The Weakest Link in Every NBA Team's Starting Lineup

Greg Swartz@@GregSwartzBRCleveland Cavaliers Lead WriterSeptember 10, 2021

The Weakest Link in Every NBA Team's Starting Lineup

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    Ringo H.W. Chiu/Associated Press

    NBA training camps are set to open later in September, which means the 2021-22 season is rapidly approaching.

    Outside of a Ben Simmons trade, we're unlikely to see any significant player movement between now and then. Therefore, we should have a good idea of what every team's starting five will look like.

    Based on these projections, it's easy to see where every team may need an upgrade.

    Be it a prospect who isn't panning out, a veteran whose skills are quickly deteriorating or a new face who may not be a good fit, these are the weakest links in every NBA team's starting five to begin the season.

    Note: The Brooklyn Nets' projected starting center changed since the previous article with the signing of free agent LaMarcus Aldridge. All others have remained the same.

Atlanta Hawks: SG Bogdan Bogdanovic

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    Nell Redmond/Associated Press

    Potential Replacements: Cam Reddish, Kevin Huerter

    With a starting lineup that contains Trae Young, John Collins, Clint Capela and De'Andre Hunter, Bogdan Bogdanovic becomes the weakest link by default.

    After signing a four-year, $72 million deal with the Atlanta Hawks in 2020, Bogdanovic was a steady presence next to Young in the starting backcourt for 27 of his 44 games last season. The 29-year-old is skilled enough to play on or off the ball, and he ranked 11th overall in the league in three-point percentage (43.8 percent).

    Reddish and Huerter are lurking as potential threats to steal the starting job from him, though.

    Atlanta is one of the best and deepest teams in the East. Bogdanovic should play a big role again either as a starter or off the bench this season.

Boston Celtics: C Al Horford

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    Sue Ogrocki/Associated Press

    Potential Replacements: Robert Williams III, Enes Kanter

    Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart should be locked into the Boston Celtics' starting lineup, but the other two spots remain up for grabs.

    If Al Horford wins the starting center job, it's probably only a matter of time before Robert Williams III replaces him. The 35-year-old Horford is on the last fully guaranteed year of his deal, and he will have gone nearly seven months without playing in an NBA game by the time the regular season starts.

    Williams just signed a four-year, $48 million extension and averaged 9.5 points, 8.3 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 1.8 blocks in 23.7 minutes while shooting 70.5 percent from the field in his 13 games as a starter last season. While he doesn't provide the floor-spacing or playmaking that Horford does, Williams has the potential to be an elite rim protector and is already the better rebounder.

    Kanter can fill in as a starter when needed, but this job will ultimately come down to Horford and Williams.

Brooklyn Nets: C LaMarcus Aldridge

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    Nathaniel S. Butler/Getty Images

    Potential Replacement: Blake Griffin, Nic Claxton, Paul Millsap

    With Kyrie Irving, James Harden, Joe Harris and Kevin Durant locked in as starters for the Brooklyn Nets, whoever shares the floor with them at center will be the weakest link by default.

    LaMarcus Aldridge figures to get the first crack at the job after ending his brief retirement and signing a one-year, $2.6 million deal to rejoin the Nets. He started all five of his games in Brooklyn last season following a buyout from the San Antonio Spurs before he retired due to heart concerns. He's since been cleared to return by both independent and Nets team doctors.

    Brooklyn has more options than ever at center, with Aldridge and Griffin returning, James Johnson and Millsap signing one-year deals and Claxton still on the roster.

    Starting Claxton and letting him develop alongside the starters would be the best long-term play, but the Nets need to win now. Griffin also showed he's capable of handling the job during his 12 playoff starts, as he averaged 9.0 points and 5.9 rebounds, shot 38.9 percent from three and played better-than-expected defense on Giannis Antetokounmpo at times.

Charlotte Hornets: C Mason Plumlee

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    Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

    Potential Replacements: P.J. Washington, Kai Jones, Vernon Carey Jr.

