The trade deadline didn't significantly alter the NBA's balance of power, but there was enough activity that it's now time to take stock of how each team's lineup stacks up down the stretch to the postseason.
Some of the best starting units find themselves on underperforming teams thanks to shallow benches, bad fits and all the other variables that differentiate winners from...well, all the other teams.
Putting aside all the intangibles—from coaching to chemistry—here's a look at how each team's starting five looks on paper and how it ranks against the rest of the league.
PG Mario Chalmers
SG Dwyane Wade
SF LeBron James
PF Chris Bosh
C Joel Anthony
The Miami Heat are by no means a perfect team. Eric Spoelstra's bench isn't exactly a picture of consistency, and Joel Anthony leaves something to be desired as a starting center.
Nevertheless, Miami's starting lineup features three elite All-Stars, including—of course—two of the very best players in the league. LeBron James and Dwyane Wade are MVP-caliber players who instantly make any lineup of which they're a part the best in the game, imperfections notwithstanding.
The Heat may not have deserved this top spot a season ago, but Mario Chalmers' improvement (48 percent on field goals compared to 40 percent last season) has solidified a glaring weakness.
It's yet to be proven that Miami is the NBA's best all-around team, but it's difficult to argue there's a better starting lineup.
PG Derrick Rose
SG Richard Hamilton (injured) / Ronnie Brewer
SF Luol Deng
PF Carlos Boozer
C Joakim Noah
While Chicago justifiably receives praise for its deep bench, the starters aren't bad either. The lineup's weakest link (shooting guard Richard Hamilton) is still a very serviceable scorer, and every other position is manned by a borderline All-Star at worst.
It doesn't hurt that reigning MVP Derrick Rose runs the show.
Meanwhile, Luol Deng's consistency at both ends of the floor earned him his first All-Star nod this year. There are more exciting guys on the wing to be sure, but Deng is a quality all-around player through and through.
Some may contend that Carlos Boozer has underperformed too egregiously for Chicago's starting five to be ranked so highly, but even a second-rate Boozer beats the majority of power forwards in this league. And, while Joakim Noah's production may not stand out, there's no question his energy, defense and rebounding rank him as one of the league's 10 best centers.
PG Russell Westbrook
SG Thabo Sefolosha
SF Kevin Durant
PF Serge Ibaka
C Kendrick Perkins
If the Thunder's entire rotation were on trial, it would obviously make a strong place for inclusion at the very top of the list.
However, as long as standout guard James Harden is coming off the bench as one's of the NBA's best sixth men, the starting lineup itself could use a little work.
Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook are one of the best one-two punches we've seen in a while. Even when accounting for Westbrook's shoot-first tendencies, these two are incredible: Durant averages 27.8 points, 7.9 rebounds and 3.4 assists while Westbrook puts up 23.9 points, 5.5 assists and 4.6 rebounds.
With production like that, who needs three other guys on the floor?
Serge Ibaka may not yet be an elite forward, but his 3.3 blocks per game certainly make him a valuable defensive asset. Similarly, Sefolosha and Perkins round the lineup out as defensive specialists who take a little pressure off Oklahoma City's stars. What this lineup lacks in flashiness, it makes up for in balance.
They can be pretty flashy, too.
PG Tony Parker
SG Manu Ginobili / Gary Neal / Danny Green
SF Stephen Jackson / Kawhi Leonard
PF DeJuan Blair
C Tim Duncan
It's still unclear exactly what San Antonio's starting five will look like come playoff time. When accounting for San Antonio's nine or 10 top rotation players, there may not be a deeper team in the league, especially with the acquisition of Stephen Jackson.
On the wing, San Antonio has seen four different guys suit up in the starting lineup. If Ginobili ends up starting once again, this unit would rank neck and neck with Chicago. However, if he reprises his role as sixth man, the starting lineup looks a little less impressive (not to take anything away from the jobs Neal, Green and Leonard have done all year).
With Tony Parker having a career year and Tim Duncan remaining one of the league's best per-minute big men, this lineup's only concern is DeJuan Blair. Blair has shown flashes of brilliance but remains too inconsistent and undersized for this starting unit to qualify as dominant.
