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Breaking Down Every NBA Team's Starting Lineup, Post-2012 Free Agency

Roy BurtonContributor IAugust 30, 2012

Breaking Down Every NBA Team's Starting Lineup, Post-2012 Free Agency

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    The dust has finally settled, the hot stove has completely cooled off and the NBA's capologists have (at least temporarily) put away their calculators.

    The starting lineups for many of the league's teams look different than they did just two short months ago. The offseason has quieted to a point now where one is able to assess the effect of the myriad moves that have occurred since the Miami Heat won the title. There have been four-team trades, huge free-agent signings, draft picks showing off in summer league and even international stars finally making their way overseas to compete in the NBA.

    There will be some training camp battles to be sure, but many teams around the league have already settled on the five players whom they will send out for the opening tip of the upcoming season. So with roughly two months to go before the action kicks off in earnest, let's look at the projected starting lineups for every team in the NBA.

Atlanta Hawks

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    Projected Starting Lineup

    PG: Jeff Teague

    SG: Lou Williams

    SF: Kyle Korver

    PF: Josh Smith

    C: Al Horford

    The three best guards on Atlanta are all extremely skilled at running the point, so expect the Hawks to use two of them—Jeff Teague and the newly acquired Lou Williams—as their starting backcourt next season. Williams is only 6'1", but he's the most dynamic scorer of the bunch and is the best fit at shooting guard.

    Devin Harris (who happens to be the biggest of the trio at 6'3") could also crack the starting lineup at some point this year.

    Earlier this offseason, Teague noted that the Hawks are “a lot smaller but a lot faster,” and that speed will be necessary for a team that no longer has Joe Johnson to rely on. Kyle Korver will replace some of Johnson's scoring at the 3 spot, but expect Atlanta to lean heavily on its two stars: PF Josh Smith and C Al Horford.


Boston Celtics

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    Projected Starting Lineup

    PG: Rajon Rondo

    SG: Courtney Lee

    SF: Paul Pierce

    PF: Brandon Bass

    C: Kevin Garnett

    Courtney Lee's spot in the Celtics starting lineup is only temporary. Once Avery Bradley returns from offseason shoulder surgery, expect him to rejoin Rajon Rondo in the backcourt.

    Boston did sign free-agent guard Jason Terry earlier this summer, but he only figures to start if Lee is ineffective at the start of the 2012-13 campaign.

    Otherwise, the Boston starting five is basically the same as it was last year. The experienced quartet of Rondo/Pierce/Bass/Garnett will help Boston immensely in a revamped Eastern Conference.

Brooklyn Nets

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    Projected Starting Lineup

    PG: Deron Williams

    SG: Joe Johnson

    SF: Gerald Wallace

    PF: Kris Humphries

    C:  Brook Lopez

    Other than relocating to Brooklyn, the only major change made by the Nets this summer was their acquisition of All-Star shooting guard Joe Johnson. While the rest of the starting lineup is unchanged, Brooklyn should be far better than it was last season, when the team finished with a 22-44 record. 

    Many around the league figured that the Nets lineup would be anchored by Dwight Howard this season, but despite not landing the biggest prize of the offseason, Brooklyn will still roll out a competitive team that could make a run at an Atlantic Division crown.

Charlotte Bobcats

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    Projected Starting Lineup

    PG: Ramon Sessions

    SG: Gerald Henderson

    SF: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist

    PF: Bismack Biyombo

    C: Brendan Haywood

    The Charlotte Bobcats can go a number of different ways with their starting backcourt, but they appear to be set at center as well as the two forward spots. Expect No. 2 overall pick Michael Kidd-Gilchrist to start alongside PF Bismack Biyombo from Day 1, while Brendan Haywood will hold down the starting 5 spot.

    Gerald Henderson was Charlotte's best player last season (a dubious distinction for a club that finished 7-59), so it only seems logical that he'll get the nod at shooting guard over Ben Gordon.

    However, expect the Bobcats to go with Ramon Sessions at point guard over Kemba Walker at the start of the season. Walker is clearly the future of the team, but he simply doesn't shoot well enough to warrant 30-plus minutes per night: The 6'1" point guard shot 36.6 percent from the field last year.

