Power Ranking Every NBA Team's Starting 5 Next Season
In a day and age where franchises seek to stockpile elite talent, who's got the best starting unit in the NBA?
We know about established groups like the Miami Heat, San Antonio Spurs and Oklahoma City Thunder, but there are several teams hot on their tails.
While the league's premier squads haven't had to make significant changes to their starting fives, teams like the Brooklyn Nets, Houston Rockets, Golden State Warriors and Los Angeles Clippers all improved their title odds with a flurry of big-name signings.
With free agency still in full swing, it's important to note that these projected lineups are far from complete. There are plenty of moves still to be made, but these rankings are aimed to give you an idea of where your favorite team's starting five ranks in relation to the other 29 teams.
Note: Rankings compiled with rosters and transactions updated as of Friday, July 12. Unsigned free agents, even if they are likely to return to their former team, were omitted if they are not yet signed.
30. Philadelphia 76ers
PG: Michael Carter-Williams
SG: Jason Richardson
SF: Evan Turner
PF: Thaddeus Young
C: Nerlens Noel
The Philadelphia 76ers, led by general manager Sam Hinkie, are starting anew. Jrue Holiday's departure has opened the door for rookie Michael Carter-Williams to assume starting-point-guard responsibilities from day one, but it also leaves the Sixers' starting five without a reliable scorer.
Evan Turner will be given every opportunity to thrive with the ball in his hands sans Holiday, but he has failed to show significant improvement in the jump-shooting department over the first three years of his career.
Once healthy, Nerlens Noel figures to slot in as the Sixers' starting center, but until his return, it will be Spencer Hawes' job to lose.
29. Sacramento Kings
PG: Greivis Vasquez
SG: Ben McLemore
SF: Luc Richard Mbah a Moute
PF: Jason Thompson
C: DeMarcus Cousins
The departure of Tyreke Evans has left the Sacramento Kings with a sizable hole on the perimeter, one which rookie Ben McLemore will presumably be asked to fill.
McLemore is an outstanding wing talent with a soft touch and top-notch athleticism, but like every rookie, it remains to be seen how he will adapt to the pro game.
The Kings also went out this summer and splurged on free-agent forward Carl Landry, but as we've seen in the past, Landry excels in a role off the bench.
Things may change as free agency progresses, but for now, Jason Thompson retains the starting gig at the 4.
28. Milwaukee Bucks
PG: Luke Ridnour
SG: O.J. Mayo
SF: Giannis Adetokunbo
PF: Ersan Ilyasova
C: Larry Sanders
The Milwaukee Bucks' starting five is undergoing a major reconstruction, one which has their roster looking like a mess at this point in free agency.
While this is a rough draft of what the Bucks' lineup will look like on opening day, it's indicative of some of the major changes that have taken place thus far.
Rookie Giannis Adetokunbo doesn't figure to log starter's minutes at the 3 right away, but considering the Bucks dealt Luc Mbah a Moute to the Sacramento Kings and lost Mike Dunleavy to the Chicago Bulls, the team has no viable starting small forward on its roster at this time.
Newly acquired point guard Luke Ridnour projects as the starter at the moment, but should the Atlanta Hawks decide not to match the Bucks' offer sheet to Jeff Teague, Milwaukee will have a more stable backcourt.
27. Phoenix Suns
PG: Goran Dragic
SG: Eric Bledsoe
SF: Caron Butler
PF: Luis Scola
C: Marcin Gortat
New Phoenix Suns head coach Jeff Hornacek will be faced with some tough decisions in his first season at the helm. Paramount among them will be deciding how to use Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe together. Should Bledsoe come off the bench? Can Dragic and Bledsoe thrive next to each other? Do the Suns have a reliable shooting guard to start?
Shannon Brown started 22 games a year ago and is a viable option to start at the 2, but according to Adam Green of Arizona Sports 620, Hornacek is excited about the prospect of starting Bledsoe next to Dragic:
"He's kind of been chomping at the bit to be a starter," Hornacek said. "He's got some unique abilities that not a lot of guys have with his quickness, his strength, his length as a point guard.
"He can play both the one and the two and combining him with Goran [Dragic] should be a pretty fun two guys to push the ball up the court."
