Power Ranking Every Starting Lineup Post-NBA Trade Deadline

Greg Swartz@@CavsGregBRCleveland Cavaliers Lead WriterFebruary 11, 2019

Power Ranking Every Starting Lineup Post-NBA Trade Deadline

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    The 2019 NBA trade deadline did not disappoint.

    In total, 19 different teams took part in 14 trades, the most in the past 30 years. When the dust settled, a whopping 34 players had to pack their bags, make travel arrangements and find a new place to live.

    The Eastern Conference can now go all-in at the deadline with LeBron James in Los Angeles, as many of the teams that reside there did. The Golden State Warriors could trade a starter for you or I and still have one of the best, if not the best, starting fives in all of basketball. With all the recent shakeups, however, are they still at the top?

    The starting fives ranked below are based on current starters and exclude players who are out with long-term injuries. Although strong benches and the many talented players who fill them are (almost) just as important in real life, they were not taken into consideration for these rankings. Apologies to Lou Williams, Dwyane Wade, Montrezl Harrell, Domantas Sabonis and others.

    Heading toward the All-Star break and the stretch run of the regular season, here's how every team's starting five stacks up.

30-26. Suns, Knicks, Cavaliers, Hawks, Bulls

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    30. Suns

    Starting Five: Devin Booker, Tyler Johnson, Mikal Bridges, T.J. Warren, Deandre Ayton

    There's a lot of potential talent here, but most is still years away from fully developing. Phoenix still needs a point guard but appears to have franchise cornerstones with Booker and Ayton.

    Defensively, this may be the worst starting five in all of basketball right now. In 191 total minutes together this season, the Suns starters have a defensive rating of 121.6 and a net rating of minus-16.4, per NBA.com. Starting two-to-three rookies every night and no one over the age of 26 will do that to you.

    This could transform into one of the better starting units in the league in a few years, but for now, inexperience, no true floor general and the inability to guard anyone have done the Suns in.


    29. Knicks

    Starting Five: Dennis Smith Jr., Damyean Dotson, Mario Hezonja, Kevin Knox, DeAndre Jordan

    This starting five could look very, very different after free agency this summer.

    While Smith Jr. and Knox look to be part of the Knicks core and pitch to big free agents this summer, this isn't a unit that will challenge others on most nights. Enes Kanter was already bought out, and Jordan seemed to be a buyout candidate for a while as well after his trade from the Dallas Mavericks.

    We may see the occasional highlight plays from Smith Jr., Knox and Jordan for the next two months, but don't expect a lot of victories to accompany them.


    28. Cavaliers

    Starting Five: Collin Sexton, David Nwaba, Cedi Osman, Kevin Love, Tristan Thompson

    If not for the recent return of Kevin Love following a 50-game absence due to toe surgery, Cleveland could likely be last in these standings.

    After trading Kyle Korver, Rodney Hood and George Hill, combined with sending JR Smith home, the Cavaliers are super thin on the wing and relying on a 20-year-old rookie point guard for their scoring most nights. Injuries have forced players like Deng Adel, Jaron Blossomgame and Ante Zizic into the starting lineup for spurts this season, so consider the starting five listed above as a "best case" scenario.


    27. Hawks

    Starting Five: Trae Young, Kevin Huerter, Taurean Prince, John Collins, Dewayne Dedmon

    Young and Huerter will be a fun, offensive backcourt for years to come. Collins is quickly becoming a star, and Prince and Dedmon have performed admirably in a starting role.

    Like Phoenix, there's just not enough games under their collective belt yet. If not for Luka Doncic, Young would be making a strong case for Rookie of the Year with his 16.9 points and 7.5 assists per night. Huerter is nailing 40.4 percent of his three-pointers as a starter. Both are just 20 years old.

    While Atlanta hasn't been good, it's certainly improved after a 5-20 start to the season. Since Dec. 8, the Hawks have gone 13-17 overall, led by Collins' 20.3 points per game over that span.


    26. Bulls

    Starting Five: Kris Dunn, Zach LaVine, Otto Porter, Lauri Markkanen, Robin Lopez

    Otto Porter is off to a solid start with his new team, averaging 17.5 points on 54.2 percent shooting from the field in his first two games.

