When it comes to predicting the future in professional sports, the NBA is the toughest of the four major sports in America for many reasons. That's because they tend to do things a little differently then the other leagues.
For starters, free agency seems pretty easy to understand but not when you start getting deeply into it. They have clauses and restrictions and a thing called "Bird rights" that can confuse the average basketball fan. So when trying to predict how each team's starting five will look a year from now, that can be quite complicated.
On top of the contractual issues, NBA teams tend to rotate their starting five throughout the season until they get the right fit. For some teams, it is pretty cut and dry but for others, it can be an on-going problem that lasts until the final weeks of the year.
The other issues in projecting the future starting five for NBA teams is the player themselves. A rookie that seems like a no-brainer in July could turn into a bust if he ends up on the wrong team or simply cannot handle the pressure of playing at a high-level all year long.
With all that said, we spent a lot of time constructing every single NBA team's starting five for the 2019-20 season and we included free agent moves, re-signings, and incoming rookies. Keep in mind, these projections are based on how we think teams will finish the year and how we imagine the draft will look like for next season.
30 Atlanta Hawks
Trae Young, Kent Bazemore, Keldon Johnson, Zion Williamson, Dewayne Dedmon
The Atlanta Hawks seem to be heading for another top-10 draft pick as they continue to rebuild from the 60-win team they were a few years ago or the team that made the playoffs for ten consecutive seasons between 2007 and 2017. But this year is different because they have a solid foundation for their future and some draft picks to help them become something great in the next few years.
If they continue down this path, they could wind up with two top-10 draft picks as a result of obtaining the Dallas Mavericks first round pick for 2019. If they can end up with the top overall pick, which is highley likely, and another top-10 pick, they can easily draft Duke's sensational forward, Zion Williamson, and also grab Kentucky's scoring small forward Keldon Johnson.
Although they could struggle next season with this lineup, they could also turn into a dominating Eastern conference team for years to come simply behind the talent they would be acquiring next summer.
29 Boston Celtics
Terry Rozier, Jaylen Brown, Gordon Hayward, Luke Samanic, Al Horford
What is going on in Boston this year? The Celtics are not even one year removed from playing in the Eastern Conference Finals, which they entered as slight favorites before losing to the Cleveland Cavaliers. Yet they are struggling to begin this year and could be in trouble if they do not do something about it soon.
Regardless of what they do this year, they have acquired so many first round draft picks for 2019 that they can find themselves possessing four picks in the top-25 next summer. That gives them the ability to bolster their roster while allowing veterans to walk including Kyrie Irving, who we do not expect to stay in Boston next year.
If they do decide to re-sign Al Horford, then this is a lineup we can see them using to return to that dominating Eastern Conference team.
28 Brooklyn Nets
D'Angelo Russell, Caris LeVert, Joe Harris, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Jarrett Allen
The Brooklyn Nets are a dangerous team and they have shown that this season. They have beaten the teams that they are supposed to beat like the Phoenix Suns, Cleveland Cavaliers, and New York Knicks but they have also won games against some of the league's top teams like the Denver Nuggets, Detroit Pistons, and Philadelphia 76ers.
But injuries have kept them from winning more consistently this season including their up-and-coming future All-Star Caris LeVert who recently dislocated his right foot in one of the worst of injuries this season. He was lucky not to need surgery but will still be out a significant amount of time.
In the meanwhile, the Nets are going to continue trying to build up their roster and get their players to continue to improve while they try to figure out what they are going to do next summer, which is still up in the air.
27 Charlotte Hornets
Kemba Walker, Jeremy Lamb, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Frank Kaminsky, Cody Zeller
For some reason, the rest of the NBA has fallen asleep on Kemba Walker, who has become a legit All-Star by improving each year he has been in the league. This season has shown how good he is as he is now scoring close to 28 points per night.
Behind him is a group of solid starters that could use an upgrade. However, this team is going to have to re-sign Kemba Walker next summer and that could easily limit their abilities to sign other free agents.