Few have expressed doubt over the move, but if anyone has any hesitation it is due to wondering how the 6-foot-1, 195-pound Bledsoe will fit next to the team's incumbent point guard. The first-year head coach does not see there being an issue, as he believes the two will compliment each other nicely.
Bledsoe should thrive with extensive minutes, but the Suns are still several years away from playoff contention.
26. Orlando Magic
PG: Jameer Nelson
SG: Arron Afflalo
SF: Moe Harkless
PF: Tobias Harris
C: Nikola Vucevic
Jacque Vaughn's Orlando Magic should be a fun product to watch in a few years' time. For now, it's about developing young pieces, which the Magic have in excess.
The glaring omission from this projected starting lineup is Victor Oladipo, but it's hard to envision the rookie beating out Arron Afflalo for the gig right away.
Elsewhere, Moe Harkless, Tobias Harris and Nikola Vucevic are prospects to get excited about. With some offensive improvements, Harkless has a chance to be a perimeter stud in the mold of Andre Iguodala, while Harris and Vucevic both finished last year strong, posting averages of more than 20 points and nine rebounds over the season's final five games.
25. Charlotte Bobcats
PG: Kemba Walker
SG: Ben Gordon
SF: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist
PF: Al Jefferson
C: Bismack Biyombo
The Charlotte Bobcats' big free-agent splash came in the form of the offensively gifted Al Jefferson, who represents a major improvement at power forward.
However, Jefferson's offensive aptitude won't help the Bobcats on the defensive end, where they were simply putrid last season. While Charlotte did finish in the bottom five in both offensive and defensive rating last season, it finished dead last in defensive rating, allowing 111.5 points per 100 possessions, according to Basketball-Reference.
Gerald Henderson is the preferred starter at the 2, but remains unsigned at this time.
24. Utah Jazz
PG: Trey Burke
SG: Alec Burks
SF: Gordon Hayward
PF: Derrick Favors
C: Enes Kanter
It remains to be seen whether Trey Burke will be the Utah Jazz's starting point guard on opening day, but there's no denying that he's the team's best option at this point in time.
But Burke isn't the biggest change to Utah's starting lineup this season. With Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap residing in the Southeast Division, young guns Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter project as the starters at the 4 and 5, respectively.
Another change for the Jazz comes at shooting guard, where third-year pro Alec Burks will look to take the reins after scoring 7.0 points in 17.8 minutes per game last season.
They may look raw on paper, but the Jazz have intriguing, young pieces to build around as they continue to free up cap space for next summer.
23. Toronto Raptors
PG: Kyle Lowry
SG: DeMar DeRozan
SF: Rudy Gay
PF: Amir Johnson
C: Jonas Valanciunas
Thanks to the trade that sent Andrea Bargnani to the New York Knicks, the Toronto Raptors have a new starter at power forward.
Amir Johnson, who averaged a career-high 10 points and 7.5 boards last season, projects as the starting 4, where he should slot in nicely next to emerging center Jonas Valanciunas.
After being acquired at last season's trade deadline in exchange for Ed Davis and Jose Calderon, Rudy Gay will open the season as the Raptors' starting 3 next to the equally athletic DeMar DeRozan.
It remains to be seen how well those two can coexist on the perimeter, but if Gay can find his stroke from mid-range, the Raptors could be in the playoff conversation this season.
22. Atlanta Hawks
PG: Lou Williams (pending outcome of Jeff Teague situation)
SG: DeMarre Carroll
SF: Kyle Korver
PF: Paul Millsap
C: Al Horford
We knew the Atlanta Hawks would likely go in a new direction this summer, and that's exactly what they've done.
Jeff Teague may be on his way out the door after signing an offer sheet with the Milwaukee Bucks, while Paul Millsap was signed to fill the void left by Josh Smith. And the Millsap signing was a stroke of genius from Danny Ferry.
Getting a player of Millsap's caliber on a two-year, $19 million deal is extraordinary, and should keep the Hawks on the back end of the playoff conversation in the Eastern Conference this season.
While the point-guard situation figures to play itself out in the coming days, another position of need for the Hawks is shooting guard.
Demarre Carroll was signed to add depth on the wing, and while he's a more natural fit at the 3, he's the only logical candidate to pencil in at the 2 for the time being. With ample cap space, look for the Hawks to add a veteran who can slot in at shooting guard, pushing Carroll into a role off the bench.
