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Predicting Opening Night Starting Lineups for Every NBA Team

Bryan ToporekFeatured Columnist IVNovember 6, 2016

Predicting Opening Night Starting Lineups for Every NBA Team

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    With opening night of the 2013-14 NBA season rapidly approaching, each team's starting lineup picture is coming into focus.

    For some teams, like the Miami Heat or Brooklyn Nets, there's not much to consider. Either start the same guys who just won you back-to-back titles (Miami) or stick all five of your former All-Stars in the starting lineup (Brooklyn), and don't think twice about it.

    For others, like the New Orleans Pelicans, Washington Wizards and Houston Rockets, legitimate questions remain about their starting five.

    Should Tyreke Evans come off the bench or start at the 3 (New Orleans)?

    Now that Emeka Okafor is injured, who will start next to Nene in the frontcourt (Washington)?

    Can the Dwight Howard-Omer Asik pairing down low become sustainable (Houston)?

    Plenty can change between now and opening night, but here's one man's best guess at what starting lineup each team will trot out during the first few nights of the season.

Atlanta Hawks

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    PG: Jeff Teague
    SG:
    Kyle Korver
    SF:
    DeMarre Carroll
    PF:
    Paul Millsap
    C:
    Al Horford

    The Atlanta Hawks have their opening-night point guard and frontcourt locked into place, but there's still wiggle room at the 2 and the 3.

    The Hawks didn't sign Jeff Teague and Paul Millsap for a combined $51 million this offseason to have either guy come off the bench. Teague, Millsap and Al Horford will constitute the team's "Big Three" for the next two seasons.

    At shooting guard, Kyle Korver would provide optimal floor spacing for Teague and the Hawks' bigs. Lou Williams would be in play for that starting 2 spot, too, but he's still out indefinitely after tearing his ACL this past January.

    If the Hawks do start Williams at the 2, Korver will likely slide over to become the team's starting small forward. Otherwise, DeMarre Carroll is just about the only other option they have, not counting Damien Wilkins.

Boston Celtics

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    USA TODAY Sports

    PG: Avery Bradley
    SG:
    Courtney Lee
    SF: Jeff Green
    PF:
    Brandon Bass
    C:
    Kris Humphries

    With Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett now in Brooklyn and Rajon Rondo still on the mend, the Boston Celtics have holes all over their starting lineup.

    In the backcourt, Avery Bradley is the presumptive favorite to start the season at point guard, but rookie Phil Pressey could merit consideration, too. At shooting guard, Courtney Lee likely holds a slight edge over MarShon Brooks and Jordan Crawford, but any of those three could realistically be the opening-night starter.

    The Celtics' projected frontcourt starters aren't any less muddled. After his midseason breakout last year, Jeff Green is the only lock to appear in the starting lineup, but he could be slotted at either small forward or power forward.

    Assuming Green gets tabbed as the starting small forward, Brandon Bass and Kris Humphries will be the favorites to start at power forward and center, respectively. Gerald Wallace, Jared Sullinger and Kelly Olynyk could all challenge for starting spots, however.

Brooklyn Nets

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    PG: Deron Williams
    SG:
    Joe Johnson
    SF:
    Paul Pierce
    PF:
    Kevin Garnett
    C:
    Brook Lopez

    First-year head coach Jason Kidd will have his hands full this year with the Brooklyn Nets, but his starting lineup decisions couldn't be much easier.

    When you've got five former All-Stars on your roster, which the Nets do in 2013-14, you start all five. It's that simple.

    The only potential stumbling block at this point? Deron Williams sprained his right ankle during an offseason workout, which could force him to miss the start of the regular season, according to ESPN New York.

    If Williams can't go, Shaun Livingston will be the favorite to start the season at point guard, with sophomore Tyshawn Taylor waiting in the wings. For that to be the team's biggest starting lineup concern speaks to just how stacked the Nets are this season.

Charlotte Bobcats

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    PG: Kemba Walker
    SG:
    Gerald Henderson
    SF:
    Michael Kidd-Gilchrist
    PF:
    Cody Zeller
    C:
    Al Jefferson

    For a team that's been so decidedly mediocre the past two seasons, the Charlotte Bobcats have surprisingly few questions when it comes to their starting lineup.

    That's one benefit of finishing outside of the playoffs year after year: You can build an entire starting lineup with lottery picks.

