An NBA team’s starting lineup is not necessarily its most effective group of players. Though some teams, like the Portland Trail Blazers, live and die almost entirely on the play of their starters, other teams, like the L.A. Clippers, are equally dependent on the strong play of the bench unit.
While the Clippers are lucky to have such a deep and versatile bench, not every team is so lucky. Some teams have no choice but to rely heavily on their starting five, and the results are not always pretty.
PG: Kemba Walker
SG: Gerald Henderson
SF: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist
PF: Hakim Warrick
C: Bismack Biyombo
Charlotte undoubtedly has the worst starting lineup in the league. Though Kemba Walker has been a revelation this season, and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist should be a core piece for the Bobcats down the road, there is simply no way for a starting lineup featuring Warrick and Biyombo to be anywhere near competitive.
Without any successful veterans in the lineup, the Bobcats’ first group has struggled to provide consistent production across the board. As a result, Charlotte often turns to more experienced bench players Ramon Sessions and Ben Gordon in late-game situations.
PG: Darren Collison
SG: O.J. Mayo
SF: Shawn Marion
PF: Dirk Nowitzki
C: Chris Kaman
Less than two years removed from their 2011 championship, the Dallas Mavericks have plummeted out of contention and currently sit in eleventh place in the stacked Western Conference.
The Mavericks started out the season well, fueled by O.J. Mayo’s hot shooting, but he has since cooled off, allowing Dallas’ defensive woes to come to light. The Mavs have also seen mixed results from the other guard position, as Collison's underwhelming production has prevented him from gaining a strong hold on the starting point guard slot.
Rick Carlisle’s starting lineup has also spent much of the season without its aging leader, Dirk Nowitzki. Unfortunately, Nowitzki’s return has done little to spark this team; his scoring is at its lowest mark since his rookie season.
PG: Steve Nash
SG: Kobe Bryant
SF: Metta World Peace
PF: Earl Clark
Though the Los Angeles Lakers’ starting lineup has been statistically productive (ranking third in the league in scoring), the tension that has arisen this season makes this one of the league’s most dysfunctional lineups. Rumors of a feud between Bryant and Howard have swept through the NBA sphere, and Gasol’s recent demotion to the bench served as proof that the Lakers’ Big Four just couldn’t make it work.
The Bryant-led squad has looked much better in their last two victories, so perhaps a change for the better is on the horizon. Still, to this point, L.A.’s starting group has coasted on raw talent while failing to build chemistry.
PG: Isaiah Thomas
SG: Tyreke Evans
SF: John Salmons
PF: Jason Thompson
C: DeMarcus Cousins
Not only has Sacramento’s starting lineup struggled to score this season (the first unit averages just 60 points per game, 24th in the league), but it has also undergone frequent drama and upheaval.
Coach Keith Smart has yet to settle on the ideal starting group for this young Kings team, and his task has been further complicated by injuries and Cousins’ attitude problems.
As a result of the volatility of this starting lineup, Sacramento’s key players have failed to develop the chemistry and consistency exhibited by the league’s elite starting fives. The impending move to Seattle should do little to help the issue.
PG: Jamaal Tinsley
SG: Randy Foye
SF: Marvin Williams
PF: Paul Millsap
C: Al Jefferson
Utah isn’t entirely at fault for its inclusion in this list: Mo Williams has missed much of the season due to injury, and the Jazz have been forced to turn to Tinsley and Earl Watson to shoulder the point guard duties.
However, point guard hasn't been the only position of concern. Marvin Williams has been a disappointment at the small forward spot, and while both Jefferson and Millsap have continued to produce at a high level this season, there remains a major question mark regarding their ability to coexist in Utah’s frontcourt.
The Jazz are expected to be active at the trade deadline this year, and just about any move to shake up this defensively lethargic starting lineup would be a good one.