Whether it be the Triple Entente, N*Sync or The Avengers, a cohesive team is needed for success. The same goes for the NBA. At every moment 5 players need to work as one, complimenting each other's skills and compensating for their weaknesses. Roles are established and executed with a common goal in mind. If not all 5 individuals on the court understand their responsibility, the team as a whole becomes vulnerable. Try as the Golden State Warriors may, no coach needs five 3-point shooters on the court. Ball handlers, rebounders, and defenders are also essential. Those players that can fulfill all these roles are elite, but often are still unable to obtain the ultimate prize alone
Ask any high school coach and they will preach that it's not important who starts the game, but it's important who finishes. With this in mind, it has become customary to play your best players at the start of the game in order to have as much success as early as possible. The following analysis is a breakdown of the best starting lineups on paper, based on past stats and projections of future stats. As any basketball fan knows, the game is played on the court, and the underdog always has a puncher's chance. But all we could do before the season starts is go by the lineups on paper.
Without further ado, here is the ranking of every NBA team’s starting lineup for the 2018-19 season.
30 Brooklyn Nets
Starting Lineup: D'Angelo Russell, Allen Crabbe, DeMarre Carrol, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson & Jarrett Allen
The Brooklyn Nets are fresh off a 28-54, and the only change to their starting lineup is that D’Angelo Russell looks to be healthy.
The Nets were nothing if not consistent in 2017-18, with the 23rd most wins, 22nd in defensive rating, and 21st in offensive rating. At the start of the 2018-19 season, the 15,000 at Barclays Center will have it pretty rough, as the Nets are still a ways away from showing significant improvement.
29 Atlanta Hawks
Starting Lineup: Trea Young, Kent Bazemore, Taurean Waller-Prince, John Collins & Dewayne Dedmon
The Hawks are a young team, which is why they will see limited improvement. The top four players who logged the most minutes for the Hawks were 28 years-of-age or younger. The 24-58 Hawks were 26th out of 30 in offensive rating yet they pushed the ball to the tune of the 10th fastest Pace of Play. After shedding their top scorer Dennis Schroder, the starting lineup consists of Trea Young, Kent Bazemore, Taurean Waller-Prince, John Collins and Dewayne Dedmon. This season doesn't look too promising.
28 Los Angeles Clippers
Starting Lineup: Patrick Beverley, Avery Bradley, Danilo Gallinari, Tobias Harris, Marcin Gortat
The Clippers do not seem to have any redeemable qualities that make up their starting 5. At point, Patrick Beverley played 11 games and had 16.5 turnovers per 100 touches. Shooting guard Avery Bradley has no mid-range game as only 9% of his attempts came between 10-16 feet. Danilo Gallinari played 21 games, so we'll see if they can stay healthy this year. Tobias Harris attempted more three-pointers than shots within 3 feet. Then they lost DeAndre Jordan and traded for Marcin Gortat. It's rebuild mode in Los Angeles.
27 Memphis Grizzlies
Starting Lineup: Mike Conley, Wayne Seldon, Kyle Anderson, JaMychal Green & Marc Gasol
The 2017-18 Grizzlies were 26th in defensive rating and 27th in offensive rating.
The good news is, Mike Conley expects to be ready for training camp, and the Grizzlies were 7-5 with him, including wins over the Warriors and the Rockets. Marc Gasol should contribute his usual over 15 points per game, Dillon Brooks only averaged one successful 3 per game last season, but Kyle Anderson should be an upgrade over Tyler Ennis at small forward, while JaMychal Green had a career year last season.
26 Orlando Magic
Starting Lineup: D.J. Augustin, Evan Fournier, Jonathan Simmons, Aaron Gordon & Nikola Vucevic
A 25-57 season of averaging the 24th most points despite playing at the 11th fastest pace has the Magic looking to counter ‘small ball’. Frank Vogel will consider putting 7-foot rookie Mohamed Bamba at center, Jonathan Isaac at power forward, who was top 50 in defensive rating, sliding Aaron Gordon with his 17 points and 8 rebounds to small forward. Leading scorer Evan Fournier will play shooting guard, which he did only 7% of the time, with DJ Augustin at the point.
25 New York Knicks
Starting Lineup: Trey Burke, Tim Hardaway Jr., Courtney Lee, Mario Hezonja & Enes Kanter
The 29-53 New York Knicks head into the 2018-19 season trying to improve on the 108 points per game they allowed last year. Whether it is Trey Burke or Frank Ntlilikina, they will lose the point guard battle on most nights. Tim Hardaway Jr. scores 17 per game but is a minus in the box score and below average in Player Efficiency. When superstar Kristaps Porzingis returns, rookie Kevin Knox will bump newcomer Mario Hezonja to the bench and Enes Kanter will continue to almost get double-doubles.