But the good news is that they could end up landing a sleeper in the draft next year if they can get someone like Jaylen Hoard, a small forward from Wake Forest, who could compete for a starting job immediately.
26 Chicago Bulls
Cameron Payne, Zach LaVine, Nassir Little, Jabari Parker, Wendell Carter Jr.
The one thing Chicago Bull fans should know is that their team is young and has a lot of growing up to do before they can get back to winning 50 to 60 games a season again.
They currently have only two players with more than five seasons in the league (Justin Holiday and Robin Lopez). The rest of the team is playing in their first three years is going to struggle a lot before they can consistently win games.
So as we take a look at their future, we expect them to be in a good position next year to draft Nassir Little, North Carolina's star forward, that would be an immediate upgrade to their lineup. As Cameron Payne and Wendell Carter Jr. continue to get better, so will this team.
25 Cleveland Cavaliers
Collin Sexton, Jordan Clarkson, R.J. Barrett, Kevin Love, Tristan Thompson
If anyone wanted to argue about LeBron James being the greatest ever, especially compared to Michael Jordan, then take a look at the Cleveland Cavaliers this year. This is the same exact team he played for last season, with almost no additions, and look at how terrible they have played. They are not going to win more than 15 games, at best.
When Michael Jordan retired, Scottie Pippen led the Chicago Bulls to a 55-27 record and a trip to the Eastern Conference Semifinals.
So there is plenty that needs to happen for Cleveland to get back to winning again and it could take a very long time if they do not start the rebuilding process right away. It could be time to move along from some veterans like J.R. Smith and Kevin Love, in order to make room for incoming rookies like Duke's leading scorer R.J. Barrett, who we can project to be one of the first three players drafted next summer.
24 Dallas Mavericks
Dennis Smith Jr., Luca Doncic, Harrison Barnes, Dwight Powell, DeAndre Jordan
Now that the 2018-19 NBA season has been going on for a couple of months, we can go back to the 2018 NBA Draft and ask the Atlanta Hawks what were they thinking when they traded away Luka Doncic for Trae Young. But it appears that it was in the best interest of the team to acquire a future star point guard instead of a superstar that can play just about anywhere on the court.
But the Dallas Mavericks look to be the clear winner as they have more than doubled the Atlanta Hawks early win total behind the top candidate for rookie of the year, Luka Doncic who has put together an incredible start to his career.
23 Denver Nuggets
Jamal Murray, Michael Porter Jr., Will Barton, Paul Millsap, Nikola Jokic
Last season, the Denver Nuggets missed out on making the Western Conference playoffs by one game even though their record was 46-36, which would have been the sixth best in the Eastern Conference. That was a tough pill to swallow so they went out and added Isaiah Thomas and resigned Will Barton and Nikola Jokic.
They also drafted former Missouri star Michael Porter Jr. but because of a back injury, he has not played any games this season. That should not keep him from becoming a starter in the future and should be in this lineup by the time the first game starts in 2019-20.
If they can continue to score points, and play solid defense, they could easily wind up finishing in the top four spots of the Western Conference and are currently well within that parameter.
22 Detroit Pistons
Reggie Jackson, Rui Hachimura, Stanley Johnson, Blake Griffin, Andre Drummond
Since the 2007-08 season, the Detroit Pistons have not been able to figure out this winning thing. Their best season was in 2015-16 when they finished with a 44-38 record before getting blanked by the Cleveland Cavaliers in the first round of the playoffs.
So they brought in the man responsible for building the Toronto Raptors into an elite franchise in the NBA, Dwane Casey. He has won 48 or more games, including last seasons 59 wins since the 2013-14 season. They saw him as a man that could control the talent and bring it together to form a winning team.
So far this year, that is what they have done except for one major gap in their lineup, a shooting guard that can score 30 points a night. Based on how we expect the Pistons to finish the season, we can easily see them drafting Gonzaga's Rui Hachimura and really allow him to unleash his scoring ability.
