1 Starter Every NBA Team Could Replace This Summer

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBANational NBA Featured ColumnistApril 29, 2022

1 Starter Every NBA Team Could Replace This Summer

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    The NBA offseason is all about opportunity.

    It's the opportunity to pluck young talent from the draft, splurge on a star in free agency or cash in those trade chips for a top-tier target.

    More than anything, though, it's the opportunity to change. No matter if teams are looking to build off the momentum from the previous season or hoping to forget the campaign ever happened, everyone has a tweak they can make in pursuit of their goals.

    We'll focus on changes here by specifically identifying the one player each club could replace in its starting five for next season. The reasons vary from performance to pay rate and everything in between, but we'll dig deeper into each situation as we go. For clarity's sake, we'll also force ourselves to find a replacement in every situation, meaning we might consider changes the teams themselves never would.

Atlanta Hawks: John Collins

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    Yes, the Hawks just signed John Collins to a five-year, $125 million pact before the season, but they seemingly second-guessed the deal soon after it was signed. The two sides ironed out the contract in August, and by January, his name was already bouncing around the trade rumor mill.

    The issue isn't Collins himself. He's a 24-year-old who's been good for 18.5 points and 8.7 rebounds since the start of 2018-19. In most situations, his age and ability might lock him into building-block status.

    In Atlanta, though, his close-range finishing overlaps with starting center Clint Capela's skill set. While Collins can stretch the floor, he has never been a high-volume shooter. This season, just 27.3 percent of his field-goal attempts came from the perimeter, and that was a career high.

    When the Hawks re-signed him, they were investing in young, ascending talent. Now, it's time to prioritize fit and team needs. While other clubs could covet Collins' finishing and glass-cleaning, Atlanta would elevate its roster by flipping him in a deal that brings back a dynamic wing defender who can create his own shot.

Boston Celtics: Al Horford

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    The Celtics struck such a perfect rhythm in the second half that recommending any subtraction from the starting group feels like traveling back in time to break up The Beatles. But that's what this exercise demands, so, uh, sorry Beatles.

    Having said that, singling out Al Horford as the sacrificial lamb seems pretty obvious.

    He is the oldest member of Boston's first five and, by net differential at least, the least productive (plus-4.1, worst among Celtics starters). His contract also happens to feature the easiest escape clause, as only $14.5 million of his $26.5 million salary for next season is fully guaranteed.

    If the Celtics split from Horford this offseason, they could either promote from within (Grant Williams and Daniel Theis are capable candidates) or search for a combo forward with better mobility and a more reliable three-ball (Horford shot just 33.6 percent from range this season).

Brooklyn Nets: Andre Drummond

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    If you wanted, you could process-of-elimination your way to this call. Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving are two of this generation's best scorers. Seth Curry is a net-shredder who can pull defensive attention away from Brooklyn's stars. Bruce Brown Jr. might have an Elmer's sponsorship in his near future after acing his glue-guy role.

    That alone puts Andre Drummond on the chopping block. However, it's actually much simpler than that, as the free-agent-to-be admitted himself.

    "If we're all being honest, I'm only here until the rest of the season," Drummond said in March, per Kristian Winfield of the New York Daily News.

    At most, the Nets can only offer Drummond the taxpayer mid-level exception worth roughly $6 million. He seemingly thinks he'll fetch more than that on the open market, and it's not even clear if Brooklyn would go that high, since several key contributors (like Brown, Irving and Drummond's potential replacement, Nic Claxton) could also enter free agency.

Charlotte Hornets: Mason Plumlee

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    This seems a bit tricky, as there are two obvious candidates in Buzz City.

    The first (and some might say the most deserving) is Gordon Hayward. Forget, for a moment, that he's a former All-Star or even that he has been mostly productive during his two seasons in Charlotte. The issue is his medical maladies have made him unreliable—93 games played over this year and last—and the Hornets aren't the kind of franchise that can afford paying north of $30 million to an unreliable player.

    Hayward, who reportedly wouldn't mind a scenery change, per B/R's Jake Fischer, can and should be heavily shopped this summer. However, if the Hornets are truly going to escape mediocrity's clutch—ousting James Borrego after back-to-back play-in losses would indicate that's the objective—then they must finally fix the center spot.

