The Boston Celtics have trotted out an interesting two big lineup pairing, experimenting with Al Horford and Aron Baynes at the same time.
As noted by ESPN’s Zach Lowe, the duo has been “destroying teams” when playing on the court at the same time. The stats prove that these two might be worth pairing as often as possible moving forward.
Lowe recently extrapolated on this during the most recent episode of his podcast, mentioning it might not work for the postseason (via ESPN):
“When Horford plays well, they are really good. And if you look at the stats, Horford has been bad on back-to-backs and really good elsewhere. And there are no back-to-backs in the playoffs. And now they’re playing around with Baynes and their numbers with Baynes and Horford are outstanding. Now, there will come a time in the playoffs where they can’t play them together because of spacing. But maybe they have found something with those two guys working together.”
FiveThirtyEight’s Chris Herring joined Lowe on the podcast, adding that Horford secures the paint defensively and forces the other team to shoot.
It would be a fascinating matchup, then, to see them face the Milwaukee Bucks in the playoffs. Milwaukee currently has the best offensive rating in the East and Boston’s scheme would force Brook Lopez to step up and continue his strong season from beyond the arc.
The Celtics have outscored opponents by 23.9 points per 100 possessions when these players appear together. During these 141 minutes, Boston’s defensive rating (86.6) ranks third-best in the Eastern Conference among two-man lineups that have recorded as many minutes. They had a positive net rating (11.8) when paired last season as well.
When asked about the partnership, Horford gave glowing reviews (via NBC Sports Boston):
“I just think that anything with Baynes works. … Just a very smart defender and … you can literally put him out [with anyone] and I just feel like he makes our defense better.”
During the 47 minutes joined by Kyrie Irving as well as Marcus Smart and Jayson Tatum, their net rating (41.0) has been astronomically high. Among all five-man lineups that have played at least 40 minutes together, this group has the second-best net rating in the NBA.
While it may not be an option used much in the playoffs, their tremendous success defensively is worth monitoring moving forward when the pairing gets used.