In less than two months from now, we shall be starting another NBA season, and if you take stock of all the lineup changes we’ve seen in the off-season, a lot of teams will be fielding radically different starting lineups. Others will be relatively, or totally unchanged from the year before, because you just don’t mess with a good thing once you’ve got it. You’ve also got some starting lineups with one or two minor changes, as these teams seek to improve their seeding in the regular season, or improve their chances of going all the way to the NBA Finals.
Which starting lineups will be totally different, which lineups will only feature a couple of changes at the most, and which ones will sport an all-new look? Let’s take a look at all 30 NBA teams and predict their starting lineups for the 2017-18 season, with a couple of things in mind. First, these are our projected lineups based on the team rosters as of September 6, 2017, which is when this article was completed. Secondly, these aren’t just projected opening-day lineups, but rather those we’re looking forward to for at least the first half of the 2017-18 season, which means you may see a few rookies or veterans who initially won’t make the starting lineup on account of initial rawness (for the rookies/youngsters) or injury (for the veterans). These players won’t be listed in the starting lineup on this list, even if they may be starting after the All-Star Break.
30. Atlanta Hawks
Projected Starting Lineup: Dewayne Dedmon (C), Ersan Ilyasova (PF), Kent Bazemore (SF), Marco Belinelli (SG), Dennis Schroder (PG)
No doubt about it, the Atlanta Hawks are rebuilding, and are likely to finish close to, or at the bottom of the East. The only starting caliber player in the above lineup is point guard Dennis Schroder, and beyond him and role player extraordinaire Kent Bazemore, the Hawks have question marks at every position, what with Paul Millsap, Dwight Howard, and Tim Hardaway Jr. all wearing different uniforms for the 2017-18 season. Ersan Ilyasova and Marco Belinelli’s veteran status will likely have them starting early on in the season, while center will be contested by two journeymen, Dewayne Dedmon and Miles Plumlee, who shouldn’t be starting elsewhere. Nobody said rebuilding was easy, and the above projected starting lineup is all the proof you need.
29. Boston Celtics
Projected Starting Lineup: Al Horford (C), Marcus Morris (PF), Gordon Hayward (SF), Jaylen Brown (SG), Kyrie Irving (PG)
Have the Boston Celtics finally found the right combination to help them end the Cleveland Cavaliers’ long reign atop the Eastern Division? The C’s definitely got the better end of their trade with the Cavs, as Kyrie Irving is arguably one of the NBA’s top three PGs, and a more complete player than Isaiah Thomas. The addition of Gordon Hayward via free agency offered an immediate big-time boost at the 3 spot, and Al Horford remains in place as a solid starter at center.
We have to wonder, though, about the lack of rebounding at the 4 – Marcus Morris, who arrived via trade with Detroit, can score, but is more of a natural SF. Shooting guard is also up for grabs, with Jaylen Brown (a natural 3) and Marcus Smart looking like the top candidates. Hayward can also be moved to the 2, which would leave Brown and rookie Jayson Tatum to fight for minutes at the 3. There are a lot of possibilities, but the bottom line here is that the Celtics are better, and a likely bigger threat to the Cavs.
28. Brooklyn Nets
Projected Starting Lineup: Timofey Mozgov (C), Trevor Booker (PF), Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (SF), Allen Crabbe (SG), D’Angelo Russell (PG)
Ladies and gentlemen, here’s probably the closest the NBA has to a starting lineup you’d find on an expansion team. The Brooklyn Nets were horrible in 2016-17, and we’re not expecting that to change in 2017-18, even with D’Angelo Russell getting a second chance to show what he can do as the 2nd-overall pick in the 2015 NBA draft. Allen Crabbe, who arrived via trade with Portland, could potentially beat out Sean Kilpatrick and Spencer Dinwiddie as starting SG, while Rondae Hollis-Jefferson should continue to progress at the 3. But the big problem in Brooklyn is the team’s dire lack of competent big men, following the Brook Lopez trade that got them Russell and…the grossly-overpaid Timofey Mozgov. The Nets may be forced to start the mediocre Mozzy in the middle, with journeyman-caliber Trevor Booker being the closest they’ve got to a starting PF.