21 Golden State Warriors
Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Kevin Durant, Draymond Green, DeMarcus Cousins
As we discussed the idea of the Golden State Warriors putting a starting lineup on the court that reads like the Western Conference All-Stars starting five, it scares us to imagine the NBA commissioner would allow this kind of monopoly to happen, leaving the rest of the league scattering for as much cash as they can find to sign all the big names they can.
For some reason, fans and analysts believe that DeMarcus Cousins is finished after rupturing his achilles tendon two years ago. However, as history as shown us, it is not a death sentence. Players like Dominique Wilkins, Wesley Matthews, and Elgin Baylor came back from it. Others were usually much older than Cousins and never could bounce back but that could be related more to age anyways.
So that leaves the chance that we see Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Kevin Durant, Draymond Green, and DeMarcus Cousins starting by the time the 2019-20 season begins. That is an idea that makes us all pretty terrified.
20 Houston Rockets
Chris Paul, James Harden, P.J. Tucker, Daniel Gafford, Clint Capela
The Houston Rockets are built to run up and down the court, shooting from all over the place, in an up-tempo style that runs their opponents down as the game goes along. It gets even worse when they are nailing three pointers because they become impossible to defend.
But they have struggled to get into a flow this season and find themselves struggling to win games early on this season. They lack depth and it shows. Next season, they are going to need help in the low post and there is one player that is going to be available during the draft that could do so. His name is Daniel Gafford and he is a 6'11" athletic big man from Arkansas.
He is a defender that has a ton of raw potential, especially on the offensive side of the ball. He plays similar to Clint Capela and could help turn the Rockets into a very special type of team, with an incredibly tough defense.
19 Indiana Pacers
Darren Collison, Victor Oladipo, Bojan Bogdanovic, Domantas Sabonis, Myles Turner
There is a very good chance we see the Indiana Pacers in a battle in the Eastern Conference playoffs for the top seed. Now that LeBron James is playing in LA, the Eastern Conference is wide open and the Pacers have the lineup that can handle most of the teams they will face.
As far as their future is concerned, Domantas Sabonis is a future star in the making and should find himself one of the starters by the end of this year. With the emergence of Victor Oladipo's game the last two years, this roster has enough to put up big numbers against anyone they face.
Defensively, they are also among the league's best and will continue to get better as their young players mature and harness their raw potential.
18 Los Angeles Clippers
Patrick Beverly, Avery Bradley, Danilo Gallinari, Tobias Harris, Montrezl Harrell
The Los Angeles Clippers surprised everyone when getting off to the best start in the Western Conference to begin the 2018-19 season. That surprising start has come from the additions of Tobias Harris and rookie Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.
There is also the additions of Avery Bradley, Danilo Gallinari, and Marcin Gortat that have quietly helped them recover since losing their big three stars, Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan, in the past two years.
Although many analysts expect them to balance out before the season ends, as the rest of the conference starts to recover and win games again, there is still a chance they can continue winning games behind a structured offense and a tighter than most team style defense. They are coached by an all-time great Doc Rivers and that can only help them get better.
17 Los Angeles Lakers
Lonzo Ball, Kawhi Leonard, LeBron James, Kyle Kuzma, JaVale McGee
Rumors are a fun way to pass the time during the NBA season but they usually do not tell the complete tale of the future. In the case of Kawhi Leonard, the rumor mill has been spouting off about how he is destined to play for the Clippers and has his sights set on signing with them next year.
However, we think he goes to Los Angeles but not for the Clippers. Instead, we can see him signing with the Lakers and joining LeBron James to form a dangerous lineup that can compete against the Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference.
It would surely be a shock to many to see him sign with the Lakers but the timing is right and the opportunity to play with LeBron James and run the tables is very interesting to say the least.
16 Memphis Grizzlies
Mike Conley, Garrett Temple, Kyle Anderson, Jaren Jackson, Marc Gasol
The NBA's toughest defense is once again the Memphis Grizzlies, who are surrounding opponents at a time when the NBA has turned into an offensive shootout. But they continue to play tough defense and force opponents into making bad decisions causing turnovers and missed shots. That is the way the Grizzlies became a 50-win team in the past.