    The Bobcats drafted four of their five projected starters—Kemba Walker, Gerald Henderson, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Cody Zeller—in the lottery over the past five years. Had Bismack Biyombo panned out (No. 9 in 2011), they could have gone 5-for-5 with starting-caliber lottery picks.

    Instead, the Bobcats dipped their toes into the free-agent pool this past offseason, signing Al Jefferson to a three-year, $40 million contract. Jefferson sprained his ankle during the preseason and hopes to return by opening night, according to the Associated Press; Biyombo will likely spell Jefferson as the opening-night starter if he's unable to play.

Chicago Bulls

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    PG: Derrick Rose
    SG:
    Jimmy Butler
    SF:
    Luol Deng
    PF:
    Carlos Boozer
    C:
    Joakim Noah

    The return of Derrick Rose couldn't have come soon enough for the Chicago Bulls.

    Kirk Hinrich did an admirable job filling Rose's shoes during the 2012-13 season, but no one can fully replace what the 2011 NBA MVP brings to the Bulls. His presence in the starting lineup will make the Bulls one of the top contenders in the Eastern Conference this year.

    Starting alongside Rose in the backcourt will be Jimmy Butler, who was the Bulls' breakout surprise last season. Between Rose, Butler and starting small forward Luol Deng, Chicago touts the league's best defensive starting wing players.

    Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah will comprise Chicago's opening-night starting frontcourt, just as they have every year since 2010. With the potential of an amnesty looming large next summer, this could be Boozer's final season as a Bulls starter.

Cleveland Cavaliers

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    David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

    PG: Kyrie Irving
    SG:
    Dion Waiters
    SF:
    Earl Clark
    PF: Tristan Thompson
    C:
    Anderson Varejao

    The Cleveland Cavaliers will enter opening night with their starting backcourt set in stone and their starting frontcourt potentially in flux.

    Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters have a firm hold on the starting point guard and shooting guard positions, respectively, as the Cavs spent top-five draft picks in back-to-back years on both.

    At the other end of the starting lineup spectrum, center remains the biggest opening-night question for Cleveland. If Andrew Bynum isn't cleared by team doctors, which currently appears likely, Anderson Varejao will likely slide in as the starting center.

    Earl Clark and Tristan Thompson will enter the season as the Cavs' starting small forward and power forward, respectively, in all likelihood, but Anthony Bennett, the No. 1 pick in the 2013 draft, could factor in, too.

Dallas Mavericks

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    PG: Jose Calderon
    SG:
    Monta Ellis
    SF:
    Shawn Marion
    PF:
    Dirk Nowitzki
    C:
    Samuel Dalembert

    For those who haven't seen the Dallas Mavericks since the end of the 2012-13 season, they'll be hardly recognizable on opening night.

    Shawn Marion and Dirk Nowitzki will pick up right where they left off as the team's starting small forward and power forward. It's the other three positions where the Mavericks underwent a major offseason overhaul.

    Darren Collison, O.J. Mayo and Chris Kaman, who all ranked among the Mavs' top seven in terms of minutes played last year, each departed Dallas this summer. In their places will be Jose Calderon, Monta Ellis and Samuel Dalembert, respectively.

    Integrating that many new starters at once could prove challenging for the Mavericks, especially early in the season. As they grow more comfortable with one another, though, don't count the Mavs out as a fringe playoff contender in the Western Conference.

Denver Nuggets

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    PG: Ty Lawson
    SG:
    Randy Foye
    SF:
    Wilson Chandler
    PF:
    Kenneth Faried
    C:
    JaVale McGee

    The Denver Nuggets underwent significant behind-the-scenes changes during the 2013 offseason, losing both head coach George Karl and general manager Masai Ujiri.

    On the court, however, their starting five won't look dramatically different from last year, with one glaring exception.

    Andre Iguodala's free-agent departure to Golden State left the Nuggets with a glaring void to fill at the starting shooting guard position. Randy Foye, who started 72 games for the Utah Jazz in 2012-13, enters the year as the presumptive starting 2 favorite, although Evan Fournier could throw a wrench into those plans.

    The only other major question mark for the Nuggets is the health of Danilo Gallinari, who tore his ACL late in the 2012-13 regular season. Gallinari plans on returning to the court toward the end of November, per Sportando.net, leaving Wilson Chandler as their best opening-night starting option at the 3.