27. Charlotte Hornets
Projected Starting Lineup: Dwight Howard (C), Frank Kaminsky (PF), Marvin Williams (SF), Nicolas Batum (SG), Kemba Walker (PG)
Obviously, the big news in Charlotte is that Dwight Howard, once unquestionably the NBA’s best center, is making the Queen City his latest in a growing list of NBA stopovers. After years of alienating teammates with his attitude, Howard seems to be mellowing down, and he offers an immediate upgrade over borderline NBA bust Cody Zeller at the 5. Frank Kaminsky should slide down to the 4, and while he’s one of the best young big men as a shooter, he needs to do something about that lack of rebounding. Don’t expect any changes in the wings, where Marvin Williams and Nic Batum should continue to start, and especially at the point, where Kemba Walker is making his mark as the Hornets’ franchise player.
26. Chicago Bulls
Projected Starting Lineup: Robin Lopez (C), Lauri Markkanen (PF), Nikola Mirotic (SF), Dwyane Wade (SG), Zach LaVine (PG)
It’s going to be a long season in Chi-Town without Jimmy Buckets. With the Bulls trading Jimmy Butler (and their 16th-overall pick) to Minnesota, they got three players in return – Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn, and 7th-overall pick Lauri Markkanen. Expect LaVine to start out as the starting point guard (and you know how coach Fred Hoiberg doesn’t like traditional PGs), but with Dwyane Wade turning 36 in January, it won’t be surprising if traditional PG Dunn assumes the starting spot, with LaVine moving to his natural two-guard position and Wade moving to the bench. Markkanen might have no choice but to start at the 4, as his only competition is the inconsistent Bobby Portis. Meanwhile, small forward Nikola Mirotic should have a bigger piece of the offensive pie as a full-time starter, while Robin Lopez should continue holding down the fort in the middle.
25. Cleveland Cavaliers
Projected Starting Lineup: Tristan Thompson (C), Kevin Love (PF), LeBron James (SF), Jae Crowder (SG), Isaiah Thomas (PG)
Well, this is going to be interesting. Kyrie Irving finally got his wish to be traded, which means Cleveland’s Big 3 will now consist of LeBron James, Kevin Love, and the King in the Fourth, Isaiah Thomas. Undersized Tristan Thompson should also be back at starting center, though it’s not like the Cavaliers have any choice – if anything, he’s a solid source of rebounds. But we’ve got to wonder who’s going to be starting at the 2. Jae Crowder, who arrives via the Irving trade, might have the inside track with his threes and D, even if he’s a natural SF. Then you’ve got veterans J.R. Smith, Iman Shumpert, and Kyle Korver, and who knows? Maybe Derrick Rose might get the starting SG job, despite the fact he’s always been listed as a point guard. But is he even going to stay healthy?
24. Dallas Mavericks
Projected Starting Lineup: Nerlens Noel (C), Dirk Nowitzki (PF), Harrison Barnes (SF), Wesley Matthews (SG), Dennis Smith Jr. (PG)
The sun is quickly setting on Dirk Nowitzki’s career, but a look at his supporting cast suggests that he might have to settle with not going out with a bang. Harrison Barnes enjoyed a breakout 2016-17 season after being freed from the Golden State Warriors, and will remain the first offensive option. And if we are to be honest, he and Wesley Matthews are the surest things in this Mavs starting lineup, as Nerlens Noel is coming off an injury-marred 2016-17, to say little of Nowitzki showing more and more of his age. Ninth-overall pick Dennis Smith is an intriguing prospect at point guard, and since the way-past-his-prime Devin Harris is his top competition, he’s a likely First Team All-Rookie candidate, but still someone who’s due to experience some growing pains.
23. Denver Nuggets
Projected Starting Lineup: Nikola Jokic (C), Paul Millsap (PF), Wilson Chandler (SF), Gary Harris (SG), Jamal Murray (PG)
It was a case of close, but no cigar for the Denver Nuggets in 2017, as they narrowly missed last season’s playoffs. This season could see them enjoy better luck, and while it might not result in a deep postseason run, the Nuggets are definitely in better shape entering the 2017-18 season. You’ve got Nikola Jokic hopefully available all year long as a do-it-all center who could score, rebound, and pass with the best of them. Paul Millsap arrives from the Atlanta Hawks with a strong work ethic and All-Star credentials at PF. Then you’ve got the young starting backcourt of Gary Harris and Jamal Murray – Murray’s a natural two-guard, but he seems a more likely starter at the point following Emmanuel Mudiay’s horrible sophomore jinx of a season. Wilson Chandler and Trey Lyles will battle for the starting 3 spot, with the veteran Chandler likely to have the inside track.
