One key factor in every basketball game that is often overlooked is each team’s starting five. The starting five most of the time consists of the five best players from both teams that will start and finish the game. While there are some rare cases that contradict that statement, it usually holds true, the majority of the time. The first five often dictates how the game will start and how it will end.
Of course, all collectives have a weak link and the same can be applied to basketball. In this case just because a team fields their best players does not necessarily mean they are all equal in terms of talent. And while defense is an important aspect in basketball, the better offensive team will always triumph over the gritty and tough defensive teams in today's faster-paced era. A player that cannot shoot these days will always be relegated to the bench, as shooting is a big demand in today’s NBA.
In this article, we look at the weakest offensive player in each team’s starting five. Note that since most teams mix up their starting five quite often, we will look at the most used lineup so far this season.
The most commonly used starting five of the Atlanta Hawks consists of Trae Young, Vince Carter, Kent Bazemore, Taurean Prince, and Alex Len. Out of the five, Carter struggles the most as it seems as though Father Time has finally caught up with the former slam dunk champion.
Carter has always been a player that relied on athleticism, and while he has shown basketball IQ that has given him extra legs for a couple of seasons, it is not enough, as the decline is clear. So far, Carter is averaging around seven points per game while shooting 40 percent from the field.
Thanks to a disappointing start to the season, the Boston Celtics so far ranks 16th in terms of points per game. The usual first five for Coach Brad Stevens is Kyrie Irving, Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, Gordon Hayward, and Al Horford.
Brown sticks out like a sore thumb in that group as he is the only one shooting below 40 percent from the field and below 65 percent from the free throw line. The third-year man out of California has been quite disappointing, considering the fact that he looked like he made quite the step in his game last season.
The Brooklyn Nets have been quite average this season as far as their offense goes. They are ranked low in terms of points per game and 14th when it comes to three-point percentage.
The starting five of D’Angelo Russell, Caris LeVert, Joe Harris, Jared Dudley, and Jarrett Allen has been the most used this year with Dudley being the dud offensively. The veteran forward has struggled with his calling card as a three-point shooter, only nailing less than 40 percent of his shots from beyond the arc, the lowest since his rookie year with the then-Charlotte Bobcats.
Offensively speaking, the Charlotte Hornets tend to turn their offense in the hands of All-Star point guard Kemba Walker, and it has worked with mixed results, as the Hornets were 10-10 in their first 20 games. Walker, Jeremy Lamb, Nicolas Batum, Marvin Williams, and Cody Zeller has been by far the most commonly used five the Hornets start with.
Out of the five, Williams is slightly worse than Batum and Zeller, since the former provides passing and the latter is quite efficient in terms of percentage. Williams is averaging low points per game while only making less than half percent of his shots from the field.
Quite frankly, the Chicago Bulls have been one of the worst teams in the league offensively in terms of points per game and field goal percentage. The culprits can be found in the lineup of Ryan Arcidiacono, Justin Holiday, Zach LaVine, Jabari Parker, and Wendell Carter Jr. Out of those players, Parker has struggled most offensively, as the advanced stats suggest.
While Carter is a close second, you cannot fault him too much since he is an adjusting rookie while Parker is already in his fifth year in the league.
Losing a player like LeBron James will affect a team far greater than one can imagine, and the Cleveland Cavaliers are currently feeling the effects. Falling from a championship contender to one of the worst teams in the league, the Cavs are officially in rebuild mode.
One common thing rebuilding teams can tell you is how mediocre some of the starting five are. So far, Cleveland has used George Hill, Rodney Hood, Cedi Osman, Sam Dekker, and Tristan Thompson, with Osman failing to back up his much-improved basic stats with good shooting. Currently, Osman has poor numbers in terms of field goal percentage this season, compared to 48.4 percent last season.
The Dallas Mavericks are currently last in terms of points per game this season and much of that can be attested to their bench, or lack thereof.
The starting five of the Mavs consists of Dennis Smith, Wesley Matthews, Harrison Barnes, Luka Doncic, and DeAndre Jordan. And while none of the five are considered bad offensive players, this season, Smith has been the worst of the bunch. Smith has the lowest offensive rating on the entire team and the worst offensive box plus/minus from the starting five.
Torrey Craig is a solid role player that can help any team. Craig is a defensive-minded wing that can also score points with his athleticism. By no means is he a bad player but when you are surrounded by Jamal Murray, Gary Harris, Paul Millsap, and Nikola Jokic, you are definitely the worst offensive player in your group.
So far, Craig is averaging low numbers from the field and the three-point area respectively. While he has been okay defensively, Craig would need to turn his numbers up if he wants to beat out the likes of Juancho Hernangomez for minutes at the three.
After barely missing the playoffs last year as the ninth seed, the Detroit Pistons have certainly lived up to expectations this year as they started strong through their first 20 games and are currently attempting to climb in the Eastern Conference.
Reggie Jackson, Reggie Bullock, Glenn Robinson III, Blake Griffin, and Andre Drummond should be given credit, as they are the usual starting five. On paper, it may seem as though Drummond is the worst out of the five in shooting efficiency, but looking at the numbers, it paints a different picture, with Bullock being the least effective. .
