Predicting Every NBA Team's Starting Lineup for 2021-22

Greg Swartz@@GregSwartzBRCleveland Cavaliers Lead WriterAugust 25, 2021

Predicting Every NBA Team's Starting Lineup for 2021-22

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    With the NBA offseason beginning to quiet down, most teams already have their rosters locked in for the 2021-22 season.

    For some squads, the starting five will look remarkably similar to the one that ended the 2020-21 campaign. Others project to have up to 60 percent of their starters turned over, leading to a major adjustment period in the early going.

    Starters who were new offseason acquisitions will be italicized, and players who are expected to miss the beginning of the season because of injury (Kawhi Leonard, Klay Thompson, Jamal Murray, etc.) will not appear in their teams starting fives.

    Here's what every team's first line should look like on opening night.

Atlanta Hawks

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    PG: Trae Young

    SG: Bogdan Bogdanovic

    SF: De'Andre Hunter

    PF: John Collins

    C: Clint Capela

    Three of the Hawks starters can be carved in stone, with Young, Collins (who signed a five-year, $125 million deal to return) and Capela all guaranteed to keep their opening jobs.

    The wing spots could get interesting, however, as players like Cam Reddish and Kevin Huerter could both make a push to steal spots from Bogdanovic and Hunter.

    Health will play a factor in who begins the season where, as both Hunter (surgery for a torn meniscus in June) and Reddish (Achilles soreness) battled injuries throughout the 2020-21 regular season and playoffs. Hunter is expected to be cleared for the start of training camp according to The Athletic's Chris Kirschner.

    Atlanta has incredible depth at other spots as well, as players like Danilo Gallinari, Lou Williams and Delon Wright are good enough to start for other franchises.

Boston Celtics

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    PG: Dennis Schroder

    SG: Marcus Smart

    SF: Jaylen Brown

    PF: Jayson Tatum

    C: Al Horford

    The middle of the Celtics order should look familiar, as Tatum, Brown and Smart all return in their usual spots. Smart made the jump to full-time starter a year ago, the first time in his career he began over 75 percent of his games in the opening lineup. A four-year, $77 million extension means he's likely to remain there for the foreseeable future.

    The starting point guard job will likely go to Schroder, who saw his free agent market fall apart before agreeing to a one-year, $5.9 million contract with Boston. His signing didn't guarantee him the starting point guard job, however.

    As Keith Smith of Celtics Blog reports, "Dennis Schroder signed with Boston with no expectation of a starting role. Celtics made it clear that Ime Udoka will evaluate roles and minutes. Also, this will be Udoka's decision only."

    Boston could always use Smart as it's starting point guard, opening a spot on the wing for Josh Richardson if Udoka wanted more size and defense.

    The starting center job will be a battle between the 35-year-old Horford and 23-year-old Robert Williams III, who just signed a four-year, $54 million extension to stay in Boston.

Brooklyn Nets

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    PG: James Harden

    SG: Kyrie Irving

    SF: Joe Harris

    PF: Kevin Durant

    C: Nic Claxton

    As good as rookie Cam Thomas looked in the summer league, no, he's probably not ready to take a starting spot from Harden just yet.

    Harden returns to essentially play the point guard role for Brooklyn, although Irving will get plenty of ball-handling duty as well. Both are offensive terrors whether they play on or off the ball, although neither are the most talented member of their own opening lineup.

    Durant will mostly see his minutes come at power forward so the Nets can get Harris' shooting on the floor. The four-man unit of Harden, Irving, Durant and Harris had a sparkling net rating of plus-18 in the regular season (albeit in just 140 total minutes) and plus-26.7 in the playoffs (101 minutes).

    Who shares the floor with them at center is still uncertain.

    Blake Griffin won the job in the playoffs, even if he's neither an effective rim protector nor rebounder. Newly-signed veteran James Johnson should see some minutes at the 5, but Claxton gives this lineup the highest ceiling with his age (22) and defensive potential.

Charlotte Hornets

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    PG: LaMelo Ball

    SG: Terry Rozier

    SF: Gordon Hayward

    PF: P.J. Washington

    C: Mason Plumlee

    The Rookie of the Year returns to run the show in Charlotte, with Ball now seemingly paired with Rozier as a backcourt partner for at least the next five years. Rozier recently signed a four-year, $97 million extension that keeps him with the Hornets until 2026.

