As free agency all but dries up after a summer of unprecedented spending, we can start looking ahead to the 2016-17 season. And what better way to start than to begin analyzing the best and worst starting lineups in the league?
While there are still plenty of starting positions to be won or lost by opening night, our writers have collaborated on the five-man unit we believe will make up each team’s starting lineup, and by way of a composite score, have come up with the following rankings for the best — or worst, however you choose to look at it — starting lineups in the NBA.
30. Philadelphia 76ers
PROJECTED LINEUP: Sergio Rodriguez, Gerlad Henderson, Robert Covington, Ben Simmons, Jahlil Okafor
This likely won’t be Philadelphia’s starting lineup for the entire season, but no matter how many changes they make the Sixers will indeed be the Sixers for yet another season. In ogther words, not very good.
They will compete, Ben Simmons should be a stud, and the addition of Gerald Henderson provides a veteran, calming presence. Sergio Rodriguez, who may or may not hold of Jerryd Bayless for the starting spot, is another solid veteran player as the 30-year-old had a productive career overseas. In the end, Simmons and Jahlil Okafor will go through several growing pains and this will be another transitional year for the Sixers.
29. Brooklyn Nets
PROJECTED LINEUP: Jeremy Lin, Bojan Bogdanovic, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Luis Scola, Brook Lopez
Everyone wants a sequel to Linsanity, and Lin is a better all-around player than he was when he broke out in 2012 with the Knicks. The problem is that he doesn’t have a killer pick-and-roll partner, nor does he have a bunch of dead-eye shooters on the perimeter. Two of our panelists ranked the Nets dead last, and none had them better than 28th.
28. Los Angeles Lakers
PROJECTED LINEUP: D’Angelo Russell, Jordan Clarkson, Luol Deng, Julius Randle, Timofey Mozgov
We think D’Angelo Russell will be given the keys but are we sure that’s a good thing? Best-case scenario for Luke Walton is Brandon Ingram is so good right away that they move Julius Randle to the bench. Also, they have to hope the corpse of Timofey Mozgov didn’t make the journey from Cleveland and they actually signed that living guy from 2014-15. There is talent here, though it likely won’t lead to winning many actual NBA games for a while.
27. Sacramento Kings
PROJECTED LINEUP: Darren Collison, Arron Afflalo, Rudy Gay, Willie Cauley-Stein, DeMarcus Cousins
It was surprising that Sacramento promoted Collison rather than signing another point guard, and it’s weird that Gay is still on the roster after all the trade rumors. It feels like the Kings should be trying to make another move or two, as Cousins is once again going to be dealing with double-teams and watching teammates miss open jumpers. New coach Dave Joerger has a lot of stuff to figure out here.
26. Phoenix Suns
PROJECTED LINEUP: Brandon Knight, Eric Bledsoe, Jared Dudley, Alex Len, Tyson Chandler
The problem here is we’re not entirely sure the Suns are done with this double point guard lineup with Knight and Bledsoe. You’d love to see one of them moved to the bench and Devin Booker starting. We’re also not sure about the Alex Len-Tyson Chandler pairing inside. Ultimately, is Knight truly an impact player at the most dominant position in the league? Is Bledsoe ever going to be healthy? Can we just get a full-time youth movement so at least we have a lot of fun here?
This lineup, like the Suns, is pretty uninspiring.
25. Orlando Magic
PROJECTED LINEUP: Elfrid Payton, Evan Fournier, Aaron Gordon, Serge Ibaka, Nikola Vucevic
Frank Vogel says he’ll use Gordon like he used Paul George, and this seems risky. If it works (and Payton’s jump shot improves), then this ranking could be far too low. If it doesn’t, then the front office might need to make a move or two to balance the roster. Could Vucevic’s days in Orlando be numbered?
24. New Orleans Pelicans
PROJECTED LINEUP: Jrue Holiday, Tyreke Evans, Solomon Hill, Anthony Davis, Omar Asik
With Alvin Gentry taking over and Anthony Davis being a burgeoning superstar, the Pelicans were supposed to be noticeably improved last year. Yet injuries happened and New Orleans hasn’t done much to change their core pieces.
Davis, of course, is still there and will have to shoulder a heavy burden once again, but other than him, the Pelicans’ starters remain pretty meh. Jrue Holiday back in the starting lineup should be solid, and new signing Solomon Hill brings some good things, but believing in Tyreke Evans and Omer Asik can only get you so far.
23. Milwaukee Bucks
PROJECTED LINEUP: Matthew Dellavedova, Khris Middleton, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jabari Parker, Greg Monroe
Offensively (minus Delly, of course), this unit showed some real promise over the back half of the season. Defensively, they were a nightmare, especially in transition. The roles on this lineup are also a mess. Antetokounmpo is point-center-forward, Dellavedova is most often a set-up or spot-up player, Middleton fills the gaps, and Parker is… some sort of weird combination of skills and abilities, while Monroe provides no rim protection. This is a really talented group, but we have to see it make sense on both ends of the floor before that talent earns a higher ranking.
22. Denver Nuggets
PROJECTED LINEUP: Emmanuel Mudiay, Gary Harris, Danilo Gallinari, Kenneth Faried, Nikola Jokic
There is a very strong possibility that this is not the starting unit by January 1st, with the team looking to unload Faried. Much of their limitations are based simply on inexperience, with Mudiay, Harris and Jokic all under 24. They have the capacity to make big individual, and hopefully collective, jumps next season, and if they move Faried, it’s possible that adding Wilson Chandler to the starting unit could drastically alter how the unit functions with his size and scoring ability.
21. Miami Heat
PROJECTED LINEUP: Goran Dragic, Tyler Johnson, Justise Winslow, Chris Bosh, Hassan Whiteside
The idea of this lineup sounds a lot better than the application of this lineup. It’s hard to give them high marks because we don’t know the status of Chris Bosh and how much he’ll be able to play, if at all.
The Heat need the connection between Dragic and Whiteside that Wade and Whiteside had. They need the $50 million they gave to Tyler Johnson to not look foolish (or they replace him with Dion Waiters — yes, Dion Waiters is the safety valve here!). And they need Justise Winslow to be able to shoot from the outside if Whiteside and Dragic are going to have any space to operate. This lineup should defend, though. That’s the good news.
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July 22: Cavaliers Sign Center Chris Andersen
July 20: Spurs sign Westbrook and Bass?