24 Sacramento Kings
Starting Lineup: De'Aaron Fox, Buddy Hield, Bogdan Bogdanovic, Marvin Bagley III & Willie Cauley-Stein
After ranking in the bottom 3 in offensive and defensive rating along with pace of play, improvement is inevitable.
De’Aaron Fox will improve upon assisting on 26% of baskets made while on the court and Bogdan Bogdanovic will make more than 2 from deep per game. Willie Cauley-Stein is not a top tier center yet, but Justin Jackson should see his 7 point average on 6 shots improve. These improvements are a byproduct of Marvin Bagley III replacing Zach Randolph as a starter.
23 Chicago Bulls
Starting Lineup: Kris Dunn, Zach Lavine, Jabari Parker, Lauri Markkanen & Robin Lopez
Having the 9th most possessions per game did not help the Bulls’ 28th offensive rating or their 24th overall defensive rating. Robin Lopez and his 12/5 line will hopefully play more than 64 games. Kris Dunn and Zach LaVine averaged 13 and 16 points respectively, but their games played did not equal a full season combined, while having below average Player Efficiency ratings. Jabari Parker’s 15 PPG will be an upgrade over Denzel Valentine while Lauri Markkanen seems poised to maintain his 15 and 7 average.
22 Charlotte Hornets
Starting Lineup: Kemba Walker, Nicolas Batum, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Marvin Williams & Cody Zeller
The argument for the 36-46 Hornets is that they are better now that they have Dwight Howard out of the locker room. The problem is D12 is significantly better than Cody Zeller, even per 36 minutes.
The Hornets will go as far as Kemba Walker takes them.
Fortunately, he averaged 8 assists and 3 turnovers per 100 possessions last year. Walker will benefit even more in the backcourt with Jeremy Lamb who hit 37% from the arc and when Nicolas Batum replaces Michael Kidd-Gilchrist at small forward.
21 Miami Heat
Starting Lineup: Goran Dragic, Dion Waiters, Josh Richardson, Kelly Olnyk & Hassan Whiteside
Two questions hang over the Heat and the status of their starters. First, will Dion Waiters be ready after ankle surgery in January to average 14 and 4 on only 38% shooting? Second, who will start at center; Hassan Whiteside or Kelly Olynyk? Goran Dragic is a lock at the point, although his 25% assist ratio is low. Josh Richardson’s 13 points and above-average Player Efficiency Rating will be a natural fit with James Johnson who has astounding per 100 possessions stats.
20 Phoenix Suns
Starting Lineup: Brandon Knight, Devin Booker, TJ Warren, Josh Jackson & Deandre Ayton
Last season the Suns had the worst; record, offensive rating and defensive rating.
First selection overall Deandre Ayton will contribute more than Alex Len or Tyson Chandler, plus, the addition of Trevor Ariza, who made 38% from beyond the arc is an upgrade over Dragan Bender. Brandon Knight looks to be healthy and that will be another upgrade over Tyler Unis. Josh Jackson or TJ Warren is a solid choice at power forward, especially when you have Devin Booker at the 2 guard.
19 Cleveland Cavaliers
Starting Lineup: George Hill, J.R. Smith, Kyle Korver, Kevin Love & Tristan Thompson
The advantage that the Cavaliers’ starting 5 has is their experience. George Hill has demonstrated to be a serviceable point guard, his career averages of 9 points and 3 assists suffered playing with LeBron James. J.R. Smith may have the occasional mental lapse but he averaged 8 points per game on only 7 attempts. Kevin Love will be the focal point of the offense, while Cedi Osman will have to play more than 11 minutes and Tristan Thompson as an undersized center will border a double-double average.
18 Detroit Pistons
Starting Lineup: Reggie Jackson, Reggie Bullock, Stanley Johnson, Blake Griffin & Andre Drummond
The Pistons are led by Blake Griffin with career averages of 20 points, 9 rebounds. With his 36% success rate from deep, he will create space for Andre Drummond to get his 144 dunks and average 15 points and 16 rebounds, however, Stanley Johnson will need to improve upon his 37% from the field.
Reggie Bullock will average double digits shooting 45% from deep, and Reggie Jackson who averaged 14 points and 5 assists in just 26 minutes will play more than 45 games.
17 Dallas Mavericks
Starting Lineup: Dennis Smith Jr, Luka Doncic, Harrison Barnes, Dirk Nowitski & DeAndre Jordan
Rookie Luka Doncic could propel this starting 5 to greater heights or sink them.
