Projecting Every NBA Team's Opening-Night Starting Lineup

Jeremy GottliebContributor IAugust 14, 2012

Projecting Every NBA Team's Opening-Night Starting Lineup

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    The Olympics are over.

    Training camp is barely a month away.

    The NBA is upon us.

    Well, almost.

    At any rate, it's never too early to start pouring over rosters, trends, free-agent signings and trades in an effort to determine what each team is going to look like come opening night.

    There are still some free agents out there, but for all intents and purposes, barring injuries, most teams probably already know who will be starting come late October/early November and who will be coming off the bench.

    So with that, let's play a little game. Here's a look at every team's probable starting lineup come opening night. We'll see how close we are starting October 30.

Atlanta Hawks

1 of 30

    Jeff Teague, Lou Williams, Anthony Morrow, Josh Smith and Al Horford

    It's a bit on the small side, with the 6'1" Williams manning the 2-guard spot and Morrow, a 6'5" tweener, getting the nod at the 3.

    But since the Hawks dealt Marvin Williams to Utah, the only true small forward they have on their current roster is newly signed Kyle Korver, a 6'7" marksman who is best served for anyone at this stage of his career coming off the bench to shoot threes.

    Morrow, acquired from the Nets in the Joe Johnson trade, has seen plenty of time at the 3 with New Jersey and should be able to at least keep up on defense thanks to his quickness. Williams, the former Sixer, was the runner-up for last year's Sixth Man of the Year award, but with Johnson gone, he's likely to move into a starter's role with his new team.

    There's a chance the Hawks could stick with Williams coming off the bench, given his success in that role, and they could start either veteran DeShawn Stevenson or first-round pick John Jenkins at the 2. But Williams should have the edge at getting the nod with the first unit.

Boston Celtics

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    Rajon Rondo, Courtney Lee, Paul Pierce, Brandon Bass and Kevin Garnett

    Sub Lee out for Avery Bradley when the latter returns from shoulder surgery, but other than that, this is probably a given.

    Bench-warrior/new-acquisition Jason Terry will be expected to lead the second unit, and Jeff Green should be the second-in-command of that group. Both will likely see plenty of time on the court with Pierce and KG, but each will begin games on the pine.

    With Bradley as the starting 2-guard, the Celts turned their season around with this combination last year.

    If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

Brooklyn Nets

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    Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, Gerald Wallace, Kris Humphries and Brook Lopez

    Having Johnson, an All-Star and a 20-points-per-game scorer, out there with star-signee Williams will take a lot of pressure off of the Nets centerpiece, regardless of how much money he makes.

    And Wallace, who the Nets will now have for a full-on training camp, along with big men Lopez and Humphries, will give New York's newest team some good strength and athleticism upfront.

    If Lopez has any recurrence of his foot problems from last season, don't ask who the Nets will plug into the center slot. The closest thing they have to a backup center is Reggie Evans, although Bosnian rookie Mirza Teletovic is a big body and could potentially play the pivot as well.

    They may not have gotten Dwight Howard, but the Nets still have a starting five that should get them to the playoffs.

Charlotte Bobcats

4 of 30

    Ramon Sessions, Ben Gordon, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Bismack Biyombo and Brendan Haywood

    At least the Bobcats will probably start Kidd-Gilchrist, the second-overall pick in this year's draft and the likely centerpiece of their future.

    What won't make as much sense is if they choose to keep fellow-youngsters Gerald Henderson and Kemba Walker on the pine in favor of Gordon and Sessions.

    Remember, this is a team that had the worst winning percentage (.107) in the history of the NBA last season. Sure, Walker and Henderson were part of that epic debacle, but they are also two of the four players on this entire roster around which Charlotte may hope to build.

    Sessions, who looked very good as the Lakers point guard last season until the playoffs rolled around, is a stop-gap on a bad team, and Gordon, owner of one of the league's worst contracts, is only on this team because of a salary-dump/bad-deal swap. There's no logical reason under the sun why either of them should be playing ahead of or getting more minutes than Walker and Henderson.