PG Ramon Sessions
SG Kobe Bryant
SF Metta World Peace
PF Pau Gasol
C Andrew Bynum
After the Miami Heat, probably no team has a more formidable trio of All-Stars anchoring the starting lineup. Perennial MVP candidate Kobe Bryant remains every bit the unstoppable scorer he's been for the last 10 years, and yet the Lakers' most significant advantage over their competition may be its duo of seven-footers Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol.
Having come up short in its attempts to land Michael Beasley before the trade deadline, the small forward remains a position of weakness for the Lakers. Though Metta World Peace has shown some signs of returning to form as the season's progressed, he's yet to display the consistency that's typified his early career.
The acquisition of Ramon Sessions represents a huge improvement over long-time Laker Derek Fisher. Sessions probably won't be an All-Star, but he's a quality upgrade capable of penetrating the paint and setting up the Lakers' stars.
PG Chris Paul
SG Randy Foye / Nick Young
SF Caron Butler
PF Blake Griffin
C DeAndre Jordan
If Los Angeles had bench depth that was commensurate with its starting five, this team would be next to unbeatable. Unfortunately for Clippers fans, there's a steep drop-off in talent when the starters sit.
For the purpose of these rankings, though, Lob City has to be near the top.
There may be no better inside-outside combination than Blake Griffin and Chris Paul, and in time this duo should come to resemble the iconic pairing of Malone and Stockton. Chris Paul is having a year worthy of MVP consideration (even if LeBron is the undisputed pick) and Griffin is as explosive a power forward as you'll find.
Meanwhile, DeAndre Jordan provides intimidation in the paint and yet another target for Chris Paul. Caron Butler isn't an All-Star, but he's a consistently above-average forward who'd likely yield increased production on a lesser team.
The concern facing the Clippers, of course, is what would become of their shooting guard spot when Chauncey Billups' season ended. Foye has filled in admirably, and the trade deadline acquisition of Nick Young from the Wizards should give Los Angeles a deadly perimeter scoring threat.
PG Mike Conley
SG Tony Allen
SF Rudy Gay
PF Zach Randolph
C Marc Gasol
Randolph's return to the lineup makes an already formidable crew of starters all the more dangerous. An argument could certainly be made that promoting sixth man O.J. Mayo to this group would make it even better—but, if a lineup is measured by its weakest link, Memphis certainly isn't hurt by Tony Allen.
Allen lacks star power and statistical volume, but he's one of the best on-ball perimeter defenders in the game. Mike Conley is a consistent, above-average floor general, and the rest (Gay, Randolph and Gasol) are All-Star-caliber players.
This is still a young team that could easily rise in these rankings sooner rather than later. Without an especially deep bench, Memphis' success can be attributed almost entirely to its starting five (plus Mayo). With so much riding on their shoulders, these guys deserve some recognition.
PG Darren Collison
SG Paul George
SF Danny Granger
PF David West
C Roy Hibbert
The Indiana Pacers have been good this year, and yet this collection of up-and-comers could very well become one of the very best groups of starters in the league.
Paul George could become something special. The long, athletic wingman plays great defense, rebounds the ball and has steadily improved his three-point accuracy since his rookie campaign.
Meanwhile, there isn't a hole to be found in the rest of this lineup. Collison is a young, quick point guard with a solid mid-range game. David West remains an above-average 4, even if his contributions come almost exclusively on the offensive end. And while Danny Granger's insistence on patrolling the perimeter can be frustrating, he's still a versatile forward capable of getting hot.
The guy putting Indiana over the top, though, is All-Star center Roy Hibbert. Hibbert has improved in each of his four seasons and has an exceptional touch around the rim for a guy who's 7'2''. This season he's averaging nearly a double-double and 1.8 blocks a contest.
PG Rajon Rondo
SG Ray Allen
SF Paul Pierce
PF Brandon Bass
Boston has struggled to look like a contender this year, but you can't blame the starting five. None of the Celtics' starters averages fewer than 11.9 points, and Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo continue to play at an especially high level.
Garnett has been pressed into taking on opposing centers in order to make way for Brandon Bass in the lineup (a necessity given Boston's nonexistent depth at center). While less than ideal for the aging star, KG hasn't lost much: He's averaging 18.2 points, 8.8 rebounds and 4.2 assists over his last five games.