The Golden State Warriors probably have the best starting five in the NBA today with two MVPs (Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant) and two other All-Stars (Klay Thompson and Draymond Green). By process of elimination, one might think Damian Jones is the worst out of the five, but so far this year, Green has been very disappointing offensively.
Green shoots around 45 percent from the field, compared to about 75 percent for Jones, and while passing is part of the offense, Green has consistently been outplayed by Jones this year, just from his efficiency on the field.
The Houston Rockets’ usual starting five is Chris Paul, James Harden, James Ennis, P.J. Tucker, and Clint Capela. Clearly, the two weakest links are Ennis and Tucker, but Tucker’s three-point shooting gives him a slight advantage over Ennis.
Ennis is a glue guy and nothing more. He provides a bit of everything on the court, while at the same time, focuses on one aspect of the game depending on the situation. Unfortunately for Ennis, playing with CP3 and Harden means less opportunity to show off on the offensive side of the court.
The Indiana Pacers have one of the deepest rosters in the league today. From top to bottom, every single one of the players has a certain role they stick and abide by. Thaddeus Young is a prime example as his role is generally to get rebounds and roll hard to the rim for easy twos.
Young has been the worst as far as offense goes, but it is understandable since it is not part of his job description to score, as they rely heavily on Victor Oladipo creating for the team.
Avery Bradley is a shell of his former self. The once highly-touted high school recruit is playing one of the worst years in his entire career, as he is seemingly struggling on both ends of the court. Once upon a time, Bradley was highly regarded as one of the best two-way players in the NBA and right now it seems as though he has hit a wall in his career.
The Los Angeles Clippers are still a great team, but it is not hard to imagine them being better if Bradley gets his shooting back.
LeBron James is arguably the greatest player of all-time, but he has certain conditions that have to be met in order for a team to be successful. The most notable one is giving the ball to LeBron; since The King relies on having the ball in his hands, most players tend to sacrifice their offense and it is happening right now with the Los Angeles Lakers, with Brandon Ingram being the main casualty.
Ingram was off to a great second year season last year, but he seems to have struggled to adjust with LeBron as his teammate.
The surprising Memphis Grizzlies are off to an incredible start. In their first 18 games they were 12-6 and even managed to sit at the top of the Western Conference at one point. Defense has always been Memphis’ mantra, and it is not a surprise that none of their starters can be considered an offensive specialist.
Mike Conley, Garrett Temple, Kyle Anderson, Jaren Jackson Jr., and Marc Gasol are all okay offensive players but great defensive players. Out of the starters, Anderson is the only one averaging less than 10 points per game and the only one that has a true shooting percentage of less than 50% this year.
Warning: this entry will read almost exactly the same as the last one as the Miami Heat are surprisingly similar to the Grizzlies. The Heat have locked in on defense this year as they are 10th in the league in holding opposing teams in points per game.
Goran Dragic, Rodney McGruder, Josh Richardson, Justise Winslow, and Hassan Whiteside have started the most for the team as Coach Erik Spoelstra tends to shuffle it the most in the NBA. Winslow is the one struggling the most, averaging less than 10 points per game, and having negatives across all the offensive advanced stats is a clear indicator of his inefficiency.
Believe it or not, there was a point in time when Brook Lopez had an argument for the best offensive center in the NBA. Considering his graceful post work, a seemingly automatic midrange shot, and his knack for scoring under the rim, Lopez could do it all back in his prime. But right now, the NBA demands shooting and Lopez obliged, as he started shooting more threes last season than he has the entirety of his career.
Unfortunately, this year seems to be a down year for Brook as he is struggling with his shooting, which is a big need for the Milwaukee Bucks as they start two non-shooters in Giannis Antetokounmpo and Eric Bledsoe.
The Minnesota Timberwolves made one of the most drastic changes in the NBA this year. Trading All-Star Jimmy Butler meant a loss in terms of firepower, and while Robert Covington is a great role player, he is by no means similar to Butler.
With the loss of the All-Star wing, the spotlight is brighter than ever on Andrew Wiggins as the go-to scorer next to Karl Anthony-Towns but unfortunately for Wolves fans, he has not delivered. Shooting low numbers from the field, three, and free throw line is bad enough, but if you factor in the fact he averages only less than three assists per game, that's a whole new story, considering Wigg’s max contract.
More often than not, a team tries to have one or two guys to be the focal point of their offense while others focus on spotting up and defense. The plan seems to be what the Pelicans are up to as they rely heavily on Anthony Davis and Jrue Holiday while Nikola Mirotic focuses on spotting up and the combination of E’Twaun Moore and Wesley Johnson tries to lock up the opposing team’s best perimeter player.
Of course, Moore and Johnson specialize on defense, so kudos to them. However, they are both bad offensively,. Johnson struggles in particular, as he is only averaging well-below 10 points per game this season.
The New York Knicks is one of the most popular franchises in sports, yet they also have the most obscure collection of talent in their starting five. Frank Ntilikina, Damyean Dotson, Tim Hardaway jr., Noah Vonleh, and Mitchell Robinson has been the most common five for the Knicks.