22. Detroit Pistons
Projected Starting Lineup: Andre Drummond (C), Jon Leuer (PF), Tobias Harris (SF), Avery Bradley (SG), Reggie Jackson (PG)
On paper, it sounds like a good idea – with Kentavious Caldwell-Pope expected to bolt (and he did, joining the Lakers), the Pistons got Avery Bradley from the Celtics in exchange for Marcus Morris. But that also leaves the Pistons extremely weak and lacking in depth at forward, with the obvious exception of Tobias Harris. Unless second-year man Henry Ellenson suddenly becomes a star, they’re stuck with journeyman Jon Leuer as the most likely starter alongside Harris. Then you’ve got Reggie Jackson, who’s still solid, but coming off an injury-marred down season at the point. Fortunately, Andre Drummond is still a lock to start at center, where he stands out as one of the NBA’s best young big men. That’s still not enough, though, to bring the Pistons back to the playoffs.
21. Golden State Warriors
Projected Starting Lineup: Zaza Pachulia (C), Draymond Green (PF), Kevin Durant (SF), Klay Thompson (SG), Stephen Curry (PG)
If it ain’t broke, why fix it? The Golden State Warriors will be aiming for their third NBA championship in four seasons in 2017-18, and while that doesn’t sound as sexy as an actual three-peat, this team has the makings of a dynasty. We don’t need to remind you about how Steph Curry and Kevin Durant are arguably in the top two/top three of their respective positions, how Draymond Green is an all-around threat, especially on defense, and how Klay Thompson, like Curry, is among the league’s best pure shooters. And we don’t need to remind you either about how Zaza Pachulia should retain his starting job despite clearly being a role player. This is one starting lineup that shouldn’t change, as the Warriors still have that winning formula intact in 2017-18.
20. Houston Rockets
Projected Starting Lineup: Clint Capela (C), Ryan Anderson (PF), Trevor Ariza (SF), James Harden (SG), Chris Paul (PG)
James Harden had a beastly, almost-MVP-but-not-quite season for the Rockets in 2016-17, and while Houston’s opponents still have every reason to “fear the beard,” you can expect those numbers to decline slightly with the arrival of Chris Paul via trade. It remains to be seen how well Harden and CP3 will connect in the backcourt, but on paper, the Rockets just might have become the biggest threat to the Warriors in the Western Conference. Don’t expect changes, though, in the frontcourt positions, where Clint Capela is a rising star at center, Ryan Anderson a volume shooter from beyond the 3-point arc (albeit sorely lacking in traditional power forward areas), and Trevor Ariza a steady veteran still capable of providing threes and D.
19. Indiana Pacers
Projected Starting Lineup: Myles Turner (C), Domantas Sabonis (PF), Thaddeus Young (SF), Victor Oladipo (SG), Darren Collison (PG)
Pacers fans, welcome to life after PG13. Don’t expect things to be easy in Indiana, but look forward to some young players possibly making their mark, primarily Domantas Sabonis, who could be in for more playing time at power forward. Myles Turner returns as arguably the Pacers’ top player following the exit of Paul George – look for him to continue growing as one of the league’s most versatile big men. Victor Oladipo should be solid, yet unspectacular production-wise at shooting guard as usual, while veterans Thaddeus Young and the well-traveled Darren Collison are likely to make up the rest of the starting lineup. Nope, this doesn’t look like a playoff team, but it could’ve been worse. Just ask the Atlanta Hawks.
18. Los Angeles Clippers
Projected Starting Lineup: DeAndre Jordan (C), Blake Griffin (PF), Danilo Gallinari (SF), Austin Rivers (SG), Patrick Beverley (PG)
The era of Lob City may be over, but if you come to think of it, the Clippers still have the makings of a playoff-bound team in 2017-18, albeit one that might not make it past the first round. The drop-off in talent from Chris Paul to Patrick Beverley is one of the first things you may notice from the starting lineup, but as you can also see, J.J. Redick’s departure could also mean Austin Rivers finally getting promoted to a full-time starting job. Injury-prone Danilo Gallinari might have to fight off Sam Dekker at the starting 3 spot, so there’s another question mark. But the Clippers should remain competitive, as Blake Griffin re-upped for a cool $173 million over five years, and DeAndre Jordan is also back to provide tons of rebounds, blocks…and missed free throws.