    This is the Charlotte Bobcats we're discussing here though. Logic be damned.

Chicago Bulls

5 of 30

    Kirk Hinrich, Rip Hamilton, Luol Deng, Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah

    Obviously, this one gets an asterisk thanks to the Derrick Rose injury. And it remains to be seen if the Bulls will be making anymore moves in the next month or so prior to training camp.

    It's hard to see them getting much offense out of this combo. No one here is a pure scorer at this point in his career, and that includes Boozer, who has fallen down a hole in his first two years in Chicago and will have to step up in a major way at both ends in Rose's absence if this team wants to stay afloat.

    Deng will probably get the most shots, and why not? He can shoot from the perimeter and get to the basket most of the time, and really, what other names on that list can do that too? Hamilton is so over the hill, he's off it. Hinrich can still play and is always a great-effort guy, but he's at best a fourth option.

    The Bulls have to hope that they can at least survive until Rose gets back, and even then, there's no way of knowing what kind of shape he'll be in. 

    Expect a fair amount of 83-77-type games from this outfit.

Cleveland Cavaliers

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    Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters, Omri Casspi, Tristan Thompson and Anderson Varejao

    Man, is this team young. Three of those five names have been drafted in the last 14 months.

    It's hard to know what to expect from the Cavs this season. But there's a lot of talent.

    Irving is already a star; Varejao is okay with doing every last bit of the dirty work upfront and doesn't need the ball, and Thompson showed flashes last year of being a very good 4.

    Where there are real issues is at the 3. Casspi flunked out last year following his move from Sacramento to the Midwest, and the best the Cavs have to offer behind him right now is Kelanna Azubuike, who has played 12 games since the end of the '08-'09 season.

    There could be some question as to whether Waiters or veteran Boobie Gibson starts at the 2. Waiters made his hay at Syracuse coming off the bench and could be a nice instant-offense option in that same role for Cleveland. 

    But Gibson is undersized to really play the 2, and that's being charitable. Plus, as a rebuilding team, how much sense does it make not to start the fourth-overall pick in the draft, seeing as how he's as important a part of your future as anyone on the roster?

    Having Varejao gives the Cavs the luxury of bringing along their other first rounder, Tyler Zeller, slowly. 

    They don't have that same luxury at the 2; Waiters has to start.

Dallas Mavericks

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    Darren Collison, O.J. Mayo, Shawn Marion, Dirk Nowitzki and Chris Kaman

    The Mavs didn't score the big prize they cleared room for following their 2010-2011 title, missing out on both Deron Williams and Dwight Howard.

    But they still made a flurry of moves that made them slightly younger and more athletic, two of which will show in their starting backcourt.

    Collison and Mayo both have a fair amount to prove. Collison was usurped as the Pacers starting point guard late last season, a move that likely hastened his departure from Indiana. And Mayo was never a starter for Memphis while also constantly having his name pop up in trade rumors.

    Both these guys are young and hungry and capable of big things at both ends. They should be fine. But upfront, after Nowitzki and Shawn Marion, stands the always-injured Chris Kaman.

    Kaman has played in more than 33 games once in the past four years, which means he may not be long for this group. Elton Brand, late of the Sixers amnesty clause, could see some time in the pivot with the starters as well.

Denver Nuggets

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    Ty Lawson, Andre Iguodala, Danilo Gallinari, Kenneth Faried and JaVale McGee

    The Nuggets have so many players who will play, get minutes and get shots that they could well have two starting lineups.

    Now that Al Harrington and Arron Afflalo are gone to Orlando as part of the Dwight Howard deal, the rotation is a little less deep, but not by much. Point guard Andre Miller, small forwards Corey Brewer and Wilson Chandler and backup-center Kosta Koufos could all start elsewhere.

    Having a deep roster with no particular go-to guy worked for Denver last year. The Nuggets were very hot for a while, cooled off for the last month of the season, then gave the Lakers all they could handle in the first round of the playoffs.

    Everyone listed above could well come off the bench as well, though Lawson, Iguodala and McGee are pretty much locks for the starting lineup.

