Ranking Every NBA Team's Starting 5
As sports fans, we love to analyze how teams stack up on paper. It may not be the best evaluative measure of a team's prosperity, but lineup statistics and past trends can often be indicative of success and failure.
What follows is the summer's second edition of the starting five power rankings. For reference, here is version 1.0.
With rosters largely filled out, these rankings should provide you with a more complete picture of where your favorite team stands with just a few months until the start of the 2013-14 season.
Note: Starting lineups compiled based on depth charts from Rotoworld.
30. Philadelphia 76ers
PG: Michael Carter-Williams
SG: Jason Richardson
SF: Evan Turner
PF: Thaddeus Young
C: Spencer Hawes (Nerlens Noel should return around Christmas)
The Philadelphia 76ers' roster is ugly, and they're just fine with that.
With no head coach and no true scoring threats, the Sixers are headed to the cellar of the Eastern Conference.
Evan Turner is due a qualifying offer of $8.7 million next season, and for his rights not to be renounced he'll have to show major improvement on the offensive end.
Last season, Turner posted a putrid offensive rating of 95, per Basketball-Reference. For context, the only Sixers players to record a lower rating last season were reserves Justin Holiday, Shelvin Mack, Charles Jenkins and Maalik Wayns.
29. Phoenix Suns
PG: Goran Dragic
SG: Eric Bledsoe
SF: P.J. Tucker
PF: Markieff Morris
C: Marcin Gortat
Eric Bledsoe and Goran Dragic comprise one of the more interesting backcourts in the NBA, but it remains to be seen if either can adapt to playing off the ball.
However, the bigger storyline for the Suns is at center, where Marcin Gortat is in the final year of his contract and rookie Alex Len is waiting in the wings.
General manager Ryan McDonough may be tempted to deal Gortat for future assets as the trade deadline approaches, but for now he appears dead set on keeping the Polish big.
28. Orlando Magic
PG: Jameer Nelson
SG: Arron Afflalo
SF: Tobias Harris
PF: Glen Davis
C: Nikola Vucevic
In the long run, the Orlando Magic are a team worth getting excited about. But when discussing present success, head coach Jacque Vaughn's club is unlikely to find any with this starting five.
Tobias Harris turned heads after averaging 17.3 points and 8.5 rebounds in 27 games with the Magic last season, but it remains to be seen if he can sustain that production over the course of 82 games.
Orlando has plenty of young talent, but it's going to take a while for said pieces to develop and make a run at the postseason.
27. Sacramento Kings
PG: Greivis Vasquez
SG: Ben McLemore
SF: John Salmons
PF: Carl Landry
The Sacramento Kings are welcoming in new starters at point guard, shooting guard and power forward. That's good news for a team that's been a staple of the Western Conference cellar year after year.
Head coach Mike Malone will have to clear a number of hurdles before he has the Kings back in playoff contention, and none will be more paramount to the team's success than the development of DeMarcus Cousins.
Cousins is an offensive dynamo who averaged 17.1 points and 9.9 rebounds last season. He has all of the talent in the world, he just needs to harness it. Cousins also needs to learn to play defense at a high level on a consistent basis to solidify his place among the game's best big men. Even if he accomplishes all that, his attitude and drive will still be a cause for concern.
26. Charlotte Bobcats
PG: Kemba Walker
SG: Gerald Henderson
SF: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist
PF: Cody Zeller
C: Al Jefferson
The Charlotte Bobcats return three of five starters from last season, with Gerald Henderson arguably the most important among them.
After weeks of silence on the Henderson front, the 25-year-old agreed (via Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski) to a three-year, $18 million extension to remain in Charlotte.
Henderson brings a steady defensive presence to the perimeter, and is the sort of mentor that Michael Kidd-Gilchrist needs moving forward.
Where things change is the frontcourt. Rookie Cody Zeller currently projects as the Bobcats' starting 4 while free-agent signee Al Jefferson is a mortal lock to start at the 5 with Bismack Biyombo being pushed into a backup role.
25. Milwaukee Bucks
PG: Brandon Knight
SG: O.J. Mayo
SF: Carlos Delfino
PF: Ersan Ilyasova
C: Larry Sanders
The Milwaukee Bucks' starting five is different, but is it any better?
