The Philadelphia 76ers have the NBA’s most effective defensive lineup

(Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
(Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) /

In a shocking turn of events, the Philadelphia 76ers have the most effective high usage defensive lineup in the NBA, and it’s not who you’d think.

According to, the Philadelphia 76ers have the most effective defensive lineup in the NBA.

Yes, really.

Though the Sixers are clearly a good team, as their 30-16 record would suggest, they have at times been downright bad on the defensive end of the court; giving up an average of 112 points a night vs. 113.5 points scored a night on the offensive end of the court.

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Because of this razor-thin margin of error, whenever one of the Sixers’ top players is unavailable to play, they are all but guaranteed to have a tough time, even when playing against rock-bottom teams like the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Washington Wizards, or the Atlanta Hawks.

But somehow, the team actually has the best high usage (min. 40 minutes) as well, and it’s not who you’d expect either; Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid, Jimmy Butler, Wilson Chandler, and… Landry Shamet?

A lot of that lineup makes sense, as Embiid, Simmons, and Butler are all two-way All-Star caliber players with positive Real Plus-Minus ratings, but Chandler and Shamet? Not so much.

You see, Chandler was initially brought to this team to serve as the second unit’s answer to Robert Covington, a 3-and-D forward capable of playing and covering positions 2-4, but so far, that hasn’t been the case. Instead, Chandler has been tasked with filling Dario Saric‘s role, a flex forward tasked with playing the four on offense, and the three on d, and it’s been an inconsistent shift.

Averaging the fewest points per game of his career, Chandler has been one of the least effective starters in the league offensively.  That’s obviously a bitter pill to swallow, but on the defensive end of the court, he’s positive .24 DRPM, a marked improvement over Saric’s 94th ranked -1.41 DRPM.

And then there’s Shamet.

Though he’s listed as a point guard by ESPN, Shamet has already established himself as a more than competent two guard coming off the bench. As the Sixers’ fifth-leading scorer, Shamet has become indispensable on the offensive end of the court, averaging about eight points a night on a team-high 39 percent from 3 point range, but his defense has been bad no matter how you slice it.

The owner of the worst DRPM of any player on the team by a pretty wide margin, Shamet’s ineffectiveness on the defensive end of the court is a big reason why Brett Brown has been desperately requesting a defensive stopper to fill the team’s 15th roster spot, and yet he’s a member of the best defensive lineup in the league.

How could that be?

Well simple: Shamet is way, way more athletic than J.J. Redick.

Redick is the man, an offensive juggernaut in the midst of the best season of his life at the tender age of 34, but to call him an athletic marvel in the same way as, say, Simmons, is crazy. Shamet on the other hand is 6-foot-5, very fast and super agile, and in theory could be a good defender down the road. Maybe when placed in a lineup alongside versatile defensive switchers like Butler, Simmons, and Chandler, Shamet is really able to shine.

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Now granted, this lineup has only shared the court for 41 minutes over 17 games this season, 207 minutes fewer than the team’s current starting five, so its effectiveness could very well go down over extended minutes, but maybe it won’t. Maybe Shamet’s defensive efficiency could be unlocked alongside a highly switchable lineup where he can cover the second or even third best wing option. That would be huge.