Projecting Every NBA Team's Starting 5 in Orlando
With the restart of the 2019-20 NBA season rapidly approaching, the starting lineups for some of the 22 teams involved could look very different.
A number of players will not be entering the bubble in Orlando, Florida, because of a positive COVID-19 test, rehabbing a previous injury, overall health concerns or choosing to prepare for the 2020-21 season instead.
With a number of All-Stars and key starters sidelined, here's how all 22 starting lineups should shake out.
PG: Kemba Walker
SG: Jaylen Brown
SF: Gordon Hayward
PF: Jayson Tatum
C: Daniel Theis
The Celtics' starting five in the bubble should look identical to the one they used in the regular season.
A starting backcourt of Walker and Brown is one of the best in the East, and Marcus Smart is ready to step in as a spot starter should either need a game off.
Hayward can play multiple positions, but he has spent 77 percent of his court time at small forward this season, compared to 17 percent at power forward and 6 percent at shooting guard.
Unless the Celtics want to use Hayward as a do-everything sixth man, Tatum will likely slot in at power forward, where he has spent 89 percent of his minutes. The 6'8", 204-pounder should eventually return to a full-time small forward role at some point in his career.
Theis remains the favorite to start at center, with Enes Kanter (8.2 points, 7.7 rebounds) and Robert Williams III (1.2 blocks, 67.7 FG%) serving as offensive and defensive backups, respectively.
PG: Jamal Crawford
SG: Caris LeVert
SF: Joe Harris
PF: Michael Beasley
C: Jarrett Allen
Starting two veterans who weren't on an NBA roster for the entire season isn't ideal, but the Nets don't have many options at this point.
Crawford takes over a point guard position once ruled by Kyrie Irving (shoulder surgery) and Spencer Dinwiddie (positive COVID-19 test), while Beasley slides in at power forward for Taurean Prince (positive COVID-19 test).
The Nets haven't had Kevin Durant all season (Achilles) and will also be without DeAndre Jordan (positive COVID-19 test), Wilson Chandler (choosing to sit out because of health concerns) and Nic Claxton (shoulder surgery).
Harris has been the only consistent starter all year for Brooklyn, as head coach Jacque Vaughn benched Allen in March in favor of Jordan.
With so many players missing, Brooklyn also added combo guard Tyler Johnson and small forward Justin Anderson to its roster.
PG: Luka Doncic
SG: Seth Curry
SF: Tim Hardaway Jr.
PF: Dorian Finney-Smith
C: Kristaps Porzingis
The Mavericks have used a whopping 29 different starting lineups in 67 games, with 15 players starting at least one contest.
Despite that constant turnover, we have a good idea of who Dallas plans on using in both its starting lineup and rotation in Orlando, thanks to a Zoom call with general manager Donnie Nelson (h/t Tim Cato of The Athletic).
Dallas has been reluctant to use the 7'3", 240-pound Porzingis at center at times this season, but doing so will help make up for the loss of Dwight Powell (Achilles) and Willie Cauley-Stein (newborn baby). Maxi Kleber is another solid starting option at center, and 7'4" Boban Marjanovic provides depth as well.
"Without Willie and without Dwight, we're going to have to play smaller at times and be a bit inventive," head coach Rick Carlisle said, via Cato.
The Mavericks signed point guard Trey Burke to fill some of the minutes from Jalen Brunson (shoulder injury), although the ball should be in Doncic's hands whenever he's on the floor.
PG: Jamal Murray
SG: Gary Harris
SF: Will Barton
PF: Paul Millsap
C: Nikola Jokic
Health permitting, the Nuggets look ready to roll with their typical starting five, one that's began 38 games together in the regular season.
The team is still waiting on Jokic, whose travel to the United States was initially delayed by a positive COVID-19 test while in Serbia. Jokic has since tested negative.
"Nikola Jokic will be in the bubble very, very soon," head coach Michael Malone told reporters Saturday. "I know that is a big topic of discussion, when's he going to be here. He will be here very, very soon, and [we're] excited to see him."
If the 35-year-old Millsap ever needs a night off, reserve forward Jerami Grant started 22 games this season and can play and defend multiple positions.
SG: James Harden
SF: Danuel House Jr.
PF: Robert Covington
C: P.J. Tucker
It seems wrong to list positions for the Rockets, especially since the height difference between their tallest and shortest starter is only four inches.
The Rockets are committed to small ball, which means using the 6'5", 245-pound Tucker as their center now with Clint Capela traded away. Covington is the tallest starter at 6'7", but his 211-pound frame is best suited as a forward.
A better description of Houston's starting lineup would be ball-handler, ball-handler, wing, wing and wing. House, Tucker and Covington complement Harden and Westbrook on offense and defend multiple positions.
