Top 10 Line Ups and NBA Predictions

The NBA season is back!  After a busy summer where multiple All Stars changed teams, let's take a look at the Top 10 starting / finishing lineups for the upcoming season. 

Since some teams such as the LA Clippers have talented bench players (Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell) that play crunch time minutes, I will be ranking the best 5, as in the 5 that will probably finish most games.  So for the Lakers for example even though they are projected to start AD at PF with Kuzma on the bench, I would assume they would finish with a small ball lineup of Davis at the 5 and Kuz at the 4.  And since Kuzma is clearly the 3rd best player on the team, I will of course include him even though he may not start.      

And these rankings will be based on who is expected to be playing by the end of the season and start of the playoffs.  So injured players who are projected to come back during the season such as Klay Thompson, Victor Oladipo, Paul George and Zion Williamson will be included when calculating the rankings.  But Kevin Durant won't be included for the Nets since he is widely expected to miss the full season.  

To help with the rankings, I rated each player out of 10 and added the scores of the 5 players to see who has the best 5 in the NBA.  3 players received a perfect 10 score -  Reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo, reigning Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard and the best player of the last decade Lebron James.  Remember these are just rankings for the Top 5 man lineups and NOT overall team rankings.

Top 10 Best Five Man Lineups:   

1. Los Angeles Clippers

Patrick Beverley                   5.5 / 10

Lou Williams                         7  / 10

Kawhi Leonard                     10 / 10

Paul George                          9 / 10

Montrezl Harrell                   6.5 / 10

Best 5 Lineup Score  38

I guess you could say the L.A Clippers had a pretty good summer!  Getting the Finals MVP and best two way player in the league and then getting the 3rd place MVP finisher who just may be the 2nd best two way player in the league!  That's 55 points per game added on offense and with Patrick Beverley manning the point, this may be the best perimeter defense ever seen in the NBA. 

Then you got the lethal Lou Williams / Montrezl Harrell combo coming off the bench to finish games -  this team is not only going to be impossible to score against but they will be impossible to stop as well.  I mean Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell probably ran the league's best Pick N' Roll and the Clippers were already one of the best offensive teams in the league giving the Warriors all they could handle in Round 1.  And then you throw in Kawhi Leonard and PG on top of that elite offense! 

The Clippers only issue could be a slight lack of depth in the bigs and rim protection but in the playoffs and crunch time you can be sure Doc Rivers is going to go with a small ball lineup and Montrezl Harrell at the 5.

Prediction: 60+ Wins and Western Conference Finals

2. Los Angeles Lakers

Rajon Rondo                      5.5 / 10

Danny Green                      5.5 / 10

Lebron James                     10 / 10

Kyle Kuzma                        7 / 10

Anthony Davis                    9.5 / 10

Best 5 Lineup Score: 37.5

What do you know, the two best lineups both come from L.A, with the Lakers 5 just a tad below the Clippers 5 due to a slightly weaker backcourt.

The Lakers may have missed out on Kawhi Leonard in free agency, but with Anthony Davis teaming up with a well rested rejuvenated Lebron, there is no doubt that the Lakers are back in title contention after missing the playoffs for 6 straight seasons (t hey only missed 5 playoffs in the past 60+ years!).

Anthony Davis is simply the best big man in basketball and that is saying a lot with fellow MVP candidates Joel Embiid and Nikola Jokic primed for big seasons.  Before the trade request last season, The Brow was averaging a stupendous 29.3 ppg, 13.3 rpg, 4.4 apg, 2.6 bpg and 1.7 spg, all around numbers never before seen in NBA History.    

And expect Lebron to come out this year with a vengeance after unofficially losing the title as the game's best player for the first time in more than a decade.  A monster year from Lebron and Davis all but guarantees success for the Lakers...their only concern will be that neither player gets a serious injury in the unforgiving Western Conference.    

Prediction: 55+ wins and Western Conference Semi Finals 

3. Philadelphia 76ers

Ben Simmons                          8 / 10

Josh Richardson                     6  /  10

Tobias Harris                          7.5 / 10

Al Horford                               7 / 10

Joel Embiid                             9 / 10

Best 5 Lineup Score:  37.5

Probably the favourites to win the East, these young Sixers gained valuable playoff experience last couple seasons and are ready to take the next step.  Joel Embiid should be an MVP candidate this year and his ridiculous array of post moves, footwork and skills both offensively and defensively have not been seen in a centre since the likes of Hakeem Olajuwon. 

