Boston Celtics: Best and Worst 5-Man Units so Far This Season

Matthew SchmidtFeatured ColumnistDecember 19, 2012

CHICAGO, IL - DECEMBER 18: Head coach Doc Rivers of the Boston Celtics reacts to a referee during a game against the Chicago Bulls at the United Center on December 18, 2012 in Chicago, Illinois. The Bulls defeated the Celtics 100-89. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

The Boston Celtics are a team that has gone with many different five-man lineups this season. Because Danny Ainge went out and filled the roster with so many players capable of producing in big minutes during the offseason, Doc Rivers has a multitude of options at his disposal.

Now, it has not worked all that well thus far, as Rivers is clearly still searching for answers as the Celtics have hovered around the .500 mark for most of the season's first month-and-a-half. However, there do appear to be several combinations that Rivers should be using more often.

One five-man unit that has produced positive results when it has been on the floor is the lineup of Kevin Garnett, Jared Sullinger, Jeff Green, Courtney Lee and Jason Terry.

Of course, the first thing that came to your mind when you saw that was probably, "Where are Rajon Rondo and Paul Pierce?" Well, the point here is to try and find lineups that can get the job done when some of your most important players are on the bench.

First and foremost, Garnett and Sullinger are the two best rebounders on the team, so it's no surprise that that frontcourt works. K.G. and Sullinger also represent a very nice offensive frontline together, as both can score either in the post or off jump shots and can hit free throws.

You also have three guys in Green, Lee and Terry that can run the floor and make plays in the open court. Green and Lee haven't exactly been consistent in doing that thus far, but they have done it, resulting in a nice little plus-28. This grouping is also incredible defensively.

That lineup hasn't seen too much floor time, so this is a small sample size, but it has worked when used, so Doc should be going back to it more frequently.

The other five-man combination of Garnett, Green, Pierce, Terry and Rondo is a little more obvious, as it encompasses the best possible offensive punch Boston can throw at teams. This also demonstrates how Green should be seeing more time at power forward, as the C's seem to be better off statistically with him at the four rather than the three.

Finally, the starting lineup has been great, putting up a plus-35 while playing very good defense.

Now that we have viewed some lineups that work, let's take a look at some that don't.

It's pretty clear that when Garnett is off the floor, the Celtics suffer. That shouldn't come as a surprise to anybody, but it's almost unbelievable how much Boston's level of play dips when Garnett is on the pine. Just take a look at the plus-minus numbers.

With a lineup of Chris Wilcox, Sullinger, Green, Lee, and Rondo, Boston is a minus-16. That combination sans Garnett is virtually the same as the unit of Garnett, Sullinger, Green, Lee and Terry that has put up a plus-28.

The only difference is that Rondo is running point. The problem here is mainly on the defensive end. There are no shot blockers in this lineup, and while Lee and Rajon are certainly good defenders in the backcourt, they fail to compensate for the lack of defense down low.

Then, you look at the lineup of Wilcox, Brandon Bass, Pierce, Lee, and Rondo. They have recorded a minus-14. The culprit is the same: lack of interior D.

The one unit that puzzles me is the combination of K.G., Bass, Pierce, Lee, and Rondo. This is really the only time where Garnett is part of a poor lineup. For some reason, those guys have produced a minus-9 when on the floor together.

My guess is that when Avery Bradley returns and supplants Lee, we will see a huge improvement here, as that will then be the starting five the C's rolled with in the playoffs last year up until Bradley got hurt.

As you can see, Rivers has experimented with quite a few different lineups. Some of them have certainly been more effective than others, and because of that, we can only hope that Doc is religiously studying those numbers. It is blatantly obvious that some combinations just haven't worked while others have been extremely successful.

The funny thing is, we will likely see even more groupings when Bradley comes back into the fold. Fortunately, though, we may also return to a degree of normalcy when that happens, as the Celtics will then be able to hopefully revert their 2012 playoff form.