    While Porter, LaVine and Markkanen form a good wing to build on, the futures of Dunn and Lopez remain uncertain. Lopez, 30, remains a buyout candidate heading into unrestricted free agency. Dunn hasn't shown enough to warrant a contract extension quite yet, one that he's eligible to sign this summer.

    As Bulls executive vice president John Paxson told K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune:

    "We've said all along that this process is about learning who fits, who doesn't. We still like Kris a lot. I mean, he's had some ups and downs this year in terms of his consistency. And that's always a challenge for players. He's been competitive. He can still defend. And he's playing hard. So we're going to keep evaluating him."

    Not exactly a ringing endorsement of a starting point guard, but he remains Chicago's best option right now.

25-21. Mavericks, Clippers, Grizzlies, Pistons, Timberwolves

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    25. Dallas Mavericks

    Starting Five: Jalen Brunson, Luka Doncic, Tim Hardaway Jr., Dorian Finney-Smith, Maxi Kleber

    Only one original starter remains from the beginning of the year, as DeAndre Jordan, Dennis Smith Jr., Harrison Barnes and Wesley Matthews have all been traded in return for Kristaps Porzingis, Justin Jackson and salary relief this summer.

    While we won't see Porzingis this season, Dallas fans can delight in watching one of the best young players in the league today in Doncic.

    "For a 19-year-old, it's as good of an overall game as I've ever seen," teammate and 21-year NBA veteran Dirk Nowitzki told Bleacher Report. 

    The Mavericks aren't going to make the playoffs this season, and things will probably get worse before they get better as the team waits for Porzingis to heal from his ACL injury. Continuing to develop Doncic and seeing what Brunson, Finney-Smith and Kleber can provide in starting roles over the next two months will be important to the future in Dallas.


    24. Los Angeles Clippers

    Starting Five: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Patrick Beverley, Garrett Temple, Danilo Gallinari, Ivica Zubac

    The Clippers, despite holding a playoff spot nearly all season, have seemingly chosen the future over the present.

    Gone are Tobias Harris, Avery Bradley and Boban Marjanovic, flipped for draft picks and additional cap space this summer. Zubac, who was probably checking out real estate in New Orleans, gets to stay in L.A. and moves into a starting role following a trade over from the Lakers. The 21-year-old has put up 11.8 points and 7.1 rebound as a starter this season.

    Despite a huge comeback win over the Boston Celtics on Saturday night, look for the Clippers to slowly fall back in the Western Conference standings, given how much talent they traded.


    23. Memphis Grizzlies

    Starting Five: Mike Conley, Avery Bradley, Justin Holiday, Jaren Jackson Jr., Jonas Valanciunas

    The Grizzlies starting five took a huge hit with the trade of Marc Gasol to the Toronto Raptors, even if they got back Valanciunas to help fill his old spot.

    Keeping Conley was smart to help aid in the development of Jackson Jr., who should eventually become the team's full-time starting center. As usual in Memphis, there's just not enough talent on the wings to supplement the rest of the roster.

    But, hey, Chandler Parsons is apparently coming back after previously being asked to train on his own.  


    22. Detroit Pistons

    Starting Five: Reggie Jackson, Bruce Brown, Wayne Ellington, Blake Griffin, Andre Drummond

    While Griffin (26.1 points, 8.1 rebounds, 5.3 assists) and Drummond (17.1 points, 14.9 rebounds) have done their part to make this a playoff team, the rest of Detroit's roster is a mess.

    Despite being tied for the last playoff spot in the East, the Pistons sent starter Reggie Bullock to the Lakers for 21-year-old shooting guard Svi Mykhailiuk. Signing Wayne Ellington after he was waived by the Phoenix Suns will help, but this team still needs a lot more.

    Jackson and Brown are perhaps the worst starting backcourt in the league, as the two are combining to shoot a hair above 40 percent per game.


    21. Minnesota Timbewolves

    Starting Five: Jeff Teague, Andrew Wiggins, Robert Covington, Taj Gibson, Karl-Anthony Towns

    Last year at this time, the Wolves had a top-10 starting lineup, easily. The trade of Jimmy Butler and the disappointing play of Wiggins and Teague have since taken their toll.