Eric Gordon, the 2016-17 Sixth Man of the Year, could see time in the starting lineup as well if House struggles during the restart.
PG: Malcolm Brogdon
SG: Aaron Holiday*
SF: T.J. Warren
PF: Domantas Sabonis
C: Myles Turner
Victor Oladipo originally chose not to participate in the NBA's restart, as he told Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium that he instead wanted to focus on getting completely healthy for the 2020-21 season:
"With all the variables, from how I have to build my 5-on-5 workload back up, to the increased risk of a soft tissue injury which could delay my rehab, and the unknown exact set up of the bubble, I just can't get my mind to being fully comfortable in playing. I have to be smart and this decision hasn't been easy, but I truly believe continuing on the course I'm on and getting fully healthy for the 2020-21 season is the right decision for me."
After missing a year of play with a ruptured quadriceps tendon, Oladipo returned to the Pacers on January 29. However, he played in only 13 games before the NBA shut down in mid-March. His absence from the team may be short-lived, however, as Charania reports there's "growing belief" that Oladipo may try to play after all following multiple strong team practices in Orlando.
While the Pacers began the season with Jeremy Lamb starting in place of Oladipo, the veteran guard tore his ACL on February 23. That leaves Holiday, the No. 23 overall pick from 2018, to start at shooting guard in place of Lamb and Oladipo if the All-Star doesn't return to the team.
Los Angeles Clippers
PG: Patrick Beverley
SG: Paul George
SF: Kawhi Leonard
PF: Marcus Morris Sr.
C: Ivica Zubac
Following the trade for Morris, it appears the Clippers have their new starting lineup moving forward.
Putting Morris at power forward gives L.A. three three wings in the 6'7" to 6'8" range who can all play and defend multiple positions. Kawhi Leonard has spent the majority of his time at small forward this season, although he's logged considerable minutes at shooting guard (18 percent of court time) and power forward (19 percent) as well.
Smaller lineups that featured Landry Shamet meant more time in the post for George, and most of his minutes have come at power forward this season (54 percent). Leonard and George are interchangeable at either wing position, and Beverley and Zubac are good defensive options at point guard and center.
Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell are also talented enough for a starting spot, yet they will likely remain on the Clippers bench.
Los Angeles Lakers
PG: LeBron James
SG: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
SF: Danny Green
PF: Anthony Davis
C: JaVale McGee
The Lakers won't have shooting guard Avery Bradley for the NBA's restart, which leaves a hole in their starting lineup.
Bradley chose not to enter the Orlando bubble because his six-year-old son Liam "has a history of struggling to recover from respiratory illnesses, and it is unlikely that he would have been medically cleared to enter the Orlando bubble with his family," per ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski.
With Bradley out, Caldwell-Pope will likely win the starting job over Alex Caruso and the newly signed JR Smith. The 27-year-old has been the best outside shooter in the Lakers rotation (39.4 percent) and has started 20 of his 63 games.
Dion Waiters is also available after signing with the Lakers in March shortly before the league shut down, but the 28-year-old has yet to suit up for them.
PG: Ja Morant
SG: Dillon Brooks
SF: Justise Winslow
PF: Jaren Jackson Jr.
C: Jonas Valanciunas
Winslow could make his way into the Grizzlies' starting lineup immediately at small forward, although head coach Taylor Jenkins isn't limiting his impact to just one position.
"His versatility is really going to come out in our style of play," Jenkins said via Evan Barnes of the Memphis Commercial Appeal. "That's why I talk about him being just a great fit and a perfect fit for our system because he can play multiple positions on offense."
If Memphis wants to bring Winslow along slowly, it can always use veteran Kyle Anderson at small forward. The 26-year-old has started 20 games for the Grizzlies this season.
The rest of Memphis' starting five is locked in, with Rookie of the Year favorite Morant, Brooks, Jackson and Valanciunas all staying in their season-long roles.
PG: Kendrick Nunn
SG: Duncan Robinson
SF: Jimmy Butler
PF: Meyers Leonard
C: Bam Adebayo
Positions hardly matter to the Heat, who sport one of the NBA's most versatile starting fives.
Butler has split his time between small and power forward, yet he sports the second-highest usage rate of any Heat player. Robinson starts at shooting guard, but he has spent 62 percent of his minutes at forward. Adebayo begins games at center but has played the majority of his minutes at power forward (58 percent).
It's far from a traditional setup, but it works for Miami.
Goran Dragic is still good enough to start at point guard, but he has been terrific as the team's sixth man. Tyler Herro (12.9 points, 4.0 rebounds, 39.1 percent from three) won't come off the bench for much longer, and Derrick Jones Jr. averaged 9.3 points on 55.3 percent shooting in his 15 games as a starter.