Chicago Bulls

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    Projected Starting Lineup

    PG: Kirk Hinrich

    SG: Richard Hamilton

    SF: Luol Deng

    PF: Carlos Boozer

    C: Joakim Noah

    Derrick Rose's knee injury means that Kirk Hinrich—in his second tour of duty with Chicago—will be the opening-night starter at point guard.

    The rest of the Bulls lineup is the same as last year, but they'll all need to step up in the absence of their dynamic playmaker. With Rose not expected back until the All-Star break at the earliest, Chicago needs to recapture the same magic from last year that saw it go 18-9 in 27 regular-season games without its 6'3" point guard.

    Luol Deng's left wrist is still an issue, but he made it through the 2012 London Olympics without any problems. If he isn't ready for the beginning of the season, Summer League standout Jimmy Butler could potentially start at small forward.

Cleveland Cavaliers

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    Projected Starting Lineup

    PG: Kyrie Irving

    SG: Daniel Gibson

    SF: Omri Casspi

    PF: Tristan Thompson

    C: Anderson Varejao

    Dion Waiters never started a game at the collegiate level, so expecting him to slide right into the Cavaliers' starting five is a bit ambitious. Daniel Gibson makes the most sense at shooting guard in the early going, but Waiters could be paired with Kyrie Irving sooner rather than later.

    Omri Casspi is a mediocre option at small forward, but Tristan Thompson is one of the game's better prospects at the 4 position.

    Center Anderson Varejao missed the last 41 games of the 2011-12 season due to a broken right wrist, yet he looked fine this summer with the Brazilian national team. If Varejao can return to the double-double form that he displayed before his injury, the Cavaliers will be much improved this year.

Dallas Mavericks

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    Projected Starting Lineup

    PG: Darren Collison

    SG: O.J. Mayo

    SF: Shawn Marion

    PF: Dirk Nowitzki

    C: Chris Kaman

    Dirk Nowitzki and Shawn Marion have quite a few new teammates this year, and three of the newcomers will be in the starting lineup on opening night.

    After two years as one of the key reserves on the Memphis Grizzlies, 24-year-old O.J. Mayo is ready to prove that he deserves to start in the NBA. Another player seeking to make a point this year is Darren Collison, who figures to log big minutes next to Mayo. Collison—formerly of the Indiana Pacers—was injured at the end of last season and lost his starting spot to George Hill.

    If Chris Kaman is healthy, his one-year, $8 million deal will be seen as one of the best moves of free agency. The seven-foot Kaman has only played 79 games over the past two seasons but is a double-double threat whenever he steps on the floor. The Mavericks also won the amnesty auction for former Philadelphia 76er Elton Brand, and he could serve as the team's center if necessary.

Denver Nuggets

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    Projected Starting Lineup

    PG: Ty Lawson

    SG: Andre Iguodala

    SF: Danilo Gallinari

    PF: Kenneth Faried

    C: JaVale McGee

    If nothing else, the Denver Nuggets might have one of the most exciting starting lineups in the NBA. Yet how well that translates into postseason success is a question that can only be answered 10 months from now.

    The Nuggets' participation in the Dwight Howard megadeal landed them All-Star swingman Andre Iguodala—a defensive marvel who also happens to excel on the fast break. Denver led the league in scoring last year, and little figures to change despite the loss of Al Harrington and Arron Afflalo.

    With JaVale McGee getting the benefit of a full season in Denver, as well as Kenneth Faried's continued emergence as one of the league's best young players, the Nuggets will be the one team no one wants to face in the Western Conference playoffs.

Detroit Pistons

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    Projected Starting Lineup

    PG: Brandon Knight

    SG: Rodney Stuckey

    SF: Tayshaun Prince

    PF: Greg Monroe

    C: Andre Drummond

    Regardless of the starting five that the Detroit Pistons ultimately go with, they're still years—and a few players—from being competitive in the Eastern Conference. Greg Monroe and Brandon Knight are good but aren't yet to the point where they can carry a team to even moderate success.

    The only real question is up front: Do the Pistons start Andre Drummond as a rookie, or do they give him time to grow into the role? The seven-foot UConn product is extremely raw skill-wise, and in the long run, Detroit might be better served by easing him into increased responsibility as the season wears on.

    Then again, the Pistons aren't a playoff team by any means, so the 2012-13 campaign could be a baptism of sorts for Drummond, who has the talent to be a top-level center once he puts it all together.