    While Towns continues to put up monster numbers (23.1 points, 12.1 rebounds), he hasn't received much help. Covington and Derrick Rose missing time with injuries hasn't helped, and Dario Saric has yet to play his way into major rotation minutes.

    Overall, this five hasn't been bad (plus-3.2 net rating), but the team has performed far better with Rose starting in place of Covington (plus-13.1 net). 

20-16. Wizards, Magic, Heat, Hornets, Kings

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    20. Washington Wizards

    Starting Five: Tomas Satoransky, Bradley Beal, Trevor Ariza, Bobby Portis, Thomas Bryant

    No John Wall for the rest of this season (and possibly all of next) following a ruptured Achilles tendon really limits the potential of this group, even if they weren't playing all that great with him.

    After trading Otto Porter for Portis and Jabari Parker, the Wizards have flip-flopped between Portis and Jeff Green in their starting lineup. Portis should be the guy, given he just turned 24 and will be a restricted free agent this summer. Washington needs to see if he can become part of its future.

    The rest of the starting five is a weird mix of an All-Star (Beal), a past-his-prime veteran (Ariza), a backup forced into a starting role (Satoransky) and a young big with promise (Bryant). Toss all of this together, and it appears to be just another mess in Washington.


    19. Orlando Magic

    Starting Five: D.J. Augustin, Evan Fournier, Jonathan Isaac, Aaron Gordon, Nikola Vucevic

    Something will eventually have to give with Orlando's starting unit.

    While they've recorded a respectable net rating of plus-3.3 in 517 total minutes this season, the Magic have been far better when they play small. This means having to bench either Gordon or Isaac, two traditional power forwards who both need to see the court, just not at the same time.

    When Orlando plays Terrence Ross over Gordon, its net rating spikes to plus-6.2. When Ross plays over Isaac, it improves to plus-8.5. For now, Isaac would be best suited as the team's sixth man.  

    The wild card here is Markelle Fultz. After coming over via trade from the Philadelphia 76ers, Fultz's recovery from thoracic outlet syndrome and return to the play that made him the No. 1 pick in 2017 could give this starting five an incredible boost. 


    18. Miami Heat

    Starting Five: Justise Winslow, Dion Waiters, Josh Richardson, Kelly Olynyk, Hassan Whiteside

    A Winslow-Waiters backcourt is the latest experiment in Miami, as the Heat look to hold on to the final playoff spot in the East.

    Waiters, another ball-dominant guard, explained this dynamic to Anthony Chiang of the Miami Herald:

    "He's aggressive. He's still learning how to play the position a little bit. But he'll be fine. He does a great job of pushing the ball, tempo and things like that. It's all about playing off him, just figure out his tendencies and mine, J-Rich and things like that and getting acclimated with each other.

    "The way Justise is transforming at the one, you got to communicate things he likes to do off the ball because I like to have the ball also."

    Of course, this will likely change once Goran Dragic returns from knee surgery, possibly after the All-Star break. 


    17. Charlotte Hornets

    Starting Five: Kemba Walker, Jeremy Lamb, Nicolas Batum, Marvin Williams, Cody Zeller

    The Hornets were one of the teams in the Marc Gasol running, as the pairing of him and Walker would have seemingly made Charlotte a playoff lock. Instead, no Gasol means sticking with Zeller, who's officially entered draft bust status.

    Without Walker, this starting five would likely be a bottom-five unit. The 28-year-old All-Star is that good. Lamb (15.1 points per game) is having a nice season, but no one else can be relied on to score for Charlotte.

    One bright spot? Hornets starters are seventh overall in three-point percentage this season (37.2 percent) and seventh overall in free-throw accuracy (82.7 percent), per hoopsstats.com.


    16. Sacramento Kings

    Starting Five: De'Aaron Fox, Buddy Hield, Harrison Barnes, Nemanja Bjelica, Willie Cauley-Stein

    One of the more pleasant surprises this season, the Kings got a boost to their starting five with Barnes.