21. Boston Celtics
PG: Rajon Rondo
SG: Avery Bradley
SF: Jeff Green
PF: Brandon Bass
C: Jared Sullinger
Having undergone significant changes this offseason, the Boston Celtics' starting lineup is going to take on a very different shape in 2013-14.
Rajon Rondo, once recovered from ACL surgery, will slot in as Brad Stevens' starting point guard, while Avery Bradley projects as the starting 2 for the time being.
The C's are also set on the wing, where Jeff Green thrived in his first full season with the Celtics to the tune of 12.8 points per game on 46.7-percent shooting.
And then things get complicated in the frontcourt. Brandon Bass and Jared Sullinger are both worthy candidates to start at the 4 and 5, respectively, but that would put the Celtics at a serious size disadvantage.
Kris Humphries is another option up front, but is not a serious threat to score like Bass and Sullinger.
20. Detroit Pistons
PG: Brandon Knight
SG: Rodney Stuckey
SF: Josh Smith
PF: Greg Monroe
C: Andre Drummond
The Detroit Pistons bolstered their starting unit with the addition of forward Josh Smith, but it remains to be seen how Mo Cheeks will utilize the 27-year-old.
Smith is a more natural 4, but the Pistons already have a capable power forward in Greg Monroe. That would appear to leave Smith at the 3, but in all honesty, that's not a great idea.
Starting Smith at the 3 would compromise the Pistons' floor spacing and highlight all of the negatives that accompany his game. It's an old story at this point, but one that bears repeating: Smith loves his mid-range jumpers.
And while he may love those mid-range jumpers, he's not efficient from any area on the floor outside of the restricted area.
According to Basketball-Reference, Smith shot 19.4 percent on looks between 10 and 15 feet last season and a poor 32.9 percent on shots between 16 feet and the three-point line (301 attempts).
If the Pistons choose to line Smith up at the 3, things could get ugly, fast.
19. Washington Wizards
PG: John Wall
SG: Bradley Beal
SF: Trevor Ariza
C: Emeka Okafor
In time (and it may not take very long), Otto Porter will start at small forward alongside the dynamite young duo of John Wall and Bradley Beal.
But for now, the nod goes to Trevor Ariza, who came on strong toward the end of last season. From Feb. 1 on, Ariza, according to NBA.com's stats database, posted a true shooting percentage of 59.7 while recording a net rating of plus-4.7 points per 100 possessions.
Porter's arrival in the starting lineup will undoubtedly be met with cheers, but for now, Washington Wizards fans should feel comfortable with Ariza holding down the fort at the 3.
18. Dallas Mavericks
PG: Jose Calderon
SG: Monta Ellis
SF: Shawn Marion
PF: Dirk Nowitzki
C: Brandan Wright
As is the case with teams who are shuffling personnel left and right this summer, the Dallas Mavericks' starting picture remains very hazy.
At this point, we know two things for sure: Dirk Nowitzki will start at power forward, and free-agent signee Jose Calderon will take over as the Mavs' starting point guard.
Assuming Shawn Marion doesn't get dealt, his spot as the starting 3 feels safe as well. And according to ESPN Dallas' Tim MacMahon, the Mavs are the "clear-cut leader" to sign center Brandan Wright.
The one thing Dallas was missing was a definitive starter at shooting guard. But it appears they've addressed that situation, as ESPN's Marc Stein reported sources are saying the Mavericks have agreed to terms on a three-year deal with Monta Ellis worth somewhere in the $25 million range, but that could pay him as much as $30 million.
Jose Calderon is a pass-first point guard and we all know how much Ellis loves to shoot, so this backcourt duo should complement one another nicely.
17. Cleveland Cavaliers
PG: Kyrie Irving
SG: Dion Waiters
SF: Earl Clark
PF: Tristan Thompson
C: Anderson Varejao
The Cleveland Cavaliers' starting unit figures to look only slightly different when the 2013-14 season opens.
Among the possible minor changes are a promotion for Dion Waiters to starting shooting guard and the implementation of Earl Clark at small forward.
Like several other franchises, though, the return of an injured player will provide a major boost to the Cavs' starting five.