As for Ben Simmons, nobody can deny his supreme talent, vision and athleticism, but after all the work he put in this summer (even opting to miss the World Cup), will Simmons finally have the confidence to take and make open shots and (gasp!) 3 pointers?  Because if Simmons can make open shots, the paint is going to open up enormously for Joel Embiid to dominate inside.  

A key addition is Al Horford who will ensure Embiid can rest more during games to stay healthier in the playoffs.  The Sixers main concerns were that when Embiid sits they were terrible defensively but now they will always have an elite Center on the floor for 48 full minutes.  Throw in talented wings Tobias Harris and new addition Josh Richardson and these Sixers may be ready to make it all the way to the finals.  

Prediction: 60+ wins and NBA Finals 

4. Golden State Warriors

Stephen Curry                 9.5 / 10

D'Angelo Russell             7.5 / 10

Klay Thompson                8 / 10

Draymond Green             7.5 / 10

Willie Cauley Stein           5 / 10

Best 5 Lineup Score:  37.5 

Assuming Klay Thompson is in the lineup, the 5 time defending Western Conference Champions can match any team for talent when comparing their best 5.  

Yes they lost Kevin Durant, but they did amazingly well to get back D'Angelo Russell and together with Steph Curry and Draymond Green makes the Warriors the only team in the NBA with 3 All Stars and 4 if you include Klay.

Remember the pre KD Warriors with Steph Curry taking a much more dominant role stormed to an All Time NBA record 73-9.  But there are 3 major questions that need to be answered:

1). How will D-Lo fit in the back court with Steph?

2). Can they survive the whole season with such a thin bench?

3). Can they hold the fort down while waiting for Klay to come back in the tough as ever Western Conference?

Well I believe that Steph is going to have a monster MVP season averaging somewhere around 32 points a game.  In 2016 Steph averaged 30.1 pts and had over 400 3s but he sat out more than a dozen 4th quarters due to blowouts.  And he averaged almost 34 ppg this past playoffs after KD went down. 

I also think Draymond (who averaged 14p/11r/9a in the last 2 rounds of the playoffs without KD), will be back to his peak and will be a nightly triple double threat and a strong Defensive Player of the Year candidate. 

And yes I am making a ridiculously bold prediction that the Warriors will hold on to a Top 6 seed until Klay comes back and then go on a huge run with Klay to move up to the 3rd seed and ultimately shock the world and win a 4th NBA Title.  Remember with Klay in the lineup they are the only team with 4 All Stars and I have their best 5 on par with the Clippers when fully healthy.   

Prediction: 50 wins and Win Title!

* Update: Obviously Curry got a serious hand injury that will cost him at least half the season and D-Lo and Green missed multiple games so the Warriors are officially the WORST team in the league now which makes my above prediction look ridiculously stupid!  But in my defense that was an impossible situation to predict and of course if I knew Curry would miss any significant time then I would have changed everything I said and gone with one of the L.A Teams, most likely the Clippers.   

5. Houston Rockets

Russell Westbrook        8.5 / 10

James Harden               9.5 / 10

Eric Gordon                   6 / 10

PJ Tucker                      5.5 / 10

Clint Capela                  6.5 / 10

Best 5 Lineup Score: 36

Who would think you could have James Harden and Chris Paul in your back court and still opt to upgrade it?  On paper you might think Paul is a better fit next to Harden with his ability to spot up and shoot, but on the court they just could not see eye to eye after 2 agonizing losses to the Warriors.  

Enter Russell Westbrook coming off his ridiculously underappreciated 3rd year in a ROW averaging a triple double.  Yet despite his immense talent and ability to fill up the box score, Russell Westbrook seems to get criticized more than praised, and to a lesser extent you could say that about Harden as well.  

The main questions will be can Russ play off the ball more and can he improve his terrible shooting from the past season.  But one thing is for sure, Westbrook will show up and give his all every single night and he is determined to prove doubters that he can co-exist with the leading scorer in the league.  Remember Westbrook's teammate last year Paul George was the 2nd leading scorer in the NBA and he has played with Kevin Durant for years so it's not like he can't take a back seat to an elite scorer.

Anyway D'Antoni will be staggering minutes so much that Harden and Russ may only start and end games together while running their own teams for the rest of the game.  So my guess would be they will overwhelm inferior teams in the regular season simply due to their sheer talent.  But come playoff time when late game execution and outside shooting become even more important, they may struggle as they both have in the past.  

Prediction: 55+ wins and Western Conference Semi Finals

6. Utah Jazz

Mike Conley                  7.5 / 10

Donovan Mitchell         7.5 / 10

Bojan Bogdanovic          6 / 10

Joe Ingles                      6 / 10

Rudy Gobert                  8 / 10

Best 5 Lineup Score: 35

Another Western team that has signifcantly upgraded their roster is the Utah Jazz who now boast a lethal 5 man small ball combo to start and finish games.

