With a chapter of NBA basketball now over, teams look forward to a fresh slate this season. New and old faces with their respective teams are going to be out there carving out a legacy to be remembered. With the wild free agency nearly over, we already have a picture of what to expect this coming season.
Let’s look at how the league’s starting lineups stack up against each other ranked from the best to worst.
1- Golden State Warriors
Projected starting unit: Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Kevin Durant, Draymond Green, DeMarcus Cousins
This is not a drill everyone. The Golden State Warriors potentially have an All-star starting unit. Boogie might be injured for now, but when he comes back how do you defend against this team?
This just might turn out to be not only the best starting unit this season but the best starting five in history.
2- Boston Celtics
Projected starting unit: Kyrie Irving, Jaylen Brown, Gordon Hayward, Jayson Tatum, Al Horford
A young Celtics unit went deep into the playoffs without their two All-stars in Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward. They took a LeBron James led Cavaliers squad to the limit, but failing to win the series 4-3 in the Eastern Conference Finals.
With their stars healthy and ready for this season, there is no telling how dangerous they can be in the east.
3- Philadelphia 76ers
Projected starting unit: Ben Simmons, J.J. Redick, Robert Covington, Dario Saric, Joel Embiid
Rising stars in Simmons and Embiid pave the way for future playoff appearances for Philly, given that their key pieces are healthy.
They have the size and talent to keep up with the best. It also helps that youth is on their side. These guys are going to be staples in the east.
4- Toronto Raptors
Projected starting unit: Kyle Lowry, Danny Green, Kawhi Leonard, Serge Ibaka, Jonas Valanciunas
The Kawhi Leonard migration may be the best thing to happen to the Raptors in a long time. They shipped out their top-10 shooting guard for a top-5 player and a three-and-D wing they desperately need.
If they get to integrate the new pieces into the system in time they will be the top dog in the east once again.
5- Minnesota Timberwolves
Projected starting unit: Jeff Teague, Andrew Wiggins, Jimmy Butler, Taj Gibson, Karl Anthony Towns
The talent, grit, and veteran leadership are there. Towns has established himself as one of the best big men in the league, while Butler continues to be hard working at both ends of the floor.
The enigma for this unit would be Wiggins. If he can take his game into another level they may become special in the West.
6- Houston Rockets
Projected starting unit: Chris Paul, James Harden, Carmelo Anthony, PJ Tucker, Clint Capela
They lost two premiere wing defenders in Ariza and Mbah a Moute. The two were key defensive cogs that allowed the Rockets to keep up and stifle the Warriors in their matchups.
They definitely got worse in the defensive department, but ramped up their high powered offense with Carmelo Anthony on his way to Houston. Are they better than last year? Maybe not.
7- Utah Jazz
Projected starting unit: Ricky Rubio, Donovan Mitchell, Joe Ingles, Derrick Favors, Rudy Gobert
Donovan Mitchell’s impact on the team was as surprising as their playoff run. He has established himself as a go-to-guy when it comes to the offense, something that the Jazz clearly lack seasons ago.
Already one of the top defensive teams in the league, as this unit continues to build chemistry, they will be more than a handful in the deep western conference.
8- Los Angeles Lakers
Projected starting unit: Lonzo Ball, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Brandon Ingram, LeBron James, JaVale McGee
LeBron moving to Hollywood instantly improved this team’s stock. A good mix of youth, veteran signings, and the best player in the league is something to look out for.
This may be the first rodeo for this unit altogether, but that does not make them any less dangerous pulling upsets on better teams here and there especially with LeBron pulling the reigns.
9- Indiana Pacers
Projected starting unit: Cory Joseph, Victor Oladipo, Tyreke Evans, Thaddeaus Young, Myles Turner
Oladipo is a bonafide stud. His All-star production will continue as the main man in Indiana. Picking up Tyreke Evans was an excellent move, adding an extra playmaker with fringe All-star talent.
They are not on the same league as the Celtics, Raptors, and 76ers yet, but hopefully, a breakout season from Myles Turner can inch them closer at the top.
10- Dallas Mavericks
Projected starting unit: Dennis Smith Jr, Luka Doncic, Harrison Barnes, Dirk Nowitzki, DeAndre Jordan
You got to hand it to Mark Cuban for this one. His love-hate relationship with DeAndre Jordan finally came to fruition, and snagging the projected top pick in Luka Doncic was some sneaky roster retooling.
The lineup is not perfect, but pretty solid with the old and the new guard. It would not surprise me if they get to sneak up in the playoff picture with this one.
