Ranking All 30 NBA Teams Based on Their Starting Lineups

Adam FromalNational NBA Featured ColumnistSeptember 5, 2012

Ranking All 30 NBA Teams Based on Their Starting Lineups

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    A starting lineup alone cannot win a championship, but we're going to pretend that it can in this fantasy universe and then rank the NBA's 30 teams accordingly. 

    All that matters is the group of five players that first steps out onto the court: a point guard, shooting guard, small forward, power forward and center. 

    In an effort to avoid quibbling about which players are listed in the starting lineup, I'll be strictly adhering to ESPN's depth charts, which you can find here.

    So, can anyone dethrone the Miami Heat in this fantasy world?

    Read on to find out. 

30. Charlotte Bobcats

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    Point Guard: Ramon Sessions 

    Shooting Guard: Ben Gordon

    Small Forward: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist

    Power Forward: Bismack Biyombo

    Center: Brendan Haywood

     

    The Charlotte Bobcats have improved, but their starting lineup still doesn't stand out as anything but the worst starting five in the NBA. 

    As good as Michael Kidd-Gilchrist may be one day, he's still just a talented rookie. Bismack Biyombo is in a similar situation even though he's now in Year 2 with the Bobcats. 

    The additions of Ramon Sessions, Ben Gordon and Brendan Haywood will help Charlotte win more games than last year, but this roster still needs a lot of work. 

29. Detroit Pistons

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    Point Guard: Brandon Knight

    Shooting Guard: Rodney Stuckey

    Small Forward: Tayshaun Prince

    Power Forward: Jonas Jerebko

    Center: Greg Monroe

     

    The sole reason that the Detroit Pistons don't find themselves in the cellar is the presence of Greg Monroe. Even at his young age, the big man is already one of the best at his position in the entire NBA. 

    Brandon Knight should develop during his sophomore year, and Rodney Stuckey remains an underrated guard. However, there just isn't enough talent in the starting lineup going into the season. 

28. Orlando Magic

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    Point Guard: Jameer Nelson

    Shooting Guard: Arron Afflalo

    Small Forward: Hedo Turkoglu

    Power Forward: Glen Davis

    Center: Gustavo Ayon

     

    It's never a good thing when Glen Davis the best starter on your team. Sadly, that's the case for the Orlando Magic after Dwight Howard headed out west to join the Los Angeles Lakers. 

    Each and every member of the Orlando starting five is a solid player, but the combined efforts just don't match the star power that every remaining team can claim. 

27. Sacramento Kings

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    Point Guard: Isaiah Thomas

    Shooting Guard: Marcus Thornton

    Small Forward: Tyreke Evans

    Power Forward: Jason Thompson

    Center: DeMarcus Cousins

     

    The Sacramento Kings have enough talented guards that they're forcing Tyreke Evans to play small forward in an effort to maximize the skill on the court. While the decision accomplishes that task, it does devalue Evans quite a bit. 

    DeMarcus Cousins is easily the best player on this roster, and he should take another step forward during his third season in the league. 

26. Houston Rockets

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    Point Guard: Jeremy Lin

    Shooting Guard: Kevin Martin

    Small Forward: Chandler Parsons

    Power Forward: Patrick Patterson

    Center: Omer Asik

     

    The Houston Rockets lineup is full of question marks. 

    Can Kevin Martin stay healthy? Is Jeremy Lin more like the young guard who bounced from roster to roster or the standout that inspired Linsanity? Does Omer Asik deserve a starting role? 

    This is a new-look starting five, but it's one with a decent amount of talent from top to bottom. 

25. Cleveland Cavaliers

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    Point Guard: Kyrie Irving

    Shooting Guard: Daniel Gibson

    Small Forward: Omri Casspi

    Power Forward: Tristan Thompson

    Center: Anderson Varejao

     

    Kyrie Irving is one of the premier point guards in the NBA, and Anderson Varejao is one of the most underappreciated players in the league thanks to his boundless energy and work on the glass. 

    Their combined efforts are enough to keep the Cleveland Cavaliers out of the bottom five, but it'll take Dion Waiters surpassing Daniel Gibson and shining plus an emergence from Tristan Thompson to allow this unit to take the next step. 

24. Toronto Raptors

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    Point Guard: Kyle Lowry

    Shooting Guard: Terrence Ross

    Small Forward: DeMar DeRozan

    Power Forward: Andrea Bargnani

    Center: Jonas Valanciunas

     

    There will be no shortage of offense coming from the five basketball players prominently featured on this slide. 

    Kyle Lowry is one of the most dynamic offensive point guards in the Association, Terrence Ross should succeed on the more glamorous end of the court as a rookie, Andrea Bargnani is a great shooter, and DeMar DeRozan...well, he loves to shoot. 