PG: Eric Bledsoe
SG: Wesley Matthews
SF: Khris Middleton
PF: Giannis Antetokounmpo
C: Brook Lopez
As long as Antetokounmpo and Middleton stay in the starting lineup, it hardly matters who surrounds them.
It may be only a matter of time until the Bucks replace Matthews in their starting lineup. The 33-year-old is shooting 39.7 percent this season and isn't much of a passer or rebounder. With 2018 first-round pick Donte DiVincenzo already racking up 22 starts this season, the 23-year-old could take over the job at some point during the restart.
The Bucks have one of the best benches in the NBA with George Hill, Robin Lopez, Ersan Ilyasova, Pat Connaughton, Kyle Korver and Marvin Williams. They're all good enough to take down other reserve units but not challenge any of Milwaukee's current starters for their own jobs.
New Orleans Pelicans
PG: Lonzo Ball
SG: Jrue Holiday
SF: Brandon Ingram
PF: Zion Williamson
C: Derrick Favors
There's little debate as to whom will start for the Pelicans, as the five-man unit of Ball, Holiday, Ingram, Williamson and Favors is already the most-used starting lineup of the 21 different combinations New Orleans has tried this season.
Holiday has the size and skills to play point guard full-time, but his usage rate has dropped with Ball running the show. The 6'3" Holiday has even played 36 percent of his minutes at forward this season.
JJ Redick (14.9 points, 45.2 3FG%) and Josh Hart (10.2 points, 6.5 rebounds) can step in as starters on the wing if needed, and rookie Jaxson Hayes could take over the starting center job if Favors leaves in free agency this offseason.
For now, the Pelicans have their starting five locked in.
Oklahoma City Thunder
PG: Chris Paul
SG: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander
SF: Luguentz Dort
PF: Danilo Gallinari
C: Steven Adams
Picking the Thunder's starters at point guard, shooting guard, power forward and center is easy. However, head coach Billy Donovan hasn't committed to a starting small forward yet.
Terrance Ferguson began the season as the team's starter, but Dort held the job when the NBA went on hiatus. Andre Roberson, who hasn't suited up since January 2018, has emerged as a surprise third candidate.
"Lu's done a really good job," Donovan told reporters Saturday. "For me to sit here and say that he's starting when we get back to playing, I wouldn't say that. I'm really trying to be open-minded to let these guys play and compete and find out where they're all at and how well they're playing with one another."
It's hard to imagine the Thunder throwing Roberson back into the starting lineup after he missed so much time, and he'll almost certainly be eased back into the rotation off the bench.
Between Ferguson and Dort, it may come down to how the team has performed with each player. OKC is 15-12 with Ferguson as a starter alongside Paul, SGA, Gallinari and Adams, compared to 12-3 with Dort.
With that significant of a difference between the two, Dort may have the inside track to the starting gig.
PG: Markelle Fultz
SG: Evan Fournier
SF: James Ennis III
PF: Aaron Gordon
C: Nikola Vucevic
A few questions surround the Magic's starting five, including the status of both Fultz and Jonathan Isaac.
Fultz has not yet joined the team because of personal reasons, but Magic president of basketball operations Jeff Weltman said "hopefully he'll be out here shortly," via Roy Parry of the Orlando Sentinel.
If Fultz isn't ready for the first seeding game, veteran point guard D.J. Augustin would take his place.
Isaac has been sidelined since Jan. 1 with a knee injury, but he is with the team and is doing drills. However, Parry reported he is "not expected to play," as he's only doing "light court work" at the moment.
PG: Shake Milton
SG: Josh Richardson
SF: Tobias Harris
PF: Ben Simmons
C: Joel Embiid
The bubble 76ers could look quite different from the team that got off to a 39-26 start in the regular season.
Simmons, the 6'10" All-Star point guard, could be switching back to the power forward spot he played at LSU.
"The last few days, I played [Ben Simmons] exclusively as a 4 man," head coach Brett Brown told reporters Monday. "To always have Ben have to have the ball and dribble it up against five guys after made baskets especially...to do that I think dilutes some of his potent weapons: speed."
Milton, 23, has taken over starting point guard duties despite playing only 52 games in his two-year career. In 16 games as a starter, however, he's averaged 14.1 points, 3.6 assists and 3.0 rebounds while shooting 53.9 percent overall and 50.0 percent from three.
Milton's promotion would make Al Horford a $109 million reserve.
PG: Ricky Rubio
SG: Devin Booker
SF: Mikal Bridges
PF: Dario Saric
C: Deandre Ayton
Unless he unexpectedly returns from a torn meniscus, Phoenix will be without starting small forward Kelly Oubre Jr. when the season resumes. That almost certainly means Bridges will keep the starting small forward job.
Bridges has quickly emerged as one of the NBA's best young defenders. He's also averaging 11.4 points, 4.6 rebounds and 2.7 assists with a .529/.419/.929 slash line in 24 games as a starter this season.