Doncic will be surrounded with exciting young talents like Dennis Smith Jr, who averages 9 assists per 100 possessions and Harrison Barnes who averaged 19 points on 44% shooting. Dirk Nowitzki shot 45% of his shots from the arc last year. Expect that to increase as he averages 11 points. DeAndre Jordan was acquired and must eclipse his 12 points and 15 rebounds average if the team is to improve, as the Mavericks bench is suspect.
16 Denver Nuggets
Starting Lineup: Jamal Murray, Gary Harris, Will Barton, Paul Millsap & Nikola Jokic
Jamal Murray will lead the 5 returning starters, his 17 points per game are great, but his 16 assist percentage is not. Gary Harris will average 17 points of the strength of his 39% shooting from beyond the arc. Wil Barton is a liability defensively but can average in the mid-teens in scoring. Paul Millsap will maintain a 15/6 line over more than 38 games, while Nikola Jokic will continue to average 18 points and 11 rebounds while hitting 50% of his attempts.
15 Milwaukee Bucks
Starting Lineup: Eric Bledsoe, Malcolm Brogdon, Khris Middleton, Giannis Antetokounmpo & Brook Lopez
Antetokounmpo will continue scoring over 25, collecting 10 boards and assisting 5 per game. In the backcourt, Eric Bledsoe averages just 6 assists but 3 turnovers per 36 minutes, Malcolm Brogdon will still shoot 69% of his shots from 3 or from 3 feet and score double digits. Brook Lopez will draw the opposing center out with his 3 point ability and Khris Middleton will be able to surpass 20 points a game when he hits more than 36% of his three-pointers.
14 Minnesota Timberwolves
Starting Lineup: Jeff Teague, Andrew Wiggins, Jimmy Butler, Taj Gibson & Karl-Anthony Towns
In Tom Thibodeau's perfect world, Jimmy Butler and Karl-Anthony Towns will get along and continue to have Player Efficiency Rates and scoring averages north of 20.
Andrew Wiggins will score more than 17 points when 3-pointers stop being his favorite shot, and while Jeff Teague may not be a top-tier name, his 10 assists and 21 points per 36 minutes are. As for Taj Gibson, he is guaranteed to give you his career averages of 10 points and 7 rebounds.
13 Los Angeles Lakers
Starting Lineup: Lonzo Ball, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Brandon Ingram, LeBron James & Javale McGee
There is uncertainty at virtually every position in Los Angeles. LeBron James will start at power forward, but how much time does he spend at center, and where will that leave JaVale McGee, who at 7 foot only averages 5 rebounds per game? Lonzo Ball, if healthy, will start, but if he does not replicate his 10/7/7 line, Rajon Rondo is not far away. That leaves two positions for Luke Walton to fit Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Mark Ingram, and Kyle Kuzma.
12 Washington Wizards
Starting Lineup: John Wall, Bradley Beal, Otto Porter Jr., Markieff Morris & Dwight Howard
If healthy, John Wall and Bradley Beal both have the ability to score 20 points on any given night, plus, Wall adds almost 10 assists per game. Wall will increase his assists with the addition of Dwight Howard who averaged almost 10 points and 5 rebounds more than Marcin Gortat in 2017-18. Otto Porter will see a decline in his 14 point average but still has the opportunity to make 50% of his shots. Markieff Morris might have difficulty becoming a role player.
11 Indiana Pacers
Starting Lineup: Darren Collison, Victor Oladipo, Bojan Bogdanovic, Thaddeus Young & Myles Turner
Oladipo exceeded his career-high scoring average last year by 7 points while increasing his assists by almost 2 per game.
The main recipient of those assists was Bojan Bogdanovic who averaged 14 points and had 94% of his 3-point makes assisted to him. Darren Collison will continue to be solid at the point, contributing 9 assists and just 2 turnovers per 100 possessions. Myles Turner and Thaddeus Young both averaged over 11 points, but need to collect more than 6.5 rebounds.
10 San Antonio Spurs
Starting Lineup: Dejounte Murray, DeMar DeRozan, Rudy Gay, LaMarcus Aldridge & Pau Gasol
DeMar DeRozan will outproduce whatever Manu Ginobili and Bryn Forbes w ould. With Kyle Anderson gone, Rudy Gay seems to be the only option at power forward but will struggle to match his 11 point average, while third-year point guard Dejounte Murray will assist on more than 20% of his floormates baskets. Pau Gasol will be short of his 11/8 stat line, but LaMarcus Aldridge will welcome the addition of DeRozan and challenge to average over 20 and 10.
9 New Orleans Pelicans
Starting Lineup: Elfrid Payton, Jrue Holiday, E'Twaun Moore, Nikola Mirotic & Anthony Davis
DeMarcus Cousins’ departure means more touches for Anthony Davis since he makes 53% of his shots, this is not a bad thing. While Elfrid Payton will score double digits with 6 assists, he will need to reduce his 5 turnovers per 100 possessions. Jrue Holiday will be a benefactor of Cousins’ absence, as he averaged 19 points on 15 shots with 6 assists. Alvin Gentry is going to have options for the 2 forward spots with E’Twaun Moore, Nikola Mirotic, and Julius Randle.