    Hayward is a lock as the team's starting small forward, although the rest of the frontcourt in Charlotte may change throughout the year.

    Washington and Miles Bridges can both make an argument to be the team's starting power forward, with Washington likely getting the nod because of his size and rim-protecting ability.

    While Plumlee (acquired via trade with the Detroit Pistons) should begin the season as the team's starting center, 19th overall pick Kai Jones should be the future of the position in the Queen City.

Chicago Bulls

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    PG: Lonzo Ball

    SG: Zach LaVine

    SF: DeMar DeRozan

    PF: Patrick Williams

    C: Nikola Vucevic

    The Bulls will look significantly different this season, adding two new starters via sign-and-trades and three overall since the beginning of last year.

    Lonzo Ball gives Chicago the franchise point guard it's craved for years now, helping take playmaking responsibilities off Zach LaVine. He's also effective as a spot up shooter when LaVine and now DeRozan run the offense, as Ball hit 40.2 percent of his catch-and-shoot threes with the New Orleans Pelicans last season.

    DeRozan will be listed as Chicago's starting small forward, but he'll play anywhere from point guard to power forward depending on what the Bulls need. Outside of Vucevic, Chicago will now have four starters ranging from 6'5" to 6'7" that can all play up and down the lineup, giving this team some incredible versatility on both ends.

    Vucevic isn't the rim protector this team could use, but his outside shooting ability (40.0 percent from three on 6.3 attempts per game) helps make up for DeRozan's lack of spacing.

Cleveland Cavaliers

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    PG: Darius Garland

    SG: Collin Sexton

    SF: Isaac Okoro

    PF: Kevin Love

    C: Jarrett Allen

    The Cavs were quiet for the most part this offseason, only selecting USC big man Evan Mobley with the third overall pick and trading forward Taurean Prince to the Minnesota Timberwolves for point guard Ricky Rubio.

    Rubio was acquired to be the team's backup floor general to Garland, who made a nice jump from Years 1 to 2 and should be able to play off-ball at times next to Rubio while flashing his outside shooting ability (43.2 percent on catch-and-shoot threes).

    Allen signed a five-year, $100 million deal to remain the franchise's starting center, while Sexton and Okoro return to their jobs at shooting guard and small forward.

    Expect Love to at least begin the season as the team's starting power forward (assuming he's not bought out before then) as a sign of respect to the veteran and franchise's longest-tenured player, although Mobley should earn the job before the year is over.

Dallas Mavericks

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    PG: Luka Doncic

    SG: Tim Hardaway Jr.

    SF: Dorian Finney-Smith

    PF: Kristaps Porzingis

    C: Maxi Kleber

    Having a 6'7" point guard gives your team a lot of lineup versatility, and the Mavs could use a number of starting units this season before finding the right mix around Luka Doncic.

    Bringing Hardaway back on a four-year, $72 million deal should give him first crack at the starting shooting guard job, and his success playing next to Doncic (40.3 percent from three off passes from the two-time All-Star) only helps.

    Porzingis is guaranteed a starting job as he tries to shake off an ugly playoff performance, and the 7'3" big man will see time at both power forward and center this season.

    The starting small forward job will likely come down to Finney-Smith and newly-signed Reggie Bullock, both stars in their 3-and-D roles.

    Dallas currently has six players on their roster who either exclusively play center or can fill time there regularly. Kleber, Dwight Powell, Moses Brown, Boban Marjanovic and Willie Cauley-Stein should all have some terrific battles in training camp, with Kleber likely coming out on top.

Denver Nuggets

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    PG: Facundo Campazzo

    SG: Will Barton

    SF: Michael Porter Jr.

    PF: Aaron Gordon

    C: Nikola Jokic

    No Jamal Murray to begin the season while rehabbing from a torn ACL means the Nuggets will need a backcourt by committee, an area they've stocked with depth through the draft and free agency.

    Campazzo averaged 9.6 points, 3.6 rebounds, 5.6 assists and 1.7 steals in his 19 starts last season as a 29-year-old rookie, and will likely be used again along with Monte Morris to at least bring the ball up the floor before passing off to Jokic.

    Barton declined his player option to sign a new two-year, $32 million deal, a blessing for a Nuggets team that will need his scoring and shot-creating ability more than ever with Murray out.

    Of course, any weaknesses in the backcourt can more than be made for by the frontline combo of Porter, Gordon and Jokic, a trio that may rival any in all of basketball.