Either Saric or rookie Cam Johnson figures to get the nod at power forward, with the veteran from Croatia likely being head coach Monty Williams' choice.
Oubre's presumptive absence likely puts a nail in the coffin of the Suns' playoff hopes, even with the recent strong play of Bridges.
Portland Trail Blazers
PG: Damian Lillard
SG: CJ McCollum
SF: Carmelo Anthony
PF: Zach Collins
C: Jusuf Nurkic
The Trail Blazers' starting five has already been set, at least according to Lillard. However, that group has yet to log a single minute together this season.
Nurkic has missed the entire year rehabbing from a leg injury, and Collins played only three games before undergoing shoulder surgery.
With Nurkic and Collins both returning, Anthony will slide down from power forward to small forward to replace Trevor Ariza, who decided not to join the team in Orlando so he could instead spend time with his son during a visitation window.
It also means a move to the bench for Hassan Whiteside, who was averaging 16.3 points on 61.8 percent shooting, 14.2 rebounds and 3.1 blocks this season in place of Nurkic.
PG: De'Aaron Fox
SG: Buddy Hield
SF: Bogdan Bogdanovic
PF: Harrison Barnes
C: Richaun Holmes
Who Sacramento decides to start could depend on its style of play.
Going small with Barnes at power forward and both Hield and Bogdanovic in the starting lineup makes the team faster, which would also benefit Fox. This isn't the team's traditional starting lineup, but Jason Anderson of the Sacramento Bee suggested it as a possibility:
"Barnes has been starting at small forward, but the Kings have been much better with him at power forward in small-ball lineups, a trend Walton has pointed to throughout the season. If Walton commits to that idea, you could see Fox and Hield in the backcourt with Bogdanovic at small forward, Barnes at power forward and Holmes at center."
While the team has played well with Hield off the bench, he's still likely viewed as a long-term starter considering his four-year extension kicks in next season. 2018 No. 2 overall pick Marvin Bagley III should eventually claim a starting job but probably not while the team battles for the eighth seed in the West.
San Antonio Spurs
PG: Dejounte Murray
SG: Bryn Forbes
SF: DeMar DeRozan
PF: Rudy Gay
C: Trey Lyles
Seven-time All-Star LaMarcus Aldridge will miss the NBA's restart due to shoulder surgery, making the Spurs' climb to the eighth seed in the West even more difficult.
Gay seems like the most likely replacement, as he would allow the team to go smaller and faster with Lyles at center. While that hasn't been a part of the Spurs' DNA, this isn't a typical San Antonio roster, either.
The Spurs could go even smaller if they wanted by putting DeRozan at power forward and inserting Derrick White into the backcourt. That might stretch opponents to their breaking point, although San Antonio could struggle defensively.
PG: Kyle Lowry
SG: Fred VanVleet
SF: OG Anunoby
PF: Pascal Siakam
C: Marc Gasol
Gasol missed much of the season with a lingering hamstring injury, but the 35-year-old former Defensive Player of the Year should be good to go now.
"As far as I'm aware, he's fully healed," head coach Nick Nurse told reporters. "And as you know, he looks great. His skills look fantastic as well. He looks like he's in good shape. I don't see any issues."
Gasol lost considerable weight during the league's shutdown, which should help his lateral quickness and endurance.
Serge Ibaka and Norman Powell are ready to step in as starters if needed, but the Raptors should look similar to their opening-night lineup.
PG: Mike Conley
SG: Donovan Mitchell
SF: Joe Ingles
PF: Royce O'Neal
C: Rudy Gobert
Bojan Bogdanovic started all 63 of his games for the Jazz this season, but he will miss the restart after undergoing wrist surgery in May. He was Utah's second-leading scorer this season at 20.2 points per game.
His absence likely means the addition of Ingles into Utah's starting lineup. The 32-year-old has already started 37 games for the Jazz this season, but he was also playing an important role as a ball-handler off the bench.
O'Neale and Gobert may be the NBA's best defensive frontcourt, and Mitchell will be making his third trip to the playoffs at the age of only 23.
PG: Ish Smith
SG: Troy Brown Jr.
SF: Isaac Bonga
PF: Rui Hachimura
C: Ian Mahinmi
Bradley Beal (rotator cuff), John Wall (Achilles) and Davis Bertans (injury prevention) will all miss the NBA's restart. Thomas Bryant and Gary Payton II, both of whom have had a positive COVID-19 test, have yet to join the team and are questionable to resume the season at all.
Hachimura might average 30 points per game with so many key players out, as he's the only Wizards player left who has started every game he's played in this season.
Sitting 5.5 games behind the Orlando Magic for the eighth seed in the East with eight games to play, there's little reason for the depleted Wizards even to be in the bubble given the health risks involved.