    Mason Plumlee is a capable reserve who gets over his skis when thrust into the starting lineup. He shot a disastrous 39.2 percent from the stripe and did nothing to elevate Charlotte's 22nd-ranked defense. Shipping him out or benching him for an external upgrade (Richaun Holmes or Myles Turner come to mind) could be the move that finally lifts this club's ceiling past the play-in tournament.

Chicago Bulls: Nikola Vucevic

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    This feels a little harsh, since, in a vacuum, Nikola Vucevic is at least a serviceable starter at center.

    Of course, he doesn't play in a vacuum; he plays in Chicago. And on this roster, his strengths as a scorer, rebounder and passer may not matter as much as his limitations as a defender.

    The Bulls were feisty on defense for the first month or so, but cracks formed even before perimeter stoppers Lonzo Ball and Alex Caruso were lost to injury. Chicago eventually landed 23rd in defensive efficiency while allowing the Association's ninth-most paint points.

    Assuming the Bulls plan to keep building around DeMar DeRozan and Zach LaVine—unrestricted free agency awaits the latter—they'll need an intimidating paint presence at the back line of their defense. Vucevic wears a lot of different hats, but that isn't one of them.

Cleveland Cavaliers: Lauri Markkanen

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    There are only two options here, which speaks to how far this roster has come in such a short amount of time. Darius Garland and Jarrett Allen were All-Stars; they're going nowhere. Evan Mobley was our Rookie of the Year (and the league's runner-up); neither is he.

    That only leaves Lauri Markkanen and Isaac Okoro, and you could make an argument for one. (Although, if you're the Cavs, you probably make the argument for neither, since the entire starting lineup is under the age of 25.)

    So, why are we arguing for Markkanen? For one, it's a vote of confidence in Okoro. He is a tenacious and versatile defender who shot 44.2 percent from three after the All-Star break and occasionally flashes some secondary playmaking. You can see the outline of a two-way wing, and since he is only 21 years old, time remains on his side.

    Markkanen, meanwhile, deserves copious amounts of credit for shoehorning his game to fit the role of jumbo 3 that this club needed him to play. Still, his lack of lateral quickness can get exposed on the perimeter, and despite standing 7'0" tall, he's not a shot-blocker. If he offered enough offense, Cleveland could perhaps live with his defensive deficiencies, but that's a big concession to make for a 14.8-points-per-game scorer with middling shooting rates (44.5/35.8/86.8).

Dallas Mavericks: Dwight Powell

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    If the aim of this exercise was to identify the most likely replacement from the starting lineup, then Jalen Brunson might be the pick. The fact that he has followed a career campaign with a full-fledged playoff breakout (28.6 points per game) means he'll soon command an amount of money the Mavericks may not be keen to pay.

    However, since our objective is merely recommending a replacement, Dwight Powell is the clear-cut candidate.

    His name surfaced in trade talks last summer, per B/R's Jake Fischer, and there's no reason to expect this offseason will be any different. He has an eight-figure salary and a role that has diminished in the playoffs for the second consecutive season.

    Seemingly every time an impact center generates trade buzz, the Mavericks are mentioned as a suitor. It has happened with Myles Turner, per B/R's Eric Pincus, and Rudy Gobert, per ESPN's Tim MacMahon, and it could happen again if another top-shelf center hits the market. That says all you need to know about Dallas' feelings on its center spot.

Denver Nuggets: Will Barton

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    We could take the easy way out here and spotlight a substitute starter like Monte Morris or Jeff Green, but what's the fun in that? They are merely holding the places of Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr., respectively, and wouldn't start for this squad at full strength.

    Will Barton better fits the spirit of this exercise, since he is probably penciled into next year's opening lineup, but you could argue he shouldn't be.

    The 31-year-old is the proverbial jack of all trades, master of none. He can create offense, but he's not quite efficient enough for you to want him creating a ton. He can find open teammates, but he's most comfortable dialing his own number. He offers a bit of flexibility on defense, but he has never been mistaken for a shape-shifting, versatile stopper.

    Plus, what if the Nuggets could simply get more mileage out of promoting Bones Hyland to the first five? The defense might suffer a bit—though Barton just posted his worst defensive box plus/minus in a half-decade, so who knows—but the offensive improvement might be worth it. An opening attack featuring Hyland, Murray, Porter and Nikola Jokic sounds downright nightmarish.