    Jokic could win a second straight MVP award with even more touches available to begin the season, and Porter, 23, is on his way to becoming one of the most unstoppable offensive forces in the NBA. Gordon gives the starting unit a defensive stopper, one who can switch and cover multiple positions.

Detroit Pistons

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    PG: Killian Hayes

    SG: Cade Cunningham

    SF: Saddiq Bey

    PF: Jerami Grant

    C: Isaiah Stewart

    The Pistons have secured four starters in the past two NBA drafts, a sign that general manager Troy Weaver and the front office are doing a phenomenal job, and also that this is going to be an incredibly young team that won't win a lot of games just yet.

    Cunningham has the size (6'8", 220 pounds) to be a starting power forward, yet his skill set as a lead ball-handler places him in the backcourt for now. Cunningham and Hayes may be the only projected starting backcourt that have already played real games together this summer (the Orlando Magic being the only other contender), joining forces on Detroit's summer league team.

    Grant can start at either forward position, able to play on the wing if Detroit wants to go big with newly-signed Kelly Olynyk at power forward, or start at the four and keep Bey in the opening lineup.

    Olynyk and Josh Jackson are really the only bench options to threaten any of the starters, as Detroit will be one of the youngest (and most fun) teams to watch this season.

Golden State Warriors

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    PG: Stephen Curry

    SG: Jordan Poole

    SF: Andrew Wiggins

    PF: Draymond Green

    C: Kevon Looney

    The return of Klay Thompson may not come until Christmas, 32 games into the Warriors schedule, per ESPN's Ramona Shelburne. With Kelly Oubre Jr. leaving to sign with the Charlotte Hornets, the Warriors have a few options to plug in at shooting guard until Thompson returns.

    Using Poole, who averaged 12.0 points on 35.1 percent shooting from beyond the arc in 19.4 minutes a game last year, is the easiest answer. He's got good size for the position at 6'4" and has started 21 games over the past two seasons for Golden State. The Warriors could also use Wiggins as the two-guard and insert Otto Porter Jr. at small forward, giving them a supersized wing.

    Curry and Green will enter their eighth season together as starters, giving this lineup some much-needed stability. Looney should hold off second-year center James Wiseman for now, as the Warriors were far better with the veteran in the starting rotation last year. Golden State's core (Curry, Green and Wiggins) had a net rating of minus-10.6 in 333 minutes last season when on the floor with Wiseman, compared to plus-12.3 with in 530 minutes with Looney.

    The Warriors will have to weigh development (Wiseman, Jonathan Kuminga, Moses Moody) versus win-now players (Looney, Poole, Porter, Andre Iguodala) all season unless they can pull off a trade for another star.

Houston Rockets

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    PG: John Wall

    SG: Jalen Green

    SF: Kevin Porter Jr.

    PF: Daniel Theis

    C: Christian Wood

    The Rockets starting lineup may be more difficult to predict than any in the NBA.

    While there's plenty of young talent on the roster following the 2021 draft, a lot of veterans remain as well. Will head coach Stephen Silas feel pressure from the front office to play the young guys and abandon the vets, or will he lean more towards experience to try and win right away?

    The best long-term answer is to throw Green and Porter Jr. into the starting lineup immediately and let them figure things out, with a veteran or two alongside them to guide both in the right direction. Wall is still the best point guard on the roster, and Wood will be the easy answer at center.

    Power forward could go in a number of directions, with Theis, KJ Martin, Jae'Sean Tate and Danuel House Jr. all making an argument that they should start. Giving Theis a four-year, $36 million deal should seemingly give up a leg up on the job, however, as Silas can mix and match he and Wood defensively as needed.

Indiana Pacers

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    PG: Malcolm Brogdon

    SG: Caris LeVert

    SF: T.J. Warren

    PF: Domantas Sabonis

    C: Myles Turner

    Once upon a time, on a team that featured Victor Oladipo, Sabonis, Brogdon and Turner, it was Warren who led the Pacers in scoring.

    After missing all but four games last season following a stress fracture in the navicular bone in his left foot, Warren returns to the starting lineup and has the versatility to play both forward positions.

    LeVert will make his season debut as a Pacer for the first time after joining Indiana via trade last year, and at 6'6" has the versatility to play anywhere from point guard to small forward. Sabonis is one of the best passing bigs in the league and Turner has Defensive Player of the Year potential.