Off the bat, it appears that they've only made lateral moves. Brandon Jennings has been replaced by Brandon Knight, Monta Ellis' starting job went to O.J. Mayo and Carlos Delfino is taking over for Luc Mbah a Moute.
Young guns John Henson and Ekpe Udoh bring a bit of flair to Milwaukee, but it remains to be seen if head coach Larry Drew will bestow any significant minutes upon the athletic dynamos.
24. Utah Jazz
PG: Trey Burke
SG: Alec Burks
SF: Gordon Hayward
PF: Derrick Favors
C: Enes Kanter
Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson are gone, but that's quite alright. After a two-year wait, it's time for Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter to step into the spotlight in Salt Lake City.
And while things may not be pretty in the immediate future, the development of Favors and Kanter will be imperative to the Utah Jazz's long-term success.
If Alec Burks and Gordon Hayward can make big leaps in years three and four, respectively, then Utah will approach contender status by 2014-15.
Under little pressure to win this season, the Jazz can take solace knowing that they're building towards a bright future.
23. Boston Celtics
PG: Rajon Rondo
SG: Courtney Lee
SF: Jeff Green
PF: Brandon Bass
C: Kris Humphries
These aren't your typical Boston Celtics. Not even close.
After six consecutive trips to the playoffs, the Celtics are primed to take a major step back in year one of the Brad Stevens era.
Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett are gone, and the arrivals of Gerald Wallace, Kris Humphries and MarShon Brooks were anything but celebrated. Unfortunately, it had to be done in order to build a winner for the years to come.
Kris Humphries projects as the starter at center for the time being, but keep an eye on rookie Kelly Olynyk, who looked poised and impressive throughout the Orlando Summer League.
22. Washington Wizards
PG: John Wall
SG: Bradley Beal
SF: Otto Porter
PF: Nene Hilario
C: Emeka Okafor
John Wall's new five-year, $80 million contract makes him the definitive future of the Washington Wizards. The real question remaining is this: Is his supporting cast good enough to make the Wizards a perennial playoff team?
As of now, the answer has to be no.
Bradley Beal is an excellent young player with a soft touch from deep. But outside of Beal, the Wizards don't know what they're getting in Otto Porter. They have an underwhelming frontcourt comprised of Nene, Emeka Okafor, Kevin Seraphin, Trevor Booker and Jan Vesely.
If there's one thing that prevents the Wizards from qualifying for the playoffs this season, it'll be the mediocre front line, not Wall and the backcourt.
21. Toronto Raptors
PG: Kyle Lowry
SG: DeMar DeRozan
SF: Rudy Gay
PF: Amir Johnson
C: Jonas Valanciunas
What should we make of the Toronto Raptors? Their young starting lineup is loaded with potential, but to make the playoffs that potential will need to be tapped in a big way.
Jonas Valanciunas showed out at the Las Vegas Summer League, taking home MVP honors thanks to averages of 18.8 points and 10 rebounds over four games.
The Lithuanian center has been handed the reins to the Raptors' frontcourt and has a chance to be special if he can replicate his per-36 minute numbers (13.5 points and nine rebounds, per Basketball-Reference) from last season with extended playing time in 2013-14.
However, the real gauge of the Raptors' success will be Rudy Gay. Thanks to offseason eye surgery that corrected his vision, Gay has a chance to improve upon his mark of 42.5 percent shooting from the field in 33 games last season with Toronto.
If Gay hunkers down and sets his sights on improved efficiency, the Raptors should find themselves back in the playoffs for the first time since 2007-08.
20. Cleveland Cavaliers
PG: Kyrie Irving
SG: Dion Waiters
SF: Earl Clark
PF: Tristan Thompson
C: Andrew Bynum
If you couldn't tell by now, the Eastern Conference is loaded with young teams who are well on their way to being annual contenders. Many of them just aren't quite there yet.
The Cleveland Cavaliers are arguably the furthest along in that process thanks to a number of moves this offseason.
Earl Clark and Andrew Bynum (if healthy) project as starters at the 3 and 5, while Dion Waiters appears ready to take on the starting shooting guard job full-time.
And don't forget Kyrie Irving, who puts the Cavs ahead of the other up-and-coming quads in the East with his All-Star caliber talent.
