Death Lineup

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The Death Lineup is a small ball lineup from the Golden State Warriors of the National Basketball Association (NBA) that began during their 2014–15 run that led to a championship.[1] It also became known as the Hamptons Five after Kevin Durant replaced Harrison Barnes on the team for the 2016–17 season.[2][3]

Developed by head coach Steve Kerr and Warriors special assistant Nick U'Ren, the Death Lineup is strategically advantageous because it allows the Warriors to create mismatches on offense, spread the floor with shooting and playmaking, and take advantage of the team's defensive versatility in order to defend against larger opponents.[4][5]

The death lineup features a three-point shooting backcourt in two-time NBA MVP Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson (who are nicknamed the Splash Brothers), versatile defender Andre Iguodala on the wing alongside scoring wing Harrison Barnes (replaced in the 2016-2017 season by Kevin Durant), and 2016–2017 Defensive Player of the Year Draymond Green at center.[6] Draymond Green's defensive versatility has been described as the "key" that allows the lineup to be so effective; although Green's natural position is power forward, he is able to play as an undersized center in lieu of a traditional center who might be slower or lack the playmaking and shooting abilities of Green.[7][8]

The lineup has been described as "the most feared five-man lineup in the NBA" and has played a key role in the team's historic success,[9] the Death Lineup is also considered to be indicative of a larger overall trend in NBA basketball towards "positionless" basketball, where traditional position assignments and roles have less importance.[10][11][12]


In 2014–15, Golden State won 67 games in the regular season, led by NBA MVP Stephen Curry, the Warriors' starting lineup with the 7-foot (2.1 m) Andrew Bogut at center played 813 minutes together and outscored opponents by 19.6 points per 100 possessions. After falling behind 2–1 in the 2015 NBA Finals, Warriors coach Steve Kerr inserted Andre Iguodala into the starting unit for Bogut, who had been named to NBA All-Defensive Team in 2014.[13] The change was first suggested by Kerr's special assistant, Nick U'Ren, who was a fan of the lineup because it always seemed to pick up the pace of the game to a faster speed, which the Warriors preferred,[14][15] the five-man lineup of Iguodala, Curry, Thompson, Green, and Barnes had played together for 102 minutes during the regular season and 62 minutes through the first 18 games of the playoffs.[14] Although the tallest player was only 6 feet 8 inches (2.03 m), the unit was also strong defensively.[16] They were all able to switch on defense,[17] spearheaded by Green's ability to guard players taller and heavier than him,[16][18] the Warriors won 103–82 in Game 4,[13] and captured the series 4–2 to win their first championship since 1975.[19] Iguodala was named the Finals MVP, becoming the first player to garner the award without starting every game in the series,[20] as well as the first winner to have not started a game during the regular season.[21]

It took months after it was deployed in the Finals before the Warriors' small lineup was referred to as the Death Lineup,[14][22] despite the unit's success, the 2015–16 Warriors continued to start a traditional lineup with Bogut as their center.[23] Golden State won an NBA-record 73 games behind Curry's league-leading 30.1 points per game and an NBA-record 402 three-pointers made in a season. He was named the MVP for the second straight season, becoming the first unanimous winner in league history,[24] during the season, the Death Lineup was generally reserved to finish the first half and the end of games.[25] It was deployed in 37 games, outscoring opponents by 166 points in 172 minutes for an average advantage of 4.5 points per game and 47.0 points per 100 possessions.[19][22][26][27] Despite their regular season success, the Warriors lost the 2016 NBA Finals, becoming the first team to lose a Finals series after being ahead 3–1.[28]

During the off-season, Golden State signed former league MVP and four-time scoring champion Kevin Durant to replace Harrison Barnes, who had averaged just five points and made only 5 of 32 shots during the last three losses in the Finals.[28][29] With Durant leaving the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Warriors' opponents in the 2016 Western Conference Finals, the move was seen as a disruption in the competitive balance of the NBA, and the Warriors instantly became title favorites,[30][31] the move gave the Death Lineup four players who have averaged at least five assists in a season.[32] Journalist Tim Kawakami was noted for coming up with the nickname "Hamptons Five" in describing the new lineup, after the players who were involved in the recruiting pitch at The Hamptons for Durant,[2][33] the Warriors won the 2017 NBA Finals 4–1, and Durant was unanimously voted the Finals MVP.[34] Kerr had used the Death Lineup for just 16 minutes in the series until deploying it for 17 in the Game 5 clincher.[35] Iguodala scored 20 points in 38 minutes after averaging less than 30 minutes in the first four games of the series. Kerr used him in the small-ball lineup in favor of big men Zaza Pachulia (10 minutes) and JaVale McGee (0).[36]