Golden State Warriors

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    Projected Starting Lineup

    PG: Stephen Curry

    SG: Klay Thompson

    SF: Harrison Barnes

    PF: David Lee

    C: Andrew Bogut

    On paper, the Golden State Warriors' starting lineup is almost ideal. Everyone has a defined role, and no one (with the possible exception of Stephen Curry) is playing out of position. As long as Harrison Barnes doesn't need to create his own shots, he'll be one of the better players in this year's rookie class.

    As such, the team's fortunes for this season all rest on the health of two ankles: one belonging to Curry and the other belonging to center Andrew Bogut. The seven-foot Bogut has yet to suit up for the Warriors following the March trade that brought him over from the Milwaukee Bucks, while Curry missed 40 games last year as he recovered from his injuries.

    If both can hold up for an entire season, Golden State should be able to make a spirited run at a playoff spot this year.

Houston Rockets

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    Projected Starting Lineup

    PG: Jeremy Lin

    SG: Kevin Martin

    SF: Chandler Parsons

    PF: Patrick Patterson

    C: Omer Asik

    There's no way to sugarcoat it: It's going to be a long season in Houston.

    Kevin Martin is the team's best player, but he already has one foot out the door after the Rockets drafted Jeremy Lamb in June. The team's plan to land Dwight Howard backfired, and instead Houston wound up with Jeremy Lin running point and Omer Asik in the middle.

    Expect the Rockets' starting lineup to change quite often this season. The team could put point forward Royce White in at the 3 spot, and rookie Terrence Jones might be able to supplant Patrick Patterson at power forward. But no matter what happens, if this team wins more than 20 games this year, it will be a miracle.

Indiana Pacers

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    Projected Starting Lineup

    PG: George Hill

    SG: Paul George

    SF: Danny Granger

    PF: David West

    C: Roy Hibbert

    The same cast of characters that tested the Miami Heat in the second round of last year's playoffs is back. Roy Hibbert and George Hill signed big-money free-agent deals this offseason, and Indiana looks to take the next step in 2012-13.

    Indiana obviously plans to get better through synergy, and its starting frontcourt is on track to be the envy of many teams in a couple of years. Granger, West and Hibbert are all capable of making the All-Star team next season, and if the cards shake out right, Indiana could find itself in the conference finals this spring.

Los Angeles Clippers

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    Projected Starting Lineup

    PG: Chris Paul

    SG: Chauncey Billups

    SF: Caron Butler

    PF: Blake Griffin

    C: DeAndre Jordan

    The Lakers' machinations this summer have relegated the Clippers to "red-headed stepchild" status, but Chris Paul and Co. are a very dangerous team that is well equipped to make a deep postseason run.

    The projected starters are the same as they were last year, but Chauncey Billups' status for opening night is still up in the air. If he can't go, either Jamal Crawford or Eric Bledsoe is more than capable of stepping in alongside Chris Paul.

    The key for the Clippers this season is whether or not Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan can take their respective games to the next level. Even if they can, the Clippers have their work cut out for them in a deep Western Conference.

Los Angeles Lakers

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    Projected Starting Lineup

    PG: Steve Nash

    SG: Kobe Bryant

    SF: Metta World Peace

    PF: Pau Gasol

    C: Dwight Howard

    Not much can be said about the Lakers that hasn't already been repeated. Out are Ramon Sessions and Andrew Bynum, and replacing them are Steve Nash and Dwight Howard.

    That's a pretty decent upgrade regardless of how you look at it.

    With either Gasol or Nash as the fourth option on offense, it will be extremely difficult for opponents to match up with the Lakers next season. Once Howard is completely healed from his recent back surgery, L.A. is primed and ready for a run at the NBA Finals. No team in the NBA has a better starting five on paper—just ask Miami Heat star Chris Bosh.

Memphis Grizzlies

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    Projected Starting Lineup

    PG: Mike Conley

    SG: Tony Allen

    SF: Rudy Gay

    PF: Zach Randolph

    C: Marc Gasol

    No changes for the Grizzlies' starting five this year, though many weren't needed after the team won 62 percent of its games last season.