11- Milwaukee Bucks
Projected starting unit: Eric Bledsoe, Khris Middleton, Giannis Antetokounmpo, John Henson, Brook Lopez
Having Brook Lopez might be the answer to their spacing issues. An adept rebounder and capable enough defender on the floor, he adds more size to an already tall lineup.
If Bledsoe finally finds his borderline All-star groove with his production, paired with a Greek Freak on a mission, it is scary imagining how good they could be.
12- Oklahoma City Thunder
Projected starting unit: Russell Westbrook, Andre Roberson, Paul George, Patrick Patterson, Steven Adams
With Carmelo Anthony gone, the Thunder will embrace a new identity: defense.
Westbrook and PG are going to do the usual offensive heavy lifting. The others will get to pick their offensive spots, but what the can do collectively better is defend on both ends of the floor.
Roberson at 100% and PG will be an opposing team’s defensive nightmare. Steven Adams will bring in the hustle and physicality.
It will be an interesting new chapter in Oklahoma.
13- Portland Trail Blazers
Projected starting unit: Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum, Al Farouq Aminu, Maurice Harkless, Jusuf Nurkic
The offense might never be a problem for this unit; Lillard and McCollum are easy 20 point scorers. On the other hand, the defense might be an issue.
While their wing defense is more than decent and Nurkic being an above average defender, elite athletic mobile big men like Anthony Davis or Joel Embiid, pose a problem for this guard-centric lineup.
14- Denver Nuggets
Projected starting unit: Jamal Murray, Gary Harris, Will Barton, Paul Millsap, Nikola Jokic
Step on the gas and never let go. That is how you would picture this Nuggets starting unit, full-throttle offense.
At times it will go in their favor and at times it won’t for that style of play. Losing Wilson Chandler does not make anything better either. His absence will expose a glaring hole at the small forward position.
Even with Michael Porter Jr possibly joining the starting unit at that slot, there is no natural small forward in this team.
15- New Orleans Pelicans
Projected starting unit: Elfrid Payton, Jrue Holiday, Nikola Mirotic, Julius Randle, Anthony Davis
Mirotic’s arrival in the bayou made things a whole lot easier for Anthony Davis. His floor spacing gives Davis the necessary room to operate and be effective.
Although their production and presence will surely be missed, Payton and Randle are more than capable replacements to Rondo and Cousins.
They still lack that game-changing wing to elevate their starting five.
16- Washington Wizards
Projected starting unit: John Wall, Bradley Beal, Otto Porter Jr, Markieff Morris, Dwight Howard
Will Dwight Howard finally be the key to the Wizards’ playoff aspirations? He is an upgrade of sorts from Marcin Gortat talent-wise, but not as willing on the pick-and-roll as Gortat.
The good thing is the core is still intact. The bad thing is this core somehow manages to fall short.
All-star duo Wall and Beal are going to need more help from the starter to make those playoff dreams come alive.
17- San Antonio Spurs
Projected starting unit: Dejounte Murray, DeMar DeRozan, Rudy Gay, LaMarcus Aldridge, Pau Gasol
Training wheels are off for Murray now that Tony Parker is gone. We may see an evolution from midrange shooting DeRozan to corner shooting DeRozan.
Three out of five starters may be on the different end of the youth spectrum, which might be a problem for the younger and quicker teams.
Nonetheless, never doubt a second from Coach Pop. He will make it work somehow. He always does.
18- Memphis Grizzlies
Projected starting unit: Mike Conley, Dillon Brooks, Kyle Anderson, JaMychal Green, Marc Gasol
It is yet to be seen if the dynamic duo of Conley and Gasol can bounce back next season. Having a healthy and focused Conley can still match up with the top guards adequately.
Kyle Anderson on board gives them a much-needed point-forward to alleviate some playmaking duties from the guards.
Dillon Brooks is poised for a breakout season if they fully put their faith in him.
19- Charlotte Hornets
Projected starting unit: Kemba Walker, Nicolas Batum, Miles Bridges, Frank Kaminsky, Cody Zeller
Somewhere early in the season, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist will lose his starting spot due to his offensive deficiencies. Miles Bridges will get a crack at the gig and keep it throughout the season due to his offensive skills.
Kemba is still going to be the workhorse that he is. Batum will be underwhelming as ever. The big man duo of Kaminsky and Zeller is under-the-radar good.
20- Cleveland Cavaliers
Projected starting unit: Colin Sexton, George Hill, JR Smith, Larry Nance jr, Kevin Love
The post-LeBron era starting unit is looking good for Kevin Love. Without the need to be second fiddle, we might see the old 20-20 Kevin Love. Colin Sexton is the future of the Cavs. Aside from that, there isn’t much going. Oh, JR Smith is still here!
The starting unit has decent firepower, a good mix of veterans and youth, but not enough talent to take a bite out of the heavy hitters in the east.