    One thing about the Nuggets that is definite: just because you start the game, doesn't remotely mean you'll be out there at the end of it.

Detroit Pistons

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    Brandon Knight, Rodney Stuckey, Tayshaun Prince, Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond

    The Pistons drafted Drummond at No. 9 not just so they'd have a potentially dominant center for the next five years, but also because Monroe is so much better served for them at the 4. 

    If Drummond doesn't start, Monroe will be in the pivot, and even though he most certainly can succeed there, the team would rather see him owning other slower, less-athletic power forwards.

    Also, Detroit is thin at the 4. Jonas Jerebko starts there if the Pistons choose to bring Drummond off the bench, and while Jerebko is a nice player, he does not rebound or score in the post well enough to be a legitimate starting power forward. 

    Plus, this is a team that has been in a downward spiral for five years now. There's no reason why Drummond should be coming off the bench. He, Monroe and point guard Brandon Knight are this team's future. They should all be starting and playing 35 minutes per night. 

    What more do the Pistons have to lose?

Golden State Warriors

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    Jarrett Jack, Stephen Curry, Harrison Barnes, David Lee and Andrew Bogut

    This is a potentially fluid situation as well. The Warriors might want to start Curry at the point and use second-year-man Klay Thompson as their starting 2, bringing Jack off the bench.

    Thompson had a nice rookie season, averaging 12.5 points per game in 24.4 minutes. He shot 41.4 percent from three-point land and has great size (6'7", 205 lbs.) for a shooting guard.

    The thing is that Curry isn't really a point guard. He can play there certainly, but under those circumstances, the Warriors lose his cutting ability and may not be able to run him around as many screens to pop him open for threes as they would when he's playing the 2.

    Everything else here is easy. First-round pick Harrison Barnes was drafted to start at the 3; David Lee is an excellent offensive power forward, and if healthy, Andrew Bogut is a borderline All-Star center.

    Watch this backcourt though. That's where things could get messy.

Houston Rockets

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    Jeremy Lin, Kevin Martin, Chandler Parsons, Patrick Patterson and Omer Asik

    Yikes.

    Here's where we first start to examine the Rockets after their all-out play for Dwight Howard failed.

    Without Howard, this is a team of role players and rookies up and down the roster. Maybe one of those guys will emerge and carry the Rockets. 

    But who?

    There's a huge asset here in Kevin Martin's expiring deal. He's set to make $12.4 million in the last year of his deal, and if he can stay healthy, which he could not last season, he will be the first, second and third option on offense. 

    Jeremy Lin was the prize acquisition, and he will certainly get his fair share of shots from the point guard position. But after that, what? Who will Houston look to for scoring?

    Who knows?

    Maybe one of their three first-round picks (Jeremy Lamb, Royce White and Terrence Jones) will step up and be a scorer. Maybe likely starting power forward Patrick Patterson will develop a low-post game with the help of head-coach/best-low-post-player-ever Kevin McHale.

    Or maybe the Rockets will be lucky to win 15 games in 2011-2012.

Indiana Pacers

12 of 30

    George Hill, Paul George, Danny Granger, David West and Roy Hibbert

    Not much to see here. The Pacers will run the same starting lineup that scared the Heat in last year's Eastern Conference semis out there to begin the upcoming season and will stick with it until something breaks.

    They're committed to Hill at the point, as his new five-year, $40-million contract and the trade of Collison will attest.

    After that, they have solid to excellent players throughout the lineup. George is a budding star who needs some more seasoning. Hibbert is a huge talent who also got himself a giant new contract. Granger and West are veteran performers with very good bodies of work.

    And that's it. Nothing special. Just a young, up-and-coming team still growing and improving. The Pacers were a top-four team in the East last year, and with the Bulls having lost Derrick Rose, they could finish even better this year.

Los Angeles Clippers

13 of 30

    Chris Paul, Chauncey Billups, Caron Butler, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan

    This could be a scary team.

    The Clippers starters will be the same as they were to start last season provided Billups is all the way back from his torn Achilles. If he's not, Jamal Crawford will fill in for the time being.