Don't forget that the Cavs have the first overall draft pick from the 2013 NBA draft in Anthony Bennett. He could quickly slide into the starting lineup.
19. Detroit Pistons
PG: Brandon Jennings
SG: Rodney Stuckey
SF: Josh Smith
PF: Greg Monroe
C: Andre Drummond
The Detroit Pistons went from Eastern Conference also-rans to likely playoff qualifiers in the span of two months, but was the improvement significant enough to vault them into the conference's top six?
Brandon Jennings and Josh Smith are nice additions on the surface, but apparently President of Basketball Operations Joe Dumars isn't too concerned with an abundance of questionable mid-range jumpers.
In a weak Eastern Conference, the Pistons may qualify for the playoffs based on talent alone. Just don't expect any major accomplishments outside of a first-round playoff exit.
18. Atlanta Hawks
PG: Jeff Teague
SG: Lou Williams
SF: Kyle Korver
PF: Paul Millsap
C: Al Horford
Based on the composition of the Atlanta Hawks' starting lineup, they're likely bound for a seventh playoff appearance in as many seasons.
While a first-round playoff exit may be in their future (as has been the case the past two years), GM Danny Ferry did well to replace Josh Smith with Paul Millsap, who was a steal at two years and $19 million.
The Hawks' starting lineup looks set in stone, with one exception. Lou Williams, who's coming off of ACL surgery, hasn't started more than 10 games since the 2009-10 season and only 47 games total over eight years.
Having Williams and Jeff Teague on the floor together feels a tad redundant, but Williams is certainly capable of moving off the ball.
17. Denver Nuggets
PG: Ty Lawson
SG: Randy Foye
SF: Danilo Gallinari
PF: Kenneth Faried
C: JaVale McGee
Hopefully the Denver Nuggets enjoyed their 57-win campaign in 2012-13, because darker days are ahead for head coach Brian Shaw's group.
Without Andre Iguodala, the Nuggets have been forced to resort to a platoon of Randy Foye and Evan Fournier at the 2 and will ride with Danilo Gallinari (once healthy) and Wilson Chandler at the 3.
In JaVale McGee and Kenneth Faried, the Nuggets have a starting frontcourt bursting with energy and athleticism, and it's about time McGee got his chance to shine in a starting role.
The Nuggets' starting five may not look too different from last year's, but the overall makeup of the group has Denver looking more like a fringe playoff team as opposed to the top-five lock they were last season.
16. Dallas Mavericks
PG: Jose Calderon
SG: Monta Ellis
SF: Shawn Marion
PF: Dirk Nowitzki
C: Samuel Dalembert
This Dallas Mavericks' lineup is fascinating.
From an offensive standpoint, they could be a joy to watch. Jose Calderon is one of the most controlled and skilled passers to grace the hardwood, and while Monta Ellis may be erratic, you can't help but watch his antics night after night.
Factor in Dirk Nowitzki's soft touch from every spot on the floor, and you've got a rather interesting product taking shape in Dallas.
The Mavs' starting unit would be more intriguing were Brandan Wright slotted in at center in lieu of Samuel Dalembert, especially because head coach Rick Carlisle wouldn't be sacrificing anything (statistically) from a shot-blocking standpoint.
Last season, Wright averaged 1.2 blocks to Dalembert's 1.1, and scored 17 points per 36 minutes, according to Basketball-Reference, which trumps Sammy D's mark by more than two points.
15. Los Angeles Lakers
PG: Steve Nash
SG: Kobe Bryant
SF: Nick Young
PF: Pau Gasol
C: Chris Kaman
When we last assessed the Los Angeles Lakers' starting five, it was unclear who was going to start at small forward.
While there's no definitive answer to that question yet, the Lakers have added two players capable of filling the void left by Metta World Peace.
The Lakers signed both Nick Young and Wesley Johnson to veteran minimum deals, a major coup for a team that has essentially zero salary cap flexibility.
Young's shot-taking tendencies make him more of a liability at the starting three, and his defense isn't particularly stellar either. However, all indications at this time point to Young starting at the 3 ahead of Johnson.
Johnson has the length and athleticism to contribute more effectively on the defensive end, but he doesn't threaten to stretch the floor the way Young does.
