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One Team, One Stat: Philadelphia 76ers had the league’s best starting lineup

THE CONTEXT

Among 48 lineups that played at least 200 minutes together, only a Minnesota Timberwolves lineup, with reserve Tyus Jones in place of starter Jeff Teague, was better (plus-23.5 points per 100 possessions).

In total, the Sixers’ starting lineup outscored its opponents by 268 points, 100 more than any other lineup in the league. That was a product of both how much it played – the 600 minutes it logged ranked sixth among all lineups last season – and how good it was on both ends of the floor.

Among the 48 lineups that played at least 200 minutes last season, the Sixers’ starters ranked fifth both offensively (117.1 points scored per 100 possessions) and defensively (95.7 points allowed per 100). It held opponents to an effective field goal percentage of just 45.9 percent, the lowest opponent mark among the same group of 48 lineups.

Because of how good the starting lineup was, the Sixers were the league’s best team in the first six minutes of the first quarter, outscoring their opponents by more than 21 points per 100 possessions. That was the best mark for any team in either the first or last six minutes of any quarter last season.

With consistently strong starts, the Sixers held the lead for 63 percent of their regular-season minutes. Only the Houston Rockets (66 percent) held a lead for a greater percentage of their minutes. But sustaining leads was more difficult for the Sixers. They tied for the league lead in most losses after leading by 15 points or more (seven) and the most losses after leading by 20 points or more (four).

Philly saw the league’s biggest drop in NetRtg from the first half (plus-9.4 points per 100 possessions) to the second half (plus-1.3) of games.

Biggest drop, point differential per 100 possessions, first half to second half

The starting lineup wasn’t as good in the second half of games as it was in the first half, but that’s because it outscored their opponents by an incredible 30 points per 100 possessions in 251 minutes before halftime. It’s mark of plus-15.8 per 100 possessions in the second half still ranked sixth among lineups that played at least 100 second-half minutes.

The bench was another story. The Sixers’ bench wasn’t terrible, but they had the league’s biggest discrepancy between aggregate starters NetRtg (plus-8.9 points per 100 possessions — third in the league) and aggregate bench NetRtg (minus-0.6 – 15th). In 2,442 minutes with three or more of their regular starters on the floor, the Sixers outscored their opponents by 10.8 points per 100 possessions. In 1,511 minutes with fewer than three of their regular starters on the floor, they were outscored by 3.0 points per 100 possessions.

Brett Brown staggered the minutes of his starters, so that he rarely had fewer than two on the floor during non-garbage time, and he’ll surely continue to do the same this season. But the Sixers will need more from players 6-10 on the roster if they’re going to take another step forward.

They did get a lift from Marco Belinelli and Ersan Ilyasova after adding the pair in February last season. But both of them have moved on, replaced by Wilson Chandler and Mike Muscala. And of course, the biggest variable on the Sixers’ bench is Markelle Fultz, who played just 14 games last season. If Fultz rebounds from a rough year and starts to show why he was selected with the No. 1 pick in the 2017 Draft, the Sixers will be that much deeper and more equipped to hold onto big leads.

Sixers last five seasons

Note: The above table is based on true possession counts. Other efficiency stats here are based on possession estimates (typically higher than true possession counts).

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