Detroit Pistons: Jerami Grant

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    Some Pistons fans might scoff at this notion, since Jerami Grant might be the second-best player on the team. If NBA moves were made strictly for basketball reasons, you wouldn't give Grant a second thought and instead debate between Isaiah Stewart and Killian Hayes or Cory Joseph.

    The fallacy in that thought process, though, is neglecting the league's business side. Add that to the equation, and you'll see the best business move for the Motor City's rebuilders would be converting Grant's trade value into someone who can better help the long-term growth of top pick Cade Cunningham.

    Grant's appeal to win-now shoppers should be immense. He defends nearly every position, creates offense in a pinch and can consistently splash open shots. His efficiency has taken a hit with the Pistons putting him in a primary offensive role he doesn't really have the game to match, but in the two seasons prior to joining Detroit—when he was on playoff teams in Oklahoma City and Denver—he shot 48.9 percent from the field and 39.1 percent from three.

    Back in January, one team strategist described Grant as "the grand prize" of trade season, per B/R's Jake Fischer. The Pistons can essentially name their price in a trade. The trade value is too rich for Detroit to ignore, particularly with the 28-year-old Grant now approaching a contract year.

Golden State Warriors: Kevon Looney

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    Kevon Looney is in his seventh season with Golden State. He might have a doctorate-level understanding of the Warriors' way.

    You get why Golden State has kept him around this long. You understand the club's comfort level in entrusting him with a full-time starting gig for the first time this season. Heck, you might even concede the Warriors don't really need to swap him out, since they just might make a championship run with him manning the middle.

    And yet, every time the club's hypothetical wish list comes up, it's hard to put anything other than an impact center at the top of the list. There are certain matchups Looney physically can't measure up to as a 6'9", 222-pounder. Plus, modern teams want shooting or shot-blocking (or, ideally, both) from their bigs, and Looney provides neither.

    The Dubs can dream big if they want, as they have the trade chips to broker a blockbuster should someone like Rudy Gobert or Myles Turner catch their eye. Finding a Looney replacement doesn't have to be that dramatic, though. Golden State could simply downsize with Draymond Green as the starting center, or perhaps it discovers that James Wiseman is suddenly ready for an opening gig. It's also possible Looney simply walks as an unrestricted free agent.

Houston Rockets: Eric Gordon

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    Houston's first five reads like a "One of these things is not like the other" problem.

    The rebuilding Rockets are predictably loaded on youth, as the lineup includes a rookie (Jalen Green), a sophomore (Jae'Sean Tate) and a third-year player (Kevin Porter Jr.). The second-most experienced member is Christian Wood, who just wrapped his sixth NBA season, but since only the last three saw him receiving regular floor time, he is greener than he sounds.

    Finally, you have Eric Gordon, who turned 33 on Christmas and has now played 14 seasons in the Association. By Houston's standards, he is ancient—and, if the Rockets are being honest, also unnecessary.

    If the Rockets had any inclination toward winning sooner than later, they could use the veteran's shot-creating and sharpshooting. Since they don't, the best role he can serve in Space City is as a trade vehicle to long-term assets that can actually contribute whenever the post-James Harden Rockets are finally ready for take-off.

Indiana Pacers: Malcolm Brogdon

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    There are no shortage of replacement candidates in the Circle City, which makes sense as the Pacers are knee-deep in a roster churn. Whether they're rebuilding or retooling, they are at least partially looking toward a future they hope can be more fruitful than their recent past.

    Myles Turner is perpetually on the trade block, but at 26, he's just young enough for the Pacers to keep around during this reconstruction. He will need a new deal after this season, but Indy might want to be on the other end of that contract, especially if he can spread his wings in a frontcourt no longer featuring Domantas Sabonis. T.J. Warren is another option, but if his price is right in free agency, he might be worth another deal to see if he can recapture the magic of his bubble breakout.

    The Pacers already paid Malcolm Brogdon—they tacked on a two-year, $45 million extension before this season—which is part of the issue. The amount isn't egregious for his ability, but his availability (or, rather, lack thereof) doesn't measure up. He suited up just 36 times this past season and has only crested 65 games once in his six-year career.

    Even when healthy, though, he may no longer fit this roster. With Tyrese Haliburton, Chris Duarte and Buddy Hield around, Indy is fairly set in the backcourt and needs to beef up the forward spots. Using a Brogdon trade, which executives expect them to explore, per HoopsHype's Michael Scotto, to scratch that itch could make tons of sense.