    The four-man lineup of Fox, Hield, Bjelica and Cauley-Stein is carrying a net rating of plus-4.1 this season. If Barnes can maintain his solid outside shooting (39.0 percent from three) and play good defense, this rating should only improve.

    The long-term projection on this five (with 2018 No. 2 overall pick Marvin Bagley III eventually taking over at power forward) is incredibly high. Even if they don't make the playoffs this season, consider the Kings an annual contender for years to come.

15-11. Pacers, Nets, Pelicans, Lakers, Spurs

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    15. Pacers

    Starting Five: Darren Collison, Wesley Matthews, Bojan Bogdanovic, Thaddeus Young, Myles Turner

    Indiana would easily be a top-10 starting five with a healthy Victor Oladipo, and the team has managed to stay afloat with Evans in his place. Wesley Matthews, fresh off a buyout with the New York Knicks, is on his way as well and expected to take over Oladipo's old spot.

    Despite the loss of Oladipo, team president Kevin Pritchard said the Pacers aren't about to throw in the towel, per J. Michael of the Indianapolis Star:

    "When Victor went down you could easily justify, let's take it back, let's look to the future. I don't like 'tank.' I don't like that word. We could've looked at that. That never got off anybody's tongue. We never thought about that. ... I spoke to the team today. I always speak to the team right after a trade deadline. The truth is I couldn't be more proud of this team. This team is competing their butts off. Maybe we're not the most talented team in the East but I can see it in their eyes. They feel like that they can compete with anybody."

    While Evans has struggled as a starter, the Pacers have won three in a row with him in that role and carry an impressive net rating of plus-12.2 with this five-man unit all season. Don't count Indiana out just yet.


    14. Nets

    Starting Five: D'Angelo Russell, Joe Harris, Caris LeVert, Rodions Kurucs, Jarrett Allen

    The return of LeVert from a right foot dislocation means a big boost to the Nets starting lineup.

    "I thought he looked good, looked athletic, he was athletic, came downhill like he does, make some passes," head coach Kenny Atkinson said, per Tom Dowd of BrooklynNets.com. "Obviously there were a few bumps here and there, but for the most part I think he was a plus-five on the sheet, so he had some positives tonight and played well.”

    LeVert (17.9 points, 4.1 rebounds, 3.7 assists) and Russell (19.8 points, 6.5 assists) are the primary building blocks for a Nets team that has surged to sixth place in the East.

    Harris has built himself into one of the NBA's best three-point shooters, while Allen has proved to fear no man at the rim with his shot-blocking abilities.

    Brooklyn is quickly becoming a team no one wants to face in the postseason and an enticing future home for this summer's free agents.


    13. Pelicans

    Starting Five: Jrue Holliday, Elfrid Payton, Darius Miller, Julius Randle, Anthony Davis

    New Orleans has the fourth-highest-scoring starting lineup in the NBA (84.9 points per game, per hoopsstats.com). It's also third in rebounding (32.8) and second in assists (20.1).

    So, why not rank the Pelicans higher?

    Davis is obviously the biggest reason for these numbers, and his playing time through these awkward next two months could vary. He was already held out of an entire fourth quarter, and ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reports Davis will see a reduction in minutes while playing fewer, if any, back-to-backs.

    New Orleans is already thin on the wing, and having Davis for limited minutes (or not at all on some nights) knocks it down a few spots here.


    12. Lakers

    Starting Five: Rajon Rondo, Brandon Ingram, LeBron James, Kyle Kuzma, JaVale McGee

    No Anthony Davis means this is still a middle-of-the-road lineup that's keeping its head above water simply because of James.

    Los Angeles did nothing at the trade deadline to show it's pushing for a championship this season with James at age 34, instead relying on internal growth and max cap space this summer. No word on what percentage that cap space is shooting from three this season.

    Rondo keeps the seat warm at point guard until Lonzo Ball returns, which may not be until March. If James can somehow carry this starting five into the Finals, it may be the most impressive feat of his career.


    11. Spurs

    Starting Five: Bryn Forbes, DeMar DeRozan, Rudy Gay, Davis Bertans, LaMarcus Aldridge

    San Antonio remains an extremely efficient group, even as the roster drifts further and further away from the championship version of yesteryear.