    The 2012-13 campaign might be the last time that this core group is together, however. Tony Allen is in the last year of his deal (at $3.3 million), and the defensive specialist figures to cash in as a free agent.

    More importantly, if Memphis loses in the first round for the second spring in a row, it wouldn't be all that surprising to see Gay, Randolph and/or Gasol moved next summer.

Miami Heat

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    Projected Starting Lineup

    PG: Mario Chalmers

    SG: Dwyane Wade

    SF: LeBron James

    PF: Shane Battier

    C: Chris Bosh

    Miami got away with starting Shane Battier at power forward last season, but those sorts of things can happen if you have Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh to rely on.

    Much shouldn't change for Miami this season, although it'll likely need to make some adjustments if (when?) it faces the Los Angeles Lakers in the finals

    There's also the matter of working Ray Allen into the rotation, though he doesn't figure to start next season. So expect the status quo from the crew down in South Beach. They are the defending champions, after all.

Milwaukee Bucks

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    Projected Starting Lineup

    PG: Brandon Jennings

    SG: Monta Ellis

    SF: Mike Dunleavy

    PF: Ersan Ilyasova

    C:  Samuel Dalembert

    Milwaukee is one of the least discussed teams in the NBA, but it actually has a fairly talented starting lineup, all things considered.

    Pairing two scoring guards in the backcourt is a recipe for disaster (see Stephon Marbury/Steve Francis), but Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis are far too talented to allow the Bucks to be bad this year.

    Ersan Ilyasova used an increase in playing time last year to his advantage, becoming one of the best young forwards in the East. Samuel Dalembert won't provide much offensively, but he's a very solid rebounder and defender for a team that lacks many players willing to mix it up in the low post.

Minnesota Timberwolves

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    Projected Starting Lineup

    PG: Ricky Rubio

    SG: Alexey Shved

    SF: Andrei Kirilenko

    PF: Kevin Love

    C: Nikola Pekovic

    For what it's worth, no team has more international flair in its starting lineup than the Minnesota Timberwolves. Ricky Rubio (who is recovering from a torn ACL in his left knee) and Nikola Pekovic started the trend, and they will be joined by two Russian players who are bringing their talents to the NBA.

    For Andrei Kirilenko, it's simply a return to the league in which he played for 10 seasons prior to returning to Russia last year. Meanwhile, for Alexey Shved, it will be the first time that many in the United States will get so see the talented shooting guard who lit up Argentina in the bronze-medal game at the 2012 Olympics.

    Despite the additions, the cornerstone of the Timberwolves continues to be Kevin Love, whose mid-range jump shot and video-game-like rebounding numbers make him one of the league's most versatile players.

New Orleans Hornets

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    Projected Starting Lineup

    PG: Greivis Vasquez

    SG: Eric Gordon

    SF: Al-Farouq Aminu

    PF: Ryan Anderson

    C: Anthony Davis

    Any starting lineup with Greivis Vasquez and Al-Farouq Aminu isn't going to win very many games, but that's the reality for the New Orleans Hornets this season. Once the team gets through the growing pains of the next couple of years, however, its future seems fairly bright.

    Austin Rivers isn't a natural playmaker, but he could start at the point next to Eric Gordon if he has a decent training camp. The only rookie guaranteed to get the nod immediately is Anthony Davis, the No. 1 overall pick in the June draft. He provides the perfect counterbalance to stretch-4 Ryan Anderson, and with Gordon on the wing, the Hornets should be pretty effective in the half-court set.

    All of that said, the team won't win very many games. For New Orleans, 2012-13 is about finding those players whom it can build around going forward.

New York Knicks

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    Projected Starting Lineup

    PG: Raymond Felton

    SG: J.R. Smith

    SF: Carmelo Anthony

    PF: Amar'e Stoudemire

    C: Tyson Chandler

    The New York Knicks have two new point guards in the post-Jeremy Lin era, and Raymond Felton will likely get the start over Jason Kidd. Kidd has played more than 1,300 games in his NBA career and is probably only good for 15 to 20 minutes per night.

    J.R. Smith might be better suited as the Knicks' sixth man, but he's an explosive scorer who might be too valuable to keep out of the starting lineup.

    Nothing changes for New York up front: Carmelo Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire are the forwards, and reigning Defensive Player of the Year Tyson Chandler will be patrolling the paint. While that continuity is definitely a plus, it remains to be seen whether the Knicks can win a playoff series with their current core.