Los Angeles Clippers: Marcus Morris Sr.

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    This is tricky, because every Clipper not named Kawhi Leonard or Paul George is expendable to some degree.

    Saying that, Ivica Zubac is owed only a $7.5 million team option, which seems reasonable enough for an average center. Nicolas Batum, who may get squeezed out of a starting gig with this club at full strength, holds a $3.3 million player option. Assuming he picks it up or re-signs for a similar number, he adds enough as a shooter, decision-maker and defender to keep around.

    Marcus Morris Sr., though, might be starting to show his age—in everything but salary, at least. The 32-year-old, who's owed $33.5 million over the next two seasons, just contributed his fewest win shares per 48 minutes in a half-decade (0.074). He also shot a forgettable 43.4 percent from the field and missed double-digit games for the third consecutive season.

    If the Clippers can orchestrate a major trade this summer, Morris' salary can help make the money work. If not, they might still get more mileage out of giving his starting spot to someone who is more reliable in terms of health and outside shooting.

Los Angeles Lakers: Russell Westbrook

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    I mean, do we really have to explain this one?

    You all saw the Lakers' season, right? Russell Westbrook's ball dominance and erratic (at best) shooting proved as poor a fit as everyone outside of L.A.'s decision-makers expected. His 15.0 player efficiency rating and minus-1.6 box plus/minus were both the worst of his career. The Lakers were 2.4 points better per 100 possessions when he didn't play.

    Last summer, LeBron James reportedly urged the Lakers to add Westbrook, per NBA insider Marc Stein. James was recently pressed on whether Westbrook, who holds a $47.1 million player option, should return.

    "I'm not going to sit here and make decisions for the front office," James replied, per B/R's Eric Pincus.

    The writing is undoubtedly on the wall here; it's just the manner of Westbrook's exit that is to be determined.

Memphis Grizzlies: Steven Adams

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    In just a single season, Memphis motored up the Western Conference standings from the No. 9 seed to the No. 2 spot, matching a franchise record with 56 wins in the process. If the Grizzlies opted to run it back next season, no one would blame them.

    Again, though, we're avoiding any "No Replacements Needed" cop-outs, so someone has to go. And it won't be Ja Morant, Desmond Bane, Dillon Brooks or Jaren Jackson Jr., so that leaves only Steven Adams on the board.

    His muscle and motor proved invaluable on the interior during the regular season, but this first-round tussle with the Minnesota Timberwolves exposed some of his shortcomings. The Grizzlies were outscored by 13 points during his 24 minutes of Game 1 and basically haven't gone back to the big man since. He saw three minutes in Game 2, four in Game 4 and never got off the bench for Game 3.

    He isn't the fleetest of foot on the perimeter, and Karl-Anthony Towns exposed that at every opportunity. There might only be one KAT floating around, but modern bigs perpetually increase their comfort level away from the basket, meaning this issue isn't going away for Adams.

Miami Heat: Duncan Robinson

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    This might feel like cheating since the Heat pulled Duncan Robinson out of the starting lineup late in the season and severely sliced into his role for much of these playoffs.

    Then again, it has always seemed the demotion could be temporary. He still made 68 starts this season (second-most on the squad) and is only 20 percent of the way through the five-year, $90 million deal he signed last summer.

    The money shouldn't matter, though, unless the Heat need it to match salaries in a summer whale hunt. Miami may have already found a more than capable replacement in Max Strus, who is two years younger, only costs minimum money and shot a higher percentage from three this season (41 to Robinson's 37.2).

    It wouldn't be shocking to see the Heat turn back to Robinson, who established himself as one of the purer shooters on the planet the past two seasons. But if Miami can match the outside shooting with Strus, who's stronger and more athletic, or finds a three-and-D upgrade on the trade market, then benching or trading Robinson might be a no-brainer.

Milwaukee Bucks: Wesley Matthews

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    Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday are locked into the starting lineup as long as they're healthy. Brook Lopez should be too, since his combination of floor-spacing and paint protection greases the gears of Milwaukee's system at both ends.

    In other words, there really is just one position to consider. So, Wesley Matthews is our choice, but if you want to argue Grayson Allen is actually the starter, that's fine; he'd just be in this spot instead of Matthews.

