On Feb. 5, Charlotte Hornets head coach James Borrego made a remarkable choice. Starting point guard Terry Rozier was returning from a two-game absence because of an ankle injury. While Rozier was out, rookie point guard LaMelo Ball had joined point guard Devonte’ Graham in the starting lineup, and both had scored in double figures in each game. Up against the NBA’s best team in the Utah Jazz, Borrego threw caution to the wind and started all three together.
Though the Hornets eventually lost the game, the three-point-guard group won its 5.1 minutes by 7 points. That group likely would have played together for longer had Graham not hurt his groin in the first half. When Graham returned a week later, the Hornets started the same three-point-guard group against the Minnesota Timberwolves, and it won its 14.6 minutes by 8 points in a win.
The threesome of Ball, Rozier and Graham stealthily ran roughshod over the NBA before Ball fractured his wrist on March 20. They didn’t all become consistent starters, but they became formidable together, winning their 106 combined minutes by an astounding 51 points despite the team actually losing its total minutes by 60 before Ball’s injury. Yet that lineup’s performance actually fits snugly within a recent trend in the NBA: the success of prominent three-point-guard lineups.
Using Second Spectrum data, FiveThirtyEight looked at lineups since the 2014-15 season to feature three guards who each recorded at least 18 pick and rolls per 100 possessions in at least 40 team games played. We then cross-referenced the players in those lineups with their positions assigned on Cleaning the Glass to isolate those who were regularly classified as a point guard or combo guard. That left us with five three-point-guard lineups with at least 200 possessions played together — all of which outscored the full lineups of their teams over the course of the season in question.