But they are also built around some young players that are just now starting to fall into their own. Jaren Jackson, for example, is just a rookie center but is already showing his ability to score, he is averaging nearly 13 points per game, and defend, he is blocking 2.1 shots per game too.
Then there is Kyle Anderson, a guy who has spent his first four seasons in San Antonio, but is now a member of the Grizzlies and has become a starter this year. His numbers aren't incredible but he does exactly what he is supposed to do to keep this team doing what it does best, winning games and playing tough defense.
15 Miami Heat
Isaiah Thomas, Quentin Grimes, Josh Richardson, James Johnson, Enes Kanter
The Miami Heat are in need of some upgrades across the court and it starts with the guard position where they are desperate for both depth and a star they can rely on for years to come.
As they continue to struggle this season, there odds at getting a very high draft pick is getting better and better which leaves them with a shot at drafting the combo guard from Kansas, Quentin Grimes. His addition into the Heat's starting lineup could have an immediate impact if they were also able to secure another starting point guard.
And it just so happens that Isaiah Thomas will be a free agent and could be a great signing for the Heat next season. His shooting combined with his ability to run the open floor would be perfect in Miami.
14 Milwaukee Bucks
Eric Bledsoe, Malcolm Brogdon, Khris Middleton, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Hassan Whiteside
They have arrived.
Now that the NBA's newest superstar, Giannis Antetokounmpo has become a legitimate stud on both sides of the floor, the Milwaukee Bucks have turned into true contenders and have already started to showcase their skills this season.
But when next season comes around, there is a definite need for a big defensive center that they can land off free agency. Hassan Whiteside is a name that comes to mind as he is a very big deal and would be a fantastic addition to the Bucks.
With the Bucks star offensive players in place, the last part they need is a center and he would be their best bet to get over the hump and into the level of becoming one of the league's elite teams.
13 Minnesota Timberwolves
Jeff Teague, Andrew Wiggins, Robert Covington, Sekou Doumboya, Karl-Anthony Towns
When the season began, the Jimmy Butler saga was the only thing anyone could talk about around the league. Everyone knew he was not going to stick around much longer and eventually was traded to the Philadelphia 76ers for two key pieces for the Timberwolves offense. They got back Robert Covington and Dario Saric, both players have already made an immediate impact.
But competing in the Western Conference requires a bit of offense and the Timberwolves are going to struggle without Jimmy Butler in the middle of the lineup. So we can project them to finish in a position that gives them a chance at drafting Sekou Doumboya, from France, and hope all of his raw talents can be harnessed into real talent.
In other words, he is a project but he is also one that has very big upside for the Timberwolves, who are still one of the younger teams in the NBA.
12 New Orleans Pelicans
Elfrid Payton, Jrue Holiday, Nikola Mirotic, Naz Reid, Anthony Davis
With the emergence of E'Twaun Moore's presence in the New Orleans starting lineup this season, it has become very evident that there is a need to build depth and surround Anthony Davis with athletic big man that can play defense.
Nikola Mirotic will be a free agent next season but has a good chance of coming back to play with the Pelicans. We just do not think they are going to let him go since he is one of their top three scorers. Without him in their lineup, it could really hurt their up-tempo style that has caused fits for many NBA teams.
The biggest issue is how inconsistent they have played this season and if they continue down this path, they could end up with a lottery pick and quite possibly land LSU's star forward, Naz Reid. This kid is athletic and powerful and could help bolster the Pelicans offense along side Anthony Davis.
11 New York Knicks
Kyrie Irving, Romeo Langford, Tim Hardaway Jr., Kristaps Porzingis, Mitchell Robinson
There is a lot things that need to go down in order for this lineup to happen in 2019 but we think that the way the Boston Celtics have started this season has all but guaranteed that Kyrie Irving is going to had further East and play for the New York Knicks, especially when they offer him a nice size deal.
They are also well on their way to a lottery draft pick and could easily use it on Indiana's big guard, Romeo Langford. He can score but he does not simply settle for the easy outside shot. He can penetrate the lane and make some big shots in the paint while playing a ton of minutes.