    While Indiana lost some shooting and depth when Doug McDermott chose to go to the San Antonio Spurs, this is one of the best starting lineups in all of basketball that has largely flown under the radar.

Los Angeles Clippers

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    PG: Reggie Jackson

    SG: Paul George

    SF: Nicolas Batum

    PF: Marcus Morris Sr.

    C: Serge Ibaka

    With Kawhi Leonard likely to miss most, if not all, of the regular season following surgery for a partially torn ACL, the Clippers have a few options to plug in at small forward in his absence.

    Batum started 38 of his 67 games for the Clippers last season and chose to return on a two-year, $6.5 million deal. He gives L.A. some good defensive versatility and connected on 40.4 percent of his threes in 2020-21.

    Ibaka chose to pick up his $9.7 million player option to return to the Clippers as well. A back injury limited him to 43 total regular and postseason games, but the 31-year-old should be good to go as the team's starting center over Ivica Zubac this year.

    After trading both Patrick Beverley and Rajon Rondo in a deal for Eric Bledsoe, the Clippers should promote Reggie Jackson to starting point guard while Bledsoe serves as the team's sixth man. Going small with a Jackson-Bledsoe backcourt is an option as well if head coach Tyronn Lue wants an additional scoring punch in his opening lineup, moving George to small forward and Batum to the bench.

Los Angeles Lakers

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    PG: Russell Westbrook

    SG: Wayne Ellington

    SF: LeBron James

    PF: Anthony Davis

    C: Marc Gasol

    James, Davis and Westbrook are all locked in as starters for the purple and gold. We just don't know at which positions yet.

    According to Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times, the three met before Westbrook's trade to the Lakers and talked about potentially switching positions if needed.

    "They talked about putting their egos aside and playing as one in their quest to bring the Lakers another NBA championship. Westbrook talked about how his only intention was winning and coming back home to Los Angeles to become a champion.

    James and Davis talked about the two of them changing positions if that was best for the team — James moving from small forward to power forward and Davis from power forward to center."

    Davis is easily the Lakers' best option at center, a position that features Dwight Howard (35) and Marc Gasol (36). Both are past the starting portion of their careers, with Gasol's three-point shooting ability the factor that could earn him the nod over Howard. Still, there should be plenty of Davis at the five this season.

    Ellington, Malik Monk and Talen Horton-Tucker can all make an argument for the starting shooting guard job, but a backcourt of Westbrook and Horton-Tucker would kill any potential spacing this team has left.

Memphis Grizzlies

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    PG: Ja Morant

    SG: Dillon Brooks

    SF: Kyle Anderson

    PF: Jaren Jackson Jr.

    C: Steven Adams

    The Grizzlies downgraded at center this summer by going from Jonas Valanciunas to Adams, even if the latter should be a solid defender and devastating screen setter this season.

    Outside of Adams, not much should change for Memphis' starting lineup.

    A backcourt of Morant and Brooks will carry the scoring load, while Anderson continues to do a little bit of everything as a playmaking wing. Getting a healthy Jackson for a full season at power forward is the Grizzlies best chance at not falling back into the lottery after trading away Valanciunas.

    If Memphis needs more spacing with Adams now in the starting lineup, swapping Anderson out for second-year wing Desmond Bane is an option. The 23-year-old shot 43.2 percent from deep as a rookie and is easily the best outside shooter on the team.

Miami Heat

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    PG: Kyle Lowry

    SG: Jimmy Butler

    SF: Duncan Robinson

    PF: P.J. Tucker

    C: Bam Adebayo

    Miami may not have the best starting lineup in the NBA, but it definitely has the toughest.

    Adding Lowry and Tucker to a unit that already featured Butler and Adebayo (with Markieff Morris off the bench!) is going to be a 48-minute nightmare for opposing teams.

    It's tough to pinpoint a weakness anywhere, as all bring different skill sets to the table. Tucker can make life miserable for opposing bigs and wings, making his mark on a game without even touching the ball on offense. Lowry, Butler and Adebayo are three of the best playmakers in the NBA at their positions, and Robinson doesn't need to do anything but keep the floor open (42.3 percent from three in 160 career games).

    Tyler Herro (and even Victor Oladipo when he's healthy) are both good enough to challenge for starting spots, but won't find any here unless Tucker is benched and Butler starts guarding power forwards.