    Mason Plumlee is an upgrade over Cody Zeller and Bismack Biyombo, but he's still the weakest link in a strong Charlotte Hornets starting lineup that features LaMelo Ball, Terry Rozier, Gordon Hayward and Washington.

    The 31-year-old averaged 10.4 points, 9.3 rebounds and 3.6 assists while shooting 61.4 percent overall in his 56 games (all starts) for the Detroit Pistons last year. However, he's extremely limited offensively and isn't a good rim protector, having allowed opponents to shoot 61.7 percent at the basket in 2020-21.

    Jones, the 19th overall pick in this year's draft, likely won't be ready to start until next season or the year after. He was primarily a reserve at the University of Texas over the past two seasons and needs to add a good amount of muscle to his 218-pound frame.

    The Hornets might not use Washington as their starting center (with Miles Bridges at power forward), but he could see a lot of time at the 5 in small-ball lineups.

Chicago Bulls: PF Patrick Williams

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    Potential Replacement: No one

    Williams is deserving of the power forward job in Chicago after a good rookie season, and he will win the job by default with little depth behind him.

    The Bulls traded Lauri Markkanen to the Cleveland Cavaliers in a three-team sign-and-trade, and they parted with Thaddeus Young and Al-Farouq Aminu in a sign-and-trade with the San Antonio Spurs to acquire DeMar DeRozan. Outside of signing Tony Bradley and Alize Johnson, they otherwise did nothing this offseason to improve their frontcourt.

    Williams and DeRozan should be largely interchangeable at the forward positions all year, with the 20-year-old likely drawing the tougher defensive assignment.

    The Bulls will field the same starting lineup all season if healthy (Lonzo Ball, Zach LaVine, DeRozan, Williams and Nikola Vucevic), a group that now contains three recent All-Stars and two recent top-four overall picks.

Cleveland Cavaliers: SF Isaac Okoro

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    Nick Wass/Associated Press

    Potential Replacement: Cedi Osman, Dylan Windler

    The Cleveland Cavaliers' weakest area heading into the offseason was the wing, and they have ignored that spot to this point.

    They improved their backcourt with the addition of veteran point guard Ricky Rubio, who will help oversee the development of Darius Garland and Collin Sexton. The frontcourt is also loaded with No. 3 overall pick Evan Mobley and Lauri Markkanen, who joined Jarrett Allen and Kevin Love.

    Assuming the Cavs roll with their young lineup of Garland, Sexton, Okoro, Mobley and Allen, the 20-year-old small forward is the weak link for now. While he has excellent defensive potential, Okoro doesn't project to be more than an average three-point shooter (29.0 percent as a rookie) or a playmaker.

    With only Osman and Windler behind him, Okoro is in no danger of losing his job.

Dallas Mavericks: SF Dorian Finney-Smith

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    Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press

    Potential Replacement: Reggie Bullock

    Although last season was the first time Dorian Finney-Smith started all of his games, he shouldn't get too comfortable after Bullock signed a three-year, $30 million deal with the Dallas Mavericks in free agency.

    Both are good-sized wings who are the perfect three-and-D fits in today's NBA, especially next to a ball-dominant distributor like Luka Doncic. Finney-Smith has worked himself into a strong three-point shooter (39.4 percent, up from 29.9 percent in 2017-18) and can defend multiple positions with his 6'7", 220-pound frame.

    If he has a slow start to the season, however, Bullock will be ready to step in.

    Dallas could always roll with both if Kristaps Porzingis makes the transition to full-time center, although a Porzingis-Maxi Kleber frontcourt gives the Mavs some more size and rebounding.

Denver Nuggets: PG Facundo Campazzo

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    David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    Potential Replacements: Monte Morris, Austin Rivers

    Campazzo will help keep Jamal Murray's seat warm until the 24-year-old recovers from his torn ACL. While he's a talented and creative passer, he's also the smallest player currently on an NBA roster at 5'10".

    Campazzo is only entering his second NBA season, but he's already 30 years old. He played for Real Madrid for five years after going undrafted in 2013.