Mike Conley is a significant upgrade over the inconsistent and at times inefficient Ricky Rubio at the point.  With his ability to run the team, his basketball IQ, his defense and his clutch shot making and calm demeanor, Conley is the perfect guard to play next to the explosive but also unpredictable franchise star, Donovan Mitchell.

And adding Bojan Bogdanovic adds some much needed shooting and scoring to the starting lineup who averaged a Career High 18 ppg last season for the Pacers including over 22 ppg n February and March to carry the Pacers to the playoffs after the loss of their All Star Victor Oladipo.  And this means Joe Ingles can become a stretch 4 to create 4 legitimate shooters and scorers to play around reigning 2 time Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert.   

There is no doubt the Jazz have the team to get it done this year, but with the significant upgrades of the two LA Teams as well as the Top 4 from last year Golden State, Houston, Denver and Portland - it's not going to be easy to finish in the Top 4 to gain Home Court advantage in the 1st round.  

Prediction: 50+ wins and Western Conference 1st Round 

7. Milwaukee Bucks

Eric Bledsoe                              6 / 10

Wes Matthews                           5 / 10

Khris Middleton                        7 / 10

Giannis Antetokounmpo           10 / 10

Brook Lopez                              6 /  10

Total Starting Lineup Score: 34

With the best record last season and the reigning MVP on the books, the Bucks are primed to have another great season. 

Expect The Greek Freak to be even better than last year and the whole team should have even better chemistry after one full season playing together under Coach of the Year Mike Budenholzer.  Coach Bud is a genius on offense and has also turned the Bucks into one of the best defensive teams in the league. 

The players are perfectly suited to play around The Greek Freak and although they may only rank 6th in the Top 10 lineups, there is no doubt as a team they are clearly one of the favourites to win the title.     

The only reason I have them slightly worse than last season is because they lost Malcolm Brogdon, who averaged over 15 ppg on historical 50/40/90 shooting (only the 5th guard in history to achieve these numbers after Steph Curry, Reggie Miller, Steve Nash and Mark Price!).  But with or without Brogdon, expect Milwaukee to be fighting it out with the Sixers for the East and League's best record.  

Prediction: 60+ Wins and Eastern Conference Finals


8. Denver Nuggets

Jamal Murray                7.5 / 10

Gary Harris                   6.5 / 10

Will Barton                    5 / 10

Paul Millsap                  6 / 10

Nikola Jokic                   9 /  10

Best 5 Lineup Score: 34

Unlike most of the other Western Conference Contenders, the Nuggets decided to make minimal changes and brought back the majority of the team that finished 2nd in the West last year.  

Nikola Jokic had a monster season culminating with a run to the second round where they lost a heartbreaking Game 7 to the Blazers at home.  But in his 1st playoffs The Joker averaged an out of this world 25 ppg, 13 rpg, 8.5 apg shooting 50% FG /40% 3P / 85% FT!  Yes a Center averaged 8.5 assists and a near triple double while shooting 3s and Free Throws like a Shooting Guard.... again this was Jokic's 1st ever playoffs!   

Jokic has developed an excellent partnership with 22 year old point guard Jamal Murray, who also had a breakout 1st playoffs averaging over 21ppg including back to back 34 point games against the Blazers in the 2nd round.

While other teams may have more talent and bigger names, the Nuggets can boast continuity and chemistry - two vastly underrated points that are usually essential to team success.    

Prediction: 50 + wins and Western Conference First Round

9. Boston Celtics

Kemba Walker                      8 / 10

Jaylen Brown                      6.5 / 10

Jayson Tatum                       7 / 10

Gordon Hayward                  6 / 10

Enes Kanter                        5.5 / 10

Best 5 Lineup Score: 33

After a disappointing season where they were favourites to make the Finals but did not get past the 2nd round, the Celtics have a new franchise player, replacing Kyrie Irving with Kemba Walker.  On paper that may look like a big downgrade, but Kyrie fit in very poorly with his young teammates and with Kemba's easier to manage style, there could be much less tension in the air this year which should help the young guy's perform more consistently. 

In my opinion the bigger loss for the Celtics was free agent Al Horford deciding not to stay, instead opting to join fellow contenders the Sixers.  Horford was Boston's leader on and off the court, teaching young players and anchoring the defense.  His versatility to guard 4s and 5s on defense and pick and pop, shoot 3s or drive to the basket on offense will be sorely missed and although new signing Enes Kanter is talented offensively, he struggles mightily on defense.  And losing key big men Marcus Morris and Aron Baynes does not help with their interior defense and toughness come playoff time.   