    Miami's starters complement each other extremely well and should produce one of the best net ratings of any lineup this season.

Milwaukee Bucks

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    PG: Jrue Holiday

    SG: Donte DiVincenzo

    SF: Khris Middleton

    PF: Giannis Antetokounmpo

    C: Brook Lopez

    The Bucks were forced to go big in the playoffs following an ankle injury to DiVincenzo, but should be able to return to normalcy with a smaller, better shooting lineup now.

    While the hope is that DiVincenzo can return for the start of the season after having surgery on his ankle, the Bucks seemingly traded for a backup plan when they acquired Grayson Allen from the Memphis Grizzlies.

    Allen averaged 10.6 points and hit 39.1 percent of his threes for Memphis last season, giving Milwaukee the spacing they need for Giannis Antetokounmpo to thrive. Signing George Hill and Rodney Hood gave the Bucks some depth at the spot as well, should DiVincenzo's return be delayed.

    The Bucks starters were quite good together last season (plus-8.7 net rating in 508 total minutes), and should thrive once more no matter who starts at shooting guard.

Minnesota Timberwolves

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    PG: D'Angelo Russell

    SG: Anthony Edwards

    SF: Malik Beasley

    PF: Jaden McDaniels

    C: Karl-Anthony Towns

    Trading Ricky Rubio to the Cleveland Cavaliers should end any debate over who starts at point guard for Minnesota, if there ever was one. This is Russell's show to run, for better or worse.

    Power forward is the only spot in question here, as the 20-year-old McDaniels will only face any real competition from newly-acquired Taurean Prince. Edwards and Beasley are pretty interchangeable on the wing, and Towns will begin his seventh consecutive season as the Wolves starting center.

    If Minnesota does open with this unit, it will be the first time ever that all five have even shared the floor together. Injuries to various members prevented all from playing together in 2020-21, something that could end as soon as opening night.

    If McDaniels can turn into a reliable 3-and-D starter at power forward, the Wolves could challenge for a play-in spot given the talent around him.

New Orleans Pelicans

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    PG: Devonte' Graham

    SG: Nickeil Alexander-Walker

    SF: Brandon Ingram

    PF: Zion Williamson

    C: Jonas Valanciunas

    New Orleans' opening five should look quite different this year, with only Ingram and Williamson returning as regular starters.

    Lonzo Ball was swapped out in favor of Graham, a less expensive (and less talented) floor general to orchestrate the offense. Valanciunas is an upgrade over Steven Adams at center, and should provide Williamson with at least a little more spacing than he had last season.

    With Eric Bledsoe now gone, the Pelicans should fill his spot from within with a promotion of Alexander-Walker, as the 22-year-old averaged 19.0 points, 5.0 rebounds, 3.0 assists and shot 41.2 percent from three in 13 starts in 2020-21.

    Second-year guard Kira Lewis Jr. may one day push Graham for the starting job, but probably not this year as he continues to add muscle and learn the NBA game.

New York Knicks

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    PG: Kemba Walker

    SG: RJ Barrett

    SF: Evan Fournier

    PF: Julius Randle

    C: Mitchell Robinson

    Elfrid Payton started 63 games at point guard for the Knicks last season and the team still clinched the fourth seed in the East. Imagine how good New York can be with Walker (25.6 points, 4.9 rebounds, 4.7 assists, 42.7 percent from three over his final nine games of the regular season) now running the show.

    Losing Reggie Bullock in free agency to the Dallas Mavericks was offset by the addition of Evan Fournier, a better overall offensive player even if he's not at the same defensive level.

    Barrett and Julius Randle could once again be the top-two options on offense even with an improved team around them, and Robinson will be challenged for the starting center job by Nerlens Noel, who returns on a three-year, $27.7 million deal.

    Other members of the Knicks bench (Derrick Rose, Immanuel Quickley, Alec Burks) are good enough to start elsewhere, giving this team some real depth in 2021-22.

Oklahoma City Thunder

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    PG: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander

    SG: Josh Giddey

    SF: Lu Dort

    PF: Darius Bazley

    C: Derrick Favors

    Of the three Thunder players who started the most games last season (Bazley, Dort and Theo Maledon), none shot over 39.6 percent overall. As bad as a 22-50 record was, this year may actually be worse for a team that's stripped its roster of nearly every veteran.