Allen has become more of a role player at this point, but you could do a lot worse than a role player whose hitting a career-high 46 percent of his three-pointers.
To be sure, Boston's bench has to rank as one of the worst in the league, but that's another story altogether.
PG Jeremy Lin
SG Landry Fields
PF Amar'e Stoudemire
C Tyson Chandler
You may be thinking: How could a starting five that's performed so inconsistently throughout the season rank ahead of so many better teams?
If this ranking accounted for factors like coaching, chemistry or willpower, the Knicks wouldn't even place in the top 15. When it comes to this starting unit's talent, however, New York looks pretty good on paper. If it starts playing defense like a professional basketball team, it might look good in games, too.
In terms of talent, you'd be hard-pressed to find a better front line. Anthony and Stoudemire are of course capable of producing big numbers on any given night and Tyson Chandler is a quintessential "glue guy" who guards and the paint and rebounds.
As for the backcourt, a lot hinges on just how good Jeremy Lin continues to be down the stretch. There's no question he's an above-average point guard. If he can rediscover the consistent clutch play he displayed upon entering New York's lineup, this starting unit will remain fierce.
Whether it can turn its talent into wins is another question.
PG Jason Kidd
SG Vince Carter
SF Shawn Marion
PF Dirk Nowitzki
C Brendan Haywood / Ian Mahinmi
At first glance, the Mavericks' starters look like an All-Star team from 10 years ago struggling to put together a comeback tour. Critics would be wise to remember that this is virtually the same group that won a championship last year against a team of All-Stars very much in their primes.
With one key exception, of course.
The absence of Tyson Chandler has left a gaping hole in the middle of Dallas' lineup, and Lamar Odom has struggled mightily to provide front-line depth off the bench. Regardless of whether this team has the makeup to contend once more, its starting five is still respectable.
After a slow start, Nowitzki has rounded into form, and the wing combination of Vince Carter and Shawn Marion gives Dallas the kind of length to keep Rick Carlisle's defense rolling.
Dallas' reluctance to make any moves this season has ultimately left this lineup at risk of regression. Jason Kidd's season is bordering on irrelevance and the center tandem of Haywood and Mahinmi certainly won't scare a team like the Lakers.
The Mavericks still have a good shot at making noise in the playoffs, but you can thank sixth man Jason Terry for that. Should he find his way into the starting lineup, these rankings might have a different look.
PG Jameer Nelson
SG Jason Richardson
SF Hedo Turkoglu
PF Ryan Anderson
As long as the Orlando Magic have Dwight Howard on board (that is to say, at least another season), this squad will feature a lineup that's better than half the teams in the league.
However, if this crew were as good as it needs to be, management wouldn't have to worry so much about losing Howard in the first place. Yes, Ryan Anderson has had a breakout season and become arguably the best "spread 4" in the league.
Jameer Nelson's recent play has confirmed that he remains one of the league's more underrated point guards—you can't help but wonder if he'd started playing like this a bit sooner without a certain distraction looming over the Magic's future.
From there, however, this lineup is as good as its three-point shooting allows it to be. On some nights Jason Richardson and Hedo Turkoglu look like they're worth every dollar. When those treys aren't falling, however, these two look aged and one-dimensional.
There's probably no starting lineup in basketball that more deserves a strong finish to this season. Long the scapegoats and ostensible "un-wanteds" dragged into Howard's ever-fickle melodrama, every fan of team basketball has to be rooting for these guys to prove themselves.
PG Ty Lawson
SG Arron Afflalo
SF Wilson Chandler
PF Danilo Gallinari / Kenneth Faried
C JaVale McGee
The Nuggets are a young, deep team with untold upside. They've made the absolute best of losing Carmelo Anthony last season and look poised to give contenders a run for their money sooner rather than later.
Denver sent the recently-extended Nene Hilario packing at this season's trade deadline in exchange for JaVale McGee, an athletic big in the mold of DeAndre Jordan. McGee may end up costing Denver a pretty penny, but at 24 years old, he reasons to be a more compatible piece to insert into an otherwise youthful roster.