Anderson Varejao projects as the Cavs' starting center, especially with Andrew Bynum's extensive injury history. Should the Brazilian return from injury close to the form he flashed in 25 games last season, Cleveland will be trending upward in Mike Brown's return to the helm.
In those 25 appearances last season, Varejao averaged a staggering 14.4 rebounds per game while contributing 14.1 points per contest with a limited offensive skill set.
16. Los Angeles Lakers
PG: Steve Nash
SG: Kobe Bryant
SF: Player TBD on a veteran's minimum deal
PF: Jordan Hill
C: Pau Gasol
The Los Angeles Lakers' starting five looks far less appealing on paper than it did entering last season, but we all know how that went. With the departure of Dwight Howard, Pau Gasol figures to slot into his more natural position at the 5, where he'll be able to operate on the low blocks.
Bryant and Nash are locks to start in the backcourt (once Bryant recovers from Achilles surgery), but it's the small-forward spot where things get complicated.
As of the publication of this article, the Lakers have no starting 3 on their roster after exercising the amnesty clause on Metta World Peace, as Kevin Ding of the Orange County Register reported.
With the capability to only sign free agents to veteran's minimum contracts, the Lakers will look to the bargain bin to sign their next starting small forward.
Nick Young, in a signing reported on ESPN.com, was a nice addition at the veteran's minimum, but doesn't possess the discipline to crack the Lakers' starting lineup.
15. Denver Nuggets
PG: Ty Lawson
SG: Randy Foye
SF: Danilo Gallinari
PF: Kenneth Faried
C: JaVale McGee
Andre Iguodala's departure from the Rocky Mountains means Danilo Gallinari (once healthy) will presumably be given an opportunity to play the bulk of the minutes at small forward.
But the biggest change coming to the Denver Nuggets' starting lineup this season is up front, where the departure of Kosta Koufos has opened the door for JaVale McGee to start at center, according to ESPN's Marc Stein.
Brian Shaw will need to evaluate his prospects at shooting guard as well. Evan Fournier, 20, is a lethal outside shooter with a versatile offensive game, but Shaw may feel compelled to go with the safer pick in Randy Foye, who was recently acquired from the Utah Jazz.
14. Minnesota Timberwolves
PG: Ricky Rubio
SG: Kevin Martin
SF: Chase Budinger
PF: Kevin Love
C: Nikola Pekovic
With a few offseason improvements, the Minnesota Timberwolves are primed to compete for a playoff spot in the highly competitive Western Conference next season.
However, the most significant addition to the T'Wolves' starting lineup will be the return of Kevin Love, who missed 64 games a year ago due to hand and knee injuries.
In terms of new signings, Minnesota's most notable free-agent acquisition came in the form of Kevin Martin, whose addition will help stabilize a Timberwolves team that shot a league-worst 30.5 percent from three last season.
To put things in perspective, the T'Wolves' leading three-point shooter a year ago was J.J. Barea, who knocked down 34.6 percent of his attempts. Martin converted on 42.6 percent of his looks from deep last season with the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Martin's addition to the starting lineup would then push Alexey Shved (who started 16 games a year ago) into a role off the bench.
Assuming Minnesota locks up restricted-free-agent center Nikola Pekovic, the Timberwolves should find themselves in the thick of the playoff chase, battling for one of the West's final playoff spots.
13. New Orleans Pelicans
PG: Jrue Holiday
SG: Eric Gordon
SF: Tyreke Evans
PF: Anthony Davis
C: Jason Smith
With the additions of Jrue Holiday and Tyreke Evans, the New Orleans Pelicans are now loaded with young talent.
And while Evans is a puzzling fit in a starting lineup that includes ball-handlers and scorers in Holiday and Eric Gordon, the New Orleans Times-Picayune believes that the 2009-10 Rookie of the Year could be utilized at small forward:
If the Kings don't match, Evans will strengthen a Pelicans lineup that now includes All-Star point guard Jrue Holiday, whom they acquired from the Philadelphia 76ers in a blockbuster draft night trade last week. It's likely the Pelicans could utilize an explosive three-guard lineup that could feature Evans, Holiday and Eric Gordon to team with franchise player Anthony Davis at forward.