    Morris is next in line to start at the point for the Denver Nuggets if Campazzo struggles to begin the year. He averaged 10.5 points, 3.8 assists and 2.2 rebounds and shot 47.0 percent overall in 13 starts last season.

    Most of the Nuggets' playmaking responsibility will once again fall on reigning MVP Nikola Jokic, taking pressure off whoever starts at point guard.

Detroit Pistons: PG Killian Hayes

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    Jeff Bottari/Getty Images

    Potential Replacements: Cory Joseph, Josh Jackson

    Killian Hayes no longer has to be the alpha running the show in Detroit with 2021 No. 1 overall pick Cade Cunningham on board. However, a rough rookie season followed by a less-than-inspiring summer league performance raises some eyebrows.

    After averaging only 6.8 points on 35.3 percent shooting in 26 games last season, Hayes put up 6.3 points on 31.8 percent shooting against fellow young players and NBA journeymen in Las Vegas. His three-point shot has been non-existent thus far (27.8 percent as a rookie, 18.2 percent at summer league), although he has looked like a capable playmaker and defender.

    With Cunningham likely to run Detroit's offense, Hayes needs to develop into an off-ball threat, which he hasn't done thus far.

    The Pistons could opt for Joseph at point guard if they'd rather bring Hayes along slowly off the bench. They could otherwise use Cunningham at the point and Jackson on the wing for more size.

Golden State Warriors: C Kevon Looney

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    Jeff Chiu/Associated Press

    Potential Replacement: James Wiseman

    The Golden State Warriors' center position will be a battle of win now vs. win even more later, as Kevon Looney and James Wiseman should battle for the job in training camp.

    While Looney isn't nearly as talented as the 2020 No. 2 overall pick, the Warriors were far better with him at center last season. Looney only averaged 4.1 points and 5.3 rebounds in his 19.0 minutes per game, but the Warriors were 8.4 points per 100 possessions better with him on the floor.

    For a team that needs to stay in the playoff hunt while Klay Thompson continues to work his way back from an Achilles injury, overall effectiveness is more important than individual skills.

    At some point, Wiseman and his incredible upside might win the job, especially since he's set to return for the start of training camp following meniscus surgery. For now, Warriors head coach Steve Kerr may decide to stick with Looney and try to grind out as many early-season wins as possible.

Houston Rockets: PF Daniel Theis

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    Potential Replacements: KJ Martin, Jae'Sean Tate, Danuel House Jr.

    If the Houston Rockets keep John Wall as their starting point guard, roll with Christan Wood at center and use Kevin Porter Jr. and Jalen Green on the wing, whoever starts at power forward will inevitably be their weak link.

    Daniel Theis is a big, physical body who could help Wood with certain defensive assignments, and he's been enough of a three-point threat (33.5 percent for his career) to make opponents at least respect his spacing.

    However, the Rockets have far higher-upside options at their disposal.

    KJ Martin is an elite athlete who's shown potential as a three-point shooter and solid defender, while Jae'Sean Tate started 58 games as a rookie last season. Houston has plenty of options at the 4, even if none have traditional big man size.

Indiana Pacers: SF T.J. Warren

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    Potential Replacements: Justin Holiday, Jeremy Lamb, Torrey Craig

    When healthy, T.J. Warren projects to start as the Indiana Pacers' small forward. However, the team announced Wednesday that the stress fracture in his left foot is not healing "at the pace previously anticipated," so they may be in need of a short-term replacement.

    Before suffering the foot injury only four games into the 2020-21 campaign, Warren averaged 20.0 points, 6.3 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 2.3 steals against the Miami Heat in the 2020 bubble playoffs. The 28-year-old will eventually return to a lineup that should be playoff-worthy once again, surrounded by an All-Star in Domantas Sabonis and some potential All-Stars in Caris LeVert, Malcolm Brogdon and Myles Turner.

    Until Warren comes back, look for Justin Holiday to hold his spot down. The 6'6" swingman started 52 of his 72 games last season and is a good three-point shooter and defender.

    When Warren returns, he will once again be a dynamic scoring punch in the middle of the Pacers' starting lineup, one that stands among the NBA's best.

