Predicting and Ranking the Top 10 NBA Starting Fives for 2019-20

The NBA is finally past the era of the Warrior’s dominance. The league as a whole is much more well-rounded and even, with many teams having the opportunity to challenge for a championship. Here are my predictions for the top ten starting lineups. 

10. Golden State Warriors

PG- Stephen Curry

SG- D’Angelo Russell

SF- Alfonzo McKennie

PF- Draymond Green

C- Willie Cauley Stein

The Warriors barely make this list, slightly beating out teams like the Brooklyn Nets, Toronto Raptors, and Indiana Pacers, after losing Kevin Durant to the Nets and Klay Thompson to injury (torn ACL). Curry and Russell make up a formidable backcourt. I expect that Russell will be given primary ball handling duties while Curry plays off-ball as more of a sharpshooter than a facilitator. The backcourt comprised of Green and Cauley-Stein is decent offensively and very solid defensively. McKennie is by far the weakest player in this lineup, but he gets the spot due to the lack of small forwards on the team. I wouldn’t expect him to start on most other teams.

9. Boston Celtics

PG- Kemba Walker

SG- Jaylen Brown

SF- Gordon Hayward

PF- Jayson Tatum

C- Enes Kanter

With Kyrie Irving and Al Horford gone, the Celtics did a good job in replacing them with Walker and Kanter. Although this is a downgrade, Walker is an All-Star point guard and Kanter is a double-double machine. By the end of the year, this lineup could be ranked a lot higher. If Brown and Tatum become more consistent players and reach the level they were at during the 2017 Playoffs, the Celtics starting lineup would be a lot stronger. It also depends on Hayward who could look to return to his former All-Star self (or close to it) after a disappointing last season. For now, I’m putting this lineup lower due to its unproven nature.

8. Portland Trail Blazers

PG- Damian Lillard

SG- CJ McCollum

SF- Rodney Hood

PF- Zach Collins

C- Hassan Whiteside

Starting center Jusuf Nurkic will be out due to injury, but Whiteside, who was acquired  from Miami via trade is a great fill-in and can excel as a top defender. Lillard and McCollum are one of the best backcourts in the NBA and are only improving. Hood has played well for the Blazers after arriving last season and can be a decent scoring option as well. Collins should take advantage of a depleted power forward position and edge out Anthony Tolliver and Mario Hezonja for the four spot. In minimal playing time, he has done well and should look to make a massive jump this year. I’m putting them slightly over the Celtics because of their dynamic proven scoring.

7. Denver Nuggets

PG- Jamal Murray

SG- Gary Harris

SF- Jerami Grant

PF- Paul Millsap

C- Nikola Jokic

Murray just signed a huge extension and will look to prove that he is worth the money this season. The combo guard has been one of the best players of his 2016 draft class. After an injury-plagued season, Harris can reinstate himself as a very reliable and solid “D and three” player. Grant, who was recently traded from the Thunder for a first-rounder, had his best season last year, developing a good jumper to accompany his great athleticism and versatility. Former All-Star Millsap had a bounce-back year last season and provides veteran leadership. Also, let’s not forget their best player, Jokic, who is a top 15 player in the NBA and one of its top all-around players.

6. Utah Jazz

PG- Mike Conley

SG- Donovan Mitchell

SF- Joe Ingles

PF- Bojan Bogdanovic

C- Rudy Gobert

The Jazz’s lineup sneaks in just ahead of the Nuggets’. Conley, who was recently acquired in a trade with the Grizzlies, is a top 10 point guard in the league and a big upgrade from Ricky Rubio. Mitchell and Gobert have solid chances to become All-Stars this season, the former having exploded onto the scene in his first two seasons and the latter having been one of the league’s most consistent and top defensive players. Ingles is known as the perfect role player. His defensive strength accompanied by his lethal three-point shot makes him a great person to have in any team. Bogdanovic, their new free-agent signing was the top scorer on the Pacers last year, following Victor Oladipo’s injury and will look to have another good year.