It remains to be seen how the Pelicans' three scorers will gel, but there's no denying the immense talent with which Dell Demps has surrounded Anthony Davis.
12. Portland Trail Blazers
PG: Damian Lillard
SG: Wesley Matthews
SF: Nicolas Batum
PF: LaMarcus Aldridge
C: Robin Lopez
The inside-outside duo of Damian Lillard and LaMarcus Aldridge sets the tone for the Portland Trail Blazers, but it's a rock-solid supporting cast that should have Terry Stotts' crew primed for contention out West.
In addition, the newly acquired Robin Lopez should provide the Blazers with a steadier defensive presence at center. While Lopez isn't the rebounding machine that J.J. Hickson was, his seven-foot frame will be a welcome sight in Portland's frontcourt.
Factor in Nicolas Batum's well-rounded skill set and the Blazers have a playoff-caliber starting five at the ready.
11. New York Knicks
PG: Raymond Felton
SG: Iman Shumpert
SF: Carmelo Anthony
PF: Andrea Bargnani
C: Tyson Chandler
Mike Woodson's starting lineup is looking like it will be tweaked when the 2013-14 season opens. With the addition of Andrea Bargnani, Carmelo Anthony figures to slide down to the 3 while the former No. 1 overall pick occupies the power-forward spot.
As scary a thought as it is, if Bargnani can find his stroke and produce as a complementary stretch 4, the New York Knicks' potent three-point attack will be even stronger. Otherwise, no major personnel changes here.
10. Memphis Grizzlies
PG: Mike Conley
SG: Tony Allen
SF: Tayshaun Prince
PF: Zach Randolph
C: Marc Gasol
The Memphis Grizzlies' starting lineup doesn't look particularly appealing on paper, but the grittiness and defensive aptitude of this group is stunning.
Not only is Mike Conley one of the league's best defenders at point guard, but he's developed a versatile offensive game with range (shot 36.2 percent from three last season).
According to Basketball-Reference, this projected five-man unit was plus-12.5 points per 100 possessions last season, the highest mark among Grizzlies five-man units that logged over 100 minutes.
Factor in that Conley has one of the best pick-and-roll partners in basketball in Marc Gasol, and the Grizzlies become a matchup nightmare for opponents.
9. Indiana Pacers
PG: George Hill
SG: Lance Stephenson
SF: Paul George
PF: David West
C: Roy Hibbert
The starting five that guided the Indiana Pacers to the 2013 Eastern Conference Finals figures to remain intact heading into the 2013-14 season, but one player stands in the way of disrupting the group's chemistry.
After appearing in all of five games last season due to a knee injury, Granger would be better served coming off the bench this season.
Lance Stephenson proved over the course of the playoffs (9.4 points, 7.6 rebounds, 1.2 steals per game) that he's a trustworthy starter at the 2.
In addition, bringing Granger off the bench would help stagger his minutes with Paul George's. Both players thrive with the ball in their hands on the perimeter, and starting Granger alongside George at shooting guard could crowd the wing.
8. Houston Rockets
PG: Jeremy Lin
SG: Francisco Garcia
SF: James Harden
PF: Chandler Parsons
C: Dwight Howard
The Houston Rockets' refurbished starting unit will pack extra punch this season thanks to the addition of Dwight Howard.
The Rockets were among the league's deadliest three-point-shooting teams last season (second in threes made and eighth in three-point field-goal percentage), and now have a massive, reliable rock in the middle to give Kevin McHale's attack a multidimensional look.
With the inside and outside components to drive opponents crazy, Houston's starting five figures to be among the league's most improved this season.
7. Golden State Warriors
PG: Stephen Curry
SG: Klay Thompson
SF: Andre Iguodala
PF: David Lee
C: Andrew Bogut
Just a few months removed from an impressive postseason showing, the Golden State Warriors strengthened their starting lineup with the addition of defender-extraordinaire wing Andre Iguodala.
While Iguodala's arrival figures to bump Harrison Barnes into a role as the Dubs' sixth man, there's no denying that the starting five has been strengthened immensely.
Iguodala and Andrew Bogut are defensive anchors who lead by example, but the Warriors make their money on the offensive end.
Thanks to the electric offensive trio of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and David Lee, the Warriors are capable of filling it up from any spot on the floor—and fast.