    But remember, these guys got it together well enough without Billups to make a nice playoff run last season. And even though they lost Randy Foye and Nick Young, who each did solid work at the 2 after Billups went down, they're still deep enough with Crawford, Eric Bledsoe and the ageless Grant Hill to hang in there if it takes Billups a while to go back to being his old self.

    Griffin, who is the key to this team's success along with the great Paul, will be coming off a relatively minor knee procedure and may be a step slow himself at the start of the season.

    But once he's healthy, and since this group has a year of playing together under its belt, watch out.

Los Angeles Lakers

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    Steve Nash, Kobe Bryant, Metta World Peace, Antawn Jamison and Pau Gasol

    Of course, if Howard is completely healed from his back surgery, you can plug him into the center position, move Gasol to the 4 and put Jamison on the bench.

    If not, this will likely be the lineup until he's ready to go. And this group is nothing to sneeze at. 

    Still, it's just a holdover until Howard, finally traded last week, is ready to go and to potentially be the final piece to the Lakers winning their 17th title in franchise history.

    The only weaknesses here are potentially World Peace, given his unpredictability, and Nash's defense, given his age and slowness. But having Howard as the anchor will make that type of problem easier to hide.

    This team went for it, as it always does.

    Don't be surprised to see the Lakers back in the Finals.

Memphis Grizzlies

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    Mike Conley, Tony Allen, Rudy Gay, Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol

    The Grizzlies are just a year removed from a stunning playoff run in which they shocked the Spurs as an eight-seed in the first round before taking Oklahoma City to seven games in the semis.

    They dropped a very tight Game 7 to the Clippers in this past season's first round, but they are returning mostly the same core, minus Mayo, and could threaten out west again.

    One thing to keep an eye on is whether or not the Grizzlies think they can contend with the group as currently constituted. The 2011 run was made without Gay. They didn't get as far with him and owe him $53.7 million over the next three years. 

    A trade isn't out of the question.

    This is a formidable group with a lot of talent as it stands. Grizzlies fans should be pumped.

Miami Heat

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    Mario Chalmers, Dwyane Wade, LeBron James, Shane Battier and Chris Bosh

    Battier may be miscast at the 4, but with the rest of this group, who cares?

    Plus, this was the lineup Miami spent the most time using when they beat the Thunder four straight times en route to a championship in June, so it's probably okay to have a guy playing slightly out of position.

    With the acquisitions of Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis, the Heat have a lot of options, especially if they want to be careful with Wade's tricky knee. Or if they want to be tougher inside, they can simply slide Bosh to the 4 (his natural position) and start Joel Anthony, bringing Battier off the bench with Allen and Lewis.

    The Heat figured out how to mesh their specific group last season, and the result was a title. Something suggests they probably won't mess with that success all that much.

Milwaukee Bucks

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    Brandon Jennings, Monta Ellis, Mike Dunleavy, Ersan Ilyasova and Samuel Dalembert

    Believe it or not, the Bucks are kind of stacked.

    They have two stars in their starting backcourt and depth, depth and more depth upfront.

    No names from the 3 to the 5 jump out at you, but they can all play. Dalembert will most likely start, but Drew Gooden is a perfectly legit option as well, as is the young, freakishly athletic Epke Udoh, part of the trade with Golden State that brought Ellis to town.

    There's also the possibility of starting Gooden at the 4 alongside Dalembert and bringing the recently re-signed Ilyasova off the bench. And don't forget first-round pick John Henson, who can probably also play the 3.

    That's where the Bucks may be in some trouble—at small forward. Dunleavy is a major injury risk, and except for one excellent season with the Pacers, he has never really lived up to once being the No. 3 overall pick in the draft. 

    There are no tweeners/swingmen on this roster. It's possible that Ilyasova could thrive at the 3, but he fits better at power forward.

    Regardless, this is a deep, talented team that should be able to score and play defense.

Minnesota Timberwolves

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    Ricky Rubio, Luke Ridnour, Andrei Kirilenko, Kevin Love and Nikola Pekovic

    This is a lineup in slight flux.

