Bench the Bench: The NBA's Top 10 Starting Fives

Wes WardContributor IMarch 13, 2008

What would happen if each team in the NBA could only play their starting five?

See where your team ranks on the list of the Best Starting Fives in the NBA.

Each unit is ranked according to how well they perform as a unit (based on highly effective analysis...and my opinions).

This is not an analysis of the team as a whole or of the talent of the individual players, but of the ability and chemistry the players have with one another.


10. Golden State (40-23) 

The Warriors have somehow managed to play through adversity.

Last year they upset Dallas in the playoffs and looked great doing it. Baron Davis has MVP-level talent, and his physicality is matched by the toughness in Stephen Jackson and Al Harrington.

The perimeter is always stretched with this team, not to mention the intensity with which they play. This bunch thrives off the emotion and energy of their teammates and are capable of more "upsets" this year.


9. Utah (43-23) 

The Jazz have matured very quickly over the past two seasons to become a top-tier NBA team.

Carlos Boozer has turned into a capable big man that can post up, but only because of the arrival of Deron Williams.

Williams' heightened play has enabled everyone on this squad to achieve at a higher level.

They have defense, they have offense, they can even play up-tempo or slow the game down. Mehmet Okur's shooting touch stretches opposing defenses enough to allow Ronnie Brewer and Andrei Kirilenko to operate where they are comfortable.

This team is making strides, but still has some room to grow. 


8. Phoenix (42-22) 

If the Shaq trade had not happened, it would have been easy to place the Suns higher. But the whole Shaq thing has seemed to drag them the past few weeks.

Steve Nash is an amazing talent and will somehow manage to lead his team no matter the problems. More important is the competitiveness of Shaq.

The Big Diesel will not accept anything less than the championship, and won't stop working until he "fits in" with the Suns.

Right now is not that time, but the other pieces work to perfection with Nash.

Amare Stoudamire was dominating when played out of position, and every starter can run a textbook pick and roll with Nash.

Grant Hill has somehow been rejuvenated in the Arizona sun, and even Raja Bell seems to be having fun out in the desert. 


7. Dallas (42-23) 

Perhaps Dallas has the same problem as the Suns, just not to the same degree.

Jason Kidd has sped up the offense in Dallas, but somehow compromised Avery Johnson's heavy focus on defense.

The Mavs have struggled to beat the best in the NBA since the trade, but every starter has seen their production go up since the deal.

Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Terry have seen increased scoring, whereas Erick Dampier has come off the bench and back to life. He has managed to achieve some double-doubles thanks to Kidd.

The Mavs played extremely well this last week, blowing out opponents. But until they can beat a top team, with Kidd playing and not on the bench, they will remain below the top five.


6. New Orleans (43-20) 

What a surprise, right?

Chris Paul is scary good and he is still so young. The same can be said about David West, who has been able to dominate some great players down low and has made his first All-Star appearance.

Tyson Chandler is making a case for Defensive Player of the Year, and grabbing an insane amount of boards.

The outside shooting has increased dramatically for the Hornets this year, with Peja Stojakavic's great shooting and Mo Peterson's ability to hit the open jumper.

They are still a young team, and have little experience in terms of the playoffs or finals. Still, this starting five has developed into a great team led by an MVP.


5. Houston (44-20) 

20 wins in a row is very impressive, and that is an understatement. But the Rockets do not seem capable of sustaining this energy through the rest of the season.

Talent is a concern at this point, especially so when in contention with the NBA's best. And Yao's injury sure doesn't help.

T-Mac has led Houston with tremendous effort and leadership, but who knows when his back will act up again.

Dikembe Mutombo is still among the best defenders and especially shot blockers, but he has contemplated retirement several times for a reason.

Rafer Alston, Shane Battier, and Luis Scola are role players that have filled their roles extremely well. Their performances have brought to the team even more than Rick Adelman and the fans had hoped.

The Rockets are simply playing great basketball and winning, which is what matters.  When put to the test against the best, however, they will not be able to maintain.


4. LA Lakers (45-19) 

Kobe for MVP? I'm a believer.

At the beginning of the season, nobody thought the Lakers would be tops in the West—now, or at any point in the season.

The Pau Gasol trade was ridiculous and LA should thank Memphis for the  immediate benefit everyone on this team has received.

The Lakers have the capability to take teams on, one-on-one with Gasol, Kobe, and Lamar Odom. But they've been able to play so well because of their ability to share the ball and run their game.

Luke Walton and Derek Fisher know their skills and roles and stick to them. They don't try to do too much. Instead, they help their team win.

Most importantly, this team understands when it's Kobe's time, and at what point they have to let him take control. 


3. Boston (51-12) 

The only reason the Cs made it this high is because of the big three they have in Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Ray Allen.

These guys are too good individually, and even better together, to ignore the talent level in Boston.

Garnett can beat any big man offensively with his quickness and toughness, but also has the ability to defend well.

Pierce has had the pressure taken off his back and is playing much more comfortable this year.

Allen can still shoot from almost anywhere on the court.

Rajon Rondo has filled in nicely at the point, and Kendrick Perkins will chip in when need be.

This team has succeeded in a drastic turnaround because of their off season moves which landed them an extremely talented starting five that could dominate any other on any given night.

However, injuries and lack of balance between them keep this five out of the top two.


2. San Antonio (44-20)

The Big Fundamental has managed to anchor this team for quite awhile, and has seen great success with added help from his supporting cast.

The Spurs have become the franchise others wish they were because of their ability to attract free agents and talented veterans who want a ring.

Not to mention their ability to secure their starters' contracts for multiple years.

Manu Ginobli, Tony Parker, and Bruce Bowen have all been together since '02 with Duncan, and they continue to get better each year. They can play any style anywhere while still maintaining control of the game.

They are always prepared and manage to play consistently, night in and out.

They also have a few rings.


1. Detroit (46-18) 

This is the only team that consistently has a different leader each night, where anyone in the starting rotation can lead them on to a victory.

One night the team might be lifted by Rip Hamilton or Chauncy Billups. The next, Rasheed Wallace or Tayshaun Prince will be the difference in a W or an L.

These guys have been together for so long, and have become so balanced in their attack, it's tough to remember how they played before they came to Detroit.

They have experience, talent and chemistry...but the most important reason they top the list is because the distractions (trades, lineup alterations) these guys face are far fewer than those listed above. Plus, they play with a chip on their shoulder from lack of respect.

These guys have been in every situation, from the finals to the brawl in Indy. They have grown and matured together to epitomize the chemistry every coach dreams about.


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