Death lineup

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The death lineup, also sometimes referred to as the "small ball death squad", is the term used for a series of lineups from the Golden State Warriors of the National Basketball Association (NBA).[1]

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.[2][3]

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 wings Harrison Barnes and Kevin Durant, and 2016–2017 Defensive Player of the Year Draymond Green at center.[4] 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.[5][6] Other iterations of the death lineup have included guard Shaun Livingston.[7]

The death lineup has been described as "the most feared five-man lineup in the NBA" and "the most devastating lineup ever designed", and has played a key role in the team's historic success,[8][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, for most of the season, the Warriors' starting lineup featured 7-foot (2.1 m) center Andrew Bogut; however, after falling behind 2–1 in the 2015 NBA Finals, Warriors coach Steve Kerr inserted Andre Iguodala into the starting unit for Bogut.[13] Although the tallest player was only 6 feet 8 inches (2.03 m), the unit was also strong defensively.[14] They were all able to switch on defense,[15] spearheaded by Green's ability to guard players taller and heavier than him,[14][16] the Warriors won 103–82 in Game 4,[13] and captured the series 4–2 to win their first championship since 1975.[17] Iguodala was named the Finals MVP, becoming the first player to garner the award without starting every game in the series,[18] as well as the first winner to have not started a game during the regular season.[19]

Despite the unit's success, the 2015–16 Warriors continued to start a traditional lineup with Bogut as their center, reserving the death lineup for the ends of games.[20][21] 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,[22] 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.[23]

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.[23][24] The move was received negatively by the public and NBA analysts, with many comparing the decision on Durant's part to LeBron James's 2010 off-season departure from the Cleveland Cavaliers to join the Miami Heat.[25] 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,[26][27] as many expected, the Warriors won the 2017 NBA Finals, and Durant was named the Finals MVP.[28]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "ESPN's Antonio Davis on the Small Ball Death Squad". Golden State Of Mind. Retrieved 2017-08-10. 
  2. ^ Tjarks, Jonathan (September 6, 2016). "The NBA’s New Lineups of Death". The Ringer. Archived from the original on June 10, 2017. 
  3. ^ Slater, Anthony (May 15, 2016). "A clash of styles: The Thunder's big lineup against the Warriors' small-ball unit". The Oklahoman. Archived from the original on June 10, 2017. 
  4. ^ "The Warriors waited until the right moment to unleash their greatest weapon, and the Cavs had no answer". Business Insider. Retrieved 2017-08-06. 
  5. ^ Tsan, Pin. "How Draymond Green Drives the Golden State Machine – Warriors World". Retrieved 2017-08-10. 
  6. ^ "Warriors' Draymond Green as NBA's top center? It's no joke". Retrieved 2017-08-06. 
  7. ^ Jenkins, Lee. "The birth of the Warriors' death lineup". Retrieved 2017-08-06. 
  8. ^ Helin, Kurt (2017-06-08). "Kerr saves best for last, Warriors’ small ball "death lineup" closes game with 11–0 run". ProBasketballTalk. Retrieved 2017-08-10. 
  9. ^ "No one can stop the Warriors’ small-ball lineup". Washington Post. Retrieved 2017-08-10. 
  10. ^ "The Epitome Of Positionless Basketball – RealGM Articles". Retrieved 2017-08-10. 
  11. ^ "The Orlando Magic are embracing positionless basketball". Orlando Magic Daily. 2017-07-28. Retrieved 2017-08-10. 
  12. ^ "Positionless basketball defines NBA’s copycat nature". Las Vegas Review-Journal. 2017-07-15. Retrieved 2017-08-10. 
  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 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. 
  15. ^ 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. 
  16. ^ Lowe, Zach (June 9, 2017). "One year later, Draymond Green has no regrets". Archived from the original on June 11, 2017. 
  17. ^ 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. 
  18. ^ 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. 
  19. ^ Sarecevic, Al (June 17, 2015). "Andre Iguodala: unlikely Finals MVP". The San Francisco Chronicle. Archived from the original on June 11, 2017. 
  20. ^ 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. 
  21. ^ Lou, William (September 4, 2016). "Kerr: Warriors will play Death Lineup with Durant at power forward". TheScore. Archived from the original on June 10, 2017. 
  22. ^ "Warriors’ Stephen Curry first player to win unanimous MVP". May 10, 2016. Archived from the original on June 11, 2017. 
  23. ^ 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. 
  24. ^ Golliver, Ben (July 4, 2016). "Grades: Warriors outdo themselves with Kevin Durant blockbuster deal". Archived from the original on June 11, 2017. 
  25. ^ "What's worse: Durant's 'Next Chapter' or LeBron's 'Decision'?". NY Daily News. Retrieved 2017-08-06. 
  26. ^ Golliver, Ben. "KD to Warriors bad for NBA? Adam Silver chimes in". Retrieved 2017-08-06. 
  27. ^ "Kevin Durant’s decision makes Warriors odds-on NBA title favorites". Las Vegas Review-Journal. 2016-07-04. Retrieved 2017-08-06. 
  28. ^ Blinebury, Fran. "Golden State Warriors forward Kevin Durant claims Finals MVP". Retrieved 2017-08-06.