17. Los Angeles Lakers
Projected Starting Lineup: Brook Lopez (C), Julius Randle (PF), Brandon Ingram (SF), Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (SG), Lonzo Ball (PG)
The good news is that after a few years in the Western Conference abyss, the Lakers will be one of the NBA’s most-improved teams in 2017-18, provided everything falls into place. The bad news? They’ve got a couple quick-fix solutions in Brook Lopez and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who may likely start, but aren’t likely to re-sign once their contracts come up in 2018, unless the Lakers actually make that big improvement and/or have been scared off by the fine they received for tampering with Paul George’s contract. On the other hand, Lonzo Ball is looking good as a potential franchise player in the making, though he’s obviously unproven as a rookie, while Julius Randle should continue making improvements at the 4. As for Brandon Ingram, he’ll have to build on the strong close he had to his initially-disappointing rookie campaign.
16. Memphis Grizzlies
Projected Starting Lineup: Marc Gasol (C), Brandan Wright (PF), James Ennis (SF), Tyreke Evans (SG), Mike Conley (PG)
The Grizzlies will be starting 2017-18 with one of the league’s best defensive centers (Marc Gasol) and one of the league’s best defensive point guards (Mike Conley), both of whom have other skills that put them among the league’s top 10 in their respective positions. Other than that, they have question marks left and right. We’d list JaMychal Green as a third returning starter, but since he remains unsigned as of this writing, we’re guessing the Grizz will have to settle with lottery pick-turned-journeyman Brandan Wright if Green doesn’t re-sign. James Ennis will likely start if Chandler Parsons’ injuries remain a problem. And at shooting guard, Tyreke Evans is a wild card of sorts – he once was one of the NBA’s brightest young backcourt men, but he’s been on a downward trajectory since his rookie year. Maybe a move back to his college stomping ground is the shot in his arm his flagging career needs. Or maybe not.
15. Miami Heat
Projected Starting Lineup: Hassan Whiteside (C), Kelly Olynyk (PF), Justise Winslow (SF), Dion Waiters (SG), Goran Dragic (PG)
The Heat have done a bit of reloading for 2017-18, and while it won’t get them deep into the playoffs, they’ve got the makings of a team that may be good for about 43 to 45 wins this coming season. Of course, Hassan Whiteside should be leading the way as a must-own fantasy player (points, rebounds, blocks, FG%) and a must-have on any real-life team’s starting lineup at center. Goran Dragic returns at PG, where he remains quietly effective. Dion Waiters was re-signed after a career year where he helped the Heat to a 30-11 record in the second half of 2016-17, and a healthy Justise Winslow should re-assume his starting SF role, with James Johnson possibly serving as a Sixth Man of the Year candidate at both forward spots. That’s because Kelly Olynyk, despite the rich free agent deal, should assume the starting 4 spot by virtue of his height, though we’re not expecting him to be much better than he was as a Celtic – instead, he may continue to alternate between big games and complete duds, even as a full-time starter.
14. Milwaukee Bucks
Projected Starting Lineup: Thon Maker (C), Greg Monroe (PF), Giannis Antetokounmpo (SF), Khris Middleton (SG), Malcolm Brogdon (PG)
The Bucks will be trotting out one of the youngest starting lineups in the NBA, though the fact that Jabari Parker is likely to be out until early next year means that it could have been younger, AND better. Still, what they’ve got is pretty good, as the Greek Freak, Giannis Antetokounmpo, has solidified himself as one of the NBA’s best players, period. Look for him to lead the way at the starting 3 spot, while helping out in just about every aspect of the game. Malcolm Brogdon should continue improving after being the first second-rounder in NBA history to win the Rookie of the Year award. A healthy Khris Middleton has the starting SG spot as his to lose, while the Parker injury could mean a return to the starting lineup for Greg Monroe (who didn’t start last year), and a battle between Thon Maker and John Henson for the starting center spot. Or Milwaukee could do what they did last season and have Maker and Henson start, with Monroe as the team’s sixth man.