With the recent return of Wilson Chandler completing a solid lineup of future star Ty Lawson, Arron Afflalo and sweet-shooting big Danilo Gallinari, Denver's lineup can rank among the league's best on any given day. The starting group has struggled with injury, but should they find themselves at full force come the postseason, they could be a favorite to pull some upsets.
Even without a full-fledged star, this is quite simply one of the best emerging ensemble groups in the game.
PG Jeff Teague
SG Kirk Hinrich
SF Joe Johnson
PF Josh Smith
C Zaza Pachulia
If Al Horford manages to return to Atlanta's lineup by the playoffs, this starting five makes a strong case for a top-10 placement.
For the time being, though, this lineup leans very heavily on should-be All-Star Josh Smith and the sometimes outstanding Joe Johnson. Consistency isn't this unit's calling card, but they're always capable of pulling the upset.
Though Atlanta didn't make any trades to bolster its lineup, it has experimented with playing Kirk Hinrich as the starting 2 and bringing small forward Marvin Williams off the bench. The adjustment gives Atlanta a slightly different look and frees up-and-coming point guard Jeff Teague to do what he does best: score.
PG Jrue Holiday
SG Evan Turner
SF Andre Iguodala
PF Elton Brand
C Spencer Hawes
The 76ers' breakout season has more to do with its near-equal reliance upon its starting and bench units alike. While this club's ability to go nine or 10 players deep deserves acknowledgement, the starting five itself is the definition of "average."
Jrue Holiday has shown impressive upside, but he's yet to display either the consistency or ability to take over a game that might rank him among the league's best point guards. The same goes doubly for Evan Turner, a highly-touted prospect (selected second overall) who's only now taking on a more central role under coach Doug Collins.
Philadelphia's front line includes a past-prime Elton Brand and the up-and-coming Spencer Hawes. Brand is still capable of posting double-doubles and Hawes has emerged to become one of the best passing big men around, but neither is a complete enough player at this point in his career to propel Philadelphia's lineup into an elite echelon.
The 76ers' starters ultimately rank in the top half thanks to first-time All-Star Andre Iguodala's ability to do it all: Play elite defense, pass, rebound and score when needed.
PG Raymond Felton
SG Wesley Matthews
SF Nic Batum
PF LaMarcus Aldridge
C Joel Przybilla
Portland has clearly had a rough year and appeared to push the reset button at the trade deadline, dealing away quality pieces Gerald Wallace and Marcus Camby for a valuable first-round draft pick and cap space.
The moves probably affect Portland's depth more than the starting unit itself. Batum should fill in nicely for Wallace and the Trail Blazers had to find more time for the young forward sooner or later. And of course, All-Star LaMarcus Aldridge will continue to anchor this lineup for some time to come.
The big question marks for Portland come at the point and in the middle. Felton has had an infamously down year, and Joel Przybilla probably isn't a starting-caliber center at this point in his career.
PG Kyle Lowry (sick) / Goran Dragic
SG Kevin Martin
SF Chandler Parsons
PF Luis Scola
C Samuel Dalembert / Marcus Camby
The Rockets' starting five may not feature many big names, but this is a well-coached team that always seems to overachieve.
Kyle Lowry continues to make a name for himself (averaging 15.9 point, 7.2 assists, 5.3 rebounds and 1.8 steals) and Kevin Martin remains a lethal shooter even in a less than efficient year.
The rest of this picture is a bit less rosy, though. Scola can score but doesn't pull down many rebounds or make a significant impact defensively. Rookie Chandler Parsons is certainly on the right track, but probably wouldn't find himself starting for many other teams.
However the Dalembert/Camby rotation shapes up, Houston's low-post presence will be good, but not great.
PG Stephen Curry
SG Klay Thompson
SF Dorell Wright
PF David Lee
C Andrew Bogut (injured) / Andris Biedrins
Facing a future that promised more of the same disappointment, the Warriors made a move this season that's sure to frustrate fans in the short term.
If and when Andrew Bogut returns to a healthy version of himself, Golden State's starting five will take a huge step forward and position itself to compete with some of the best front lines out there. Bogut can play at both ends of the floor, and David Lee's a hard-working rebounder with a good mid-range shot.
If Stephen Curry can stay healthy, the Warriors could soon again have a solid backcourt with the continued emergence of Klay Thompson.