6. Chicago Bulls
PG: Derrick Rose
SG: Jimmy Butler
SF: Luol Deng
PF: Carlos Boozer
C: Joakim Noah
After winning a first-round playoff series without Derrick Rose and with a hobbled Joakim Noah, the Chicago Bulls are primed for major success in an improved Eastern Conference in 2013-14.
The obvious reason is the return of Rose to the starting lineup. But beyond the major lift Rose will provide the Bulls' offense, there are other reasons to be excited about Chicago's starting unit.
Jimmy Butler was simply phenomenal last postseason (13.3 points, 5.2 rebounds per game and 40.5-percent shooting from three) and quickly established himself as a stout perimeter defender.
As Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer continue to lock down the paint, Butler and Luol Deng should have a field day as they hound opponents on the wing night after night.
5. Brooklyn Nets
PG: Deron Williams
SG: Joe Johnson
SF: Paul Pierce
PF: Kevin Garnett
C: Brook Lopez
Let me get this out of the way: This ranking is not indicative of where I believe the Brooklyn Nets stand among all NBA teams. However, Jason Kidd's starting lineup is loaded with five All-Stars, and for that reason alone, it felt appropriate to rank them in the top five.
There's no telling how much or how little chemistry the new-look Nets will possess, but on paper (and that's all we have to go by at this point), there's simply nothing like them.
One thing, however, is certain. With Kevin Garnett (and now Andrei Kirilenko, according to ESPN's Mike Mazzeo), the Nets will show significant improvement on the defensive end, where they allowed a subpar 106.2 points per 100 possessions last season, according to Basketball-Reference.
4. San Antonio Spurs
PG: Tony Parker
SG: Danny Green
SF: Kawhi Leonard
PF: Tim Duncan
C: Tiago Splitter
Like it or not, the San Antonio Spurs aren't going away anytime soon. Last season proved that much.
Tony Parker and Tim Duncan are the staples of San Antonio's well-balanced attack, but it's the emergence of young guns Danny Green and Kawhi Leonard that represents the future of Gregg Popovich's team.
Leonard's postseason (13.5 points, 9.0 rebounds per game, 54.5-percent shooting from the field and 39.0-percent from three) has him on the brink of stardom and, blended with Green's proficiency from beyond the arc, has the Spurs primed to compete for years to come.
3. Oklahoma City Thunder
PG: Russell Westbrook
SG: Thabo Sefolosha
SF: Kevin Durant
PF: Serge Ibaka
C: Kendrick Perkins
With two of the league's top five players in their starting lineup, how could the Oklahoma City Thunder's group not be ranked among the league's three best?
Yes, Kendrick Perkins is an overpaid blemish on an otherwise impressive résumé of names, but the presence of Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka is enough to mask his ineffectiveness on the offensive end.
Thabo Sefolosha rounds out the starting five, as his length and tenacity on the perimeter have him safely slotted in at the 2.
2. Los Angeles Clippers
PG: Chris Paul
SG: J.J. Redick
SF: Jared Dudley
PF: Blake Griffin
C: DeAndre Jordan
To say the Los Angeles Clippers have had a successful offseason would be a massive understatement.
Not only were the Clips able to ink Chris Paul to a five-year contract extension, but they received phenomenal value for Eric Bledsoe, netting J.J. Redick and Jared Dudley in a three-team trade with the Phoenix Suns and Milwaukee Bucks.
The Clippers' starting five was steady last year, but the additions of Redick and Dudley provide Doc Rivers' squad with phenomenal floor spacing and reliable three-point shooting.
With Paul and Blake Griffin rightfully drawing significant attention from defenses, Redick and Dudley should thrive on catch-and-shoot opportunities aplenty next season.
1. Miami Heat
PG: Mario Chalmers
SG: Dwyane Wade
SF: Shane Battier
PF: LeBron James
C: Chris Bosh
Despite being tweaked slightly over the course of consecutive title runs, the framework of the Miami Heat's championship formula has remained consistent.
Shane Battier and Mike Miller have been interchangeable at small forward, but it's the trio of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh that has guided Miami to back-to-back titles.
Simply put, as long as James is donning a Heat uniform with Wade and Bosh as his complementary partners, Miami will continue to boast the league's premier starting lineup.