Top 10 Starting Lineups and Season Preview

Welcome to Starting 5! 

Come check out our blog to see team previews, fantasy tips and predictions, rankings and anything else NBA related. 

We will be having regular dedicated blogs for Top Ten Lists and Who's Better, so one week it may be the Top 10 Greatest Finals Performances and the next week it may be who was better Jason Kidd or Steve Nash?  

Since our website is called Starting 5, it only seems fitting that the first top ten list will be the top ten starting 5 lineups in the NBA.  First I made a ranking system to grade each player in the starting lineup out of 10 (Lebron James is the only player ranked with a perfect score of 10).  Then by simply adding the scores of the five players we can see which teams have the best Starting 5.   

1. Golden State Warriors

Stephen Curry                     9 / 10

Klay Thompson                   8 / 10

Kevin Durant                    9.5 / 10

Draymond Green                8 / 10

Demarcus Cousins             7 / 10*

* Cousins score is based on an after injury projection

Total Starting Lineup Score  41.5

What a surprise, the team with 5 All Stars has by far the best starting lineup in the NBA.  A perfectly balanced super team that’s biggest problem might simply be overcoming boredom and a lack of motivation. 

Enter Demarcus Cousins which would hopefully ignite a change and spark in a team that desperately needs it after 4 gruelling trips to the NBA finals.  But Steve Kerr still has to work out how to integrate such a high usage player to a team already loaded with offensive firepower.  We know how unselfish this team is but will Cousins buy into being a role player and at best the fourth option on offense? 

This is a serious question and the Warriors can only hope that Cousins will just be so happy to be finally make the playoffs that he may not care about his own stats.  But if Cousins starts gunning in a contract year or pouts on the bench from a lack of playing time then for the first time ever there could actually be some internal strife in this seemingly happy go lucky team. 

Anyway there are many worse problems to have then having too much talent, and when you add in super sub Iggy, this just may be the greatest team in NBA history.

Prediction: 65+ Wins and NBA Champions

2. Boston Celtics

Kyrie Irving                          8.5 / 10

Jaylen Brown                        7  /  10

Jayson Tatum                       7.5 / 10

Gordon Hayward                  7.5 / 10

Al Horford                            7.5 / 10

Total Starting Lineup Score:  38

The only other team that can legitimately argue the case for 5 All Stars on the East, this Boston team is SCARY GOOD.  To be clear they would have no chance to have 5 All Stars in the West and Irving would probably be their only All Star and would be competing with the likes of Curry, Westbrook, Harden, Paul and Lillard for a spot. 

But this isn’t the West, and Irving, Horford and Hayward all played in the All Star Game the last time they were healthy.  Add in the poise and confidence the two Jay's played with during last year’s playoffs, and it’s not inconceivable to think that Boston has 5 of the 12 best players in the Eastern Conference. 

I will say it again: THIS TEAM IS SCARY GOOD.  They have (in my opinion) the best coach in the NBA in Brad Stevens as well as a super talented and tough as nails bench in Terry Rozier, Marcus Smart, Marcus Morris and Aron Baynes. 

Their size, versatility and switching ability on defense and the fact they can legitimately put 4 different players on Kevin Durant (Brown, Tatum, Morris and Hayward and maybe even Marcus Smart), makes this the only team with even a sliver of a chance to challenge the champs.

Prediction: 60+ wins and NBA Finals

3. Houston Rockets

Chris Paul                       8.5 / 10

James Harden                   9 / 10

Carmelo Anthony              6 / 10

P.J  Tucker                         6 / 10

Clint Capela                      7 / 10

Total Starting Lineup Score: 36.5

With arguably the league’s best backcourt, this Rockets team boasts the reigning MVP in James Harden and possibly the best point guard to never make the NBA finals. 

They gave the defending champs all they could handle in the Conference Finals last year and were the better team in the series when Chris Paul was healthy.  People also tend to forget that even without Chris Paul, they had an 11 point lead at half time of game 7 at home…..they were THAT close to the NBA finals and probably an NBA Championship.  If Trevor Ariza doesn’t pick Game 7 to have the single worst game of his entire career, going 0-12 and 0-9 on (mostly open) 3’s then everything could be different now. 

Now Ariza and Mbah a Moute, 2 excellent switchable defenders are both gone, and are replaced by Carmelo Anthony, not exactly the best wing defender in the world.  If Melo is going to continue to be such a liability on D then he must regain his old offensive abilities…. 11.8 Points Per Game on 37% shooting and 21% from 3 with only 0.3 assists per game (his shocking averages from last year’s playoffs) just won’t cut it.  If he does not agree to come off the bench or at least be a spot up 3 point shooter which he refused in OKC, the Rockets could easily take two steps back from where they were last year. 