    There's no real answer at the 2. Brandon Roy is back in the league after a year's retirement with chronically dead knees. Russian rookie Alexey Shved had a great Olympics, leading Russia to a bronze medal along with fellow newcomer Kirilenko. Maybe it's him.

    No matter who winds up starting at shooting guard, Rubio is the key. The Wolves were on their way to the playoffs last year when Rubio tore up his knee. After that, they disintegrated. Never mind Love developing into one of the 10 best players in the league. 

    Rubio makes this engine go.

    He wants to be running by September, according to Yahoo! Sports basketball guru Adrian Wojnarowski. The Wolves would love to see that happen.

    More depth in the backcourt is crucial to the Wolves season. 

    So is Rubio's health.

New Orleans Hornets

19 of 30

    Greivis Vasquez, Eric Gordon, Al-Farouq Aminu, Ryan Anderson and Anthony Davis

    There's a chance that Austin Rivers, the Hornets' second, less-heralded first rounder, could start at the point, but it's unlikely. He'll have a lot of learning to do in order to succeed at that level, and Vasquez, while not a star, is more than capable of holding down the fort.

    In the meanwhile, this lineup will revolve around Gordon and Davis, the two faces of the new-look Hornets franchise. Gordon is a borderline star already, while Davis should be able to put up big numbers right off the bat.

    Anderson, last year's Most Improved Player, who New Orleans stole from Orlando, will also be expected to play a huge role. He'll probably be the second option for this team offensively.

    Not a lot of mysteries here. Aminu was part of the Chris Paul trade, which means he'll start and get big minutes. And that's about it.

    The Hornets have a ways to go before they contend. They're not deep or experienced enough yet. 

    But they will be a lot of fun.

New York Knicks

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    Ray Felton, Ronnie Brewer, Carmelo Anthony, Amare Stoudemire and Tyson Chandler

    There's a chance J.R. Smith will be the starting 2 while the Knicks wait for Iman Shumpert to recover from the torn ACL he suffered in last season's playoffs.

    But Smith has always been the ultimate bench guy, someone who can come in cold and explode for eight three-pointers and 30 points at the drop of a hat. The Knicks are already thin on the bench; taking Smith away from that group could really hurt them.

    Other than that possible shakeup, this is likely what you'll see on opening night. It's the same frontcourt as last year, and Felton will almost certainly get the nod as the starter over Jason Kidd, who can't handle a starter's workload anymore.

    It will be interesting to see if Anthony and Stoudemire are any better together than they've been for the past year and a half. 

    Whether they are or not, there's no way you'll see either of them anywhere but starting.

Oklahoma City Thunder

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    Russell Westbrook, Thabo Sefolosha, Kevin Durant, Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins

    Another case of if it ain't broke, don't fix it comes with the Thunder.

    This five-man combo, with Sixth Man of the Year James Harden, got to the Finals last season and should be one of the league's biggest favorites to get back there this year.

    There will be no messing around. When Harden plays, either Sefolosha or Perkins will come out, with Ibaka sliding to center when the latter sits. That's about it.

    One point of interest concerning the Thunder's rotation will revolve around how rookie Perry Jones fits in. He could likely see time at the 3 or the 4 and maybe even the 5 when the team wants to go really small.

    But he won't start. That group is guaranteed.

Orlando Magic

22 of 30

    Jameer Nelson, Arron Afflalo, Hedo Turkoglu, Glen Davis and Nikola Vucevic

    Now what?

    Your guess is as good as any. The Howard trade is still so fresh, it's kind of tough to believe the Magic actually did it.

    What is for sure is that Nelson and his new contract, Turkoglu and his awful one and Davis and his babyishness will start. Afflalo, who is by far the best player on this roster post-trade, will almost certainly be the starting 2.

    At center, the magic now have question marks. They have two of them to choose from for the starting lineup in Vucevic and Gustavo Ayon, who is all they got back from New Orleans in exchange for Anderson.

    Vucevic should get the nod. He was buried in Philly last season, but the Sixers took him in the first round in last year's draft, which means he must have some upside. Unless the Magic feel like they have to play Ayon to justify the Anderson deal, it has to be Vucevic.