Nevertheless, with Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Gordon Hayward hopefully back to full strength, there is no doubt the Celtics still have enough talent and firepower to make some noise in the watered down Eastern Conference.  Fellow East playoff teams the Raptors and Pacers will not be as good this year and the Nets don't have KD yet, so don't be surprised if Boston improves from last season and grabs a top 3 seed.     

Prediction: 50 + wins and Eastern Conference 2nd Round

10. New Orleans Pelicans

Lonzo Ball                                          6  / 10

JJ Redick                                             6  / 10

Jrue Holiday                                      7.5 / 10

Brandon Ingram                                6.5 / 10

Zion Willaimson                                  7 / 10

Best 5 Lineup Score: 33

Edging out a handful of playoff teams including the Nets, Raptors, Blazers and for the 10th and last spot are the new look New Orleans Pelicans. 

This team may be young but there is no doubt they are talented and they are deep.  After experimenting with a small ball lineup with Zion at the 5 in pre season, expect the Pelicans to use this lineup in crunch time.

Zion looked great in pre season and with Lonzo running the break in Alvin Gentry's fast paced system, expect the Pelicans to be one of the highest scoring and most exciting teams in the league.  And with Jrue Holiday leading the way on both sides, JJ Redick spotting up for 3 and Brandon Ingram as a go to scorer, these run and gun Pelicans are not going to be an easy matchup for anyone.    

I originally had the Pelicans squeaking into the 8th and last playoff spot in the West, but after the Zion injury which will cost him the first 2 months of the season, I see the Mavs edging them out for the 8th spot. 

Prediction: 40 + wins and Miss Playoffs 

Just Missed Out:

* Brooklyn Nets (Irving, Dinwiddie, Levert, Harris, Jordan / J.Allen)

If Kevin Durant was back, the Nets would have one of the best 5 man lineups in the league.  But even without KD the Nets boast 4 talented scorers / shooters (Kyrie, Dinwiddie, Levert and Joe Harris) to play around two above average Centers in DeAndre Jordan and Jarrett Allen.

Predicted Playoff Standings:


1. Philadelphia 76ers

2. Milwaukee Bucks

3. Toronto Raptors

4. Boston Celtics

5. Brooklyn Nets

6. Miami Heat

7. Indiana Pacers

8. Orlando Magic


1. L.A Clippers

2. Houston Rockets

3. Golden State Warriors

4. L.A Lakers

5. Denver Nuggets

6. Utah Jazz

7. Portland Trail Blazers

8. Dallas Mavericks


1st Round East:

76ers def. Magic

Bucks def. Pacers

Raptors def. Heat

Celtics def. Nets


Clippers def. Mavericks

Rockets def. Blazers

Warriors def. Jazz

Lakers def. Nuggets

2nd Round:

76ers def Celtics

Bucks def. Raptors

Clippers def. Lakers

Warriors def. Rockets

Conference Finals:

76ers def. Bucks

Warriors def. Clippers

NBA Finals:

Warriors def. 76ers

* Crazy prediction: Klay will come back and the Warriors will trade D'Angelo Russelll to the Wolves for Robert Covington, Josh Okogie and Jeff Teague, giving the Warriors the length and depth that they desperately need to win the title.  Covington is the ideal player to guard the likes of Kawhi Leonard and Lebron James and can space the floor and knock down the 3 as well.  

Award Predictons:

MVP: 1. Stephen Curry 

          2. Giannis Antetokounmpo

          3. James Harden

DPOY: 1. Joel Embiid

            2. Rudy Gobert

            3. Draymond Green

ROY: 1. Ja Morant

          2. RJ Barrett

          3. Zion Williamson

* Updated due to Zion's injury

MIP: 1. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander

         2. Fred Van Vleet

         3. Terry Rozier

6MOY: 1. Derrick Rose

            2. Spencer Dinwiddie

            3. Lou Williams

COY:   1. Steve Kerr

            2. Doc Rivers

            3. Brett Brown

All NBA 1st Team:

F Giannis Antetokounmpo

F Lebron James

C Joel Embiid

G James Harden

G Steph Curry

All NBA 2nd Team:

F Anthony Davis 

F Kawhi Leonard

C Nikola Jokic

G Damian Lillard

G Kyrie Irving

All NBA 3rd Team:

F Paul George

F Luka Doncic

C Karl Anthony Towns

G Russell Westbrook

G Ben Simmons 


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