    Either way, the one area Milwaukee could theoretically upgrade is the off-guard spot. In a perfect world, Donte DiVincenzo (since traded) would still fill that role, but his 2021 tear of a ligament in his left ankle dashed that dream. Instead, the Bucks are basically forced to choose between defensive versatility (Matthews) and sharpshooting (Allen).

    It's probably wishful thinking for the franchise to find the flexibility or trade chips needed to add a three-and-D wing, but doing so would make one of basketball's best rosters even stronger.

Minnesota Timberwolves: Jarred Vanderbilt

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    Jarred Vanderbilt has earned his way into Minnesota's starting five each of the past two seasons, so maybe it's foolish to think he won't make it three in a row.

    Still, it's telling that every power forward (or power forward-adjacent player) who even approaches the rumor mill is quickly connected to Minnesota. It happened with John Collins. And with Ben Simmons (attached to Tobias Harris, no less). And, for reasons that aren't entirely clear, with Myles Turner too.

    Vanderbilt brings a tremendous motor and heaps of defensive versatility, and he cleans the glass better than the best window washer money can buy. He is instant energy—which the Timberwolves already get from Patrick Beverley, whose leadership and shot-making should put him higher on the organizational pecking order.

    Vanderbilt is fine, so long as Minnesota is fine getting no offense outside of the restricted area from the power forward spot. The fact that the Wolves keep tabs on any and every available 4 suggests they are not.

New Orleans Pelicans: Jaxson Hayes

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    Jaxson Hayes is keeping Zion Williamson's seat warm—or so New Orleans hopes—so maybe it's not fair to single him out here.

    The problem is, if not Hayes, then who?

    Brandon Ingram is a former All-Star who is arguably playing his best basketball to date on the game's biggest stage. CJ McCollum has delivered buckets by the busload since arriving at the trade deadline. Jonas Valanciunas isn't spectacular, but he is firmly in the rock-solid tier (if not a tic above it) and paid accordingly. Herbert Jones is a rookie who's already rocketing up the rankings of the league's best lockdown defenders.

    So, Hayes it is, folks. He's a rim-running center who has been repurposed as a jumbo power forward out of necessity. The position change has highlighted his defensive versatility and suggested there's more stretch to his game than most realized, but the return of a healthy Williamson (knocks on wood) should shift Hayes back to the bench and probably back to the center spot.

New York Knicks: Alec Burks

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    In a single season, New York nose-dived from No. 4 in the Eastern Conference standings to No. 11. As you may have surmised, the Knicks have no shortage of options for this exercise.

    RJ Barrett feels like the only safe member of the starting five, although even he was available for the right star guard last offseason, per Kristian Winfield of the New York Daily News. Julius Randle regressed in a bad way this season, Evan Fournier provided little beyond perimeter shooting, and while Mitchell Robinson was good, he might have been too good for Gotham with unrestricted free agency awaiting him.

    Why Alec Burks, then? Because he's a 30-year-old reserve wing who somehow became the Knicks' starting point guard. Yeah, it was a strange season in the Empire State.

    Burks is serviceable in an instant-offense role, but he'd be over his skis as a starter even if he was playing the right position. The Knicks badly need a new point guard, and if they can finally get one, Burks can slide back into a bench role (assuming he isn't sacrificed in a summer trade).

Oklahoma City Thunder: Darius Bazley

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    For a young Thunder team that had more players appear in games (26) than wins (24), this exercise could be complicated. They trotted out 35 different starting lineups, which could potentially cloud over their actual preference for their openers.

    Having said that, Shai-Gilgeous Alexander, Josh Giddey and Luguentz Dort seem like locks for the first five, and all three of them belong. Rookie Jeremiah Robinson-Earl might have secured his spot, too, even if he doesn't offer great size (6'9"), length (6'10" wingspan) or athleticism for the center position.

    By process of elimination, then, Darius Bazley becomes the relatively obvious choice.

    The 21-year-old has a wealth of physical tools, and there's still time for him to put them all to good use. Saying that, his forgettable production makes him more of a project than an actual player, which is troubling after three NBA seasons. He is shooting just 40.6 percent overall and 30.5 percent from range for his career.

Orlando Magic: Mo Bamba

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    You could make a case that any Magic starter not named Franz Wagner or Wendell Carter Jr. belongs here.