13. Minnesota Timberwolves
Projected Starting Lineup: Karl-Anthony Towns (C), Gorgui Dieng (PF), Jimmy Butler (SF), Andrew Wiggins (SG), Jeff Teague (PG)
At long last, it looks like the Minnesota Timberwolves have a team that truly appears playoff-bound, after 13 long years of early vacations. Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins now have someone to join them to form a possible “Big 3” in Minnesota, as Jimmy Butler arrived via trade with the Chicago Bulls. Barring injury, there’s no way Jimmy Buckets won’t be making a big impact on both ends of the court for the Timberwolves in 2017-18 – it also helps that he’s reuniting with his former Bulls coach, Tom Thibodeau and another ex-Bull, Taj Gibson. Don’t expect Gibson to start, though, as Gorgui Dieng has the starting PF spot locked up. Free agent signee Jeff Teague was the other key addition, and he should provide a steady, capable hand as he replaces the departed (to Utah) Ricky Rubio as the Wolves’ starting PG.
12. New Orleans Hornets
Projected Starting Lineup: Anthony Davis (C), DeMarcus Cousins (PF), Cheick Diallo (SF), Jrue Holiday (SG), Rajon Rondo (PG)
Certainly, a player of Anthony Davis’ caliber deserves to be in the playoffs on a regular basis. Could 2017-18 be the year Davis and the Pelicans make a deep playoff run? It’ll depend on several factors, not the least being his ability to coexist with the talented, yet traditionally toxic DeMarcus Cousins. Still, there’s a huge drop-off in talent from Boogie and the Unibrow to expected starting SG Jrue Holiday (despite his being a natural PG) to the two other players likely to start on opening day. Solomon Hill’s hamstring injury could see him missing significant time, and it’s not like he had “future star” written all over him anyway. The Pelicans might have no choice but to move Jordan Crawford to the 3, even if he is obviously a natural two-guard, or see what the untested Cheick Diallo could do. Then you’ve got Rajon Rondo, who’s coming off an awful season with the Bulls – he’s likely to start, but isn’t likely either to be the same point guard he used to be with the Celtics.
11. New York Knicks
Projected Starting Lineup: Willy Hernangomez (C), Kristaps Porzingis (PF), Carmelo Anthony (SF), Tim Hardaway Jr. (SG), Ron Baker (PG)
Well, it’s now September 2017, and Carmelo Anthony is still a Knick. That means unless he finally gets his wish to be traded, he shall remain the unhappiest 20-plus-ppg scorer in recent memory, as he plays alongside future franchise player Kristaps Porzingis and a ragtag mix of has-beens (Joakim Noah, Michael Beasley) and never-would-bes (take your pick). Tim Hardaway Jr. was the big free agent signing, and while he now has more chances to shine, he’s not the game-changing youngster the Knicks sorely need another one or two of. Neither is Willy Hernangomez, who did, to his credit, surprise many with a late-season surge that led to a First Team All-Rookie berth. First-rounder Frank Ntilikina may be the future at PG, but for the meantime, he’ll have to watch and learn behind the likes of young journeyman Ron Baker and/or veteran journeyman Ramon Sessions.
10. Oklahoma City Thunder
Projected Starting Lineup: Steven Adams (C), Enes Kanter (PF), Paul George (SF), Andre Roberson (SG), Russell Westbrook (PG)
The PG13 era may have ended in Indiana, and it’s now looking to begin in Oklahoma City, albeit probably not for long. Paul George’s arrival means reigning NBA MVP Russell Westbrook won’t be the only superstar in a Thunder uniform in 2017-18, and while it could mean a decline to 25 ppg territory for Westbrook, he should still be a regular threat for Oscar Robertson-esque triple-doubles on a regular basis. Meanwhile, Andre Roberson will likely remain in the starting lineup as he remains content to focus on defense and hardly show up anywhere else on the stat sheet. Speaking of defense, that’s what Steven Adams will continue providing as he comes off a career season, while Enes Kanter will provide the exact opposite at power forward – he’s just too good to be an instant-offense-and-rebounds guy off the bench.