    Favors is the only member of the projected starting five over 23 years old, with fourth-year guard Gilgeous-Alexander the second-most experienced player in the opening unit.

    A healthy Gilgeous-Alexander will once again be a treat to watch, and Giddey, the No. 6 overall pick, should get the starting shooting guard right away with his size (6'8") and playmaking ability.

    As young and inexperienced as the majority of this starting lineup is, there's no one on the bench to really challenge them for a spot just yet.

Orlando Magic

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    PG: Cole Anthony

    SG: Jalen Suggs

    SF: Terrence Ross

    PF: Jonathan Isaac

    C: Wendell Carter Jr.

    Some stability in Orlando would be nice, as the Magic used a whopping 32 different starting lineups in their 72 games last season.

    Suggs, the No. 5 overall pick, should start immediately at one of the guard positions, with Anthony, Markelle Fultz (when he's recovered from a torn ACL) and veteran Gary Harris all competing for the other spot.

    Although Ross started just two of his 46 games last season, the Magic are extremely thin on the wing and may have no other choice but to let him enter the opening lineup. Rookie Franz Wagner is an option, as is Harris in a three-guard unit.

    Isaac, when healthy, is a lock as the starting power forward, but there should be an interesting battle at center between Carter and Mo Bamba. In addition to both wanting to start and earn touches, each will enter restricted free agency next summer looking to get paid.

Philadelphia 76ers

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    PG: Ben Simmons

    SG: Seth Curry

    SF: Danny Green

    PF: Tobias Harris

    C: Joel Embiid

    After re-signing Green to a two-year, $20 million deal and failing to trade Simmons thus far, the Sixers will look a lot like the team that ended 2020-21.

    As Bleacher Report's Jake Fischer writes:

    "Despite the awkward dynamic that could follow, Simmons may have no real choice but to join the Sixers in September and play his way to a new destination, regardless of the icy communication that has persisted all summer, dating back to Rivers' and Embiid's post-Game 7 press conferences."

    Lost in the Simmons trade talks is just how really freaking good this Sixers lineup actually was last season. The five-man unit of Simmons, Curry, Green, Harris and Embiid posted a sparkling net rating of plus-14.0 in 656 minutes together last season, a number that only exploded in the playoffs (plus-39.0 in 109 minutes).

    Simmons certainly has his faults, but this lineup was working for the majority of the year and may get one last run together to begin 2021-22.

Phoenix Suns

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    PG: Chris Paul

    SG: Devin Booker

    SF: Mikal Bridges

    PF: Jae Crowder

    C: Deandre Ayton

    While there was never much doubt about his return, Paul ended any and all speculation by re-signing on a four-year, $120 million contract.

    He should find much of the same around him, with a starting unit that came just two wins short of a championship.

    The only real question is how long Crowder can hold off 25-year-old Cam Johnson for the starting power forward job. While Johnson isn't the defender Crowder is or carry his postseason experience, the Suns were better with Johnson surrounded by Paul, Booker, Bridges and Ayton (plus-10.1 net rating) than with Crowder (plus-4.7).

    Phoenix added some nice backups through free agency and trade (JaVale McGee, Landry Shamet, Elfrid Payton), but none will challenge for a spot in this starting five.

Portland Trail Blazers

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    PG: Damian Lillard

    SG: CJ McCollum

    SF: Norman Powell

    PF: Robert Covington

    C: Jusuf Nurkic

    Although the Blazers were eliminated in the first round for the fifth time in the last seven years, fingers shouldn't be pointed at the starting five.

    After Powell came over via trade from the Toronto Raptors, the opening unit posted a net rating of plus-13.4 in 21 games, a mark which improved to plus-21.7 in the playoffs.

    Although undersized, Lillard, McCollum and Powell are a nightmare to guard, as all three are capable of blowing by defenders or splashing a long-range three in a defender's face. Covington is a necessary defensive piece in this lineup, and Nurkic should have a big year going into unrestricted free agency.

    The bench, however, remains uninspiring (Anfernee Simons, Cody Zeller, Derrick Jones Jr.), giving the starters plenty of job security once again.

Sacramento Kings

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    PG: De'Aaron Fox

    SG: Tyrese Haliburton

    SF: Buddy Hield

    PF: Harrison Barnes

    C: Richaun Holmes

    If the Kings don't plan on bringing restricted-free-agent-to-be Marvin Bagley III back, there's no reason to use him as a starter anymore. Even playing a three-guard lineup with Hield on the wing would be better for the team's present and future.