    Spurs starters are third in three-point shooting (39.9 percent, per hoopsstats.com), fourth in field-goal percentage (48.8 percent) and fourth in free-throw percentage (83.5 percent).

    DeRozan and Aldridge are both scoring at least 21.0 points per game, and Gay has surprised with his 14.4 points on a career-high 43.0 percent shooting from three. Had Dejounte Murray not torn his ACL before the start of the season, this would be a top-10 unit.

10. Portland Trail Blazers

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    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    Starting Five: Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum, Maurice Harkless, Al-Farouq Aminu, Jusuf Nurkic

    Portland didn't make any changes to the starting lineup, unless newly acquired Rodney Hood plays well enough to change that.

    Hood was brought over from the Cleveland Cavaliers for 2021 and 2023 second-round picks, as well as Wade Baldwin and Nik Stauskas.

    Hood, 26, will be an unrestricted free agent this summer. He'll only have a short amount of time to try to force his way into the starting lineup at small forward and earn a significant raise this summer.

    "He was really good," Lillard said following Hood's first game with the team, per Joe Freeman of The Oregonian.

    "It's always tough for players to come into a new team, try to find where you fit in, where your shots are going to come from … how can you be effective. He was patient … but he was aggressive at the same time. I think he showed the kind of impact he can have on our team, the kind of things he can bring to the table."

    Lillard and McCollum continue to form one of the NBA's best backcourts, and Nurkic is enjoying a career year (15.2 points, 10.2 rebounds, 3.3 assists). Hood should be an upgrade over Harkless in the starting lineup, unless head coach Terry Stotts prefers his scoring off the bench.

    "Honestly, it's going to be challenging for everybody," Stotts said. "It's going to be a challenge for me. It's going to be a challenge for the team. We kind of had a rhythm to what we were doing, and that rhythm has been broken, and everybody is just going to have to be patient (and) figure it out. One night, it's going to be one thing. And maybe the next night it won't. That's just the way it's going to be until it changes."

    The Blazers' starting unit is good enough to grab home-court advantage in the West. Can their bench say the same?

9. Denver Nuggets

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    Rocky Widner/Getty Images

    Starting Five: Jamal Murray, Malik Beasley, Will Barton, Paul Millsap, Nikola Jokic

    Injuries have plagued the Nuggets all season, yet they sit just 2.5 games behind the Golden State Warriors for the No. 1 seed in the West. If this team had a healthy Gary Harris and Millsap all season, there's no reason to believe they shouldn't be in first.

    Still, this has been an impressive opening unit no matter who they've went with. Jokic should be in the MVP discussion, and has deservedly made his first All-Star Game while averaging 20.4 points, 10.5 rebounds, 7.7 assists and 1.4 steals per game. He leads the Nuggets in all four categories.

    At just 21, Murray is enjoying a career year with 18.6 points and 5.0 assists, carrying an increased workload with Harris sidelined. His backcourt mate, Beasley, is putting up 17.3 points in 12 starts while shooting 50.6 percent from three.

    More help is coming.

    Veteran point guard Isaiah Thomas should be back as early as this week, and Harris is listed as day-to-day with a groin injury.

    While the Nuggets bench has stepped up admirably when called upon, a healthy Harris at shooting guard would move this starting lineup up a few spots.

8. Utah Jazz

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    Starting Five: Ricky Rubio, Donovan Mitchell, Joe Ingles, Derrick Favors, Rudy Gobert

    The Jazz send out one of the stingiest defensive starting fives in the NBA, and it's not even their best unit overall.

    With Favors at power forward, the Jazz starters register a net rating of plus-3.3 in 342 total minutes, headlined by a sparking defensive rating of 97.5.

    While this is good, the combination of Rubio, Mitchell, Ingles and Gobert actually operate better with Jae Crowder instead of Favors. This five has combined for a net of plus-13.8, which would stand as one of the best in the league. Utah gets a bit smaller, quicker and spaces the floor better with Crowder in for Favors.

    We could eventually see Crowder, or even Royce O'Neale, taking over this starting role at some point.