9. Orlando Magic
Projected Starting Lineup: Nikola Vucevic (C), Aaron Gordon (PF), Jonathon Simmons (SF), Evan Fournier (SG), Elfrid Payton (PG)
If anything else, the Magic have new management. Looking at their projected starting lineup, this doesn’t look like a playoff-ready lineup just yet, though Aaron Gordon did finally show signs of living up to his potential in the second half of the 2016-17 season. He’ll be joined in the frontcourt by Nikola Vucevic, who hopes to rebound from a subpar 2016-17, and either one of two players with similar first names – ex-Spurs role player Jonathon Simmons, or 6th-overall pick Jonathan Isaac. Over in the backcourt, Evan Fournier continues to show improvement as the Magic’s likely top scorer in 2017-18, while Elfrid Payton, despite his obvious offensive shortcomings, is guaranteed to play sticky defense at the point guard spot.
8. Philadelphia 76ers
Projected Starting Lineup: Joel Embiid (C), Dario Saric (PF), Ben Simmons (SF), J.J. Redick (SG), Markelle Fultz (PG)
So do you “trust the process” now that there’s a better chance things will finally fall in place for the 76ers? Granted, this is a lineup that might not be playoffs-ready yet. But if The Process himself, Joel Embiid, and 2016 first-overall pick Ben Simmons (who missed all of last season) are healthy enough to play, they should join 2017 first-overall pick Markelle Fultz and veteran acquisition J.J. Redick in the starting lineup for most of the season, en route to some marked improvements for the perennially moribund Sixers. Power forward is a bit more complicated, as you’ve got the talented Dario Saric (more of a natural 3) and Jahlil Okafor (injury-prone and underachieving), and Richaun Holmes, who owes his success to hard work more so than anything else. We think Saric might get the nod, with Holmes serving as top frontcourt man off the bench. The Sixers might as well trade Okafor, lest he further get lost in the shuffle.
7. Phoenix Suns
Projected Starting Lineup: Tyson Chandler (C), Marquese Chriss (PF), Josh Jackson (SF), Devin Booker (SG), Eric Bledsoe (PG)
After four years of teases, we would have figured Alex Len would finally be ready to assume the starting center role in Phoenix from day one. But due to the fact he remains unsigned, we’re wagering Tyson Chandler remains a starter in his 17th NBA season. Other than that, the Suns’ frontcourt should be all about youth, with second-year man Marquese Chriss likely to build on his strong second half of 2016-17, and 4th-overall pick Josh Jackson likely to relegate T.J. Warren to sixth man duties early on in the new season. Or we could see Warren retain the starting 3 spot, and Dragan Bender emerge at the 4 after a disappointing rookie campaign. The possibilities could be myriad.
Fortunately, the backcourt is the only unquestioned aspect of this Suns team that may be headed to another early exit – Devin Booker’s 70-point game in 2016-17 showed that he has arrived, while Eric Bledsoe, provided he’s healthy, is one of the NBA’s best two-way threats at the point, and arguably the Suns’ best all-around player.
6. Portland Trail Blazers
Projected Starting Lineup: Jusuf Nurkic (C), Al-Farouq Aminu (PF), Moe Harkless (SF), C.J. McCollum (SG), Damian Lillard (PG)
We’re still salty about 2K Sports including C.J. McCollum (instead of Brandon Roy) in Portland’s All-Time Team for NBA 2K18, but together with Damian Lillard, he makes up one-half of one of the NBA’s most potent backcourts. And these two top guards may finally have a quality big man complementing them all year round, assuming Jusuf Nurkic shakes the injury bug – he’s a sure starter as compared to the likes of Meyers Leonard, and Meyers Leonard v2.0, aka 10th-overall pick Zach Collins. Forward, however, is still questionable for the Blazers, as Moe Harkless is a good defender, but hardly a top-tier player at the 3. Ditto Al-Farouq Aminu, who will again be holding off the mediocre Ed Davis and Noah Vonleh, and now late 1st-rounder Caleb Swanigan at power forward.
5. Sacramento Kings
Projected Starting Lineup: Willie Cauley-Stein (C), Skal Labissiere (PF), Justin Jackson (SF), Buddy Hield (SG), George Hill (PG)
Oh, you better believe this is going to be a rough year for the Kings. But they might as well tank for the 2018 draft, as they won’t have a 1st-rounder in 2019. With that purpose of tanking in mind, it’s no surprise that their projected starting lineup includes a third-year man (Willie Cauley-Stein), two second-year men (Buddy Hield and Skal Labissiere), and a rookie (Justin Jackson). Hield appears to be the future of the team at SG, while Cauley-Stein, despite his reputation for soft play, should put up competent numbers as a full-time starting center. Labissiere will be competing against veteran acquisition Zach Randolph, while 15th-overall pick Jackson looks to start because the Kings are woefully weak at the 3, no thanks to Rudy Gay’s departure. George Hill could be the only veteran starter, but even his starting job may be in jeopardy if 5th-overall pick De’Aaron Fox proves to be a quicker study than expected.