Nevertheless, this is a work in progress, and Golden State has at least in part traded its short-term ambitions for a long-term plan built around the right kind of pieces.
PG Brandon Jennings
SG Monta Ellis
SF Carlos Delfino
PF Ersan Ilyasova
C Drew Gooden
The Bucks added an unquestionably dynamic scorer in Monta Ellis, but it remains to be seen that the small-backcourt experiment will work out any better in Milwaukee than it did for Golden State.
Putting aside the potential defensive liability, there's no doubt this is a talented backcourt that can light it up.
The rest of Milwaukee's starting unit is average in almost every way. Gooden is having one of his best seasons, but he's a lackluster defensive presence. Ilyasova and Delfino are solid, but nothing more.
Milwaukee has decent depth and an intriguing combination of role players who've proven themselves capable of pulling some upsets, but outside its backcourt, the starters aren't going to generate much excitement.
PG Luke Ridnour
SG Martell Webster
SF Wes Johnson
PF Kevin Love
C Nikola Pekovic
Minnesota's starting unit sans Rubio looks poised to take a step back. Kevin Love will continue to carry much of the weight for these guys, and Nikola Pekovic has been a pleasant surprise this season at the 5.
Wes Johnson and Martell Webster, however, have yet to demonstrate the kind of consistency you would expect from your starters. To the extent Minnesota has a shot at getting to the postseason, the reason may have more to do with the ability to bring Michael Beasley and Derrick Williams off the bench than it does the starting five.
PG Deron Williams
SG MarShon Brooks
SF Gerald Wallace
PF Kris Humphries
C Brook Lopez (injured) / Shelden Williams
The Nets took a huge step forward by acquiring Gerald Wallace. The veteran will bring some edge to this squad and fills an area of need at small forward.
As long as Deron Williams is still in a Nets uniform, this could become a very good starting five. Brooks has emerged as one of most NBA-ready rookies in the league, and Kris Humphries has quietly had a pretty solid season.
The obvious concern for this lineup is keeping Brook Lopez healthy. If he can remain in the fold, this unit could finish the year off strong and give Williams some pause before settling on the Mavericks as his next destination.
PG Devin Harris
SG Raja Bell
SF Josh Howard
PF Paul Millsap
C Al Jefferson
The Utah Jazz find themselves in a strange situation. On the one hand, this is a team that has infused itself with impressive young talent (namely Derrick Favors, Enes Kanter, Alec Burks and Gordon Hayward). On the other hand, Utah is still on the cusp of qualifying for the playoffs thanks to starters Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap, Josh Howard and Devin Harris.
While this team could find itself extremely competitive down the road, the current starting five is only slightly better than mediocre. Harris has struggled to earn the trust of coach Tyrone Corbin, and neither Josh Howard nor Raja Bell provide much scoring punch.
For its part, this team's post play is pretty good. Though a tad undersized, Millsap plays hard and has improved his range over the last couple of years, and it goes without saying that Al Jefferson is the brightest spot in this lineup. His crafty post game and ability to face up and shoot allow him to score prolifically at times.
PG Steve Nash
SG Jared Dudley
SF Grant Hill
PF Channing Frye
C Marcin Gortat
Steve Nash may no longer play like an MVP, but more than a few teams would love to have him starting at the point. Gortat, meanwhile, leads the Suns in scoring and averages a double-double—it could be only a matter of time before he winds up at an All-Star game.
The rest of the lineup is only slightly above average. Hill, Dudley and Frye are all one-dimensional scorers and rely heavily on Nash to put them in a position to do some damage. They aren't bad players by any means, but this is a lineup short on stars and replete with guys who might be better off coming off the bench for a better team.
PG Isaiah Thomas
SG Tyreke Evans
SF/G Marcus Thornton
PF Jason Thompson
C DeMarcus Cousins
In two years, the Kings could have one of the best starting lineups in the league. The youth and upside for this unit is impressive to say the least.
DeMarcus Cousins has come into his own as a center well on his way to domination, and Marcus Thornton can be difficult to guard when he's on from behind the arc.
Most importantly, Tyreke Evans remains one of the most versatile young guards in the game and should be primed to become a regular at the All-Star Game in the not-too-distant future.