    There still has to be so much shock surrounding this team, so much decompressing after all of the garbage they went through with Howard, that they likely haven't started to sort out their potential starters yet.

    This may provide a fairly safe blueprint.

Philadelphia 76ers

23 of 30

    Jrue Holiday, Jason Richardson, Evan Turner, Spencer Hawes and Andrew Bynum

    Another one of the Howard-deal teams, the Sixers suddenly look a lot different than they did last week.

    Bynum, the centerpiece, is obvious, as are Holiday and newly acquired Richardson. Turner will take Andre Iguodala's place.

    It remains to be seen what will become of Hawes. He's young but pretty limited; the jury is out as to whether he can play the 4 with any real effectiveness, especially as the league has gotten smaller, quicker and more athletic at that spot.

    Second-year-man Lavoy Allen, a rebounding machine who was huge in the playoffs, could find his way into the starting mix at the 4 if Hawes can't cut it. Or if the Sixers want to play smaller, they could use Thaddeus Young there. He'd probably get somewhat bullied by bigger and stronger power forwards on the defensive end, but Hawes only has 20 pounds on Young and could face the same problem.

    What's for sure is that Philly is now an entirely different outfit than the one that took the Celtics to seven games in the Eastern semis.

    How it translates remains to be seen.

Phoenix Suns

24 of 30

    Goran Dragic, Wes Johnson, Michael Beasley, Luis Scola and Marcin Gortat

    No more Nash means the one constant this franchise and its fans have known for the past eight years is no longer.

    Now, it's hard to tell what direction the Suns are taking with this completely revamped lineup. 

    Johnson, a former No. 4 overall pick who washed out in Minnesota, is a big question mark. Will he figure out what he wasn't capable of figuring out starting for the Wolves even with Ricky Rubio setting him up?

    And of course, Beasley remains one of the league's biggest puzzles. Here's a guy who was the second pick in the draft and will be playing for his third team in five years come the fall. That doesn't happen often.

    After that, there's Nash's former backup, Dragic, who parlayed two great months with the Rockets into a big free-agent deal with a team that traded him away just a year-and-a-half ago.

    Scola is solid even though he hasn't seen the playoffs since his rookie year. And Gortat broke out last year, proving to be the best offensive option for Phoenix.

    The first year of the post-Nash era looks like a total mystery at this point. The four newcomers on this list can do a lot to solve it.

Portland Trail Blazers

25 of 30

    Damian Lillard, Wes Matthews, Nicolas Batum, LaMarcus Aldridge and J.J. Hickson

    After a miserable season, the Blazers did some serious house cleaning. About all that's left is franchise-cornerstones Aldridge, Matthews and Batum, who required the matching of an enormous offer sheet he signed with Minnesota to be retained.

    The No. 6 pick, point guard Lillard, will be expected to do a lot, maybe more than he's ready for as a rookie. And Portland has no depth in the pivot. The Blazers can't be expected to start rookie Meyers Leonard and get any production out of him. That's why they tried to get Roy Hibbert with another massive offer sheet and also why they'll likely have to start either Aldridge or Hickson at the 5.

    That could work for them. Power forwards are thriving at center these days, and if you don't believe that, look at Kevin Garnett in Boston or Chris Bosh in Miami. Aldridge is so well-established at the 4, Hickson feels like a better choice.

    Whichever way they go at center, Portland is a team that will need to rebuild some. Aldridge, Hickson, Lillard and maybe Leonard looks like a good place to start.

Sacramento Kings

26 of 30

    Isaiah Thomas, Marcus Thornton, Tyreke Evans, Thomas Robinson and DeMarcus Cousins

    That the Kings got Robinson with the fifth pick in this year's draft was a huge deal for them. They are loaded with shoot-first wing players and a big man in Cousins who needs the ball. 

    Robinson will do the grunt work, hustle, rebound and play tough while not having to take too many shots. It's the perfect fit.