Prediction: 55+ wins and Western Conference Finals

4. Oklahoma City Thunder

Russell Westbrook        9 / 10

Andre Roberson         5.5 / 10

Paul George               8.5 / 10

Jerami Grant              5.5 / 10

Steven Adams              7 / 10

Total Starting Lineup Score: 35.5

The shocking decision for Paul George to resign in OKC without even taking a meeting with his hometown Lakers was an absolute huge win for the franchise.  Westbrook may be hard to play with at times but nobody can doubt his character, loyalty, intensity and all out effort, playing every minute of every game like it’s his last.  Add in Steven Adams improving game every year and you have a legitimate big 3 that will only get better as they play more together. 

Without Melo around anymore, expect Paul George to really assert himself this year and be more aggressive.  However a major concern is that the other 4 guys in the starting lineup except George all shot BELOW 30% from 3 last year and that is not a recipe for success in today’s 3pt shooting NBA.  Add in Westbrook having surgery on his right knee for the fourth (yes fourth) time and there are some major concerns if OKC can get off to a good start in the loaded Western Conference. 

By trading for the talented but volatile Dennis Schroder, they are in a much better position this year to keep the ship afloat without Westbrook.  But with their lack of outside shooting and the reckless play of Westbrook that doesn’t translate well in the playoffs, I am predicting another first round exit despite the talent in their starting lineup.     

Prediction: 50+ wins and Western Conference First Round

5. Philadelphia 76ers

Ben Simmons                8 / 10

J.J Redick                        6 / 10

Robert Covington           6 / 10

Dario Saric                  6.5 / 10

Joel Embiid                  8.5 / 10

Total Starting Lineup Score: 35

Probably the biggest challenge to the dominance of the Celtics in the East, these young Sixers gained valuable playoff experience last year and are ready to take it to the next level.  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, this is the list of players (that’s players not rookies) who have averaged 15 points, 8 rebounds and 8 assists in a single season:  Lebron James (just the last 2 years), Russell Westbrook (also just the last 2 years), Oscar Robertson (5 times), Magic Johnson (3 times) and Michael Jordan (once).  So you get it, that is some serious company and Ben Simmons is a once in a generation type of talent who is a jump shot away from ruling this league. 

I love Dario Saric’s game, confidence and toughness and he is the perfect complement to Embiid and Simmons.  Ro-Co started the year on fire but in the playoffs he was borderline unplayable so it will be interesting to see how he plays the year.  J.J Redick seems to get better with age and if he continues to shoot well and score close to 20 points a game, these Sixers can really make some noise this year.     

Prediction: 55+ wins and Eastern Conference Finals

6. Toronto Raptors

Kyle Lowry                    7.5 / 10

Danny Green                   6 / 10

Kawhi Leonard                9 / 10

Serge Ibaka                     6 / 10

Jonas Valanciunas         6 /  10

Total Starting Lineup Score: 34.5

I love what Masai Ujiri did by trading Demar Derozan for Kawhi Leonard.  It was exactly the type of gamble that the Raptors needed to make after choking in the playoffs yet again with Derozan being the main culprit yet again.  To get a player in his prime the caliber of Kawhi Leonard is unheard of and they instantly have the best player in the whole Eastern Conference. 

Anyway the Raptors don’t want to pay almost 30 million a year for a 30 year old Derozan, so why not take a chance to excite the fans and really go for the NBA finals, even if it is just for one year.  An underrated part of the trade with the Spurs was including Danny Green in the deal as he can slide right into the starting lineup and give valuable Finals experience, tough defense and reliable 3 point shooting – things essential for playoff success that Derozan lacked. 

With Lowry, Green, Leonard on the perimeter and Ibaka and Valanciunas on the inside with a nasty bench behind them, these Raptors might just be the best defensive team in the league this year.  It is a real toss up between the Sixers and the Raptors and if Kawhi stays happy and healthy then they are a genuine threat to get to the NBA finals.             

Prediction: 55+ wins and Eastern Conference Semi Finals

7. Milwaukee Bucks

Eric Bledsoe                            6.5 / 10

Malcolm Brogdon                      6 / 10

Khris Middleton                         7 / 10

Giannis Antetokounmpo           9 / 10

Brook Lopez                             6 /  10

Total Starting Lineup Score: 34.5

I am predicting these Milwaukee Bucks will win 50 games for the first time since the trio of Sam Cassell, Big Dog Robinson and Ray Allen were one game (yes one game!) away from the NBA finals in 2001. 

This team is quite unorthodox starting two point guards and two small forwards in the playoffs last year and it will be interesting to see if they will keep this lineup to start the season.  The Greek Freak fills up the box score like nobody else in the league and last thing he needs to do is work on his 3 point shot to become completely unstoppable. 

Khris Middleton looks like a capable 2nd option, upping his scoring to over 20ppg last year and a very impressive 25ppg in the playoffs on a ridiculous 60% shooting from the field and 3.  However their new signing last year Eric Bledsoe was extremely disappointing in the playoffs getting thoroughly outplayed and only managing to outscore Terry Rozier once in 7 full games.  He will need to play much better if the Bucks want to reach the second round this year. 

