The old proverb states that a team is only as strong as its weakest link. It seems like in today's NBA game, you have to be a jack of all trades in order to find success. You have to be able to dribble the rock, pass the rock, shoot the rock, rebound the rock, guard the rock and occasionally swat the rock when needed. The problem is, finding five individuals who can do that is a challenge. Unless you are the Golden State Warriors or the Boston Celtics, two teams who have somehow managed to find five players (we are taking Boogie into consideration here) each who can do most of those things fairly well.
As the 2018-19 NBA season has just tipped off, some of the starting lineups have been locked in and will be that way for all of the 82 game season (barring injury), whereas others are either awaiting the return of a player from the injured list or will be open to alteration based on the coaches discretion on a nightly basis. So with that being said, along with some help from a few reputable internet sources we have fine-tuned our list of potential starters for the majority of the season and based on their previous statistics and their history of play to narrow our choices of the least effective member of every NBA team's starting five to the following individuals.
30 Atlanta Hawks - Kent Bazemore
When most people look at the Hawks lineup, they would think that DeWayne Dedmon would be the weakest link on the team. However, the fifth year big man proved to be serviceable both in the paint and on the perimeter. Others might look at the point guard situation as Atlanta is now starting rookie Trae Young at the one. Both have their strengths, but also their obvious weaknesses. This means we have to go to the advanced analytics stats in order to come to the conclusion that based on PER and Win Shares that Kent Bazemore doesn't quite hold his own when it comes to the Hawks starting five. Sure, he has better PER and WS than second-year forward Taurean Prince, but Prince has better per-game stats and considering Bazemore is a veteran, we expect more from him.
29 Boston Celtics - Jaylen Brown
The Celtics are the Eastern Conference's version of the Golden State Warriors, except for the fact that they don't really have a weak link in their starting five. With a healthy Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward returning, the C's look primed to compete for yet another banner. Would it be fair to pinpoint Hayward as the least effective of the starters just because he basically missed an entire season? By all accounts, he is healthy and ready to roll and we should give him more than five minutes to show his true impact with the team. Again, off to the advanced stats we go, and when you take those into account, Jaylen Brown, unfortunately, draws the short straw. However, when you consider that the Celtics could roll out five All-Stars this season, there really isn't an ineffective member of the starting five.
28 Brooklyn Nets - Allen Crabbe
For the last three seasons, the Brooklyn Nets have been bad. However, when you take a look at their roster, they have the makings of a nice solid core of players to build with for the future. When you take into consideration that he is the highest paid player on the team, you would think that aside from being the best free throw and three point shooter by percentage that Allen Crabbe would at least lead the team in one of the major stat categories. Such is not the case. After four seasons coming off the bench for the Portland Trailblazers, Crabbe was given the role of a full-time starter last season, one which had higher expectations that weren't exactly met. The Nets and Crabbe hope he will have a bigger impact on the court this season.
27 Charlotte Hornets - Cody Zeller
D12 must have really had a negative role in the locker room if the Hornets were willing to part with the much travelled big man and turned the role of starting center over to the former Indiana Hoosier. Before Howard's one and done year in Charlotte, Cody Zeller didn't really take advantage of the opportunity to lock down his role and make a valuable impact with the team, only once averaging double digit scoring and never averaging more than 6.5 rebounds. Even with a slight pass last year having to play behind Howard and also dealing with a knee injury, more is expected from Zeller, especially if the Hornets have any intention on competing for a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
26 Chicago Bulls - Robin Lopez
There is a very good chance that the starting front court for the Bulls will be completely different a few months from the opening night tip off. With Lauri Markkanen sidelined for at least 6-8 weeks, Wendell Carter Jr. needing time to get used to the pro game and Jabari Parker figuring out that part of his paycheck is earned on the defensive end of the court, Coach Fred Hoiberg has a variety of options. Throw in Bobby Portis, who could push for a starting role at the four or five spots, and the blue-collar Robin Lopez, who just keeps grinding away. Unfortunately the odd man out is the vet of the group as Lopez, who plays within his limits and knows his role may lose his spot as the team trying to employ an uptempo game, something that doesn't bode well for the 11-year pro.
25 Cleveland Cavaliers - J.R. Smith
With LeBron James in L.A., there are about 25-30 points a game up for grabs. A few years ago Smith would have walked on to the court and jacked up enough shots to try and fill the void. Now in his 15th year, the Cavs' starting shooting guard is far from the gunner he once was. Well, let's correct that a bit. Yes, he still shoots and yes, his shot selection is extremely questionable, but at one point in his career, J.R. Smith was able to at least walk away with 20+ points on any given night. Now he is lucky to get that in a week. Over the last two seasons, Smith's PPG average has dropped and if you really need to check out the advanced stats to see that his PER is below ten and his win shares are near irrelevant to any of Cleveland's success, whether the King is a Cavalier or not.