These guys are still too inexperienced and mistake-prone to rank any higher, but they're an exciting set of building blocks for a franchise attempting to return to relevance.
PG Kyrie Irving
SG Anthony Parker
SF Alonzo Gee
PF Antawn Jamison
C Anderson Varejao (injured) / Ryan Hollins
Cleveland's starting five might rank dead last were it not for Kyrie Irving's stellar rookie season. The 19-year-old is averaging 18.5 points and 5.4 assists in a campaign almost guaranteed to land him Rookie of the Year honors.
On the more veteran end of the spectrum, Antawn Jamison remains productive even at age 35, averaging 18.5 points and 6.4 rebounds. When Varejao is at full strength, Cleveland has an energetic guy in the middle to clean the glass.
Despite some signs of life, this unit has a long way to go.
Of course, there's probably not a fan in Cleveland who'd find themselves insulted by the Cavs' lowly ranking. This is a team very clearly embarking upon an extensive rebuilding process, so for the time being this lineup is what it is.
As its stockpile of draft picks continues to pay dividends, this group could quickly rise up the ranks thanks to its infusion of exceptional young talent.
PG Brandon Knight
SG Rodney Stuckey
SF Tayshaun Prince
PF Jason Maxiell
C Greg Monroe
The Pistons' starting unit is more talented than meets the eye, but you wouldn't know it from watching this team struggle. There are some young bright spots to be sure, including rookie Brandon Knight and second-year standout Greg Monroe.
Prince and Maxiell are better suited for bench duty, though, and Rodney Stuckey remains a very good player who's not quite yet a star.
It looks like Detroit is finally headed in the right direction, but this lineup is less than impressive at the moment.
PG Jarrett Jack
SG Marco Belinelli
SF Trevor Ariza
PF Gustavo Ayon
C Chris Kaman
The Hornets' lineup has been decimated by injuries. Emeka Okafor, Carl Landry and Eric Gordon have all missed significant time and may not be back until late March at the earliest.
Of course, even without the injuries, New Orleans' starting five has been a work in progress. New Orleans is short on star power, depth and anyone resembling a difference-maker. That said, Jack has played well this season (averaging 15.2 points and 6.0 assists) and Kaman has looked better and better with steady playing time and the assurance he'll be sticking around.
There are also a lot of teams in this league that wouldn't mind having a defender like Trevor Ariza.
Until this teams returns to health, though, its starting five will remain below average.
PG Jose Calderon
SG DeMar DeRozan
SF James Johnson
PF Andrea Bargnani
C Aaron Gray
Toronto is still waiting on DeRozan and Bargani to become stars capable of carrying this team. Until then, they remain good players with lots of upside.
While Jose Calderon's contract is a bit off-putting, he's still a nice distributor and well-composed floor general.
That's where the good news ends. Toronto needs front line help in the worst way, and it would have loved to get its hands on Wilson Chandler after his return from China.
The draft can't come soon enough for this team.
PG John Wall
SG Jordan Crawford
SF Chris Singleton
PF Trevor Booker
C Nene Hilario
Acquiring Nene from the Nuggets should make this unit better in the short term, and there's no question John Wall is on track to be an elite point guard. Even Jordan Crawford has shown some signs of coming into his own, and the banishing of Nick Young may help his development.
Rookie Chris Singleton and second-year power forward Trevor Booker certainly have some promise, but there are very few teams that would have them inserted into the starting lineup so soon.
PG D.J Augustin
SG Gerald Henderson
SF Corey Maggette
PF Tyrus Thomas
C Bismack Biyombo
The Charlotte Bobcats don't appear to be anywhere close to taking the next step in their rebuilding process. The best young asset—Kemba Walker—is stuck behind starting point guard D.J. Augustin for the moment, so even Charlotte's star-in-the-making can't help it in these rankings.
Power forward Tyrus Thomas still looks to have a bright future, but for now he's in a slump and taken a demonstrable step back. Off-guard Gerald Henderson is having his best season, but it's hard to imagine him looking this good on a better roster.
Charlotte's best wing scorer probably remains Cory Maggette. While Maggette continues to feature a strong mid-range game and a knack for getting to the free-throw line, he's hardly the guy you want leading your team in scoring.