Detroit Pistons

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    PG: Chauncey Billups 
    SG: 
    Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
    SF:
    Josh Smith
    PF:
    Greg Monroe
    C:
    Andre Drummond

    The Detroit Pistons entered 2013 training camp with four of their five starting spots set in stone and the fifth completely wide open.

    After signing Josh Smith in free agency and trading for Brandon Jennings, the Pistons had their starters at point guard (Jennings), small forward (Smith), power forward (Greg Monroe) and center (Andre Drummond) locked in.

    However, on Oct. 15, Vincent Goodwill of The Detroit News reported that an impacted tooth will sideline Jennings for the next three weeks, putting his availability for opening night in doubt. That means Chauncey Billups, who likely would have earned the opening-night shooting guard role next to a healthy Jennings, will presumably slide over to PG.

    That leaves Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Kyle Singler to battle it out for the opening-night starting 2 spot, as Rodney Stuckey's broken thumb has him out of the running. Pistons coach Mo Cheeks might have no other option but to start the rookie and live with his growing pains until Stuckey and/or Jennings return.

     

Golden State Warriors

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    PG: Stephen Curry
    SG:
    Klay Thompson
    SF:
    Andre Iguodala
    PF:
    David Lee
    C:
    Andrew Bogut

    The Golden State Warriors find themselves with a plethora of riches heading into the 2013-14 season. It's a great problem to have if you're a Dubs fan.

    Stephen Curry and Andrew Bogut have the team's starting point guard and center spots locked down, but there's some wiggle room at the remaining three positions.

    The offseason addition of Andre Iguodala allows the Warriors to throw out all sorts of different looks at the 2, 3 and 4. Klay Thompson, Iguodala and David Lee will likely fill out those three positions on opening night, but Harrison Barnes could factor in, too.

    The Warriors hit a new gear during the 2013 playoffs when Lee went down with a torn hip flexor and Barnes subbed in as the starting 4, which didn't bode well for Lee's future with Golden State. But the team needs to keep Lee in the starting lineup, at least at first, to bolster his trade value.

Houston Rockets

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    PG: Jeremy Lin
    SG:
    James Harden
    SF:
    Chandler Parsons
    PF:
    Donatas Motiejunas
    C:
    Dwight Howard

    The Houston Rockets, like the Golden State Warriors, enter the 2013-14 season with too many legitimate starting options for their own good.

    Jeremy Lin and James Harden should fill out their opening-night starting backcourt, with Patrick Beverley's bulldog-esque defense coming off the bench. Chandler Parsons, also known as the NBA's biggest bargain, will almost assuredly start at the 3.

    It's the frontcourt where things start to get messy for Houston. The offseason addition of Dwight Howard creates a logjam at the starting center spot unless the Rockets pull off a surprise trade between now and opening night.

    Considering how much of an offensive liability the pairing of Howard and Omer Asik would be, expect Asik to come off the bench at first. Instead, a floor-spacer like Donatas Motiejunas will almost assuredly get the nod as the starting 4 on opening night.

Indiana Pacers

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    PG: George Hill
    SG:
    Lance Stephenson
    SF:
    Paul George
    PF:
    David West
    C: Roy Hibbert

    After re-signing David West to a three-year, $36 million deal in the offseason, the Indiana Pacers have the luxury of returning all five members of their starting lineup from last year.

    Seeing as those starters pushed the Miami Heat to the brink of defeat in the 2013 Eastern Conference Finals, the Pacers find themselves in a position of power this season.

    George Hill, Paul George, West and Roy Hibbert are all locks for the opening-night starting lineup, leaving shooting guard the only potential question.

    Lance Stephenson should have the edge as the starting 2, if only for what he brings on defense. But the return of Danny Granger, who missed all but five games last year due to an assortment of injuries, could cause Pacers coach Frank Vogel to do some lineup shuffling before the start of the season.

Los Angeles Clippers

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    PG: Chris Paul
    SG:
    J.J. Redick
    SF:
    Jared Dudley
    PF:
    Blake Griffin
    C:
    DeAndre Jordan

    The Los Angeles Clippers pulled off a rare feat this summer, making significant improvements to their championship-contention chances both on and off the court.

    The acquisition of new head coach Doc Rivers drew most of the headlines this summer, but don't sleep on the additions of J.J. Redick and Jared Dudley.

    Both players are strong three-point shooters who can hold their own defensively, too, which will be a perfect fit alongside the Clippers' three incumbent starters.