It's a pick your poison proposition, but the Lakers did well by adding two capable players at the cheapest possible price.
14. Portland Trail Blazers
PG: Damian Lillard
SG: Wesley Matthews
SF: Nicolas Batum
C: Robin Lopez
There aren't many changes here for the Portland Trail Blazers, but don't overlook the addition of Robin Lopez. Secured in the three-team trade that sent Tyreke Evans to the New Orleans Pelicans, Lopez represents an upgrade at center over J.J. Hickson, who now makes his home in Denver.
Statistically, Lopez seems like a downgrade from Hickson. Hickson averaged 10.4 boards per game last season compared to 5.6 from Lopez (a career high).
And the big thing that Lopez brings to the table? A bulky 7'0", 255-pound frame that will help fortify the middle of head coach Terry Stotts' defense.
Thanks to Lopez and an improved bench, the Blazers could surprise some folks this season. Count them among the many dark horses set to creep up the Western Conference ranks.
13. Minnesota Timberwolves
PG: Ricky Rubio
SG: Kevin Martin
SF: Chase Budinger
PF: Kevin Love
C: Nikola Pekovic
It's August and the Minnesota Timberwolves still haven't re-signed center Nikola Pekovic. Things have been quiet on the Pekovic front for months now, and if a deal is going to get done, you'd have to think it's going to get done soon.
According to Sid Hartman of the Star Tribune, Flip Saunders believes Pekovic will eventually re-up with Minnesota:
If you take the word of Flip Saunders, the president of basketball operations for the Timberwolves, you can quit worrying about the club signing Nikola Pekovic. Saunders believes it’s just a matter of time before the 6-11 center from Montenegro agrees to a deal with the club.
“Yeah, I’m still optimistic,” said Saunders, who plans to travel in the near future to New York to speak to Pekovic’s agent.
Should Pek ultimately return, the Timberwolves will be in prime position to make the playoffs for the first time since 2003-04.
Pekovic's return would give head coach Rick Adelman one of the league's most versatile frontcourts, but it may be shooting guard Kevin Martin who changes the T'Wolves' fortunes for the better.
After finishing 30th in three-point field-goal percentage last season (30.5 percent), Minnesota couldn't afford to enter 2013-14 without a sniper.
Martin and his 38.5 percent career three-point conversion rate will help, but Chase Budinger and Corey Brewer will need to step up as well in order to give Minnesota the diversified attack it craves.
12. New Orleans Pelicans
PG: Jrue Holiday
SG: Eric Gordon
SF: Tyreke Evans
PF: Ryan Anderson
C: Anthony Davis
The New Orleans Pelicans have fresh jerseys to complement a new starting five.
GM Dell Demps paid a pretty penny, by the name of Nerlens Noel, to acquire Jrue Holiday from the Philadelphia 76ers, but opportunities to obtain a 23-year-old All-Star point guard just entering his prime don't come along too often.
Factor in the presence of Tyreke Evans at small forward, and the Pelicans could be the most improved team in the Association next season.
With Ryan Anderson the only true power forward on the roster, he's the starter by default. Anthony Davis could feasibly play the 4 with Jason Smith at the 5, but projections at this time pen Anderson as the newly minted starter at power forward.
Should Anderson start, the Pelicans' bench will take a hit. Much like the Portland Trail Blazers did last season, don't be surprised if the Pelicans lean heavily upon their starters.
11. New York Knicks
PG: Raymond Felton
SG: Iman Shumpert
SF: Carmelo Anthony
PF: Andrea Bargnani
The New York Knicks shook up their starting lineup by trading for Andrea Bargnani, which, for the time being, has pushed Carmelo Anthony back to small forward.
Considering the Knicks were at their best last season when Anthony played power forward, it remains to be seen how the Knicks will fare with a new stretch 4.
The good news is that, should Bargnani start, he will still allow head coach Mike Woodson to implement a spread attack which centers around lots and lots of threes.
Hopefully for the Knicks, Bargnani will improve on a mark of 30.9 percent shooting from deep and will make them look smart for absorbing the remaining two years and $23 million on his deal, according to HoopsHype.