The only missing piece to this puzzle is Kristaps Porzingis and whether or not he ever returns to play for the Knicks, which is something that could very well happen if they can sign Irving and draft an instant starter.
10 Oklahoma City Thunder
Russell Westbrook, Andre Roberson, Paul George, Jerami Grant, Steven Adams
Dennis Schroder has already shown his value since being traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder this past summer by filling in for the injured Russell Westbrook. However, he is a starter and has been turned into a sixth man now that Westbrook has returned. So whether or not this works out, we shall see but the chances of his production being what it was in Atlanta, especially in a role playing position, is not very good.
They are going to have to find a way to make it work with both Dennis Schroder and Russell Westbrook on the floor at the same time. But they also have Andre Roberson, who is emerging as a star himself. Not to mention, Paul George is still an elite offensive nightmare.
But the best part of the OKC lineup is the surprisingly tough defense of Jerami Grant and Steven Adams. These two men are a big reason why the Thunder are winning games against tough teams.
9 Orlando Magic
D.J. Augustin, Evan Fournier, De'Andre Hunter, Aaron Gordon, Nikola Vucevic
Who thought that the Orlando Magic would be beating some of the best teams in the NBA to start this season, especially with their lineup. But they somehow have figured out a way to do so and have already shut down LeBron James twice, beaten the Boston Celtics on the road, and dominated the New York Knicks, twice.
They have done it behind the amazing performance of Nikola Vucevic, Aaron Gordon, Terrence Ross, and Evan Fournier. But behind these masters of the court is a point guard that has quietly managed the flow of this team's offense. D.J. Augustin has emerged as the team's biggest star because of how he manages their game.
But they are still in need of some help before making that leap to the next level and in the upcoming draft, they have a great shot at grabbing De'Andre Hunter, Virginia's emerging star guard that has risen up the draft board in the past six months.
8 Philadelphia 76ers
Ben Simmons, J.J. Reddick, Jimmy Butler, Marcus Morris, Joel Embiid
Since joining the Philadelphia 76ers, Jimmy Butler has been able to turn their slow start around and they are now thriving in the Eastern Conference. But that is exactly what they thought when they traded for him earlier this season. The 76ers knew that they would be giving up a lot but they were prepared to do so if they could land one of the NBA's best small forwards.
Now that he is a member of the 76ers, he is not going anywhere anytime soon and should be a key component in their rise to the top of the Eastern Conference. Imagine that this is the same 76ers from last year but with the addition of Jimmy Butler and ask yourself, would that team be able to win more playoff games and go further in the playoffs?
The answer is yes and the chances of the 76ers becoming the top team in the conference for the next few years is very quite possible. They just need to add another big man to help play tough defense in the paint.
7 Phoenix Suns
Elie Okobo, Devin Booker, Cam Reddish, Ryan Anderson, Deandre Ayton
There is a lot to love about the Phoenix Suns moving forward and it all starts with their future. Devin Booker is a scary scoring guard that can, and has, go off on any night. But when you add Deandre Ayton into the lineup, the Suns finally have a foundation to build around.
Besides T.J. Warren, the rest of the Suns roster is a bit of a mess and has not been able to step up and take over, not yet at least. But that is what happens with such a young team.
As they continue to struggle throughout the growing pains of turning things around and rebuilding their team, there is a very good chance they find themselves drafting in the top-3 next summer.
The good news for them is that means they would have a chance at nabbing Cam Reddish, the best natural scorer in the upcoming NBA draft. This kid is going to be a big time star in the NBA one day and could be part of a deadly trio in Phoenix.
6 Portland Trail Blazers
Damian Lillard, C.J. McCollum, Evan Turner, Zach Collins, Jusuf Nurkic
The Portland Trail Blazers have three stars, Damian Lillard, C.J. McCollum, and Jusuf Nurkic, that they have built around to become a serious contender in the Western Conference.
