How New-Look LA Lakers Starting Lineup Stacks Up with Every 2013 Title Contender
With their new Big Four, the Lakers are going to be very good; this we all know. But the question is, will they have the best starting five of any contender?
These squads—and a few more—are worthy of title consideration, but the question must be asked, which team has the best starting unit?
*Contenders are the top 10 teams in line to win the 2013 NBA championship, as provided by Bovada.lv's odds.
Los Angeles Lakers: 5/2 Odds
Gary A. Vasquez-US PRESSWIRE
From point guard to center, the Los Angeles Lakers are stacked when it comes to their starting lineup.
Steve Nash and Dwight Howard have joined Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol to create the league’s newest Big Four, and even Metta World Peace should be able to contribute with the star power of the team stealing all the attention.
The Lakers have something that most star-stricken teams don’t—a true point guard and a dominant center. But there are still two problems when it comes to this new-look squad.
Age is the first concern, and while it’s not going to be the death of this team, it is something to consider.
Bryant is a 16-year veteran with a ton of basketball miles on his body. Nash is well beyond his prime with a bad back, and Gasol is also getting up there by NBA standards. Howard remains the only "kid" in the lineup, and even his health is questionable at this point.
The other issue is chemistry. There are a whole lot of stars who now have to share one basketball, and contrasting styles could prove to be troublesome.
However, in the new Princeton offense, Nash should get everybody their touches, and he’s going to take the pressure off his teammates with his ability to shoot from the outside.
If Bryant can play off the ball and Howard can come back healthy, this team is going to match up at each position and have the advantage almost every time they hit the court.
Teams with 30/1 Odds
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The former New Jersey Nets had a big summer, and they take with them a new starting lineup into the Barclays Center for 2013.
The addition of Joe Johnson is huge for this team, and bringing back Kris Humphries and Gerald Wallace rounds out the rotation, but a healthy Brook Lopez may just be the biggest addition of all.
After a roller-coaster summer, the Dallas Mavericks bring a drastically different starting lineup into the 2012-13 season.
Dirk Nowitzki is still the star, and Shawn Marion is sticking around, but O.J. Mayo, Darren Collison and Chris Kaman give this team a whole new look.
Collison is a very good, young point guard. Kaman is a proven big man when healthy, and Mayo, despite his inconsistencies, has the talent to become a primary scoring option when Nowitzki calls it quits.
The Indiana Pacers spent a lot of money to retain Roy Hibbert and George Hill, and as a result, they’re back on the path to challenge the Miami Heat for the second straight season.
David West hasn't put up the numbers with the Pacers that he did in New Orleans, but with so much talent around him—including Danny Granger—he doesn't have to.
The Pacers also have an up-and-coming guard in Paul George, so if the team can stay together, they’re going to make up one of the grittiest starting units in the entire NBA.
Los Angeles Clippers: 22/1 Odds
Kirby Lee-US PRESSWIRE
These two human highlight reels make up one of the most exciting duos in the NBA, and their production has been incredible to watch as they’ve helped turn this team around. Griffin was a very good player on his own, but with Paul on his side, he’s earned a big-time contract to go with his big-time performances.
DeAndre Jordan is known more for his defensive presence, but he’s been a beneficiary of Paul's presence as well. Jordan's athleticism has begun to show in the fast break and pick-and-rolls, and while he’s still raw offensively, Paul has done a good job of making him a reliable option in the lob game.
The other backcourt position belongs to Chauncey Billups, if healthy. Billups is coming off a season-ending injury in 2012, but his leadership and shooting ability should continue to shine even at 36 years old. If he can’t start, the team has a solid backup option in Jamal Crawford.
The final piece to the unit is Caron Butler. He’s not a star by any means, but if he’s the last player in your lineup worth mentioning, you know you’re doing something right.
Boston Celtics: 22/1 Odds
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The Boston Celtics did wonders this summer when it came to opening back up the championship window that so many people wanted to close last season.
The re-signing of Kevin Garnett was huge for this team. Not only is he their vocal leader and primary source of intimidation, he proved in the 2012 postseason that he still has more than enough in the tank to contribute.
The loss of Ray Allen seemed rough at first considering where he signed, but it ultimately led to the acquisitions of Jason Terry and Courtney Lee. Terry is one of the league's best sixth men, which leaves Lee to jump into the lineup and jell with the starting unit right away.
Lee should prove to be a nice complement to Rajon Rondo. Lee is a tremendous three-point shooter, and with one of the best facilitators in the game in Rondo looking his way, Lee will have a chance to become one of the primary shooting options alongside Paul Pierce.
Doc Rivers has shown throughout the years what he can do when he’s given the talent, and in 2013, he’ll have plenty of talent to work with in his pursuit of another NBA championship.