    Cole Anthony has popped as a scorer, but you want better than a 39.1/33.8/85.4 slash line from a player who does his best work on the offensive end. Jalen Suggs got after it defensively but struggled mightily with his shooting touch (36.1/21.4/77.3) and didn't move the needle as a distributor (4.4 assists against 3.0 turnovers).

    Mo Bamba had a better year than both, which might make him seem like a strange selection. Dig a little deeper, though, and there are reasons to believe he's the most logical choice.

    For starters, he is set to enter restricted free agency, so there's no guarantee he is even on the roster after this offseason. If he is, though, the return of Jonathan Isaac could bump Bamba to the bench. Bamba boasts an interesting combo of shot-blocking and three-point shooting, but his game lacks the layers that Isaac and Carter can provide.

Philadelphia 76ers: Tobias Harris

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    Between the MVP-caliber effort of Joel Embiid, the ascension of sophomore Tyrese Maxey and the deadline arrival of James Harden, Tobias Harris now finds himself fourth on Philly's offensive hierarchy.

    For this season alone, that gives the Sixers an embarrassment of riches at the offensive end. However, things will get complicated as soon as this playoff run ends, given the juxtaposition of Harris' decreasing role (17.7 percent usage rate this postseason, down from 24.6 in last year's playoffs) and increasing salary ($37.6 million next season and $39.3 million for 2023-24).

    "It's not that Tobias is a bad player; far from it," an Eastern Conference scout told B/R's A. Sherrod Blakely. "But that contract. He's basically making max-player money as the team's fourth option behind James, Joel and Maxey."

    Harris is stuck in a can't-win spot. Even if he molded his game to be the perfect three-and-D support piece, he'd be grossly overpaid for the position. No matter how the Sixers feel about him as a player, they need to cut ties this summer in an attempt to balance the books.

Phoenix Suns: Jae Crowder

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    If any club earned the right to be excluded from this exercise, this would be it.

    The Suns have had their starting lineup locked in place for two seasons now. The first featured Phoenix's third-ever trip to the NBA Finals. The second included an NBA-leading (and franchise-record) 64 triumphs.

    The opening quintet of Chris Paul, Devin Booker, Mikal Bridges, Jae Crowder and Deandre Ayton logged the second-most minutes of any lineup this season. During their time together, they outscored opponents by a healthy 7.4 points per 100 possessions. They have no obvious motivation to split these five up, assuming they're cool with whatever Ayton commands as a restricted free agent.

    If Phoenix did make an alteration, though, swapping out Jae Crowder for the ascending Cam Johnson seems like the right swap. Crowder offers a pinch more resistance at the defensive end, but Johnson is closing the gap there while making it canyon-esque on offense. Johnson is a much better shooter (by volume and efficiency), a better creator off the bounce and a slick passer when given the opportunity.

Portland Trail Blazers: Nassir Little

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    Portland's first five is potentially in flux. The Blazers tanked their way to 55 losses and turned their second-half roster into a "Who He Play For?" game on the hardest difficulty level, cresting with an opening five for the finale that featured—checks notes—CJ Elleby, Keon Johnson, Didi Louzada, Reggie Perry and Brandon Williams.

    After all of that, though, there might be more stability here than it seems. Damian Lillard is obviously locked into his role, and Josh Hart did everything he could to get the same treatment. Assuming the Blazers aren't scared off of the free-agency price tags attached to Anfernee Simons and Jusuf Nurkic, those four could reprise their starting roles, too.

    That leaves out only Nassir Little, who was making big progress before shoulder surgery derailed this season.

    Portland should continue investing in Little's development, but if the Blazers can sniff out a significant upgrade this summer, the incoming player most likely snags Little's spot. Jerami Grant was at the top of Portland's wish list, per B/R's Jake Fischer, and is exactly the kind of player who could bump Little back to the bench without a second thought.

Sacramento Kings: Justin Holiday

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    This has less to do with Justin Holiday than it does the Kings.

    Holiday, a 33-year-old who just finished his ninth NBA season, is well-established as a solid three-and-D wing at this point. He would be a helpful role player on a contender or a serviceable starter in the right situation.

    Sacramento just isn't that situation.

    The Kings, who just stretched their NBA record playoff drought to 16 seasons, are perpetually pushing for any kind of relevance they can find, but securing a starting spot for a middling 30-something seems shortsighted even for them. They might be able to eventually build something formidable around the 25-and-under trio of De'Aaron Fox, Domantas Sabonis and Davion Mitchell, but it won't be next season.