Brook Lopez was a nice cheap pickup and will most likely move into the starting lineup to provide some more outside shooting and an additional scoring punch.  This may actually be the year to fear the deer.          

Prediction: 50 wins and Eastern Conference Semi Finals

8. Washington Wizards

John Wall                          8 / 10

Bradley Beal                   7.5 / 10

Otto Porter Jr.                6.5 / 10

Markieff Morris               6 / 10

Dwight Howard            6.5 /  10

Total Starting Lineup Score: 34.5

The Washington Wizards are the latest team to try and take a chance Dwight Howard and it is almost impossible to predict what could happen.  On one hand he averaged almost 17 points, 12.5 rebounds and over 1.6 blocks per game last season, so how can having the 3rd best rebounder and 7th best shot blocker in the league be so bad?  On the other hand the Hawks and Hornets both thought he could help but he ended up getting benched in Atlanta during the playoffs and being part of an extremely disappointing 36 win Hornets team that had won 48 games just 2 years ago. 

John Wall is one of the top 5 passing players in the league so he should help get Dwight some easy baskets and with the tension brewing between him and outgoing centre Marcin Gortat, it is good for all sides to get a new start. 

Bradley Beal finally made the leap to All Star last year and Otto Porter is one of the better two way wing players in the league and getting better every year.  This team has a lot of talent and they have an outside chance to make the second round if they can grab a top 5 playoff seed. 

Prediction: 45+ wins and Eastern Conference First Round

9.Utah Jazz

Ricky Rubio                      6.5 / 10

Donovan Mitchell             7.5 / 10

Joe Ingles                            6 / 10

Derrick Favors                    6 / 10

Rudy Gobert                     7.5 / 10

Total Starting Lineup Score: 33.5

After losing their franchise all star Gordon Hayward last summer, who could blame the Jazz for taking a step back or even missing the playoffs altogether.  But this team does not know the definition of rebuild and after a 19-28 start (mostly due to the loss of DPOY Rudy Gobert), the Jazz stormed home with a ridiculous 29-6 record. 

Rookie sensation Donovan Mitchell was out of this world averaging over 20 points per game with several outstanding performances and highlight reel plays, including a rookie performance for the ages in the first round against OKC.  The ‘Stifle Tower’ makes it almost impossible to finish at the rim which allows their perimeter players to play tough suffocating defense. 

Underrated Joe Ingles is the ultimate glue guy with playoff toughness and basketball smarts that every contending team needs to have.  Ricky Rubio is entering his prime, improving his 3 point shooting and is not afraid to take (and now make) mid range jumpers if defenders continue to go under screens.  And with one of the best and smartest coaches in Quin Snyder, you can expect this Jazz team to at least match last year’s impressive run to the Western Conference Semi Finals. 

Prediction: 50 + wins and Western Conference Semi Finals

10. Los Angeles Lakers

Lonzo Ball                                          6  / 10

Kentavious Caldwell Pope                5.5 / 10

Brandon Ingram                              6.5 / 10

Lebron James                                   10 / 10

Javele McGee                                   5.5 / 10

Total Starting Lineup Score: 33.5

Edging out a handful of Western Conference playoff contenders including the Nuggets, Spurs, Pelicans and Blazers for the 10th and last spot are the new look Los Angeles Lakers. 

Lebron defied human nature by having the greatest 15th or later season in NBA history averaging a career high in rebounds (8.6) and assists (9.1!) and having his highest scoring average (27.5) since his first stint with the Cavs over 8 years ago.   But does he have the patience to go through the growing pains of the talented young trio of Ingram, Ball and Kuzma and the severe lack of 3 point shooting that he normally needs for success? 

Another major concern is the lack of interior presence with the Lakers giving up Julius Randle, Larry Nance and Brook Lopez and only replacing them with Javale McGee, an error prone player with asthma issues meaning he can’t play much more than 20 minutes a night.  Lebron at the 5 looks like a real possibility as I would assume the Lakers would want to play Ingram, Kuzma and James together a lot. 

Ingram has all star potential if he could just put down the pipe this season (easier said than done with the addition of all stoner team players Lance Stephenson, Rajon Rondo and Snoop Dogg himself Micheal Beasley!).  But seriously if Lonzo Ball can improve his shooting and finishing with his new jump shot and Kuzma and Ingram take another step forward, then I fully expect these Lakers to win 50 games and make the second round, even in this loaded Western Conference. 

Prediction: 50 + wins and Western Conference Semi Finals

So there you have it, the first weekly top ten list and season preview.  Actually the Timberwolves were originally in the top ten with 3 max players Jimmy Butler, Karl Towns and Andrew Wiggins in the starting lineup.  But all this Butler drama and sudden trade request bumped them down as I fully expect Jimmy B to be playing in another city (probably Miami) when the season tips off. 

Check back next week for some more top ten lists and also our first ‘Who’s better’ article which will feature recent Hall of Fame Inductees Steve Nash vs Jason Kidd. 

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