    If Jonas Valanciunas competes for Rookie of the Year, this could be too low for Canada's team. 

23. New Orleans Hornets

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    Point Guard: Greivis Vasquez

    Shooting Guard: Eric Gordon

    Small Forward: Al-Farouq Aminu

    Power Forward: Ryan Anderson

    Center: Anthony Davis

     

    Eric Gordon is already one of the best shooting guards in the world, and Anthony Davis and Ryan Anderson complement each other perfectly in the frontcourt. There will be no shortage of offense or defense while those two big men are on the court. 

    The problem with the New Orleans Hornets is that the team is insanely young when it comes to the starting five.

    If a few players on the roster fail to live up to their potential, then the rebuilding process could take a bit longer. 

22. Portland Trail Blazers

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    Point Guard: Damian Lillard

    Shooting Guard: Wesley Matthews

    Small Forward: Nicolas Batum

    Power Forward: LaMarcus Aldridge

    Center: Meyers Leonard

     

    It's tough to move out of the bottom 10 when your starting five features two rookies. Even though Damian Lillard is my pick for Rookie of the Year, he's still in his first season out of Weber State. 

    LaMarcus Aldridge will have to continue improving as he'll be expected to carry this team offensively for one more season. 

    As for the wing players, they could both break out, but they haven't yet. 

21. Milwaukee Bucks

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    Point Guard: Brandon Jennings

    Shooting Guard: Monta Ellis

    Small Forward: Mike Dunleavy

    Power Forward: Drew Gooden

    Center: Samuel Dalembert

     

    If I were the Milwaukee Bucks head coach, I'd tell Mike Dunleavy, Drew Gooden and Samuel Dalembert that they weren't allowed to shoot. 

    Then I'd place the three starting frontcourt members under the basket and let Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis fire away at will. The backcourt duo is offensively talented enough to handle the responsibility. 

20. Phoenix Suns

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    Point Guard: Goran Dragic

    Shooting Guard: Wesley Johnson

    Small Forward: Michael Beasley

    Power Forward: Luis Scola

    Center: Marcin Gortat

     

    Well, this isn't how the Phoenix Suns looked last year. 

    Even though Steve Nash is gone, the additions of Goran Dragic, Wesley Johnson, Michael Beasley and Luis Scola put the Suns in an even stronger position than they were last year. 

    It will be interesting to see whether or not Marcin Gortat can continue to play at an All-Star level without Nash feeding him the ball, though. 

19. Washington Wizards

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    Point Guard: John Wall

    Shooting Guard: Bradley Beal

    Small Forward: Trevor Ariza

    Power Forward: Nene Hilario

    Center: Emeka Okafor

     

    Even though Bradley Beal is only a rookie, he'll form an impressive one-two punch in the backcourt alongside an improved John Wall. The former No. 1 pick should finally live up to his potential during the 2012-13 season now that he's surrounded by quality teammates. 

    These names might not jump off the page, but they're all solid players who are capable of winning game after game. 

18. Dallas Mavericks

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    Point Guard: Darren Collison

    Shooting Guard: O.J. Mayo

    Small Forward: Shawn Marion

    Power Forward: Dirk Nowitzki

    Center: Chris Kaman

     

    With three new names in the starting five and another year of wear and tear on Dirk Nowitzki's body, it'll be intriguing to see whether the Dallas Mavericks can remain in the playoff hunt all season. 

    Dirk is still going to be a stud, but can Chris Kaman regain his old form? Can O.J. Mayo prove that he's not just a volume shooter? Can Darren Collison show us that George Hill shouldn't have replaced him in the Indiana Pacers lineup? 

17. Utah Jazz

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    Point Guard: Mo Williams

    Shooting Guard: Gordon Hayward

    Small Forward: Marvin Williams

    Power Forward: Paul Millsap

    Center: Al Jefferson

     

    If it wasn't for Marvin Williams, the Utah Jazz would boast an incredible starting lineup after the return of Mo Williams to his former team. 

    Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson form one of the league's top frontcourt tandems, but it will all be for naught until Alec Burks starts at shooting guard and Gordon Hayward shifts to Marvin's spot in the lineup. 

16. Golden State Warriors

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    Point Guard: Stephen Curry

    Shooting Guard: Klay Thompson

    Small Forward: Harrison Barnes

    Power Forward: David Lee

    Center: Andrew Bogut

     

    If they're all on the court and not bandaged up on the sidelines, this team could score more points than any other squad in the NBA. 

    Between Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Harrison Barnes, the Golden State Warriors have three-point shooting galore. Plus, Andrew Bogut finally gives the Dubs a defensive stopper in the paint. 

    Youth might occasionally hold these five back, but the talent and upside is through the roof. 