    If he doesn't start right away, one must wonder what exactly the Kings are doing. They've been wallowing in the same kind of doldrums that plagued them for years before the Chris Webber era shot them to near the top of the league, and their ownership/arena situation hasn't done much to ease their passionate fanbase's minds.

    Jason Thompson is there upfront too, and he can play both the 4 and the 5 effectively. But he should be the sixth man. His versatility will help the second unit in multiple ways, and this is a franchise that can't afford to take minutes away from a player who could well wind up its face.

    Robinson was a gift for the Kings. He has to start and play—play a lot.

San Antonio Spurs

27 of 30

    Tony Parker, Gary Neal, Kawhi Leonard, Tim Duncan and Tiago Splitter

    There are a variety of different directions in which the Spurs could go after Parker and Duncan. 

    DaJuan Blair or Boris Diaw could potentially start at center. Stephen Jackson could be the starting 3 instead of Leonard. Manu Ginobili, who will be on the floor at the end of every game, could well start them as well. He's primarily been a sixth man throughout his career, but he did start 79 games in 2010-2011.

    Whichever way they decide to go, it will probably work, and not just because of how deep and versatile their roster is. 

    Also, it'll work because they have the league's best coach in Gregg Popovich. Pop always gets the most out of his players, his rotations and his lineups. There's no reason to assume he won't do that again this year.

    No matter who winds up starting along with Parker and Duncan, the Spurs will contend again in 2013. They always do.

Toronto Raptors

28 of 30

    Kyle Lowry, Landry Fields, DeMar DeRozan, Andrea Bargnani and Jonas Valanciunas

    The Raptors made an all-out push to get Steve Nash, and all it landed them was a terrible contract for Landry Fields.

    This is the main reason Fields will probably start ahead of lottery-pick Terrence Ross at least to begin the season. 

    Beyond this though, there's some reason for hope here. Newcomer Lowry really broke out in Houston last year and will be the top point guard. Bargnani has shown flashes of brilliance, and if he stays healthy, he'll play the Dirk Nowitzki role in coach Dwayne Casey's (formerly a Dallas assistant) offense.

    And then there's Valanciunas, Toronto's lottery pick from 2011, the No. 5 overall pick. Valanciunas stayed in his native Lithuania last season to get some further seasoning, but now at age 20, he's ready for the NBA.

    Valanciunas played very well for Lithuania at the Olympics and will allow Bargnani to not have to play out of position while giving the Raptors a true center.

    And he'll maybe give this floundering franchise some hope as well.

Utah Jazz

29 of 30

    Mo Williams, Gordon Hayward, Marvin Williams, Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson

    Watch out for the Jazz. They're kind of stacked.

    This lineup doesn't even include Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter, a couple more big men who were high-lottery picks and will see a pretty big minutes. Favors, in particular, really came on last season, and if the Jazz decide they want to play big, he could conceivably start at the 3 in place of the perpetually underachieving Marvin Williams.

    That might be a stretch though, and the 3 may well be where Utah needs the most help. Last year's first-rounder Alec Burks could be a solution there, but he may not be strong enough.

    After that, provided Mo Williams can distribute at the point as well as he likes to shoot, this could be a very dangerous team.

Washington Wizards

30 of 30

    John Wall, Bradley Beal, Trevor Ariza, Nene and Emeka Okafor

    It would be hard for them to get much worse, but the Wizards have a real chance at being a lot better this season.

    Moving Rashard Lewis and his onerous contract was very helpful, and the players they got back in that salary dump—Okafor and Ariza—are both pretty good, albeit overpaid themselves.

    But no matter.

    Suddenly there seems to be a foundation and a semblance of a plan in Washington, a couple things that have been non-existent since the era of Gilbert Arenas, Caron Butler and Antawn Jamison.

    Wall looks like he could potentially be a star, and Beal, the Wizards first-round pick, was seen as pretty much a consensus sure-thing coming out of Florida.

    And upfront, along with Okafor, there's Nene, who comes from a winning culture in Denver and can really play, provided he stays healthy.

    It's not like the Wizards will make the playoffs this year. But they will be better, and for this franchise, that's a big deal.