8 Utah Jazz
Starting Lineup: Ricky Rubio, Donovan Mitchell, Joe Ingles, Derrick Favors & Rudy Gobert
Ricky Rubio is the type of point guard the Utah fanbase is used to, with 9 assists over 100 possessions and scoring double digits. Donovan Mitchell is the type of shooting guard they love.
Mitchell averaged 20 points, most were taking his man off the dribble or from long range. As one of two teams to hold opponents under 100 points per game, their defense will continue to be anchors by Rudy Gobert. Meanwhile, Joe Ingles and Derrick Favours will contribute with double digit scoring.
7 Portland Trail Blazers
Starting Lineup: Damian Lillard, C.J. McCollum, Maurice Harkless, Al-Farouq Aminu & Jusuf Nurkic
Even with the emergence of Jusuf Nurkic averaging 14 points on 50% shooting, the Trail Blazer’s starting 5 goes as far as Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum will bring them, as they will once again both border on scoring 20 per game and shooting better than 44%. Al-Farouq Aminu made just 39% of his field goals and can average double digits for only the second time in his career. Maurice Harkless has great numbers per 100 possessions and needs to defend.
6 Toronto Raptors
Starting Lineup: Kyle Lowry, Danny Green, Kawhi Leonard, Serge Ibaka & Jonas Valanciunas
This Toronto Raptors team was first overall in the East last year and they upgraded their lineup this summer. While DeMar DeRozan was a tough loss, the bottom line is Kawhi Leonard is injected into this lineup and adding a top-five NBA player merits the Raptors' placement here. Meanwhile, Danny Green is still a solid SG, while Ibaka and Valanciunas should be their usual selves.
5 Oklahoma City Thunder
Starting Lineup: Russell Westbrook, Andre Roberson, Paul George, Jerami Grant & Steven Adams
Trading Carmelo Anthony is addition by subtraction for this particular starting lineup.
Russell Westbrook propels this starting line up to top tier in the league off the strength of his 25/10/10 stat line.
Steven Adams will hustle, play defense and rebound as Jerami Grant is thrusted into a starting position and will need to improve upon his 4 rebounds per game. Without Anthony, Paul George’s Usage Rate should increase to around 30% again.
4 Philadelphia 76ers
Starting Lineup: Ben Simmons, J.J. Redick, Robert Covington, Dario Saric & Joel Embiid
Joel Embiid averaged 23 points and 11 rebounds over 63 games, Ben Simmons is the second piece of a future Big 3 in Philly as he had a very impressive stat line of 15/8/8. Robert Covington will not have many minutes taken from him from Wilson Chandler, and Dario Saric will continue to shoot 45% of his field goals from beyond the arc. The question at shooting guard is how long until Markelle Fultz starts over J.J Redick.
3 Houston Rockets
Starting Lineup: Chris Paul, James Harden, Carmelo Anthony, Ryan Anderson & Clint Capela
To start Carmelo Anthony or not to start Carmelo Anthony. That is the question facing Mike D’Antoni. ‘Melo will be signing with the Rockets, and despite popular opinion, his addition helps. He may not be able to guard anybody on the Warriors, but offensively, Anthony can do exactly what Trevor Ariza did when Harden and Capela play pick’n’roll when a spot-up shooter is needed. With Chris Paul averaging 8 assists and 2 turnovers, all James Ennis has to do is play defense.
2 Boston Celtics
Starting Lineup: Kyrie Irving, Jaylen Brown, Gordon Hayward, Jayson Tatum & Al Horford
Kyrie Irving played 60 games, and Gordon Hayward played 5 minutes, yet, the Celtics had the second best record in the East.
Hayward nears 20 points, 6 rebounds and 5 assists per game, and his 140 three-pointers will extend the defense for Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum who both averaged 14 points with 30% of shots within 3 feet. Al Horford is a versatile center who averages 13/7/5. Add Irving’s 24 and 5, and the Celtics have the second best starting lineup in the league.
1 Golden State Warriors
Starting Lineup: Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Kevin Durant, Draymond Green & DeMarcus Cousins
The only question is, when DeMarcus Cousins gets back on the court in February, is he actually there to play his role and prove he is healthy? Cousins will not average 25 points or 18 shots, but he probably will limit Klay Thompson to under 20 points and take some Draymond Green’s 8 board per game. When it comes down to it, the Warriors have arguably the two best scorers in the league in Steph Curry and Kevin Durant.