    Fox and Haliburton need to be starting alongside each other as soon as possible after the latter came off the bench in 38 of his 58 games last season. Hield (16.6 points, 4.7 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 39.1 percent from three) is still too good to bench, even if he knows the Kings were trying to trade him.

    Barnes is best suited at power forward, and Holmes returns on a four-year, $46.5 million deal that should turn out to be a crazy good value for Sacramento.

    No. 9 overall pick Davion Mitchell is probably good enough defensively to start from Day 1, but he won't find any openings on a guard-heavy Kings squad.

San Antonio Spurs

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    PG: Dejounte Murray

    SG: Derrick White

    SF: Keldon Johnson

    PF: Doug McDermott

    C: Jakob Poeltl

    Losing the team's leading scorer and playmaker in DeMar DeRozan may help get some other guys more touches, but this is now the worst Spurs starting five we've seen since the mid-1990's. Unsurprisingly, most of this current team wasn't even around yet to watch it.

    Murray is a terrific defender and rebounder from the point guard position and Johnson may be the team's best chance at a future All-Star, but this lineup lacks a true alpha that other teams have to game plan for.

    Getting McDermott in what ended up being a sign-and-trade gives San Antonio some much needed frontcourt spacing for the wealth of guards on the roster, giving the 29-year-old an advantage to win the job over Thaddeus Young, Luka Samanic and others.

Toronto Raptors

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    PG: Fred VanVleet

    SG: Gary Trent Jr.

    SF: OG Anunoby

    PF: Pascal Siakam

    C: Khem Birch

    A sign-and-trade of Kyle Lowry to the Miami Heat hurts the Raptors chances of making the playoffs this season, but does open up a full-time job for Trent in the backcourt.

    The 22-year-old returns on a three-year, $51.8 million deal after averaging 16.2 points on 35.5 percent from three in 17 games with Toronto.

    Anunoby and Siakam are locked in at the forward spots (unless Scottie Barnes is really, really good as a rookie) and VanVleet takes over lead ball-handling duties with Lowry gone.

    Birch claimed the starting center job from Chris Boucher when he signed with the Raptors in April, and the job should be his to lose again after re-signing on a three-year, $20 million deal.

Utah Jazz

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    Joe Murphy/Getty Images

    PG: Mike Conley Jr.

    SG: Donovan Mitchell

    SF: Bojan Bogdanovic

    PF: Royce O'Neale

    C: Rudy Gobert

    Utah's starting five enters Year 3 together after making a small improvement (plus-9.7 net rating in 2019-20, plus-10.8 in 2020-21) over the last two seasons.

    Conley is back on a three-year, $68 million deal while Mitchell and Gobert both begin long-term extensions. While the Jazz had to salary dump backup center Derrick Favors on the Oklahoma City Thunder in order to cut their tax bill, the starting lineup has been unaffected.

    If either Mitchell or Bogdanovic were to miss time, Utah also had the two best reserves in the NBA last year with Joe Ingles and Sixth Man of the Year Jordan Clarkson, both able to step in as needed.

    O'Neale isn't the biggest name at power forward, but he's the team's most important defender after Gobert who usually gets stuck covering the opponent's best offensive threat.

Washington Wizards

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    Al Bello/Getty Images

    PG: Spencer Dinwiddie

    SG: Bradley Beal

    SF: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope

    PF: Rui Hachimura

    C: Daniel Gafford

    Wizards training camp will be a dog fight for minutes, as only Dinwiddie and Beal should feel safe with their starting jobs.

    Washington has three starter-level players at both forward positions and center, meaning a bad preseason could leave some guys out of the rotation altogether.

    Keeping Hachimura as the team's starting power forward would be for the best, as the ninth overall pick in 2019 has never come off the bench in his 105 career games. Last year's lottery pick, Deni Avdija, likely won't be as lucky with Caldwell-Pope serving as the best win-now option on the wing.

    Gafford played extremely well in his 23 games following a trade from the Chicago Bulls, averaging 20.6 points, 11.3 rebounds, 3.6 blocks and shooting 68.1 percent per 36 minutes. He'll have to hold off both Montrezl Harrell and Thomas Bryant (when he returns from a torn ACL) for the right to start at center.


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