Los Angeles Clippers: SF Nicolas Batum

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    Ashley Landis/Associated Press

    Potential Replacements: Eric Bledsoe, Luke Kennard, Terance Mann

    The Los Angeles Clippers' starting small forward job is up for grabs until Kawhi Leonard returns from a partially torn ACL. Nicolas Batum, who started in 38 of his 67 games last season, is likely to get the first crack at replacing Leonard.

    While the veteran forward had a bounce-back year following a disastrous 2019-20 season, he's still far removed from the player who played a big role for the Portland Trail Blazers and Charlotte Hornets.

    Replacing Batum with Eric Bledsoe in a smaller lineup with Paul George at small forward would give the Clippers' starting lineup more offensive firepower. Swapping in Luke Kennard (44.6 percent from three, 8th-best in the NBA) would give them better spacing.

    Terance Mann is the most intriguing option, especially after the 24-year-old dropped 39 points to eliminate the Utah Jazz last postseason.

Los Angeles Lakers: C Marc Gasol

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    Potential Replacements: DeAndre Jordan, Dwight Howard

    The best center on the Los Angeles Lakers roster is easily Anthony Davis, although he may not want to start at the 5 on a nightly basis. Adding DeAndre Jordan following a trade to and buyout from the Detroit Pistons likely means Los Angeles won't be forcing Davis to play center much, either.

    Assuming Davis is the opening-night power forward, Marc Gasol is the only option at center who gives the Lakers any kind of spacing. A career-high 62.9 percent of his shots came from three last season, and he knocked down 41.0 percent of those looks.

    Both Jordan and Dwight Howard can still rebound and block shots, but that's about the extent of their skill set. It's hard to imagine the Lakers not making an upgrade at center via trade or the buyout market at the deadline, unless Davis is going to take over the job during the playoffs.

    The Lakers' starting shooting guard spot is still iffy as well, but Wayne Ellington or Malik Monk are far more capable of providing productive minutes than Jordan or Howard at this point.

Memphis Grizzlies: SF Kyle Anderson

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    Brandon Dill/Associated Press

    Potential Replacements: Desmond Bane, Ziaire Williams

    Steven Adams could be selected over Kyle Anderson here, as both are solid yet unexciting options as starters in Memphis.

    Anderson had the best year of his career last season (12.4 points, 5.7 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 1.2 steals, 36.0 percent from three), but he hasn't traditionally been much of a scorer or three-point marksman.

    The Grizzlies could inject more shooting into their starting lineup with Desmond Bane, who drilled 43.2 percent of his threes as a rookie. For a starting group that includes one non-shooter (Adams) and one who was among the worst in the NBA last season (Morant), Bane might be critical.

    However, Ziaire Williams is probably the Grizzlies' small forward of the future. The 10th overall pick in the 2021 draft averaged 12.5 points per game at summer league.

Miami Heat: PF P.J. Tucker

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    Potential Replacements: Markieff Morris, KZ Okpala

    No Miami Heat starter will contribute less offensively this season than Tucker, whose job at age 36 is to make life hell for whoever he's guarding that night.

    Jimmy Butler and Kyle Lowry will handle Miami's primary scoring and playmaking duties, Duncan Robinson spreads the floor, and Bam Adebayo anchors the defense for one of the NBA's best starting units.

    If Tucker's defense slips and his offensive shortcomings can no longer be overlooked, Miami has a few options.

    Morris, who's on a one-year, $2.6 million deal, is a better overall scorer. Okpala, 22, offers more upside moving forward if Tucker begins to show his age.

Milwaukee Bucks: SG Donte DiVincenzo

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    Stacy Revere/Getty Images

    Potential Replacements: Grayson Allen, Pat Connaughton, George Hill, Rodney Hood

    If you missed the NBA Finals with an injury and the rest of the starters still carried your team to a championship, you might be the weak link of the group.

    Giannis Antetokoumpo, Jrue Holiday and Khris Middleton are the best Big Three anywhere outside of Brooklyn, and Brook Lopez is still an effective floor-spacer and rim protector at age 33.