Injuries limited Golden States' use of the Death Lineup in 2017–18.[37][38] Opponents had also adapted by rarely leaving their centers in the game against the Warriors' small lineup. Through 49 games, the unit had a -1.2 +/- rating.[38] However, it was still considered the team's most potent lineup.[38][39]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "ESPN's Antonio Davis on the Small Ball Death Squad". Golden State Of Mind. Retrieved August 10, 2017. 
  2. ^ a b "Warriors Monday Mailbag: What's up with the center spot? Death lineup overuse?". December 5, 2016. Retrieved January 25, 2018. 
  3. ^ "NBA Power Rankings: Warriors back into top spot, Raptors up to third". Retrieved January 25, 2018. 
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  6. ^ "The Warriors waited until the right moment to unleash their greatest weapon, and the Cavs had no answer". Business Insider. Retrieved August 6, 2017. 
  7. ^ Tsan, Pin. "How Draymond Green Drives the Golden State Machine – Warriors World". Retrieved August 10, 2017. 
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  10. ^ "The Epitome Of Positionless Basketball – RealGM Articles". Retrieved August 10, 2017. 
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  12. ^ "Positionless basketball defines NBA's copycat nature". Las Vegas Review-Journal. July 15, 2017. Retrieved August 10, 2017. 
  13. ^ a b Golliver, Ben (June 12, 2015). "Warriors start small, then stay small, to blow out Cavs and even NBA Finals". Archived from the original on May 21, 2016. 
  14. ^ a b c Arnovitz, Kevin (October 14, 2015). "How the Warriors discovered the cheat code to basketball in the 2015 NBA Finals". Archived from the original on June 11, 2017. 
  15. ^ Kawakami, Tim (June 3, 2016). "Nick U'Ren on the "Death Lineup" and what it does for the Warriors: "It works because there are no other players like those guys"". The San Jose Mercury News. Archived from the original on June 10, 2017. 
  16. ^ a b Greenberg, Neil (May 12, 2016). "No one can stop the Warriors' small-ball lineup". The Washington Post. Archived from the original on June 10, 2017. 
  17. ^ Alipour, Sam (December 8, 2015). "Stephen Curry on copying the Warriors' way: 'You won't have the personnel'". ESPN The Magazine. Archived from the original on June 11, 2016. 
  18. ^ Lowe, Zach (June 9, 2017). "One year later, Draymond Green has no regrets". Archived from the original on June 11, 2017. 
  19. ^ a b Kawakami, Tim (June 1, 2016). "How the Warriors' "Death Lineup" was unleashed on Cleveland in last year's Finals, and probably will be again this time". The San Jose Mercury News. Archived from the original on June 10, 2017. 
  20. ^ Strauss, Ethan Sherwood (June 16, 2015). "Andre Iguodala named Finals MVP after coming off bench to begin series". Archived from the original on June 17, 2015. 
  21. ^ Sarecevic, Al (June 17, 2015). "Andre Iguodala: unlikely Finals MVP". The San Francisco Chronicle. Archived from the original on June 11, 2017. 
  22. ^ a b Jenkins, Lee (June 7, 2016). "The birth of the Warriors' death lineup". Sports Illustrated. Archived from the original on June 10, 2017. 
  23. ^ Davis, Scott (February 12, 2016). "The NBA is still trying to solve the Warriors' deadliest weapon". Business Insider. Archived from the original on April 23, 2016. 
  24. ^ "Warriors' Stephen Curry first player to win unanimous MVP". May 10, 2016. Archived from the original on June 11, 2017. 
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  26. ^ Wagner, Kyle (June 1, 2017). "The Warriors Aren't A Small-Ball Team Anymore". FiveThirtyEight. Archived from the original on June 10, 2017. 
  27. ^ Slater, Anthony (October 31, 2016). "Examining five early season Warriors trends by the numbers". The San Jose Mercury News. Archived from the original on June 10, 2017. 
  28. ^ a b Price, Dwayne (July 4, 2016). "Mavericks back in business with Warriors exes Bogut, Barnes on board". Star-Telegram. Archived from the original on October 8, 2016. 
  29. ^ Golliver, Ben (July 4, 2016). "Grades: Warriors outdo themselves with Kevin Durant blockbuster deal". Archived from the original on June 11, 2017. 
  30. ^ Golliver, Ben. "KD to Warriors bad for NBA? Adam Silver chimes in". Retrieved August 6, 2017. 
  31. ^ "Kevin Durant's decision makes Warriors odds-on NBA title favorites". Las Vegas Review-Journal. July 4, 2016. Retrieved August 6, 2017. 
  32. ^ Ruiz, Steven (July 4, 2016). "The Warriors new 'Death Lineup' is going to terrorize the NBA". USA Today. Archived from the original on June 10, 2017. 
  33. ^ McCallum, Jack (January 25, 2018). "Golden Days: West's Lakers, Steph's Warriors, and the California Dreamers who Reinvented Basketball". Ballantine Books. Retrieved January 25, 2018 – via Google Books. 
  34. ^ Blinebury, Fran. "Golden State Warriors forward Kevin Durant claims Finals MVP". Retrieved August 6, 2017. 
  35. ^ Wagner, Kyle; Herring, Chris (June 13, 2017). "They Are Kevin Durant's Warriors Now". FiveThirtyEight. Archived from the original on February 18, 2018. 
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  37. ^ Mahoney, Rob (January 5, 2018). "The Warriors' Death Lineup Is on Ice". Sports Illustrated. Archived from the original on January 16, 2018. 
  38. ^ a b c Kawakami, Tim (January 26, 2018). "The Warriors' Death Lineup isn't so revolutionary these days, but it's still the unit opponents fear the most". The Athletic. (Subscription required (help)). 
  39. ^ Kurtenback, Dieter (February 25, 2018). "What we learned in the Warriors' emphatic win over the Thunder". The Mercury News. Archived from the original on February 26, 2018.