Oklahoma City Thunder

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    Projected Starting Lineup

    PG: Russell Westbrook

    SG: Thabo Sefolosha

    SF: Kevin Durant

    PF: Serge Ibaka

    C: Kendrick Perkins

    As they should, the Oklahoma City Thunder will be rolling out the same starting lineup that they used against the Miami Heat in the finals last June. James Harden is the unofficial sixth starter, and he'll also reprise his role as one of the best reserve players in the NBA.

    At some point, if the Thunder sign Harden to an extension, then he might start at shooting guard over Thabo Sefolosha. Until that happens, don't expect head coach Scott Brooks to do much tinkering with a team that came within three wins of hoisting the Larry O'Brien Trophy last season.

Orlando Magic

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    Projected Starting Lineup

    PG: Jameer Nelson

    SG: Arron Afflalo

    SF: Hedo Turkoglu

    PF: Glen Davis

    C: Gustavo Ayon

    There isn't nearly enough magic in the Magic Kingdom to make Orlando a competitive team next season.

    The Magic actually have a decent starting lineup in the aftermath of the Dwight Howard trade, but not one that can lead the team to the postseason. Jameer Nelson is the team's elder statesman, and his steady play should prevent Orlando from being awful. But an aging Hedo Turkoglu is a weakness that will be exploited by many teams this year.

    If the Magic's goal was to blow it all up, acquire picks and start over, then they accomplished their mission. But the rebuilding process will be painful, and that pain will begin this season.

Philadelphia 76ers

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    Projected Starting Lineup

    PG: Jrue Holiday

    SG: Jason Richardson

    SF: Evan Turner

    PF: Spencer Hawes

    C: Andrew Bynum

    The acquisition of Andrew Bynum vastly improved the Philadelphia 76ers, making the team a legitimate contender in the Eastern Conference for the first time in a decade. Though last year's deep playoff run was a fluke, this team has more than enough talent to win one (and possibly two) postseason series this year.

    Evan Turner is best suited as a point forward, so the smart move would be to start him at the 3 and install Jason Richardson at shooting guard. The most interesting component of the Sixers' projected starting lineup is Spencer Hawes. Head coach Doug Collins is already on record saying that Hawes would get the nod at the 4 spot, but the 7'1" Hawes has never played power forward in the NBA.

    The numbers back up Collins' decision, however. Hawes has a much better mid-range jumper than any other option that the Sixers have, and his ability to pass from the top of the key should create plenty of opportunities for Philadelphia's wing players.

Phoenix Suns

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    Projected Starting Lineup

    PG: Goran Dragic

    SG: Jared Dudley

    SF: Michael Beasley

    PF: Luis Scola

    C: Marcin Gortat

    For a team that lost its best player and received virtually nothing in return, the Phoenix Suns aren't in terrible shape.

    Not only did the Suns win the amnesty auction for Luis Scola, but Phoenix was also able to land his teammate Goran Dragic via free agency. The two have chemistry from their time together in Houston, and their rapport should prevent Phoenix from being one of the league's doormats this season.

    The wild card, of course, is Michael Beasley. He's a player without a defined position, yet he has a ton of untapped potential. Then again, the Suns will be Beasley's third team in five seasons, and if no one has been able to figure him out by now, then it may never happen.

Portland Trail Blazers

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    Projected Starting Lineup

    PG: Damian Lillard

    SG: Wesley Matthews

    SF: Nicolas Batum

    PF: LaMarcus Aldridge

    C: Meyers Leonard

    Portland has little chance of nailing down a playoff spot, but it may be able to start two rookies and still have a respectable season.

    The main reason that's possible is LaMarcus Aldridge, an All-Star power forward who is one of the league's most under-appreciated stars. Another reason is rookie Damian Lillard. The electric point guard lit up the Las Vegas Summer League last month and is a dark-horse candidate for the NBA's Rookie of the Year Award.

    Matthews and Batum are solid options at the 2 and the 3 respectively, and if Portland decides not to go with Meyers Leonard in the pivot, J.J. Hickson has plenty of experience at the center position. So while the Trail Blazers aren't necessarily world-beaters, they won't be pushovers either.