    Donte DiVincenzo did show off an improved overall game in his third NBA season (10.4 points, 5.8 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 1.1 steals, 37.9 percent from three). His spot in the starting unit should be safe as long as he's fully recovered.

    The Bucks stocked up on backup options just in case by trading for Allen and signing Hill and Hood, making this backcourt deeper and more talented overall.

Minnesota Timberwolves: PF Jaden McDaniels

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    Jim Mone/Associated Press

    Potential Replacement: Taurean Prince

    Karl-Anthony Towns and D'Angelo Russell have already been All-Stars, Malik Beasley finished second on the team in scoring last season (19.6 points per game), and Anthony Edwards will soon prove himself as the best player on the roster.

    That leaves second-year power forward Jaden McDaniels as the Minnesota Timberwolves' weak link for now.

    The 20-year-old averaged 9.0 points, 4.3 rebounds, 0.9 blocks and shot 38.8 percent from three in his 27 starts last season. He also showed good defensive potential with his 6'9", 185-pound frame.

    McDaniels won't need to be a big-time scorer given the roster around him. He can focus on playing lockdown defense and knocking down open shots instead. 

    Taurean Prince, a combo forward whom Minnesota acquired in exchange for Ricky Rubio this offseason, is the only other player who could be considered for the job.

New Orleans Pelicans: PG Devonte' Graham

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    Will Newton/Getty Images

    Potential Replacements: Tomas Satoransky, Kira Lewis Jr.

    The New Orleans Pelicans will turn over 60 percent of their starting lineup this year. They upgraded at center with Jonas Valanciunas and shooting guard with a likely promotion of Nickeil Alexander-Walker, although the floor general spot projects to be worse.

    Devonte' Graham would be better off as a backup, which explains why the Charlotte Hornets drafted LaMelo Ball despite already having Graham and Terry Rozier on their roster last year. The Pelicans may likewise continue to look for upgrades at the point despite acquiring Graham this offseason.

    Graham's 6'1", 195-pound frame limits his defensive potential, and he's a poor scorer from anywhere inside the arc (38.0 percent on twos last year).

    If he doesn't try to do too much and gets Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram the ball as much as they want it, he'll keep the starting job unless Kira Lewis Jr. shows a lot of immediate growth.

New York Knicks: SF Evan Fournier

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    Potential Replacements: Alec Burks, Kevin Knox II

    Point guard again looked like a weakness for the New York Knicks before a buyout from the Oklahoma City Thunder cleared a path for Kemba Walker to return home. With Walker on board, the Knicks don't have a clear weak spot in their projected starting five.

    Fournier bagged a four-year, $73 million deal in free agency to become the Knicks' starting small forward. The 6'7" wing can shoot the lights out (41.3 percent from deep last year) and was likely in high demand.

    Still, Fournier isn't an elite defender by any means, and he's a poor rebounder given his size. His scoring ability and contract will likely keep him in the starting lineup throughout the year, even though Alec Burks is a capable option as well.

    The Knicks' most frequently used starting lineup three seasons ago featured Emmanuel Mudiay, Noah Vonleh and Mario Hezonja. They've come a long way if Fournier is their worst starter.

Oklahoma City Thunder: PF Darius Bazley

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    Potential Replacements: Aleksej Pokusevski, Isaiah Roby

    Despite being in the infancy of their rebuild, the Oklahoma City Thunder have collected three real building blocks in Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Lu Dort and now rookie Josh Giddey.

    Assuming veteran Derrick Favors wins the starting center job by default, that leaves Darius Bazley as OKC's weak link in the starting five.

    Bazley was dead last in three-point shooting (29.0 percent) among 155 qualified players last season. The 21-year-old also ranked in the 26th percentile in on/off rating (minus-5.4 points per 100 possessions) per Cleaning the Glass.

    A lot of that can be attributed to Bazley being young and the Thunder actively tanking, but he'll have to improve upon those numbers this season to be considered a real piece of this rebuild.