24 Dallas Mavericks - Wesley Matthews
The only time in his nine-year career that Wesley Matthews played all 82 games was during the 2013-14 season while with the Portland Trail Blazers. Since that time, a variety of injuries have impacted the man once nicknamed "Iron Man". The Mavs are in the middle of a full rebuild as they look to move on from the Nowitzki era with a youth movement. Dennis Smith Jr. and Luka Doncic are the future of the team, while Matthews, DeAndre Jordan, and Dirk Nowitzki are the key vets on the team to mentor the transition. Although he is still putting up solid numbers across the board, Matthews could be the odd man out of the lineup if Coach Rick Carlisle decided to honor the Diggler as a starter in what could be his final season.
23 Denver Nuggets - Jamal Murray
Most experts have the Nuggets as one of the best young teams in the Western Conference this season, along with the Utah Jazz. Finding a least effective member of Denver's starting five has proven to be difficult. You aren't going with Nikola Jokic, who just signed the biggest contract on the team and is one of the best young big men in the league. Odds are Paul Millsap, the vet of the five, a much-missed player last season isn't going to make the list. This means that the nominee comes from the backcourt.
Gary Harris paced the guards in scoring and has the highest percentage from downtown. Will Barton steps up this season to replace Wilson Chandler at the small forward spot and is your best rebounding and passing backcourt option. Believe it or not that leave the Blue Arrow. Yes, he can bring the crowd to its feet on any given night, and at just 20-years-old, is one of the best young shooting guards in the league, but mathematically, when you break down the Nuggets' best starting five members, he fails to make the cut.
22 Detroit Pistons - Stanley Johnson
The Pistons have a new coach and a full training camp with Blake Griffin. One is looking to bounce back from what many deem an unfair dismissal from his former team, the other is looking to show his former team that they made a mistake in parting ways with him after he underproduced. Hopefully, for Stanley Johnson, a successful year from both will translate into a much-needed breakout season for the former Arizona Wildcat. Many felt that Johnson would be a modern-day version of Ron Artest/Metta World Peace, however, the eighth pick from the 2015 draft has fallen more into the dud than stud category. While he does provide a defensive presence, Johnson hasn't provided the Pistons with much else over the past three years.
21 Golden State Warriors - Damian Jones
By process of elimination, Damian Jones gets placed on this list through no fault of his own. After two years of towel waving, Jones has the opportunity to hold down the starting center spot for the Warriors, until DeMarcus Cousins is ready to return from injury. Starting alongside four potential All-Stars, no matter how hard the third-year big man tries, unless he channels his inner Wilt Chamberlain, there is no way that any other member of the back-to-back champion starting five would appear on this list. If Jones isn't able to hang with his peers, Kerr has the option to roll with Jordan Bell or Kevon Looney as replacements. Either way, those two would end up taking the spot on this list as well.
20 Houston Rockets - James Ennis
James Ennis is on his fifth team in five years and if you look past his nine-game stint with the Pelicans, it could be his best opportunity for a career year. Under Mike D'Antoni, the Rockets run and gun style of play should bode well with the 6'7" forward. Stepping into the role that Trevor Ariza played last season, Ennis will be asked to pick up the slack and make up for Ariza's absence. One of the biggest question marks for the Rockets is the status of Carmelo Anthony. If he agrees to come off the bench in the role of a super sixth man as everyone but Melo predicts is the best option for him, then Ennis will hold down the title. However, if D'Antoni and Anthony mend fences and Hoodie Melo gets his way, despite his career resume, he could easily be the least effective member of the Rockets starting five.
19 Indiana Pacers - Bojan Bogdanovic
After joining the Pacers last season, Bojan Bogdanovic became a full-time starter on an up and coming team, one that is expected to compete in the Eastern Conference race. Now in his fifth year, the Pacers need better production from their small forward from Bosnia. Offensively, Bogdanovic can fill the bucket and is one of the best three-point shooters on the team. However, outside of draining shots, the team doesn't get much else from their starting small forward. Out of the five starters, Bogdanovic is the worst rebounder of the crew, including both guards, and in terms of setting up teammates for shots, he averages only 1.2 APG over his career. Defensively, teams look to attack the inefficient winger, who has one of the worst defensive ratings on the entire team.