    "It could be a different guy every night," head coach Quin Snyder said, via Eric Walden of the Salt Lake Tribune. "Fav played great, attacking the middle of the zone in pick-and-roll. And obviously, we started Jae in the second half, which we've done on a number of occasions this year as well. Every game is different. Royce obviously did a great job."

    No matter who they start at power forward, the combination of Mitchell and Gobert will keep this team a nightmare to face on both sides of the ball.

7. Boston Celtics

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    Starting Five: Kyrie Irving, Marcus Smart, Jayson Tatum, Marcus Morris, Al Horford

    After beginning the year with Gordon Hayward and Jaylen Brown in the starting lineup, Boston has found a lineup that works together better while sacrificing star power.

    With Smart and Morris as starters, the Celtics have an impressive plus-11.9 net rating, compared to the minus-2.8 with Hayward and Brown.

    While the starting lineup has been great, some turmoil has crept into the Celtics as a whole, especially after blowing a 28-point lead to what's left of the Los Angeles Clippers on Feb. 9.

    "For me, it's not really about the loss, it's about the attitude that we're playing with," Morris told reporters in the locker room. "Guys are hanging their heads. It's not fun. We're not competing at a high level. Even though we're winning, it's still not fun. I don't see the joy in the game.

    "I watch all these other teams around the league, and guys are up on the bench—they're jumping on the court, they're enjoying their teammates' success. They're enjoying everything, they're playing together, and they're playing to win. And when I look at us, I just see a bunch of individuals." 

    Unlike their competition at the top of the East, the Celtics failed to make any major trade-deadline moves.

    Going back to Smart or Hayward in the starting lineup to shake things up is an option, but it appears Boston may already be using its best starting five.

6. Oklahoma City Thunder

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    Sue Ogrocki/Associated Press

    Starting Five: Russell Westbrook, Terrance Ferguson, Paul George, Jerami Grant, Steven Adams

    With two All-Stars in their opening lineup, it's easy to see why Oklahoma City ranks so high here.

    Westbrook (21.1 points, 11.1 rebounds, 11.2 assists) is quietly going to average a triple-double for the third straight season. George (28.3 points, 7.9 rebounds, 4.0 assists) is in the MVP conversation while putting up the best numbers of his career.

    The Thunder starters rank first in rebounding (34.9, per Hoops Stats) and steals (7.6) while averaging more minutes (32.1) than any team outside of the Houston Rockets.

    Grant has been a pleasant surprise as a springy stretch forward, averaging 13.1 points, 5.1 rebounds and 1.4 blocks per game. Adams continues to anchor the defense, all while averaging career bests in points (15.0), rebounds (9.7), assists (1.7) and steals (1.5). Ferguson works as a three-and-D shooting guard and has plenty of room to develop at age 20.

    When this group takes the floor together, they're an elite unit with a plus-13.6 net rating.

5. Houston Rockets

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    Starting Five: Chris Paul, James Harden, Iman Shumpert, PJ Tucker, Kenneth Faried

    Harden surrounded by four guys from your local YMCA could still earn a high placement on this list given how much offensive load he shoulders.

    The front-runner for MVP, Harden is putting up 36.6 points per game while adding 6.7 rebounds and 7.8 assists. His play with Paul out this season not only kept Houston's chances alive but elevated the Rockets to fifth in the Western Conference.

    No team uses its starters more than the Rockets (33.6 minutes per night, via Hoops Stats), and Houston also ranks first in three-pointers made (10.9) among starters while coming in second in scoring (86.6).

    The return of Clint Capela (17.6 points, 12.6 rebounds, 1.8 blocks) will only help, even though Faried (16.2 points, 10.4 rebounds) has been great filling in as the team's starting center.

    Getting Iman Shumpert from the Sacramento Kings will help, as his two-way potential helped win the Cleveland Cavaliers a championship in 2016.

4. Milwaukee Bucks

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    Mike Roemer/Associated Press

    Starting Five: Eric Bledsoe, Malcolm Brogdon, Khris Middleton, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Brook Lopez

    The Bucks didn't make any changes to their starting lineup following the trade deadline, and at an NBA-best 41-14, they didn't need to.