Although Frank has been replaced by Emmanuel Mudiay lately, he is still the worst of the five listed above. The French guard has always been viewed as a project and it has shown this season as he has struggled with his shot early.
There are times when young players capture our imagination with death-defying, hyper-athletic plays that get the crowd on their feet. With Terrance Ferguson, we have seen glimpses of such feats, which is the reason why he is starting alongside Russell Westbrook, Paul George, Jerami Grant, and Steven Adams.
Ferguson is not ready to contribute yet as he is still raw in terms of his skillset and physical condition. Ferguson is out there to get his feet wet and to gain valuable minutes as his offensive numbers can be defined as nothing more than weak.
The Orlando Magic’s usual starting five consists of DJ Agustin, Evan Fournier, Wesley Iwundu, Aaron Gordon, and Nikola Vucevic. If you are not familiar with Iwundu, he was a second-round pick back in 2017. Iwundu was drafted for his physical frame and his defense and so far he has shown almost nothing offensively as he is only averaging around five points per game on about 30 percent shooting from deep, similar to Terrance Ferguson.
If Iwundu wants to keep his job in the NBA, he will have to step up, since Jonathan Isaac is, without a doubt, the forward of the future for the Magic.
The aforementioned Philadelphia 76ers is the other team that made drastic changes in their offensive lineup. No longer do they field Robert Covington, who is an excellent role player, but they can now get to marvel at the talents of All-Star Jimmy Butler.
Of course, adding a great defender with similarly high-end offensive skills means someone will be a casualty and, in turn, make them the worst out of the five. That man is Wilson Chandler; Chandler has always been the same mold as Covington, wherein they both come in to provide defense and shooting. Chandler is the only one in the starting lineup who is averaging single digits this season, with 5.8 points per game.
The Phoenix Suns have recently started games with Devin Booker, Mikal Bridges, Trevor Ariza, TJ Warren, and Deandre Ayton but before they did, their most used starting five consisted of Isaiah Canaan, Devin Booker, Trevor Ariza, Ryan Anderson, and Deandre Ayton, with Anderson taking the worst offensive player title from Canaan following the latter's release. Anderson has struggled this season on both sides of the floor, making his contract a must-shed for the Suns.
If Anderson is to ever get his shooting back, he would have to get it as soon as possible since the Suns desperately need a closer to help win games.
The combination of Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum is arguably one of the best backcourts in the league, thanks to their offensive firepower. The Portland Trail Blazers rely on those two to carry the offensive load, with guys like Al-Farouq Aminu, Jake Layman, and Jusuf Nurkic proving what Coach Terry Stotts want them to.
Out of the five, Jake Layman has the most limited role, as he is relegated to spotting up from three. And while Layman does a good job at this, he is still by far the worst offensive player of the five which is not a knock on him, as he is surrounded by good to great players.
If you are looking for a new young team to support, you can easily buy stocks for the young, up and coming Sacramento Kings. Led by De’Aaron Fox, the Kings are one of the surprise teams this year, given the expectations set prior to the season.
And while Buddy Hield, Willie Cauley-Stein, Marvin Bagley III, and Bogdan Bogdanovic are all young players, the Kings also have a good collection of vets on their roster, including Iman Shumpert. At this point in his career, Shumpert provides nothing more than good defense and okay offense, meaning he is the weakest out of the starters.
The polar opposite of the Kings, the San Antonio Spurs are the rugged wise old man of the league with several veteran players logging in heavy minutes for Coach Gregg Popovich. One of these veterans is Dante Cunningham, who appears to be there to do the dirty work like setting screens, getting rebounds, playing tough defense, and bringing in a calm veteran presence.
While Cunningham was never a good offensive player, he does provide good defense, but unfortunately, that is not enough in today’s NBA.
Trading for Kawhi Leonard, the Toronto Raptors found Danny Green tagging along with the All-Star. Green is an NBA champion known for shooting and defense. And while he is no means a bad offensive player, Green is surrounded by great offensive players like Kyle Lowry, Leonard, Pascal Siakam, and Serge Ibaka.
Green is still one of the better shooters in the NBA but in this case, he is the worst out of his teammates.
One of the best NBA storylines last year was the race for Rookie of the Year between Utah Jazz’ shooting guard Donovan Mitchell and Philadelphia 76ers’ point guard Ben Simmons. Of course, ultimately Simmons won the plaque, but Mitchell was right there breathing down his neck.
This year Mitchell seems to have regressed, as the advanced stats would suggest. It's true he has definitely won Utah some games that weren’t possible if not for his ability to make big plays. Mitchell is off to a poor start offensively, which is the reason he makes it into this list.
Speaking of interesting storylines, the drama surrounding the Wizards of Washington has been one of the most intriguingly weird so far this year. From the coaches to the players, every single one of the Wizards organization seems to want out.
On the court, however, Markieff Morris has struggled mightily compared to his peers. Although Morris has a tendency to heat up late in the season, it seems as though this one is different from the previous years due to the organization’s situation.