5. Milwaukee Bucks

PG- Eric Bledsoe

SG- Wesley Matthews

SF- Khris Middleton

PF- Giannis Antetokounmpo

C- Brook Lopez

Many say that last year’s top seed in the Eastern Conference has gotten worse after losing Malcolm Brogdon to the Pacers. However, he has replaced Matthews, a pretty decent shooting guard with the ability to be a reliable spot-up shooter, and kept the rest of their starters intact. Middleton, a great three-way scorer, and extremely versatile defender, was extended to a max deal this summer. Lopez made massive strides last year, becoming an elite shooting center, and Bledsoe is an above-average point guard who excels at driving and finishing at the basket. Last but certainly not least, the Greek Freak, Antetokounmpo, is coming off of his first MVP season and has stated that he hasn’t even reached his full potential yet.

4. Houston Rockets

PG- Russell Westbrook

SG- Eric Gordon

SF- James Harden

PF- PJ Tucker

C- Clint Capela

The Rockets’ big move this summer was to ship washed up point guard Chris Paul, along with some picks, to the Thunder for All-Star point guard Westbrook. Westbrook and Harden make up what many including myself see as the strongest pure scoring duo in the league. Both former MVPs will be looking to propel the Rockets to the NBA finals, last having played there was together in 2012, losing to LeBron’s Heat. Gordon is a former Sixth Man of the Year and is deadly from downtown. Tucker has found a role with the Rockets as a gritty defender, a hard worker, and a decent three-point shooter to compliment Gordon’s scoring. Capela is also a very solid player. The young center is an elite rebounder who can block shots and score inside with ease.

3. Los Angeles Clippers

PG- Patrick Beverley

SG- Landry Shamet

SF- Kawhi Leonard

PF- Paul George

C- Ivica Zubac

I almost put the Rockets ahead of them, but I ultimately put the Clippers higher because of Leonard. Leonard is the third-best player in the world, in my opinion, and could be considered the second with Durant out next year after tearing his Achilles. The two-time champion and Finals MVP can do it all, providing magnificent scoring and defending, while always coming through in the clutch. After signing with the Clippers fresh off of a title, he was joined by George, who is another elite two-way player coming off of an MVP caliber season. At point guard, they’ll continue to roll with Beverley, who is considered by most as the best defensive guard in the NBA. Shamet arrived in a trade from Philadelphia last year. As a rookie, he proved that he can be a dynamic three-point shooter. Zubac was traded from the Lakers last year, and although he’s not that good, he’s definitely serviceable. I think the Clippers might be the best team in the league due to their depth, including the super sixth man Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell.

2. Philadelphia 76ers

PG- Ben Simmons

SG- Josh Richardson

SF- Tobias Harris

PF- Al Horford

C- Joel Embiid

As a Celtics fan, it pains me to put the Sixers this highly. However, they deserve to be here. Simmons is an overrated coward who will never win anything until he can hit a three, but he’s still a great passer and playmaker with elite athleticism. Richardson, who was part of the sign and trade that sent Jimmy Butler to Miami, established himself as a really good and extremely versatile ole player with the Heat. Harris’ recorded 20 points and eight rebounds per game last season and was rewarded with a max contract with the Sixers. Embiid, when healthy is a perennial MVP candidate  and either the best or second-best center in the NBA. The only player who would consistently limit him was Horford, who snaked his way over from Boston and signed a four year deal with his rivals, who now pairs with Embiid in an unreal backcourt.

1. Los Angeles Lakers

PG- LeBron James

SG- Danny Green

SF- Kyle Kuzma

PF- Anthony Davis

C- DeMarcus Cousins

Again, as a Celtics fan, I hate doing this. The Lakers and the 76ers are the two most hated teams for me, but both have awesome starting fives. The Lakers have TWO top five players in the league in LeBron, who let’s face it, is still the best player in the world, and Davis. Davis arrived a month ago in a trade with the Pelicans, who got a massive haul for him, including multiple first-rounders, Lonzo Ball, and Brandon Ingram. Green, a top five pure shooter in the league, was signed from the Raptors and gives the Lakers solid defense and three point dominance. I expect LeBron to play point guard this year, rather than small forward, to give Kuzma an opportunity to start. Kuzma averaged over 18 points per game last season and possesses a smooth jumper. Cousins, Although is nowhere near the All-Star player he was before his Achilles injury, is a low risk, high reward player, who is only signed to a veteran’s minimum deal. He could find some of his ability again this year.

As always, let me know what you think!

*Photo: Radio.com

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