18 L.A. Clippers - Avery Bradley
This year's version of the L.A. Clippers is one in search of an identity. There are no remnants left of Lob City as DeAndre Jordan was the last member to pack his bags for a new zip code. In place of the high-flying attack are a group of castoffs and mid-level talent. What will work for this crew is that there doesn't seem to be any alpha or diva. There also doesn't seem to be any identity. Lou Williams and Tobias Harris will be called upon to carry the scoring load, with Williams returning to his sixth man role. Marcin Gortat will be happy playing without John Wall, but at the same time without a true passing point guard. Danilo Gallinari has been in the league for a decade and yet to play a full 82-game schedule. Patrick Beverley gave the Clips a taste test that didn't really leave a memorable impression, and Avery Bradley had even a shorter first run that left people wondering if he is really worth $24 million for the next two years.
17 L.A. Lakers - JaVale McGee
There are those that will argue that Lonzo Ball's efficiency will kill the Lakers this season as his shooting percentages from pretty much anywhere on the court are awful. Those people don't see the rebounds, assists, and defensive impact that he has on the floor. Now there is a chance that after six seasons of posting single-digit points and minimal rebound numbers, that JaVale McGee could have a rejuvenated year playing alongside LeBron James, Rajon Rondo, and Ball. For the past two years McGee, a two-time champion, has posted less than impactful numbers with the Golden State Warriors. As of now, McGee will be asked to block shots, run the court and finish lobs in transition and off the screen. Sadly there isn't much else he can offer, but with this eclectic lineup, there is still a chance he can average a double-double.
16 Memphis Grizzlies - Garrett Temple
In theory, Garrett Temple is part of the starting five because of his defense, not because of what he contributes on the offensive end of the court. If second-year guard/swingman Dillon Brooks remains as the leader of the second unit, something Coach J.B. Bickerstaff appears to be trying out this season, then Temple will have to pick up his offensive contributions. Now on his seventh team in nine seasons, Temple's stat line isn't one that would make you think that he deserves to be part of the starting unit. However, in the case of the Grizzlies, they need some fire power coming off the pine, hence Brooks' new role. Honestly what the Grizzlies were thinking in trading Deyonta Davis, Ben McLemore, a 2021 2nd rounder and cash for Temple is confusing, as it seems to be more of a loss than a gain.
15 Miami Heat - Dion Waiters
Depending on what happens with Jimmy Butler, Dio Waiters, once healthy, is penciled in to be the Heat's starting shooting guard. Unfortunately for Miami fans and management, although he has averaged 15 PPG during his two years in South Beach, Waiters efficiency from the field is what hurts the team the most. Barely over 40% from the field, 35% from the three-point line and 68% from the free-throw line don't necessarily define a starting shooting guard's characteristics. Throw in a negative defensive efficiency rating and a PER of just under 13 and one has to wonder what exactly Waiters is contributing to the team. The problem could be corrected if Waiters stops thinking he is a superstar and worthy of a superstar-like treatment.
14 Milwaukee Bucks - Malcolm Brogdon
For all their young talent and potential, the Bucks haven't advanced beyond the first round of the playoffs since the 2000-01 season. Although he won the 2016-17 Rookie Of The Year award, it didn't really appear as though the second round diamond in the rough actually improved his game last season. While part of that could be contributed to by injury, Malcolm Brogdon's ability to play both guard positions is a huge bonus for the Bucks, as he can either play alongside Eric Bledsoe or move over the point guard position when the second unit enters the game. If The President can improve his defensive effort, the Bucks will have a much better chance at advancing deeper into the Eastern Conference playoffs.
13 Minnesota Timberwolves - Andrew Wiggins
Now you could probably throw in Coach Tom Thibodeau, Jimmy Butler, Karl-Anthony Towns and the whole Timberwolves front office as who the least efficient member of the combustible Minnesota franchise. While Butler may have caused drama off the court, you know what you get from him once he laces up the kicks. As for Andrew Wiggins, well, we are all still waiting for him to break through the glass ceiling that so many thought he would have by now. Yes, he was the Rookie Of The Year just four seasons ago and yes, he improved his stats the following two seasons, but last year, he regressed. Sure, you can point to the addition of Butler taking away some of the touches, but when the percentages are the numbers that take a hit, it most likely points to the individual at hand. At only 23-years-old, there is still plenty of time for Wiggins to turn into the player everyone thought he would, but he can just as quickly continue to snowball the other direction.