Orlando Magic: SF Terrence Ross

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    John Raoux/Associated Press

    Potential Replacements: Chuma Okeke, Franz Wagner

    The starting small forward position for the Orlando Magic should be up for grabs heading into training camp. Terrence Ross, Chuma Okeke and even Franz Wagner could all conceivably win the job.

    Ross should get the first opportunity if only to boost his trade value before he's moved before the deadline.

    As one of the leading reserve scorers at 15.6 points per game last season, Ross offers little else in terms of rebounding, playmaking or defense. He isn't a particularly efficient scorer, either. He has a career field-goal percentage of 41.9, and his three-point accuracy fell to 33.7 percent in 2020-21.

    Ross may win the job in camp, but Okeke or Wagner will almost certainly claim it before the season's end.

Philadelphia 76ers: SF Danny Green

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    Matt Slocum/Associated Press

    Potential Replacement: Matisse Thybulle

    Winning follows Danny Green no matter where he goes. That should keep the 34-year-old as the Philadelphia 76ers' starting small forward for now.

    Ben Simmons will continue to run the show at point guard (if he shows up to training camp), with Tobias Harris at power forward and Joel Embiid looking like a perennial MVP candidate at center.

    Seth Curry isn't the defender that Green is, but he was sixth overall in three-point shooting (45.0 percent) last season. That was the third straight year (and fourth in five) that he's hit at least 45.0 percent of his threes, which makes him a picture-perfect fit alongside Simmons.

    Green is by no means an elite defender anymore, while his eventual replacement, Matisse Thybulle, is quickly becoming one.

Phoenix Suns: PF Jae Crowder

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    Aaron Gash/Associated Press

    Potential Replacements: Cameron Johnson, Jalen Smith, Dario Saric

    As the only non future Hall-of-Famer or elite young talent in the Phoenix Suns' opening lineup, Jae Crowder is the lone starter who should be worried about keeping his job this season.

    While he's still a good defender who primarily sticks to shooting threes on offense these days, it's probably only a matter of time before the 25-year old Cameron Johnson replaces him as a starter.

    Phoenix has other options as well if Crowder, 31, starts to slow down. That includes Jalen Smith, the 10th overall pick in 2020, and Dario Saric when he returns from a torn ACL.

    Even though he logged only 5.8 minutes per game as a rookie, Smith is the most interesting of the group with his potential as a floor-spacing rim protector next to Deandre Ayton.

Portland Trail Blazers: PF Robert Covington

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    Sam Forencich/Getty Images

    Potential Replacements: Larry Nance Jr., Nassir Little

    With shooting guard small forward Norman Powell back on a five-year, $90 million deal and Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum still on the roster (for now), the Portland Trail Blazers have three electric offensive talents in their starting lineup. 

    Jusuf Nurkic is an above-average center when he can stay healthy, leaving Robert Covington as the weak link here.

    While his raw numbers won't impress anyone (8.5 points, 6.7 rebounds, 1.7 assists, 1.4 steals), Covington is a strong team defender and good three-point shooter (37.9 percent). Larry Nance Jr. is more than capable of stepping in as the team's starting power forward if needed, and he's the better passer of the two.

    For a team that's become even more backcourt heavy, it bears watching whether if Portland looks to move one of its guards (McCollum for Tobias Harris, anyone?) for an upgrade at power forward.

Sacramento Kings: PF Harrison Barnes

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    Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

    Potential Replacement: Marvin Bagley III

    The Sacramento Kings' best option may be to begin the year with a three-guard lineup to take advantage of their backcourt-heavy roster. That means moving Harrison Barnes to power forward, where he spent 66 percent of his minutes this past season.

    If De'Aaron Fox, Tyrese Haliburton and Buddy Hield man the backcourt spots and the newly re-signed Richaun Holmes continues to start at center, Barnes could be the worst starter in Sacramento by default. 

    The only way Barnes would get benched is if Marvin Bagley III finally shows improvement in his fourth season. The 22-year-old is going into a contract year, so it may be now or never for him.