    Since the start of training camp, Rivers has been touting the trio of Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan as the Clippers' "Big Three," per Arash Markazi of ESPN Los Angeles. If they can mesh quickly with Dudley and Redick, the rest of the league should be on notice.

Los Angeles Lakers

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    PG: Steve Nash
    SG:
    Jodie Meeks
    SF:
    Nick Young
    PF:
    Pau Gasol
    C:
    Chris Kaman

    Until Kobe Bryant returns from his torn Achilles tendon, his absence will loom large over the Los Angeles Lakers.

    But with or without Bryant, the Lakers still must field a starting five for their opening night Battle for Los Angeles against the Clippers.

    Assuming he's healthy, Steve Nash will get the nod as the opening-night starting point guard, with Steve Blake waiting in the wings if Nash can't go. Jodie Meeks will fill out the backcourt as the Lakers' starting 2 if Kobe isn't ready to return by opening night.

    The Lakers' frontcourt doesn't have nearly as much uncertainty surrounding it, as Nick Young, Pau Gasol and Chris Kaman should start at the 3, 4 and 5, respectively. Wesley Johnson could pressure Young for the starting small forward spot, but without Kobe, the Lakers will likely need Young to be their primary offensive option on the wing. (BOMBS AWAY!)

Memphis Grizzlies

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    PG: Mike Conley
    SG:
    Tony Allen
    SF:
    Tayshaun Prince
    PF:
    Zach Randolph
    C:
    Marc Gasol

    The Memphis Grizzlies have one of the easiest opening-night starting fives to project, as nothing will change from the 2012-13 season.

    The offseason addition of Mike Miller isn't enough to push Tony Allen out of the starting 2 spot. Miller can't handle the grind of 30-plus minutes per night anymore, but even if he could, Allen's lockdown defensive ability would give him the edge as the starter.

    There's nothing to consider in the Grizzlies' frontcourt, as the team has built its identity around the pairing of Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol. Barring an unforeseen injury, neither player will be in danger of losing his starting spot all season, much less by opening night.

    Theoretically, Tayshaun Prince would be the projected starter who's most vulnerable to losing his starting spot. But the Grizzlies don't exactly have a viable alternative (no offense, Quincy Pondexter), which leaves Prince's starting 3 job safe.

Miami Heat

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    PG: Mario Chalmers
    SG:
    Dwyane Wade
    SF:
    LeBron James
    PF:
    Udonis Haslem
    C:
    Chris Bosh

    The Miami Heat, fresh off back-to-back championships, have little reason to shake up their starting lineup by opening night.

    On lesser teams, Norris Cole, Ray Allen, Michael Beasley, Chris "Birdman" Andersen and Greg Oden would all merit legitimate consideration as potential starters. That speaks to just how loaded the Heat are heading into the 2013-14 season.

    If Oden's knees hold up, it wouldn't be unfathomable to see the Heat move Udonis Haslem to the bench, slide Chris Bosh to the 4 and slot Oden in as their starting center at some point. Seven-footers with back-to-the-basket skills don't exactly grow on trees, after all.

    The Heat don't intend to push Oden, though, as they'd much prefer having him healthy and available come playoff time. That means Haslem's starting spot should be safe for the time being, even though neither he nor Bosh are "true" centers.

Milwaukee Bucks

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    PG: Brandon Knight
    SG: O.J. Mayo
    SF:
    Caron Butler
    PF:
    Ersan Ilyasova
    C:
    Larry Sanders

    Despite a bevy of offseason moves, the Milwaukee Bucks' ceiling hasn't risen heading into the 2013-14 season. They appear to be a first-round playoff knockout waiting to happen.

    This summer, the Bucks traded starting point guard Brandon Jennings to the Detroit Pistons in exchange for Brandon Knight, Khris Middleton and Viacheslav Kravtsov. With Jennings gone, Knight will earn the starting PG spot by default.

    He'll be joined in the backcourt by O.J. Mayo, whom the Bucks signed to a three-year, $24 million deal during free agency. Milwaukee will round out its starting wing rotation with Caron Butler, whom it acquired from Phoenix for Kravstov and Ish Smith, in late August.

    The opening-night starting frontcourt won't look any different than it did at the end of the 2012-13 season, with Ersan Ilyasova at the 4 and Larry Sanders at the 5. Ilyasova provides more floor-spacing ability than John Henson, which gives him the edge for the starting job.