10. Memphis Grizzlies
PG: Mike Conley
SG: Tony Allen
SF: Tayshaun Prince
PF: Zach Randolph
C: Marc Gasol
Memphis returns all five starters from last season's run to the Western Conference Finals. The one big change on the Memphis bench comes at the head coaching position where Dave Joerger has taken over for Lionel Hollins.
It wasn't until after Rudy Gay was traded in February that point guard Mike Conley came alive offensively, so it'll be interesting to track his progress throughout next season. It would be a minor shock if Conley didn't continue on the upward trajectory that saw him average 16.7 points on 46 percent shooting after the All-Star break.
Despite Conley's improvements, it will be difficult for the Grizzlies to repeat last year's accomplishments in a conference replete with star-studded teams.
9. Houston Rockets
PG: Jeremy Lin
SG: James Harden
SF: Chandler Parsons
PF: Greg Smith
Hello Houston, and welcome to the Western Conference's elite conversation. The Houston Rockets will be one of the sexy picks to represent the West in the NBA Finals, but their ultimate success this season will be contingent upon improved defense.
At first glance, the addition of Dwight Howard would seem to solve some of the team's defensive deficiencies. The Rockets allowed 102.5 points per game last season, the third-worst mark in the NBA. Their defensive rating of 106.1 ranked 16th, per Basketball-Reference, but that's hardly a championship-caliber number.
Howard finished fifth in blocks per game (2.45) and first in rebounds (12.4), so if nothing else, James Harden's big sidekick will earn the Rockets plenty of extra possessions with his length and athleticism.
8. Golden State Warriors
PG: Stephen Curry
SG: Klay Thompson
SF: Andre Iguodala
PF: David Lee
C: Andrew Bogut
Just like the Houston Rockets, the Golden State Warriors used this offseason to add a big name who will be paramount to the team's defensive success.
Andre Iguodala takes over at small forward a year after Harrison Barnes began to flash serious promise, which could prove to be a minor setback for the North Carolina product.
Fortunately, sixth men are valued immensely, and with the departure of Jarrett Jack, Barnes should be given every opportunity to thrive as the Dubs' first man off the bench.
The real key for the Warriors will be health. Andrew Bogut missed 50 games last season, and David Lee was limited to appearances in just six playoff games due to a torn hip flexor. Factor in Stephen Curry's chronic ankle problems, and the Warriors will need to count on some good fortune in order to show marked improvement in 2013-14.
7. Indiana Pacers
PG: George Hill
SG: Danny Granger
SF: Paul George
PF: David West
C: Roy Hibbert
The Indiana Pacers didn't bring any new faces aboard to join their starting unit, but it's an old one who figures to change the complexity of head coach Frank Vogel's lineup.
Danny Granger is primed to return after essentially missing the entire 2012-13 season with a knee injury. There will be ramifications as far as Lance Stephenson's role is concerned.
Stephenson, who started 72 of a possible 78 regular season games and all 19 playoff contests, brought yet another defensive spark to the floor, one that Granger isn't capable of replicating.
Fortunately, Stephenson's style of play better suits him to come off the bench, as he is the defensive equivalent of instant offense.
It will undoubtedly take time for Granger to work himself back into shape, but the added scoring punch will aid a team that ranked 23rd in points per game (94.7) last season.
6. Brooklyn Nets
PG: Deron Williams
SG: Joe Johnson
SF: Paul Pierce
PF: Kevin Garnett
C: Brook Lopez
It's not often that you see a team near the top of the NBA food chain make major personnel changes. But that's exactly what the Brooklyn Nets did this summer.
Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett project as the new starters at the 3 and 4, respectively, although it could be argued that Andrei Kirilenko works better in the starting lineup with an aging Pierce better suited for a role off the bench.
Garnett's defensive intensity and fierce competitive attitude should help stabilize a unit that allowed 106.2 points per 100 possessions last season, according to Basketball-Reference. But ultimately it will be up to the duo of Deron Williams and Brook Lopez to carry the Nets' new-look offense.
5. Los Angeles Clippers
PG: Chris Paul
SG: J.J. Redick
SF: Jared Dudley
PF: Blake Griffin
C: DeAndre Jordan
This feels like a make-or-break season for the Los Angeles Clippers. After consecutive seasons in which they bowed out of the playoffs in less-than-spectacular fashion, the pressure is on L.A.'s new basketball darling to make a run at a championship with Doc Rivers running the show.