21- Detroit Pistons
Projected starting unit: Reggie Jackson, Reggie Bullock, Stanley Johnson, Blake Griffin, Andre Drummond
The Pistons better find a decent point guard fast if they want a sniff of the playoff picture. The twin tower combo of Griffin and Drummond works, but in order for it to be efficient, they need someone to get the ball in their hands. Reggie Jackson is not that kind of guard.
Stanley Johnson might lose his starting gig to Glenn Robinson in the middle of the season if he can’t get a decent three-point stroke going.
22- Miami Heat
Projected starting unit: Goran Dragic, Wayne Ellington, Josh Richardson, James Johnson, Bam Adebayo
Goran Dragic is the only high profile name in this group, but I would not be surprised if Wayne Ellington’s and Josh Richardson’s stock start to climb as the season progresses.
The talent compared to other teams may not be there, but this unit is gritty and physical. They can pull off upsets if you sleep on them.
23- Los Angeles Clippers
Projected starting unit: Patrick Beverley, Lou Williams, Luc Mbah a Moute, Tobias Harris, Marcin Gortat
Tobias Harris will explode during his contract season. Lou Williams will produce All-star numbers, but will never be selected. I don’t see most of the starting unit finishing the season wearing a Clipper uniform. Any of them can be shipped out to contenders for the right price.
Underwhelming in all aspects, they will be mediocre at best.
24- Orlando Magic
Projected starting unit: Jerian Grant, Evan Fournier, Jonathon Simmons, Aaron Gordon, Nikola Vucevic
Not a knock on Jerian Grant’s talent, but they need an upgrade in that position. We might see the final season of Vucevic in Orlando. A trade would be logical in filling the need at point guard and it opens playing time to develop the younger bigs.
There will be flashes of brilliance, especially with Aaron Gordon trying to validate his recent contract. Without the necessary pieces and moves, this unit will result in cellar dwelling once more.
25- New York Knicks
Projected starting unit: Frank Ntilikina, Mario Hezonja, Kevin Knox, Kristaps Porzingis, Enes Kanter
From time to time the Knicks get it right. With visible direction and progress, this is one of those times. As they wait for the return of Porzingis, gauging their current talent will be the name of the game.
Knox has star potential. Getting a flier on lost lottery pick Hezonja is a good gamble. The youth movement puts the Knicks in a good position for the future.
26- Sacramento Kings
Projected starting unit: De’Aaron Fox, Buddy Hield, Marvin Bagley III, Zach Randolph, Willie Cauley-Stein
Wins are not expected from this group, but a baptism of fire from their young talent. It’s going to be a proving ground for the starters except for Zbo. The Kings have amassed young talent. An expectation of a future All-star is expected from their pool.
Currently, Fox or Hield might have the best shot in developing into that All-star building block that the Kings covet.
27- Phoenix Suns
Projected starting unit: Isaiah Canaan, Devin Booker, TJ Warren, Trevor Ariza, DeAndre Ayton
All eyes will be on this group with top pick DeAndre Ayton in tow. They will be exciting to watch, but not really competing in the deep west.
This season will be experimentation and retooling on how their young pieces will coexist.
The point guard position is in need of an immediate upgrade for this to work long term.
28- Chicago Bulls
Projected starting unit: Kris Dunn, Zach Lavine, Jabari Parker, Lauri Markkanen, Robin Lopez
The Bulls committed on Lavine big time. It is still a question if they see Dunn in the same light. Parker’s time as a Bull might hinder Markkanen’s touches. Robin Lopez to a contender for assets won’t be a surprise.
The Bulls are on phase two of their rebuild. If Dunn’s shot does not get close to decent they might give Cameron Payne a shot.
29- Atlanta Hawks
Projected starting unit: Trae Young, Kent Bazemore, Deandre Bembry, Taurean Prince, John Collins
The Hawks are fully invested on a youth movement rebuild. Kent Bazemore won’t be in a Hawks uniform for long.
No real strength from this unit. Bad shots and turnovers will be inevitable for this young team. The patience will be there for growth. They might be relevant 3-years from now.
30- Brooklyn Nets
Projected starting unit: D’Angelo Russell, Spencer Dinwiddie, DeMarre Carroll, Ed Davis, Jarrett Allen
D’Angelo Russell has shown glimpses of potential. If healthy this might be his breakout year. Dinwiddie is one of those under-the-radar productive guards who rarely make mistakes. Jarrett Allen might be special soon.
The Nets are starting to find their identity now. They lost any semblance or relevance once they went all in on that Boston trade for Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce.
It will be a long arduous process for them. Their small roster moves will amount into something big soon.