Sacramento Kings

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    Projected Starting Lineup

    PG: Isaiah Thomas

    SG: Marcus Thornton

    SF: Tyreke Evans

    PF: Jason Thompson

    C: DeMarcus Cousins

    Strangely enough, the Sacramento Kings' starting five is probably more certain than the team's future base of operations.

    Other than the 4 spot, don't expect to see many unfamiliar faces on Sacramento this year. No. 5 overall pick Thomas Robinson has a decent shot of unseating Jason Thompson at power forward, but the former Kansas star had a disappointing showing in the Vegas Summer League.

    The smart money says that the Kings roll with the same lineup that they ended the season with—not a good thing considering the fact that they won 22 games last year. Sacramento has more than a few players who can put the ball in the basket, but its struggles on defense will hold it back regardless of who goes out for the opening tip. In 2011-12, the Kings were last in the NBA in points allowed with 104.4 PPG.

San Antonio Spurs

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    Projected Starting Lineup

    PG: Tony Parker

    SG: Manu Ginobili

    SF: Kawhi Leonard

    PF: Tim Duncan

    C: Boris Diaw

    The Spurs adjusted their lineup quite a bit last season, but expect to see Manu Ginobili back in the starting five after his performance in Game 5 of the Western Conference finals (34 points, seven assists, six rebounds).

    After starting 62 games in 2011-12, DeJuan Blair has set up shop in head coach Gregg Popovich's doghouse, as Boris Diaw has assumed the starting center position. 

    However, when it comes to San Antonio, the five players who start the game don't really matter all that much. Popovich has mastered the art of unconventional lineups, and with the Spurs' ability to go at least 11 deep, everyone on the roster is going to get decent playing time at some point during the season.

Toronto Raptors

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    Projected Starting Lineup

    PG: Kyle Lowry

    SG: Terrence Ross

    SF: DeMar DeRozan

    PF: Andrea Bargnani

    C: Jonas Valanciunas

    Three-fifths of the Raptors' starting lineup just arrived in Canada this past summer, and the most intriguing newcomer is Jonas Valanciunas from Lithuania. The No. 5 overall pick in the 2011 NBA draft has finally arrived in North America, and the 20-year-old looks ready to step in at center immediately.

    Kyle Lowry is a very good point guard who is more than capable of running the offense for Toronto, and Terrence Ross is a textbook jump shooter who will allow DeMar DeRozan to attack the basket more. Free-agent signee Landry Fields might make a run at the starting shooting guard spot, but Ross' talent is too good to leave on the bench.

Utah Jazz

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    Projected Starting Lineup

    PG: Mo Williams

    SG: Gordon Hayward

    SF: Marvin Williams

    PF: Paul Millsap

    C:  Al Jefferson

    Inside-out is the term for the Utah offense this year as the team's two best players (Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson) will look to create opportunities for themselves before kicking it out to their teammates on the wing. The Jazz made the playoffs last season after a one-year hiatus, and a return engagement isn't out of question.

    The point guard typically drives the ship, so Utah will only go as far as new point guard Mo Williams takes them. Not only is Williams, who was originally drafted by the Jazz in 2003, one of the league's better three-point shooters (38.7 career percentage from beyond the arc), but he's a pretty decent playmaker when the situation calls for it.

    The other Williams in the starting lineup (Marvin) recently came over in a trade from Atlanta, and Utah is hoping that a change in scenery will help the 6'9" small forward finally reach his potential.

Washington Wizards

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    Projected Starting Lineup

    PG: John Wall

    SG: Bradley Beal

    SF: Trevor Ariza

    PF: Nene

    C: Emeka Okafor

    Not only were the Wizards able to move Rashard Lewis' contract and not get killed in the deal, but they even got two starters in return.

    Emeka Okafor doesn't have the greatest contact in the world, but he provides a relatively intimidating presence in the paint. Meanwhile, Trevor Ariza has fallen off slightly since his star turn with the Lakers in 2009, but he is an active defender—a rare trait among Wizards players over the past few seasons.

    The John Wall/Bradley Beal backcourt could be something special. The two complement each other very well, and alongside a talented shooter such as Beal, Wall should be that much more dangerous when he attacks the basket. While the Wizards may be a year or two away from putting it all together, it will be enjoyable to watch them grow as a team this season.

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