Other than the Golden State Warriors, the only other team in the NBA with two elite starting guards is the Portland Trail Blazers. That has given them the ability to win many games the last few years and will continue to do so over the next couple as they continue to get more pieces that they can play with.
One of their biggest surprises, one that can become their next big starter is Zach Collins, a tough role player from Gonzaga that has improved significantly since joining the NBA.
5 Sacramento Kings
De'Aaron Fox, Buddy Hield, Justin Jackson, Marvin Bagley III, Willie Cauley-Stein
With all of the talent that sits on the Sacramento Kings roster, it is not a big leap to think that one day they will emerge as one of the better teams in the NBA. There is simply too much raw talent on the Kings to see them struggle again especially now that DeMarcus Cousins is gone and they can really open up their offense.
De'Aaron Fox is a stud and Buddy Hield is a great scorer. Mix that with a healthy Marvin Bagley III and Justin Jackson and you get an incredible group of talented youngsters.
The biggest question is if Willie Cauley-Stein can find more consistency in his game. If that happens, he can quickly become one of the best centers in the NBA.
4 San Antonio Spurs
Bryn Forbes, DeMar DeRozan, Rudy Gay, LaMarcus Aldridge, Pau Gasol
For the first time since the 1996-97 season, and also the first year Gregg Popovich was the San Antonio Spurs head coach, the Spurs are likely to miss the playoffs. It comes at a time when they are fresh off the Kawhi Leonard debacle from a year ago, in which they only won 47 games, which was the first time Popovich won less than 50 games in 21 years.
In other words, things are changing for the Spurs and the fans are going to have to start preparing for the future without one of the league's all time great head coaches.
Meanwhile, even with the future of Gregg Popovich in question, this team is still built with a solid foundation and should have the same starting five next season too. It is more about depth and lack of playing Pop's style of basketball that has hurt them this year.
3 Toronto Raptors
Kyle Lowry, Justin Holiday, Pascal Siakam, Serge Ibake, Jonas Valanciunas
The Toronto Raptors won 56, 51, and 59 games in each of the last three seasons. The only difference between this year and last year's team is that they swapped DeMar DeRozan for Danny Green and Kawhi Leonard. In other words, they got better, extremely better.
That is not a knock against DeMar DeRozan, he is as elite as they come, but he is not as good as Kawhi Leonard, who is a two-time defensive player of the year and one of the NBA's top-5 stars.
But after this season, when he becomes a free agent and decides to leave, it should not be much of a shock to fans. So if the Raptors cannot win the championship this year, it is all for nothing. They basically gave away DeMar DeRozan for nothing and will have to start rebuilding in two years.
2 Utah Jazz
Ricky Rubio, Donovan Mitchell, Joe Ingles, Derrick Favors, Rudy Gobert
The Utah Jazz do not do things that are exciting or fun to watch but they do things that help them win games thanks to players like Ricky Rubio and Donovan Mitchell. These two guards were able to led the Jazz into the Western Conference playoffs last season and will continue to do so this year.
They also have one of the best centers in the league, Rudy Gobert, who has been partnered with Derrick Favors to form a very tough 1-2 punch in the paint. They have forced many teams to settle for outside shots instead of penetrating the paint.
As far as the future is concerned, if they can continue winning games, then this is a lineup that will remain in Salt Lake City for as long as they can keep them signed.
1 Washington Wizards
John Wall, Bradley Beal, Kevin Porter Jr., Otto Porter Jr, Dwight Howard
For some reason, the Washington Wizards fan base, and the players themselves, especially John Wall, seem to want to blame Otto Porter Jr. for their offensive woes, and have been for years. It just seems odd to think that blaming one man for the problems of an entire NBA team is just plain silly.
So while the Wizards figure things out, and the team continues to struggle, they are going to find themselves battling for another lottery pick but this time, they are going to end up with someone they really need.
If they can grab a top-10 pick, there is a very good chance they end up with Kevin Porter Jr. from USC who is nothing more than a scoring guard but could help the Wizards offense emerge as one of the better ones in the East next season.