4. San Antonio Spurs
Projected Starting Lineup: Pau Gasol (C), LaMarcus Aldridge (PF), Rudy Gay (SF), Kawhi Leonard (SG), Patty Mills (PG)
As long as Gregg Popovich is coaching the San Antonio Spurs, you know that his team going deep in the playoffs with a tried-and-true veteran lineup is almost as guaranteed as death and taxes. That should again hold true, as Joffrey Lauvergne’s arrival likely won’t displace 37-year-old Pau Gasol as starting center, while Tony Parker just MIGHT have one more year left in him as a regular starter…assuming Patty Mills doesn’t put up breakout numbers while he’s injured. New arrival Rudy Gay, provided he’s healthy all year round, may replace Danny Green in the starting lineup, though a big-time drop in productivity is expected, now that he’s on a talented team, one that still has Kawhi Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge. Aldridge had an uneven 2016-17, but he should bounce back as second-in-command to Leonard, who should again come close to, or top 25 ppg, while gunning for a third Defensive Player of the Year award.
3. Toronto Raptors
Projected Starting Lineup: Jonas Valanciunas (C), Serge Ibaka (PF), Pascal Siakam (SF), DeMar DeRozan (SG), Kyle Lowry (PG)
There’s not much different with the Raptors, looking at this prospective starting lineup for opening day of the 2017-18 NBA season. Serge Ibaka may no longer be putting up unreal blocked shots numbers, but he’s made up for that by being a fairly complete power forward, and one who’s hopefully for keeps as a Raptor. He will again be joined by Jonas Valanciunas, who should hold off the likes of Lucas Nogueira, Jakob Poeltl, and new addition Justin Hamilton as a traditional big man in the middle. Of course, you can’t go wrong with the backcourt of Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan, both of whom are coming off career years, Lowry’s injury woes notwithstanding. But we’ve got to wonder whom Toronto has in mind to replace DeMarre Carroll at the 3. Second-year man Pascal Siakam looks like the man for the job, having gotten his share of starts (albeit mostly at PF) in his rookie year.
2. Utah Jazz
Projected Starting Lineup: Rudy Gobert (C), Derrick Favors (PF), Rodney Hood (SF), Thabo Sefolosha (SG), Ricky Rubio (PG)
The Utah Jazz are adjusting to life after Gordon Hayward by building up a lineup full of defensive stoppers. The frontcourt of Rudy Gobert, Derrick Favors, and Rodney Hood remains intact, but it’s the backcourt where Jazz fans will see the most changes, as Ricky Rubio will be replacing George Hill at point guard, bringing his flashy passing and quick hands to Utah after six years with the Timberwolves. But it’s at shooting guard where the biggest questions lie – who’s going to be starting? Thanks to his veteran smarts and defensive ability, Thabo Sefolosha looks to be the prime candidate, though Dante Exum may finally come through after a disappointing run thus far, injury-prone Alec Burks may reclaim his old form, and Donovan Mitchell may prove pleasantly surprising as the team’s 13th-overall pick in the 2017 draft.
1. Washington Wizards
Projected Starting Lineup: Marcin Gortat (C), Markieff Morris (PF), Otto Porter (SF), Bradley Beal (SG), John Wall (PG)
Yes, that’s right – the exact same starting lineup we saw on the court for most of 2016-17. Although it would be nice if the Wizards made it past the second round of the playoffs, they don’t want to mess with a good thing, which is why you’ve still got the aging, yet still-effective Marcin Gortat at center, the competent duo of Markieff Morris (provided he doesn’t act up like he did in Phoenix) and Otto Porter at the forward spots, and the stellar backcourt of John Wall and Bradley Beal. Everything worked for the most part when those five men were starting, which is why Washington mostly focused on retooling the bench. They may, however, want to start planning ahead and looking for someone to replace Gortat at center, as he turns 36 during this season’s All-Star weekend.
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