San Antonio Spurs: 18/1 Odds
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It’s almost as if the San Antonio Spurs go into hibernation every summer.
We don’t hear from them. We don’t see them. Yet somehow, they return on top of their game every season to remind us that they’re still contenders.
In true Spurs fashion, the team that lost in the Western Conference finals has remained relatively quiet, which means that their starting lineup returns virtually unchanged.
Every player on this squad is another year older, and while that might be a good thing for the growth and maturation of the bench, the championship window is only getting smaller and smaller for the Big Three.
Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker remain the heart and soul of this roster. Their play together has been dazzling throughout the years, and if they’ve proven anything throughout the past few seasons, it’s that you can never count them out.
The beautiful thing about this unit is that they’re a team full of selfless players. As stats begin to fall and health begins to fade, the team remains focused.
Gregg Popovich has instilled a culture of winning in San Antonio, and when players are down, others step right up to keep the starting five as productive as possible.
Chicago Bulls: 12/1 Odds
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Clearly, the good people at Bovada haven’t been keeping an eye on the Chicago Bulls this summer.
With Derrick Rose out a majority of the year and Luol Deng’s health in question, the team likely won't contend for a title following a summer full of moves geared toward the future.
As for their starting lineup, they’re going to struggle throughout much of the year without Rose. His absence will be felt as long as he’s gone, and until he returns, this team must establish a new No. 1 option to fill the void.
Deng is a solid option, but again, you have to wonder just how healthy he’ll be and if he’ll miss time as well.
In all honesty, this team remains talented despite their health. Carlos Boozer has the potential to bounce back from an off year. Joakim Noah may step up his game to another level, and the return of Kirk Hinrich will be fun for any Bulls fan to watch.
The potential is there, but without their star, this lineup looks far less destined for greatness than they have in recent memory.
Oklahoma City Thunder: 5/1 Odds
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The defending Western Conference champions are going to make noise again in 2013, and Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook are the two biggest reasons why.
Durant and Westbrook combined for 51.6 points per game in 2012, and while there are certainly concerns regarding Westbrook’s high volume of shots and declining assists, the two of them have to be considered one of the most dangerous one-two punches in the entire NBA.
Serge Ibaka is also a huge reason for their success. Having averaged the most blocks per game in 2012—by a relative huge margin—the big man is also continuing to stretch the range on his jump shot year after year.
Kendrick Perkins may not provide the kind of statistical impact as Ibaka, but he gives this team something they didn’t have much of before his arrival—toughness.
At the shooting guard spot, James Harden has accepted the role of sixth man. Thabo Sefolosha may not be the offensive threat that Harden is, but he is a better perimeter defender.
This team has grown up together quickly, and with one of the best starting units in the NBA, they’ve proven that it’s still possible to build through the draft and make a splash against the bigger markets that the league has to offer.
Miami Heat: 9/4 Odds
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When LeBron James infamously made his decision to sign with the Miami Heat in 2010, we all knew that the team from South Beach would boast one of the best starting lineups in the NBA right away.
The Heat return as the favorites in the eyes of many around the Association, but the question remains: Do they have the best starting lineup?
The team has struggled at the 1-spot and the 5-spot for two years now. Mario Chalmers has shown he can get it done, but he’s also been somewhat of a scapegoat when things don’t go so smoothly.
James is arguably the league’s best player, and with the talent of Wade and Bosh by his side, the team showed they can get it done without All-Stars at every spot.
The Heat has faced inadequacies at the point guard and center positions, but with the talent of the Big Three carrying the load and leading the way, you have to believe that they have a case for being the best starting unit in the NBA today.
Who Is the Best?
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While it’s certainly worth debating, the Los Angeles Lakers have to be considered the best starting lineup in the entire NBA.
The Miami Heat has arguably the best player in the world on its side in LeBron James, but without the balance at the center and point-guard spots, their starting unit as a whole doesn’t compare position by position.
Even the Thunder, with its Big Four of its own, brings Harden off the bench and lacks any sort of offense from the low post.
The Lakers have a combined 33 All-Star appearances between their five starters, and they have the ability to score from anywhere on the floor with so many diverse skill sets.
If you’re of the mentality that they’re past their prime, you’re not alone. But realize that Howard is just 26 years old, and until we see Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol truly give in to their ages, it’s unfair to assume that their decline will be detrimental to the team.
Even Steve Nash, at 38 years old, is still producing. Having never relied on athleticism, Nash’s court awareness combined with his incredible passing and shooting abilities will continue to boost his team’s success.
The Lakers are going to contend for a championship in 2013, and they’re going to do so with the best starting lineup that the NBA has to offer.