15. Philadelphia 76ers

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    Point Guard: Jrue Holiday

    Shooting Guard: Jason Richardson

    Small Forward: Evan Turner

    Power Forward: Spencer Hawes

    Center: Andrew Bynum

     

    The Philadelphia 76ers should be fringe contenders in the Eastern Conference this season, but that's more of a testament to the team's depth than its starting lineup. 

    Andrew Bynum and Spencer Hawes form a great inside-outside pairing at the big man positions, but the other three players in the starting five still have a lot to prove. 

    Jason Richardson is no longer the player he once was, Jrue Holiday needs to show that he can keep improving, and Evan Turner must get rid of the "bust" label. 

14. Atlanta Hawks

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    Point Guard: Jeff Teague

    Shooting Guard: Lou Williams

    Small Forward: Kyle Korver

    Power Forward: Josh Smith

    Center: Al Horford

     

    The Atlanta Hawks might have lost Joe Johnson to the Brooklyn Nets, but Danny Ferry's new team isn't going to skip a beat after the additions of Lou Williams (via free agency), Kyle Korver (via trade) and Al Horford (via return from injury) to the starting five. 

    Josh Smith and Horford will both be competing for coveted All-Star spots in the Eastern Conference as they receive passes from an improved Jeff Teague. 

    With the possible exception of "J-Smoove," none of these players will blow you away. They will all be solid while complementing one another nicely.

    Don't sleep on the Hawks. 

13. Memphis Grizzlies

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    Point Guard: Mike Conley

    Shooting Guard: Tony Allen

    Small Forward: Rudy Gay

    Power Forward: Zach Randolph

    Center: Marc Gasol

     

    The Memphis Grizzlies usher in a new tier of starting fives. Even though the Atlanta Hawks possess quality players at all five positions, they still fall rather significantly short of the top 13 starting units in the NBA. 

    When your worst two starters are Tony Allen—one of the league's premier perimeter defenders—and Mike Conley—an emerging dual-threat point guard—you're in good shape. 

12. Minnesota Timberwolves

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    Point Guard: Ricky Rubio

    Shooting Guard: Alexey Shved

    Small Forward: Andrei Kirilenko

    Power Forward: Kevin Love

    Center: Nikola Pekovic

     

    The Minnesota Timberwolves are ready to make the jump into the postseason during the 2012-13 season, especially if Brandon Roy is healthy enough to overtake Alexey Shved and Chase Budinger at shooting guard. 

    As it stands, the starting five is incredibly potent on the offensive end of the court.

    The versatility of Andrei Kirilenko, the creativity of Ricky Rubio, the inside-outside game of Kevin Love and the bruising physicality of Nikola Pekovic will all help the Wolves dominate opponents. 

11. Chicago Bulls

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    Point Guard: Derrick Rose

    Shooting Guard: Rip Hamilton

    Small Forward: Luol Deng

    Power Forward: Carlos Boozer

    Center: Joakim Noah

     

    Derrick Rose isn't going to return until the season is well under way, but the Chicago Bulls are going to become one of the Eastern Conference's most deadly teams as soon as he steps back onto the court. 

    After all, Rose is a former MVP with unmatched offensive skills at his position. 

    The rest of the starting lineup isn't half bad, even though each player has limitations. 

10. Indiana Pacers

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    Point Guard: George Hill

    Shooting Guard: Paul George

    Small Forward: Danny Granger

    Power Forward: David West

    Center: Roy Hibbert

     

    The Indiana Pacers might not have as many big names as the Chicago Bulls, but that's just how this hard-nosed team likes it. 

    George Hill showed off his skills during the end of the last regular season, taking over as the starting point guard for Darren Collison. With him and Paul George each improving, this will be a terrifying backcourt to face. 

    Bolstered by the defense of Roy Hibbert and the offense of David West and Danny Granger, the frontcourt ain't too shabby either. 

9. Los Angeles Clippers

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    Point Guard: Chris Paul

    Shooting Guard: Chauncey Billups

    Small Forward: Caron Butler

    Power Forward: Blake Griffin

    Center: DeAndre Jordan

     

    Whenever your starting lineup lays claim to two of the league's top 20 players, you know you're in good shape. 

    It helps even more when one of them is the best point guard in the league. The other is a dynamic young power forward who has averaged over 20 points and 10 rebounds per game during both of his seasons in the NBA. 

    Any improvement at all from DeAndre Jordan would just be the icing on an already delicious cake. 

8. Denver Nuggets

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    Point Guard: Ty Lawson

    Shooting Guard: Andre Iguodala

    Small Forward: Danilo Gallinari

    Power Forward: Kenneth Faried

    Center: JaVale McGee

     

    Depth is the name of the game for the Denver Nuggets, but "Solid Starting Five" might as well be the middle name. 

    Ty Lawson is emerging as one of the NBA's best point guards, and the diminutive speedster will have more options to work with than ever before. 