    Trading for power forward Nikola Mirotic from the New Orleans Pelicans does give them the option of opening big with Antetokounmpo shifting up to small forward and sending Brogdon to the bench. Mirotic is currently sidelined with a calf strain.

    If not for Harden, Antetokounmpo would be the overwhelming leader for MVP with his 27.0 points, 12.5 rebounds, 5.8 assists and 1.4 blocks per game. Even with Harden's NBA-best 36.6 points per game, Antetokounmpo may take home the award.

    Middleton remains one of the NBA's more underrated players, even if he was named to the All-Star team this year. 

    Lopez brought a whole new level to the team's floor spacing, which has helped lead to the starters' 85.9 points per game, third overall in the NBA.

    With Bledsoe, Lopez, Middleton and Brodgon (restricted) heading into free agency this summer, this may be the last time we see all five Bucks starters together.

3. Toronto Raptors

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    Nathaniel S. Butler/Getty Images

    Starting Five: Kyle Lowry, Danny Green, Kawhi Leonard, Pascal Siakam, Marc Gasol

    After trading for Gasol at the deadline, it's hard to find a weakness in this opening five.

    Yes, Lowry and Gasol are slightly past their primes, but they are still playing at a high level. Leonard (26.9 points, 7.8 rebounds, 3.2 assists) is enjoying the best season of his career. Siakam (15.6 points, 7.0 rebounds) is one of the biggest surprises of the season and can switch on to nearly any offensive player. Green is nailing three-pointers at a 42.1 percent clip.

    Putting Gasol with these four doesn't seem fair. 

    Toronto can add another chapter to its offensive playbook with Gasol working out of the elbow and facilitating for others. 

    "Phenomenal player and really, I think, a winner that hopefully can come and make an impact," team president Masai Ujiri said, per Bruce Arthur of the Toronto Star. "I think these guys have some solid years ahead of them. We'll see how it goes. We always have to think about the future with this team. Obviously Kawhi has his (free agency) decision to make at the end of the season, and we'll go from there."

    Shooting. Defense. Playmaking. You name it and this starting five has it.

2. Philadelphia 76ers

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    Starting Five: Ben Simmons, JJ Redick, Jimmy Butler, Tobias Harris, Joel Embiid

    It may take some time to jell, but Philadelphia now has the most talented starting lineup in the Eastern Conference.

    Embiid, Simmons and Redick won a playoff round by themselves a season ago. Imagine what adding Butler and Harris will do.

    The four-man unit of Simmons, Embiid, Butler and Redick is posting a net rating of plus-14.1 this season, and they just added a 20-point-per-game power forward who's shooting 43.4 percent from deep and is phenomenal in the pick-and-roll.

    "Joel Embiid, seeing his growth. Ben Simmons, seeing his growth," general manager Elton Brand said, per Noah Levick of NBC Sports Philadelphia. "They're rapidly improved over the past season. The window is now. Our opportunity is now. So once I saw that window, we discussed taking a shot at it now, because who knows how long this window is going to be open."

    The 76ers have all five starters capable of putting up 20 points on any given night. Embiid and Butler are elite defenders, and Simmons has the potential to turn into one.

1. Golden State Warriors

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    Starting Five: Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Kevin Durant, Draymond Green, DeMarcus Cousins

    With only three All-Stars this season, the Warriors are having a "down" year.

    The return of Cousins (14.9 points, 6.9 rebounds, 3.9 assists) makes this team seem even more unfair. When he starts playing more than 25 minutes per night, things will only get tougher for opponents.

    Both Curry (28.7 points, 5.4 assists) and Durant (27.3 points, 7.1 rebounds, 6.3 assists) are putting up MVP-like numbers, while Thompson (22.0 points) is still getting enough touches to earn an All-Star trip.

    As Dwyane Wade said, "That is as good as it gets in our game with any team ever to play this game."

    Other teams looking to take over this spot will have to wait until summer and hope for the best when Durant, Cousins and Thompson can all become unrestricted free agents.

    For now, the Warriors remain on top.


    Greg Swartz covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter.