Ranking Each NBA Team's Starting 5

Daniel HudsonCorrespondent IIIDecember 20, 2011

Ranking Each NBA Team's Starting 5

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    To pique your Christmas Day appetite for sugar plums, candy canes and a little NBA action, why not take a look at how your team's starting five ranks against the rest of the league?

    I want to remind you that being named the best (or worst) starting five doesn't equate to winning it all (or coming in last).

    Let's be honest with ourselves. Outside of Dallas, who thought the Mavericks had the best starting five last year? They had a quality starting lineup, great bench contribution, solid coaching and timely shot-making.

    But having a great starting five is definitely one way to make it deep into the playoffs, especially during a shortened year. Take a look!

No. 30: Charlotte Bobcats

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    PG: D.J. Augustin

    SG: Gerald Henderson

    SF: Corey Maggette

    PF: Tyrus Thomas

    C: Boris Diaw

    Some team has to be last, and this year, it's the Charlotte Bobcats. Diaw should be playing power forward, and Gerald Henderson should be a backup. Get excited to see Kemba Walker off the bench, though.

No. 29: Cleveland Cavaliers

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    PG: Ramon Sessions

    SG: Anthony Parker

    SF: Omri Casspi

    PF: Antawn Jamison

    C: Anderson Varejao

    Like Charlotte, the Cleveland Cavaliers are looking toward the future. Kyrie Irving is a legitimate Rookie of the Year contender, but of the starting five, only Jamison and Varejao turn heads. That's not a good sign.

No. 28: Detroit Pistons

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    PG: Rodney Stuckey

    SG: Ben Gordon

    SF: Tayshaun Prince

    PF: Charlie Villanueva

    C: Greg Monroe

    It seems like if you're spending an early pick on a point guard, your starting five sucks. Just like Charlotte and Cleveland before them, the Detroit Pistons are waiting on Brandon Knight to mature. Until then, look for Monroe to break out at center.

No. 27: Toronto Raptors

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    PG: Jose Calderon

    SG: DeMar DeRozan

    SF: James Johnson

    PF: Amir Johnson

    C: Andrea Bargnani

    The Toronto Raptors are set at shooting guard and center. If DeRozan can add deeper shots to his game, he could be an All-Star. Calderon is an excellent passer but needs to grab a few more points this year.

No. 26: Utah Jazz

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    PG: Devin Harris

    SG: Raja Bell

    SF: C.J. Miles

    PF: Paul Millsap

    C: Al Jefferson

    Jefferson is a boss for the Utah Jazz, but Harris and Millsap are only B to B+ players. The shooting guard and small forward positions are weak as well. I'm looking long-term for Utah.

No. 25: Minnesota Timberwolves

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    PG: Ricky Rubio

    SG: Wesley Johnson

    SF: Michael Beasley

    PF: Kevin Love

    C: Darko Milicic

    The Minnesota Timberwolves lean on their all-world power forward, but can Beasley take the next step? Is Rubio going to be as good as advertised? Can Milicic add more offense? Too many questions.

No. 24: New Jersey Nets

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    PG: Deron Williams

    SG: Anthony Morrow

    SF: Damion James

    PF: Kris Humphries 

    C: Brook Lopez

    One of the best point guards in the game plays for the New Jersey Nets, but so does a seven-foot center who can only muster seven rebounds per game and Kim Kardashian's former hubby. So much randomness. The Nets are waiting to spend their dough.

No. 23: Houston Rockets

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    PG: Kyle Lowry

    SG: Kevin Martin

    SF: Chase Buddinger

    PF: Luis Scola

    C: Jordan Hill

    No one is talking about them, but the Houston Rockets have a formidable starting five. Lowry came into his own at the end of last season and Martin's and Scola's skills are undeniable. Hill is a rebounding machine just waiting to be unleashed.

No. 22: New Orleans Hornets

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    PG: Jarrett Jack

    SG: Eric Gordon

    SF: Trevor Ariza

    PF: Emeka Okafor

    C: Chris Kaman

    The New Orleans Hornets were a solid playoff contender with Chris Paul. Now they're a below-average team with a lot to prove. Jack hasn't been an unquestioned starter in many years, while Kaman is coming off an injury. Gordon needs to settle in quickly and take control.

No. 21: Washington Wizards

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    PG: John Wall

    SG: Nick Young

    SF: Rashard Lewis

    PF: Andray Blatche

    C: JaVale McGee

    Now here's a lineup I'm excited to see. Except for Lewis, the Washington Wizards' starting five is all 26 or younger and full of talent. If they can gel together, Washington will make a huge jump in the standings next year.

No. 20: Milwaukee Bucks

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    PG: Brandon Jennings

    SG: Mike Dunleavy

    SF: Stephen Jackson

    PF: Drew Gooden

    C: Andrew Bogut

    The Milwaukee Bucks were an impressive 10 games over .500 two years ago, and yet, they get very little airtime. They probably like that. Bogut needs to get back to scoring 14 points per game. While Jackson brings some cause for concern, they are well-balanced.

No. 19: Phoenix Suns

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    PG: Steve Nash

    SG: Jared Dudley

    SF: Grant Hill

    PF: Channing Frye

    C: Marcin Gortat

    This ranking for the Phoenix Suns is as much out of respect for Nash as anything. He's aging but is still the best passer in the NBA. Frye was money from three-point range last year, and Gortat will excel with a full season of starting.

No. 18: Philadelphia 76ers

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    PG: Jrue Holiday

    SG: Jodie Meeks

    SF: Andre Iguodala

    PF: Elton Brand

    C: Spencer Hawes

    Holliday broke out last season, while Iguodala stood out on a revived Philadelphia 76ers team. There are some questions about the frontcourt due to the age of one and the actual ability of the other. Evan Turner will battle Meeks for shooting guard responsibilities.

No. 17: Sacramento Kings

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    PG: Tyreke Evans

    SG: Marcus Thornton

    SF: John Salmons

    PF: J.J. Hickson

    C: DeMarcus Cousins

    Watch out for the Sacramento Kings. Evans is a bona fide scoring point guard, and Cousins is only going to get better. Hickson finally found his groove last year, while Thornton has the ability to score with the best of them. Rookie guard Jimmer Fredette could find plenty of minutes and an occasional start, too.

No. 16: Atlanta Hawks

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    PG: Jeff Teague

    SG: Joe Johnson

    SF: Marvin Williams

    PF: Josh Smith

    C: Al Horford

    The Atlanta Hawks are quietly one of the better teams in the East. They managed the fifth seed despite drops in points per game from Johnson and Horford, perhaps their two best players. Smith also got off to a hot start that was cooled as the year wore on. Keep an eye on the Hawks in a short season.

No. 15: Boston Celtics

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    PG: Rajon Rondo

    SG: Ray Allen

    SF: Paul Pierce

    PF: Kevin Garnett

    C: Jermaine O'Neal

    This might be the last year for the current Boston Celtics starting five to make a deep run into the playoffs. Like the Hawks, a short season for Pierce, Allen and Garnett will be very advantageous. I have no clue why Davis was traded or why Rondo was rumored to be in trade talks, but I'm no pro.

No. 14: San Antonio Spurs

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    PG: Tony Parker

    SG: Manu Ginobili

    SF: Richard Jefferson

    PF: DeJuan Blair

    C: Tim Duncan

    Last year's top seed in the West was worn down by the time they had to face the gritty, energetic Grizzlies in the playoffs. Once again, a shortened season is likely to help the knees of Ginobili, Jefferson and Duncan. The San Antonio Spurs are models of consistency and should always be feared.

No. 13: Orlando Magic

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    PG: Jameer Nelson

    SG: Jason Richardson

    SF: Hedo Turkoglu

    PF: Glen Davis

    C: Dwight Howard

    I never understand why players willingly leave a contender for the flashy lights of a big city with a terrible team, but that's what Howard apparently want(s)(ed)(?). If he stays, he'll lead a strong Orlando Magic starting five that introduces Davis into their mix. Stick with Orlando, Dwight.

No. 12: Dallas Mavericks

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    PG: Jason Kidd

    SG: Vince Carter

    SF: Lamar Odom

    PF: Dirk Nowitzki

    C: Brendan Haywood

    The defending champion Dallas Mavericks have successfully patched a good starting five together for the upcoming season. Odom has deserved to be a starter for years and will thrive with the passing ability of Kidd. The Mavs will need to find another three-point threat, but that can come off the bench.

No. 11: Golden State Warriors

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    PG: Stephen Curry

    SG: Monta Ellis

    SF: Dorell Wright

    PF: David Lee

    C: Andris Bierdrins

    I present to you the best-scoring starting five in the NBA, the Golden State Warriors. Curry can score like a shooting guard. Ellis can assist like a point guard. Wright can drain threes, and Lee adds 17 per night. With the addition of Brandon Rush to the roster, though, I'll be interested to see what becomes of Ellis.

No. 10: Indiana Pacers

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    PG: Darren Collison

    SG: Paul George

    SF: Danny Granger

    PF: David West

    C: Roy Hibbert

    I'm a believer in the Indiana Pacers. Top to bottom, they have one of the best starting fives in the league. They clearly think George can get the job done since they traded Brandon Rush, and if that's the case, they have as much potential at each position as any team.

No. 9: Denver Nuggets

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    PG: Ty Lawson

    SG: Arron Afflalo

    SF: Danilo Gallinari

    PF: Al Harrington

    C: Nene

    If this was a list of deepest teams in the NBA, the Denver Nuggets would be the top team. Still, they field a terrific starting group with the recent re-signing of Afflalo and Nene. Harrington needs to get back to scoring 14 to 15 points per night in order for the team to go far.

No. 8: Portland Trail Blazers

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    PG: Raymond Felton

    SG: Wesley Matthews

    SF: Gerald Wallace

    PF: LaMarcus Aldridge

    C: Marcus Camby

    The emergence of Aldridge sparked the rest of the Portland Trail Blazers to make the playoffs last year. Now with the addition of Felton and Wallace, they are throwing out a defensively disciplined, capable scoring lineup. Aldridge's heart issues are a cause for concern, but if that gets worked out, Portland should be ready for another playoff run.

No. 7: Memphis Grizzlies

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    PG: Mike Conley

    SG: O.J. Mayo

    SF: Rudy Gay

    PF: Zach Randolph

    C: Marc Gasol

    The Memphis Grizzlies showed the NBA what they can do last year. Conley and Mayo/Sam Young/Tony Allen provided enough outside support to make way for Randolph and Gasol underneath. Gay returns from injury, which will provide a huge boost to the Grizzlies' postseason hopes.

No. 6: Los Angeles Clippers

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    PG: Chris Paul

    SG: Chauncey Billups

    SF: Caron Butler

    PF: Blake Griffin

    C: DeAndre Jordon

    I was vehemently against the Los Angeles Clippers' trade for Paul at the beginning, but it's starting to grow on me. Billups is a capable shooter and is now the best passing 2-guard in the NBA. Butler was a beautiful signing, and Jordan will get more minutes to rebound and block shots. There's nothing new to add for Griffin...

    He's just a monster.

No. 5: Los Angeles Lakers

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    PG: Derek Fisher

    SG: Kobe Bryant

    SF: Matt Barnes

    PF: Pau Gasol

    C: Andrew Bynum

    While people are understandably gushing over the Clippers, the Los Angeles Lakers are still the better starting five. We get used to seeing Bryant fill it up every night and think 10 rebounds is easy for Gasol. If Bynum can stay healthy, the Lakers are still top dog in LA.

No. 4: Miami Heat

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    PG: Mario Chalmers

    SG: Dwayne Wade

    SF: LeBron James

    PF: Chris Bosh

    C: Joel Anthony

    The mediocrity of Chalmers and Anthony of the Miami Heat is more than compensated for by the Big Three of Wade, James and Bosh. They're great, and you know it. A year of playing together has only made them stronger.

No. 3: New York Knicks

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    PG: Baron Davis

    SG: Landry Fields

    SF: Carmelo Anthony

    PF: Amar'e Stoudemire

    C: Tyson Chandler

    When the New York Knicks signed Davis, their ranking in this list took a quantum leap. It's not that Davis is still a top-five point guard, because he's not. It's because he'll contribute seven assists per night from a position that would've been manned by Toney Douglas the entire year. He has to deal with an injury for the first several weeks, but you'll see the difference he makes.

No. 2: Oklahoma City Thunder

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    PG: Russell Westbrook

    SG: Thabo Sefolosha

    SF: Kevin Durant

    PF: Serge Ibaka

    C: Kendrick Perkins

    Westbrook and Durant have found a way not only to coexist but to improve one another. Ibaka is poised for a breakout season, and Sefolosha provides solid defense on this high-scoring offense. The Oklahoma City Thunder are the West's best starting five.

No. 1: Chicago Bulls

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    PG: Derrick Rose

    SG: Richard Hamilton

    SF: Luol Deng

    PF: Carlos Boozer

    C: Joakim Noah

    The best starting five is the Chicago Bulls. They are one of the few units that play as hard on the defensive end as the offensive, and their lineup is built perfectly to do so. A better shooting guard would make this ranking a no-contest, but in any event, they're tops.

    Enjoy the season, everyone!