    With Andre Iguodala upgrading the perimeter defense and providing another transition option, the Nuggets are set to become one of the league's best and most exciting teams. 

    Denver marks another step to a higher tier of starting fives. 

7. New York Knicks

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    Point Guard: Raymond Felton

    Shooting Guard: J.R. Smith

    Small Forward: Carmelo Anthony

    Power Forward: Amar'e Stoudemire

    Center: Tyson Chandler

     

    With two of the league's best offensive players, the reigning Defensive Player of the Year and an intriguing backcourt, the New York Knicks are finally set to win more than just one playoff game at the conclusion of the 2012-13 NBA season. 

    The biggest question marks come with the two guards. Raymond Felton must be in shape and play like he never left Madison Square Garden, while J.R. Smith needs to develop some semblance of consistency. 

6. Brooklyn Nets

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    Point Guard: Deron Williams

    Shooting Guard: Joe Johnson

    Small Forward: Gerald Wallace

    Power Forward: Kris Humphries

    Center: Brook Lopez

     

    Don't fall into the trap of thinking that the Brooklyn Nets simply added Joe Johnson to a putrid lineup and jumped up to this lofty spot in the rankings. 

    The Nets added Johnson, a healthy Brook Lopez and a year of chemistry development between the players without a "J" in their names. 

    That's a pretty significant difference between the 2011-12 squad and this one. 

5. Boston Celtics

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    Point Guard: Rajon Rondo

    Shooting Guard: Courtney Lee

    Small Forward: Paul Pierce

    Power Forward: Brandon Bass

    Center: Kevin Garnett

     

    Rajon Rondo is one of the league's top three point guards, while Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett both rank within the league's best 25 or 30 players.

    Even without Ray Allen, the Boston Celtics still have that stellar "Big Three." 

    Courtney Lee should be able to hold down the fort at shooting guard while Avery Bradley recovers from offseason surgery. 

    Rondo, Pierce and Garnett may stand out, but every member of this starting five is solid. 

4. San Antonio Spurs

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    Point Guard: Tony Parker

    Shooting Guard: Manu Ginobili

    Small Forward: Kawhi Leonard

    Power Forward: Tim Duncan

    Center: Boris Diaw

     

    As long as Tony Parker, Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili are wearing San Antonio Spurs uniforms, the team is still going to remain competitive in the Western Conference. 

    This year will be no different, especially if Kawhi Leonard can continue performing at the level he did as a rookie and Boris Diaw's versatility continues to play an efficient role in Gregg Popovich's offense. 

    As always, it would be foolish to doubt the Spurs. 

3. Oklahoma City Thunder

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    Point Guard: Russell Westbrook

    Shooting Guard: Thabo Sefolosha

    Small Forward: Kevin Durant

    Power Forward:  Serge Ibaka

    Center: Kendrick Perkins

     

    Even without James Harden in the starting lineup, the Oklahoma City Thunder still boast one of the best five-man units in the Association. 

    Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant form an incredible one-two punch on offense, just as Thabo Sefolosha, Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins form a stellar one-two-three punch on defense. 

    Despite the presence of two of the league's 10 best players, the Thunder still can't touch the top two starting fives in the NBA. 

2. Miami Heat

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    Point Guard: Mario Chalmers

    Shooting Guard: Dwyane Wade

    Small Forward: LeBron James

    Power Forward: Shane Battier

    Center: Chris Bosh

     

    The defending champions added depth with Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis, but neither player will be starting for the Miami Heat when the 2012-13 season kicks off. 

    Mario Chalmers is still developing into an above-average point guard while Shane Battier attempts to stave off Father Time and remain an effective defender. However, the Heat aren't about those two. 

    This team now belongs to LeBron James, the clear No. 1 player in the world. At this point, it's utterly nonsensical to argue anything else. 

    The scary part is that Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh aren't too far behind him, and the Los Angeles Lakers still hold down the fort in the top overall spot of these rankings. 

1. Los Angeles Lakers

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    Point Guard: Steve Nash

    Shooting Guard: Kobe Bryant

    Small Forward: Metta World Peace

    Power Forward: Pau Gasol

    Center: Dwight Howard

     

    A few months ago when the Los Angeles Lakers suffered an early postseason defeat at the hands of the Oklahoma City Thunder, who would have thought that this team would go into the next season with the league's best starting five? 

    Yes, that's why Kobe Bryant looks so happy. 

    He's now joined not only by Pau Gasol, but also by Steve Nash and Dwight Howard. There's going to be offense galore in the Staples Center while the four biggest members of the starting lineup cover for Steve Nash on defense when necessary. 

    The Lakers may not have the depth to topple the Miami Heat as the overall favorites, but they will have the best and most exciting list of names for announcers to read out at the start of games.