Minnesota Timberwolves

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    PG: Ricky Rubio
    SG:
    Kevin Martin
    SF:
    Corey Brewer
    PF:
    Kevin Love
    C:
    Nikola Pekovic

    If the Minnesota Timberwolves can stay healthy in 2013-14, their starting five could actually be one of the top 10 in the league.

    Ricky Rubio, Kevin Love and Nikola Pekovic all battled through an assortment of ailments last season, which limited them to a grand total of 13 minutes together, per NBAwowy.com. That fact alone was enough to doom Minnesota's 2013 playoff chances.

    This year, all three players entered training camp with no lingering health concerns, which bodes well for their chances of, you know, actually playing together.

    Joining them in the opening-night starting lineup will be Kevin Martin, whom Minnesota acquired in a sign-and-trade (four years, $28 million), and Corey Brewer, who inked a three-year, $15 million deal as a free agent.

New Orleans Pelicans

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    PG: Jrue Holiday
    SG: Eric Gordon
    SF:
    Al-Farouq Aminu
    PF:
    Anthony Davis
    C:
    Greg Stiemsma

    The New Orleans Pelicans' opening-night starting five might be the NBA's most difficult lineup to project.

    Let's start with what we know: Jrue Holiday and Anthony Davis will be out there as the starting point guard and power forward, respectively. It's the other three positions that have some uncertainty surrounding them.

    After having offseason ankle surgery, Eric Gordon just went through his first full-contact practice on Oct. 14. There's no telling yet whether he'll be ready to play by opening night, which could leave a gaping hole at shooting guard.

    At small forward, Pelicans coach Monty Williams revealed his plan to bring Tyreke Evans off the bench right at the beginning of training camp, per the Associated Press. That leaves Al-Farouq Aminu as the likely starter, as he's a perfect low-usage fit next to Holiday and Gordon.

    As for the starting center, it really comes down to a battle between Jason Smith and Greg Stiemsma. Williams told The Times-Picayune that he likes the idea of Smith coming off the bench with Evans and Ryan Anderson, leaving Stiemsma as the nominal opening-night starter.

New York Knicks

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    Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

    PG: Raymond Felton
    SG:
    Iman Shumpert
    SF:
    Carmelo Anthony
    PF:
    Andrea Bargnani
    C:
    Tyson Chandler

    The New York Knicks made one of the most inexplicable moves of the 2013 offseason by trading with the Toronto Raptors for Andrea Bargnani.

    Typically, trading for a former No. 1 pick wouldn't come with major reservations. For the Knicks, however, Bargnani's presence threatens to complicate what fueled the Knicks' success during the 2012-13 season: Carmelo Anthony at the 4.

    Anthony's long-range shooting prowess forces opposing power forwards out of their comfort zones defensively, which opens up the floor for his teammates. If he's starting alongside Bargnani and Tyson Chandler, however, opponents could have more success defensively.

    The Knicks' backcourt of Raymond Felton and Iman Shumpert should be pretty set in stone, especially considering J.R. Smith will a) be recovering from offseason surgery to start the season and b) be suspended for the first five games after his return.

Oklahoma City Thunder

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    PG: Reggie Jackson
    SG:
    Thabo Sefolosha
    SF:
    Kevin Durant
    PF:
    Serge Ibaka
    C:
    Kendrick Perkins

    When Russell Westbrook tore his meniscus in the second game of the 2013 playoffs, Reggie Jackson was thrown right into the fire as the Oklahoma City Thunder's starting point guard.

    That should only help Jackson in 2013-14, as Westbrook is expected to miss the first four to six weeks of the season after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery in early October.

    The rest of the Thunder's starting lineup will remain exactly as it's been since the rise of the Westbrook-Kevin Durant heyday. Thabo Sefolosha will be the team's starting 2, with Jeremy Lamb providing scoring punch off the bench, Durant will start at the 3 and Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins will round out the team's opening-night starting frontcourt.

    Westbrook's eventual return will allow Thunder coach Scott Brooks to begin trotting out more unconventional lineups, such as playing Durant at the 4 and Ibaka at the 5. Until then, though, the Thunder must place a premium on defense with one of their best scorers missing.

Orlando Magic

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    PG: Jameer Nelson
    SG:
    Arron Afflalo
    SF:
    Mo Harkless
    PF:
    Tobias Harris
    C:
    Nikola Vucevic

    The Orlando Magic's opening-night starting lineup likely won't be the one they trot out for most of the 2013-14 season.

    After undergoing two surgeries on his foot earlier this year, Glen Davis isn't rushing his return to the court, per Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel. Whenever he does come back, however, he's likely to be tabbed as the team's starting power forward.

    Until that time, the Magic will likely trot out Mo Harkless as their starting 3 and Tobias Harris, who exploded after the 2013 All-Star break, as their opening-night power forward. Nikola Vucevic, who had a breakout season in his own right last year, will round out the frontcourt.

    As for the backcourt, Jameer Nelson appears likely to ward off rookie Victor Oladipo for the opening-night point guard spot. Arron Afflalo should get the nod as the starting 2, as he'll provide better floor spacing than Oladipo at first.

Philadelphia 76ers

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    PG: Michael Carter-Williams
    SG:
    James Anderson
    SF:
    Evan Turner
    PF:
    Thaddeus Young
    C:
    Spencer Hawes

    The starting lineup the Philadelphia 76ers will trot out on opening night could easily be mistaken for a D-League roster.

    The Sixers' frontcourt won't be a total dumpster fire with Thaddeus Young at the 4 and Spencer Hawes at the 5, but that's where the positives end for Philly.

    Evan Turner should earn the starting 3 spot by default for the Sixers, but that's not saying much. With only one year separating him from restricted free agency, the team essentially needs to showcase him as much as possible to bolster his nearly nonexistent trade value.

    As for the backcourt...it's a complete and utter disaster. A turnover-prone rookie (Michael Carter-Williams) and a guy who hardly earned spot minutes in Houston and San Antonio last season (James Anderson) are the favorites to lead the way on opening night. That just about says everything you need to know about the 2013-14 76ers.

Phoenix Suns

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    PG: Goran Dragic
    SG:
    Eric Bledsoe
    SF:
    Gerald Green
    PF:
    Marcus Morris
    C: Marcin Gortat

    For a team that's pretty blatantly "Riggin' for Wiggins," the Phoenix Suns should at least be entertaining to watch during the 2013-14 season.

    Their starting backcourt combo of Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe could go any number of ways. Bledsoe's ability to hound opposing guards defensively is second to none, but he's not a strong outside shooter, which makes him somewhat of an awkward fit next to Dragic.

    In the frontcourt, Marcin Gortat should have the opening-night starting center job locked up, while the power forward spot could come down to a choice between two twin brothers, Marcus and Markieff Morris. Marcus seemingly has the edge because he's a slightly better three-point shooter than his brother, and the Suns need all the floor spacing they can get.

    The starting small forward position will come down to either Gerald Green or P.J. Tucker, and either realistically could seize the job by opening night. My money's on Green, but their respective preseason performances will go a long way toward determining who gets the nod.

Portland Trail Blazers

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    PG: Damian Lillard
    SG:
    Wesley Matthews
    SF:
    Nicolas Batum
    PF:
    LaMarcus Aldridge
    C:
    Robin Lopez

    For a team that's seemingly in the midst of a rebuild, the Portland Trail Blazers have surprisingly few holes in their starting lineup.

    The Blazers appear to have struck gold with point guard Damian Lillard, the No. 6 pick in the 2012 draft, who went on to win last year's Rookie of the Year award. He'll start the season next to Wesley Matthews, as rookie C.J. McCollum is out indefinitely due to a fractured foot.

    At small forward, fantasy basketball star Nicolas Batum shouldn't have much trouble fending off the likes of Dorell Wright and Victor Claver. And the frontcourt is the easiest of all to project, with LaMarcus Aldridge and Robin Lopez shoo-ins for the starting 4 and 5 spots.

    If you're looking for a sleeper playoff team in the Western Conference, look no further than the Blazers. They've got a relatively strong starting five and some decent depth coming off the bench, too.

Sacramento Kings

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    PG: Greivis Vasquez
    SG:
    Ben McLemore
    SF:
    John Salmons
    PF:
    Jason Thompson
    C:
    DeMarcus Cousins

    If I'm going to get one opening-night lineup projection horrendously wrong, it's likely going to be the Sacramento Kings.

    After signing a four-year maximum contract extension this offseason, DeMarcus Cousins will be plugged in as the team's starting 5. That much we know.

    The starting backcourt is slightly more difficult to project. Rookie Ben McElmore and Marcus Thornton are battling for the starting 2 spot, while Greivis Vasquez and Isaiah Thomas could both legitimately win the starting PG job.

