145 18.8
N. Ogwumike, T. Ruffin-Pratt, C. Ogwumike, C. Gray, S. Wiese LAS 8 77 18.3
L. Sanders, K. Toliver, E. Delle Donne, N. Cloud, A. Atkins WAS 12 182 18.1
A. Clark, N. Howard, J. Loyd, J. Canada, M. Russell SEA 5 80 15.0
A. Clark, N. Howard, S. Whitcomb, J. Canada, M. Russell SEA 5 90 13.5

 

Top Offensive/Defensive Lineups

Washington’s most-used lineup ranks first in the league in offensive rating (107.6), a mark that is just slightly lower than their league-leading 109.0 offensive rating so far this season, and 7.6 points per 100 possessions better than any other team.

Top Offensive Lineups (OffRtg, Min. 60 Minutes) TEAM GP MIN OffRtg
L. Sanders, K. Toliver, E. Delle Donne, N. Cloud, A. Atkins WAS 12 182 107.6
A. Clark, N. Howard, S. Whitcomb, J. Canada, M. Russell SEA 5 90 105.3
E. Carson, D. Bonner, B. January, Y. Turner, B. Griner PHO 7 67 105.3
N. Ogwumike, T. Ruffin-Pratt, C. Ogwumike, C. Gray, S. Wiese LAS 8 77 105.1
C. Dupree, B. Laney, E. Wheeler, K. Mitchell, T. McCowan IND 10 88 104.7

 

The Las Vegas starting lineup of Liz Cambage, Kayla McBride, Kelsey Plum, A’ja Wilson and Jackie Young touts the top defensive rating of any lineup that has played at least 60 minutes together this season (82.8). The Aces lead the league in defensive rating as a team (90.6), but have locked down their opponents even more with this 5-player combo on the court.

Top Defensive Lineups (DefRtg, Min. 60 Minutes) TEAM GP MIN DefRtg
L. Cambage, K. McBride, K. Plum, A. Wilson, J. Young LVA 13 145 82.8
N. Ogwumike, T. Ruffin-Pratt, C. Ogwumike, C. Gray, S. Wiese LAS 8 77 86.8
E. Carson, L. Mitchell, D. Bonner, B. January, B. Griner PHX 9 62 87.6
A. Clark, N. Howard, J. Loyd, J. Canada, M. Russell SEA 5 80 89.5
S. Fowles, D. Robinson, D. Dantas, O. Sims, N. Collier MIN 11 155 89.5

 

Fastest Lineups

That Aces group not only plays outstanding defense, but they play with the fastest pace of any lineup in the league. Again, the Aces lead the league in pace as a team (100.88), but average nearly four more possessions per 40 minutes with their most-used lineup on the court. The New York Liberty feature two of the top four fastest lineups in the league with Tina Charles, Brittany Boyd, Kia Nurse and Asia Durr in both lineups, and the fifth spot split between Reshanda Gray and Amanda Zahui B.

Fastest Lineups (Pace over 96 poss/40 min, Min. 60 Minutes) TEAM GP MIN PACE
L. Cambage, K. McBride, K. Plum, A. Wilson, J. Young LVA 13 145 104.20
T. Charles, A. Zahui B, B. Boyd, K. Nurse, A. Durr NYL 8 97 104.10
A. Quigley, J. Lavender, C. Vandersloot, S. Dolson, D. DeShields CHI 14 187 99.78
N. Ogwumike, T. Ruffin-Pratt, C. Ogwumike, C. Gray, S. Wiese LAS 8 77 99.17
J. Thomas, S. Stricklen, A. Thomas, J. Jones, C. Williams CON 13 221 98.41
R. Montgomery, J. Breland, T. Hayes, E. Williams, B. Sykes ATL 10 70 98.29

 

Shooting Offense/Defense

There are six 5-player lineups that have played at least 60 minutes together and posted an effective field goal percentage greater than 50 percent. That group is led by the Phoenix lineup of Essence Carson, DeWanna Bonner, Briann January, Yvonne Turner and Brittney Griner at 53.1 percent. The Mystics combo of LaToya Sanders, Kristi Toliver, Elena Delle Donne, Natasha Cloud and Ariel Atkins is only slightly behind them (52.3%) while playing nearly three times as many minutes.

Top Shooting Lineups (eFG% over 50%, Min. 60 Minutes) TEAM GP MIN eFG%
E. Carson, D. Bonner, B. January, Y. Turner, B. Griner PHO 7 67 53.1
L. Sanders, K. Toliver, E. Delle Donne, N. Cloud, A. Atkins WAS 12 182 52.3
A. Clark, N. Howard, J. Loyd, J. Canada, M. Russell SEA 5 80 51.2
L. Cambage, K. McBride, K. Plum, A. Wilson, J. Young LVA 13 145 50.8
A. Quigley, J. Lavender, C. Vandersloot, S. Dolson, D. DeShields CHI 14 187 50.6
C. Dupree, B. Laney, E. Wheeler, K. Mitchell, T. McCowan IND 10 88 50.6

 

Defensively, the Sparks lineup of Nneka and Chiney Ogwumike, Tierra Ruffin-Pratt, Chelsea Gray and Sydney Wiese holds opposing teams to the lowest field goal percentage in the league at just 37.6 percent allowed. By comparison, that Sparks lineup shoots 42.5 percent offensively for a 4.9 percent disparity in field goal percentage with their opponents.

Top Defensive Lineups (Opp FG%, Min. 60 Minutes) TEAM GP MIN OPP FG%
N. Ogwumike, T. Ruffin-Pratt, C. Ogwumike, C. Gray, S. Wiese LAS 8 77 37.6
E. Carson, L. Mitchell, D. Bonner, B. January, B. Griner PHX 9 62 38.5
L. Cambage, K. McBride, K. Plum, A. Wilson, J. Young LVA 13 145 39.1
R. Montgomery, J. Breland, T. Hayes, E. Williams, B. Sykes ATL 12 110 39.4
C. Dupree, N. Achonwa, B. Laney, E. Wheeler, K. Mitchell IND 12 108 40.0
L. Sanders, K. Toliver, E. Delle Donne, N. Cloud, A. Atkins WAS 12 182 40.7