12 New Orleans Pelicans - Elfrid Payton
The Pels looked to have turned a corner with their regular season stretch run and a first-round playoff victory, despite the loss of DeMarcus Cousins. This season New Orleans has neither Cousins or veteran point guard Rajon Rondo, who, regardless of his scoring inefficiencies, his ability to set up teammates and play defence played a big role in last year's success story. In Rondo's place is Elfrid Payton, a player who has the same struggles with his shooting percentages and doesn't quite have the same playmaking abilities and isn't consistent on defense. The starting point guard spot is Payton's to lose, and the team played better with Jrue Holiday at the shooting guard than they did with him having to distribute the rock, but if Payton falls short, they may have to revert to plan B quicker than hoped for.
11 New York Knicks - Frank Ntilikina
You don't have to use a lot of data (shout out to David Fizdale) to figure out that A) the Knicks are still going to be horrible this season and B) that Frank Ntilikina is the weak link of the starting five. Selected with the eighth pick in the 2017 draft, the Knicks could have had Donovan Mitchell or Dennis Smith in their backcourt instead of the fairly unknown guard from France. In today's game as a guard, if you can't shoot, you really don't have much value and the 20-year-old isn't really known for his ability to fill the stat sheet. Without Kristaps Porzingis in the lineup, there are a few extra touches and shots to go around, but New York management and fans aren't looking at Ntilikina to be a replacement.
10 Oklahoma City Thunder - Terrance Ferguson
It's pretty obvious that the lineup you see on opening night for the Thunder is not going to be the one that finishes the season. With Russell Westbrook on the sidelines, the Thunder are thanking their lucky stars that they added Dennis Schroder to the squad. As for Terrance Ferguson, well, he could hold down the second spot in the backcourt if Billy Donovan is willing to give up Andre Roberson to the bench. Will Patrick Patterson remain a starter in the front court or will Jerami Grant slide in alongside Steven Adams? Assuming the mainstay starting unit consists of Westbrook, Ferguson, Paul George, Patterson and Adams, it looks like Ferguson is the weakest link as he doesn't provide neither the offence or the defence that the Thunder need.
9 Orlando Magic - Jonathan Issac
The Frank Vogel era is over after two bad seasons in the Magic Kingdom, but the .329 winning percentage isn't something that you can blame on the playbook. For the past six years regardless of who has patrolled the sidelines, the Magic have struggled to put together a lineup than can compete on a nightly basis. Whether it be an overabundance of players at certain positions or not having enough players at other spots, the Magic's roster has been a tragic mess. This year, Coach Clifford may look to add Jonathan Issac, last year's rookie, to the starting lineup. The problem is playing Issac means Aaron Gordon is once again playing out of position at the small forward spot. Considering that Issac struggled to get on the court last year, if he doesn't show significant value early in the season a return to the bench is in his near future.
8 Philadelphia 76ers - Markelle Fultz
Fortunately for Markelle Fultz, Anthony Bennett exists. This pretty much means that no matter how bad people think the Sixers point guard was during his rookie season and whatever may be in store down the road, he will never be the worst overall first pick in NBA history. For those that were living under a rock last season, Fultz, who only played 14 games in his rookie year, struggled since the start of summer league and his woes only got worse as the year progressed. This season, Coach Brett Brown vows that Fultz will get every opportunity to start and at the same time show that all of his offseason work with renowned trainer Drew Hanlen has been worth the effort. This means that the 76ers are rolling with a backcourt that cannot shoot but is crazy athletic. One of the major differences as to why Fultz is our choice here, as opposed to last year's Rookie Of The Year, is that Ben Simmons can impact the game in so many other ways, whereas Fultz has yet to find his niche.
7 Phoenix Suns - Isaiah Canaan
Isaiah Canaan indirectly managed to get former Phoenix GM Ryan McDonough fired before the season even started without doing a single thing wrong. In all honesty, Canaan had nothing to do with McDonough getting handed a pink slip other than the fact the young journeyman is the Suns best option at the point and that just didn't cut it for ownership. It's not as though the Suns were particularly high on Canaan, however, as they waived the then 26 -year-old last season after appearing in only 19 games. Averaging only 36% from the field and 35% from deep as well as nearly a 1:1 assist ratio, it's not as though Canaan brings a lot to the table. The rumoured alternative is to slide All-Star shooting guard Devin Booker over to the point, but that would take away a huge chunk of the Suns scoring options.