    The Kings don't have a lot of forward depth in general, so Barnes isn't likely to be in danger of losing a starting job, be it at the 3 or 4.

San Antonio Spurs: PF Doug McDermott

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    Nick Wass/Associated Press

    Potential Replacements: Thaddeus Young, Lonnie Walker IV

    The San Antonio Spurs signed Doug McDermott to a three-year, $41.3 million deal in free agency, which suggests he'll snag a starting spot. He and Keldon Johnson figure to mix and match defensively at the forward positions.

    The Spurs aren't paying McDermott to defend, however, as he ranked in the 29th percentile defensively with the Indiana Pacers last season, per Cleaning the Glass. Opponents scored 2.3 more points per 100 possessions with him on the floor.

    Playing next to a proven rim protector like Jakob Poeltl will help cover up some of his defensive weaknesses, but McDermott might have to shoot even better than his 38.8 percent mark from three in 2020-21 to keep his starting job for the full season.

    Thaddeus Young is good enough to start for San Antonio in place of McDermott. The Spurs could also go small with Johnson at power forward and Lonnie Walker IV on the wing next to Dejounte Murray and Derrick White.

Toronto Raptors: C Khem Birch

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    Rich Schultz/Associated Press

    Potential Replacements: Chris Boucher, Precious Achiuwa

    The Toronto Raptors' apparent goal to acquire every 6'7" to 6'9" player in the league is going swimmingly. Team president Masai Ujiri drafted Scottie Barnes with the No. 4 overall pick, re-signed Khem Birch and traded for Precious Achiuwa this summer.

    The Raptors' new backcourt of Fred VanVleet and Gary Trent Jr. is fun, and OG Anunoby and Pascal Siakam are terrific two-way forwards, leaving Birch as the team's weak link.

    Birch ended the season as the Raptors' starting center, and he averaged 11.9 points on 55.6 percent shooting, 7.6 rebounds and 1.2 blocks in his 19 games with them. However, Toronto will eventually need to upgrade its center spot to make a serious playoff run again.

    The Raptors have a lot of frontcourt depth with Chris Boucher and Precious Achiuwa, although there's no star to be found outside of Siakam.

Utah Jazz: F Royce O'Neale

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    Sue Ogrocki/Associated Press

    Potential Replacements: Joe Ingles, Rudy Gay

    Whether you view Royce O'Neale as a small or power forward, he's the weak link of a Utah Jazz lineup that featured three All-Stars in 2021.

    That doesn't mean Utah should be looking to make a change anytime soon, however, even with two of the best reserves in the NBA on the roster.

    O'Neale's raw numbers (7.0 points, 6.8 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 0.8 steals in 31.6 minutes) will never do him justice. He's the team's best wing defender, and he has yet to register a negative on/off rating in four career seasons.

    While starting Joe Ingles over O'Neale may give Utah's starting five better playmaking and three-point shooting, it would be worse defensively and have fewer shots for Donovan Mitchell, Mike Conley Jr. and Bojan Bogdanovic to begin games.

Washington Wizards: C Daniel Gafford

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    Nick Wass/Associated Press

    Potential Replacements: Montrezl Harrell, Thomas Bryant

    Bradley Beal, Spencer Dinwiddie and Rui Hachimura are probably the only Washington Wizards starters who should feel comfortable heading into training camp. We'll likely see some good battles at the small forward and center positions.

    Daniel Gafford could look like the weak link of the starting lineup or one of its bright spots depending on how much he's developed his offensive game this offseason.

    "I’m really just focusing on if I get the ball down in the post, working on my face-up game. Shooting the ball more, just trying to be more of a threat on the floor when I’m out there, during the times that I get on the floor," Gafford told Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington.

    Gafford puts pressure on the rim on both ends, but hasn't been a threat to shoot the ball from outside of 10 feet thus far in his career. With good depth behind him in Montrezl Harrell and Thomas Bryant (when he returns from a partially torn ACL), Gafford will have to battle to keep his job.


    All stats via Basketball Reference unless otherwise noted.


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