However, Rivers is just one of the reasons why the Clippers should be confident entering the fall.
Jared Dudley and J.J. Redick add not just three-point shooting to a Clipper team that finished 16th in said category last season (35.8 percent from the field), but they bring solid defense to the perimeter.
The Clippers allowed opponents to convert on 37.3 percent of their threes last season, the fifth-worst mark in the NBA.
Redick is stereotyped as nothing more than a three-point shooter (a la Kyle Korver), but his defense has improved considerably with age.
4. Chicago Bulls
PG: Derrick Rose
SG: Jimmy Butler
SF: Luol Deng
PF: Carlos Boozer
C: Joakim Noah
Check starting lineups around the NBA, and you may find none more stable than the Chicago Bulls' from top to bottom.
With Derrick Rose healthy and Jimmy Butler on the fringe of becoming one of the Association's next unheralded stars, the Bulls' backcourt can no longer be considered even a relative weakness.
Combine that duo with All-Stars Luol Deng, Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah, and the Bulls are looking like a real threat to finish with the NBA's best record next season.
The Bulls finished with the NBA's best record (or tied for it) in the two seasons prior to Rose's injury, so don't be surprised to see them reclaim said title when "The Return" becomes a reality.
3. Oklahoma City Thunder
SG: Thabo Sefolosha
SF: Kevin Durant
PF: Serge Ibaka
C: Kendrick Perkins
Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant are proven commodities with advanced scouting reports, but I'd like to take a moment to shine a light on Serge Ibaka.
The 23-year-old crept out of the NBA periphery three seasons ago, but his best year to date came in 2012-13. Not only did Ibaka average career-highs of 13.2 points on 57.3 percent shooting, but he led the league in rejections for the second season in a row with three a night.
Consider that Ibaka hit on a respectable 35.1 percent of his threes, and it's difficult to figure out why there wasn't more buzz surrounding his performance. Ibaka also finished with a true shooting percentage of 61.2 percent, the sixth-best mark in the NBA last season, per Basketball-Reference.
The fact that the 6'10'' Ibaka hit on 54.6 percent of his field-goals between 10 and 15 feet is a stat that can't be ignored.
If Ibaka can continue to stretch the floor and knock down jumpers with similar consistency, Durant and Westbrook's effectiveness will only increase in the months ahead.
2. San Antonio Spurs
PG: Tony Parker
SG: Danny Green
SF: Kawhi Leonard
PF: Tim Duncan
C: Tiago Splitter
I had the San Antonio Spurs ranked at No. 4 in last month's edition of the starting five power rankings, and it dawned on me that the defending Western Conference champions deserved to be bumped up a couple spots.
Personnel hasn't changed, but examining the Spurs' lineups compared to those of the Los Angeles Clippers and Oklahoma City Thunder, it felt right to give head coach Gregg Popovich's squad a promotion.
Any starting five that boasts Tim Duncan and Tony Parker automatically qualifies for the top 10, but it's the supporting pieces that really give the Spurs a boost.
Kawhi Leonard has the tools and basketball IQ to be a bona fide star, while Danny Green is the perfect complement to the Spurs' vast array of scoring options.
With high-low studs and lethal weapons at the 2 and 3, the Spurs shouldn't be discounted as legitimate threats to repeat out West.
1. Miami Heat
PG: Mario Chalmers
SG: Dwyane Wade
SF: LeBron James
PF: Udonis Haslem
C: Chris Bosh
Just as they did last month, the Miami Heat top August's starting five power rankings. One through five, the Heat's lineup may not look as stacked as the San Antonio Spurs, Chicago Bulls or Brooklyn Nets.
There's just no way you can rank a lineup that has three (yes, three) future Hall-of-Famers and has won back-to-back titles anywhere other than No. 1.
LeBron James is the overwhelming favorite to win a third-straight MVP award, and should Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh produce numbers similar to those from last season, Miami should have no problem finishing above 60 wins once more.
Wade and Bosh each hit on more than 52 percent of their shots a year ago, and in the league's most efficient offense, replicating those gaudy figures may not be as difficult as many think.