6 Portland Trail Blazers - Al-Farouq Aminu
If Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum, and to a lesser extent, Jusuf Nurkic aren't scoring, the Trail Blazers aren't winning. Last season, the three combined for 62 of the team's 105 points per game. That means that they weren't exactly getting huge contributions from Aminu or the combo of Evan Turner/Maurice Harkless. While Al-Farouq Aminu does offer a presence on the glass and a decent effort on defence, there really isn't much else in the toolbox that has significant value to the starting five. There was some thought that Zach Collins would start at the power forward position, but it appears as though Coach Terry Stotts wants to bring the sophomore off the bench. What helps Aminu hold on to the starting spot is his blue collar effort, but with very little offensive contribution, opposing defenders have the ability to sag off and help their teammates with the Blazers more potent attackers.
5 Sacramento Kings - Marvin Bagley III
There has been a growing consensus that the Kings made a mistake on draft day. Whoa, really? Haven't we heard that same sentence before when it comes to Sacramento and their draft picks. Yes, De'Aaron Fox will be a solid player, but aside from their point guard, it's not as if the Kings have a track record of winners. After an up and down preseason, Marvin Bagley may find himself on the bench to start the year, but at some point you would have to think that sitting the second overall pick means that either the Duke forward really isn't ready for the NBA or the Kings have horrible management. We will let you decide. The question with Bagley is, who does he knock off to get his playing time? Cauley-Stein has showed continued improvements, Nemanja Bjelica adds a long range shooter to the forward line, Harry Giles is essentially in his rookie year, and Skal Labissiere is a lanky athletic defender. Maybe Bagley should have stayed in school.
4 San Antonio Spurs - Patty Mills
Through all the goods and bad of the offseason drama involving Kawhi Leonard, the San Antonio Spurs as many expected came out just fine with the addition of DeMar DeRozan, a four time All-Star who may not be the defender that Leonard was, but can equally fill the bucket. Then came the end of the preseason and the ACL injury to starting point guard Dejounte Murray. While Murray isn't going to lead the league (or team) in assists, he does orchestrate the offence and was a All-Defensive team member last season. The roll now goes to Mills, a career backup point guard. What Patty Mills doesn't bring to the table in terms of stats, he does bring in grittiness and professionalism. Besides, Coach Pop is still in the Alamo, so everything will be just fine.
3 Toronto Raptors - OG Anunoby
Prior to the start of the season, new head coach Nick Nurse already declared that he will rotate his starters based on the matchups with certain opponents. We all know that Kyle Lowry and Kawhi Leonard have locked down their starting roles. Danny Green is a long range gunner needed in todays NBA. So basically that leaves the two big men. Chances are with his versatility, Ibaka will end up starting more games between the power forward spot and centre than Jonas Valanciunas will at the five spot alone. Now the other monkey wrench in this plan is who starts at the four spot if one of those big men sit? Is it Pascal Siakam or OG Anunoby?
Both are roughly the same build and have the same versatile skill set. Both are long, lanky and athletic forwards who can defend and run the floor, but don't shoot with range particularly well, which is okay considering who is in the backcourt. While Siakam has tenure, Anunoby started more games last season and may return to that role this season. Or as Nick Nurse has said, maybe he will just switch it all up and throw everyone for a loop.
2 Utah Jazz - Rudy Gobert
Intimidating shot-blocking rebounder, check. Pass-first pesky defender, check. Long-range gunner, check. Uber-athletic scorer, check. Grinder blue-collar forward, check. When you look at the Jazz starting five, it appears as though they have all the bases covered. So how are we to determine the least effective starter when you have a crew of guys who do exactly what their job asks them to do? Even if you go to the always popular advanced stats from last year, it says that Joe Ingles is the weakest link based on his PER. But then Win Shares and +/- has Donovan Mitchell ranked the lowest of the five. But then your FG% has Ricky Rubio coming in last. Now if we are talking big men who can step out and shoot, well, Rudy Gobert isn't your answer. So in order to find our answer, we went with the fact that he is decent at everything but doesn't do one thing particularly well. Hey, sometimes this isn't an exact science.
1 Washington Wizards - Dwight Howard
He didn't play in the preseason and nobody really knows when he will make his regular season debut, but many are skeptical about adding D12 to the Wizards starting lineup. Although Dwight Howard once again posted a double-double season last year, his 14th straight and one of his best in the previous three years, how he fits into the Wizards game plan is a challenge. Athletically Howard, when healthy, is one of the best bigs in the league, however, back problems have impacted his performance and mobility over the years. Then you add in the fact that he has limited range offensively and that hurts the Wizards other starters as they have to stall the ball to feed the post. Defensively, Howard isn't the best defender on the pick and roll, especially when called upon to switch to guard the ball handler. Oh, did we mention his presence in the locker room?