    If Sacramento prioritizes the future (as it should), then dealing Holiday for assets and giving his starting gig to a young player with upside is the sensible strategy.

San Antonio Spurs: Joshua Primo

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    If the Spurs wanted to shake up this offseason, they could send the trade market into a frenzy.

    Dejounte Murray would fetch a king's ransom after his All-Star emergence. Jakob Poeltl could answer a lot of questions for a win-now shopper with a hole in the middle (looking at you, Hornets).

    Should San Antonio decide both are keepers, though, then each will again be cemented in the starting lineup. So, too, will Keldon Johnson, who carried legitimate buzz into this campaign and then took it next level by firing up more threes than ever (5.3 per game) and splashing them at a 39.8 percent clip.

    The debate here, then, is between Joshua Primo and Devin Vassell, and Primo loses out for his lack of polish. The 19-year-old—he won't turn 20 until December, so it's not like the raw nature of his skills is at all surprising—had a few flashes and a bunch of growing pains in his first NBA go-round. While regular minutes can hasten his development, it's fine if those come off of the bench and might be beneficial as he can find his form against second-teamers.

Toronto Raptors: Gary Trent Jr.

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    This feels like it should include a personal apology to Gary Trent Jr., who did absolutely nothing to wind up on this list.

    However, what other direction could we possibly go?

    The arguments for swapping out Pascal Siakam or Fred VanVleet for long-term assets went out the window once the Raptors forced their way back into the Eastern Conference's top tier. Rookie of the Year Scottie Barnes showed nothing less than superstar potential. OG Anunoby again battled injuries and some offensive inconsistency, but he's a tenacious defender who keeps expanding his offensive bag.

    Trent, meanwhile, is a fiery shooter and plucky defender. He can be streaky and sometimes gets himself into trouble as a defensive gambler, which is nit-picky stuff, but Toronto's first five is loaded that picking nits is a must here. It's also worth noting Trent could enter 2023 free agency (he has an $18.6 million player option for 2023-24), so if the Raptors are at all worried about re-signing him, they could conceivably dangle him now.

Utah Jazz: Mike Conley

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    Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press

    We know what you're thinking here, and yes, there is a temptation to go with all of Utah's starters. The vibes out of Salt Lake City are as uncomfortable as ever, the Jazz fell into a 2-1 hole with Luka Doncic watching from the sidelines, and it feels like we've been getting daily reports on the state of the relationship between Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert for more than a year.

    Throw in the (relatively) recent changes in ownership and front office decision-makers, and any sentimental attachments to this core that previously existed could be out the window. If Utah gets bounced from the opening round for the third time in four seasons, it could be a very busy summer for the Jazz.

    Barring a deep playoff run, some kind of change feels likely. While folks might argue for Gobert here given his offensive limitations, the Jazz would help themselves most by splitting from Mike Conley and upgrading at point guard.

    The 34-year-old has followed one of the quietest campaigns of his career with a disastrous playoff effort at both ends of the floor. He is owed a robust $22.7 million next season and has a partially guaranteed $24.4 million pact for the following year. That's difference-maker money for a player who is making the wrong kind of differences.

Washington Wizards: Tomas Satoransky

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    Rusty Jones/Associated Press

    The bold move here would be going with Bradley Beal. He will be a free agent as soon as he sheds his $36.4 million player option, and it's all too easy to question the long-term gains of keeping this relationship going.

    However, Beal has professed his loyalty to the franchise, and that's a hard thing to knock. The Wizards have similarly expressed their affinity for him, and again, that's not easily second-guessed. Even if you're less bullish about the height of Washington's ceiling, can you blame a team for wanting to keep someone who averaged 30-plus points each of the previous two seasons?

    Take Beal off the table, and things clear up in a hurry. The Wizards received mostly positive results from their deadline gamble on Kristaps Porzingis, so why pull the plug now? Kyle Kuzma and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope either met or exceeded expectations, so again there's no obvious need to change.

    The fifth starting spot is the only option, then, and if the plan is for Tomas Satoransky to fill it, the Wizards should find another plan. He is a heady passer but doesn't bring enough else to the table to warrant a starter's workload.


    Statistics courtesy of NBA.com and Basketball Reference unless otherwise noted. Salary information via Spotrac.

    Zach Buckley covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter, @ZachBuckleyNBA.