    When you get to the team's two forward spots, it's anyone's best guess. If it's looking for defense at the 3, it'll go with Luc Richard Mbah a Moute; if it wants offense, it'll choose John Salmons or Travis Outlaw.

    Likewise, at the 4, it boils down to a choice between Jason Thompson and Patrick Patterson, as Carl Landry is out until 2014 due to a torn hip flexor. Either could realistically win the job at this point, as they've been switching between starting and coming off the bench in each of the Kings' first three preseason games.

San Antonio Spurs

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    PG: Tony Parker
    SG:
    Danny Green
    SF: Kawhi Leonard
    PF:
    Tim Duncan
    C:
    Tiago Splitter

    Unlike the Sacramento Kings, whose opening-night lineup remains very much up in the air, the San Antonio Spurs know exactly who they'll be trotting out on opening night.

    Re-signing Tiago Splitter to a four-year, $36 million deal this offseason allows the Spurs to keep the same starting five that got them within a minute of winning the 2013 NBA championship.

    Tony Parker, Danny Green and Kawhi Leonard will shoulder most of the starting lineup's offensive load, although both Splitter and Tim Duncan can do some damage down in the post, too.

    Unless an injury crops up between now and opening night, you can count on the Parker-Green-Leonard-Duncan-Splitter starting five being out there.

Toronto Raptors

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    PG: Kyle Lowry
    SG:
    DeMar DeRozan
    SF:
    Rudy Gay
    PF:
    Amir Johnson
    C:
    Jonas Valanciunas

    If their young starting lineup continues to improve, the Toronto Raptors could be sneaky good in the 2013-14 season.

    Rudy Gay may be the team's only 20-point-per-game scorer, but Jonas Valanciunas will determine just how far the Raptors can go this season. After a thoroughly dominant performance at the Las Vegas Summer League, Valanciunas appears primed for a breakout.

    Starting next to him at small forward and power forward, respectively, will be the aforementioned Gay and Amir Johnson. Steve Novak could be used as a stretch 4 at times, but the Raptors should prefer Johnson's defense in the opening minutes of each game.

    In the backcourt, the duo of Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan should have little difficulty retaining their starting spots for opening night. Keep an eye on Terrence Ross, though: He'll likely be pushing DeRozan for playing time in the not-too-distant future.

Utah Jazz

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    Melissa Majchrzak/Getty Images

    PG: John Lucas III
    SG:
    Alec Burks
    SF:
    Gordon Hayward
    PF:
    Derrick Favors
    C:
    Enes Kanter

    After allowing Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap to walk as free agents, the Utah Jazz's starting lineup will look dramatically different on opening night.

    Jefferson and Millsap will be replaced by Utah's two young big-man studs-in-the-making, Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter. Neither could carve out much playing time when Jefferson and Millsap were around, but each should see at least 30-35 minutes per game this season.

    Gordon Hayward, who should start at the 3 on opening night, will be relied upon as Utah's primary offensive option this season. He's less than 12 months away from reaching restricted free agency, so the Jazz this year need to determine whether he's a long-term building block.

    Utah's opening-night starting backcourt was shaping up to be one of the youngest in the league until rookie Trey Burke broke his thumb during the preseason. He's not expected to return until December at the earliest, according to ESPN, which leaves John Lucas III as the only other legitimate starting point guard option.

Washington Wizards

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    Ned Dishman/Getty Images

    PG: John Wall
    SG:
    Bradley Beal
    SF:
    Trevor Ariza
    PF:
    Jan Vesely
    C:
    Nene

    Speaking of injuries derailing a team's opening-night starting lineup plans...say hello to the Emeka Okafor-less Washington Wizards!

    Okafor is out indefinitely after being diagnosed with a herniated disc in his neck, leaving the Wizards woefully thin in the frontcourt. Instead of rolling out a Nene-Okafor pairing, they'll likely be forced to slide Nene to center and pray they can unearth a league-average power forward elsewhere.

    Kevin Seraphin, Jan Vesely, Trevor Booker and Al Harrington all should compete for minutes at the 4, making an opening-night prediction at this position virtually impossible at this point. Vesely got the starting nod in the Wizards' first two preseason games, so I'm going with him solely based on that.

    John Wall and Bradley Beal have the opening-night point guard and shooting guard positions locked up, but some uncertainty remains at the 3. Trevor Ariza, Martell Webster and rookie Otto Porter Jr. are all possibilities at this point, but just like Vesely, Ariza got the starting nod in the first two preseason games.

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