The Wall Street Journal and the Best Starting Line-Ups

Posted on November 6, 2009 by


It all started with a simple question:  How good is the starting line-up of the LA Lakers in 2009-10?  That was the question David Biderman – of the Wall Street Journal – asked me at the start of this season.  From that question came the following article: Few Starting Lineups Could Top These Celtics

As one can see, the article really never mentions the current Lakers.  It does reveal that Boston’s current starting line-up – based on last year’s performance – would rank in the top 10 since 1981.  It also notes that the Utah Jazz of 1996-97 had the best starting line-up since 1981. 

The Jazz of 96-97 finished with 64 wins and a 9.4 efficiency differential (offensive efficiency minus defensive efficiency).  This differential ranked 6th in the NBA since 1973-74.  Unfortunately, the Jazz met the Chicago Bulls in the NBA Finals in 1997.  And although the Jazz had the slightly better starting line-up, Utah’s bench – as Biderman noted – was too much to overcome (for Utah). 

In my next post I will offer an answer to Biderman’s original question.  For now, feel free to post a comment on his article (and yes, Biderman and I know there is currently a typo in the chart). Update: The chart was fixed.

– DJ

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Our research on the NBA was summarized HERE.

The Technical Notes at provides substantially more information on the published research behind Wins Produced and Win Score

Wins Produced, Win Score, and PAWSmin are also discussed in the following posts:

Simple Models of Player Performance

Wins Produced vs. Win Score

What Wins Produced Says and What It Does Not Say

Introducing PAWSmin — and a Defense of Box Score Statistics

Finally, A Guide to Evaluating Models contains useful hints on how to interpret and evaluate statistical models.