Originally posted on CSNMidAtlantic.com
By Nick Ashooh
With the mad rush of NBA free agency behind us, we finally have the chance to take a look at what the core of every NBA team will look like next year.
Sure, there can be more changes, but most of the big names are off the market and now we have an idea of what everyone's starting five will generally look like.
The Wizards starting lineup won't look any different, but that's not a bad thing. Especially coming off of a playoff year and having the confidence of their owner, Ted Leonsis, heading into this coming season.
At the Wizards' press conference for Otto Porter and his new max deal, Leonsis sat down with CSN Mid-Atlantic's Chris Miller, and said he thinks the Wizards have one of the best starting fives in the NBA.
So naturally, SportsTalk Live did exactly what you should do when you hear a statement like this, and looked at where the Wizards' starting five would rank in the NBA.
Obviously, we leave the two Finals teams, the Cavs and Warriors, out of this discussion, otherwise it's not any fun. After that though, there's a lot of potential around the NBA when it comes to the next wave of good starting lineups in the league.
Here's the NBA's best starting fives after Cleveland and Golden State, based on what the projected, fully healthy, groups are as of now.
5. Milwaukee Bucks
The debate here was between the Bucks and Thunder. Adding Paul George to the mix with a league MVP makes the Thunder much better, but the 3 others are all role players that don't compare to what Milwaukee has quietly put together, after winning 42 games last year.
The biggest star is obviously Giannis Antetokounmpo, and even if you can't spell or pronounce his name, you have to recognize he's a future league MVP. Throw in Rookie of the Year Malcolm Brogdon, who started 28 games last year and looks to be coach Jason Kidd's secondary ball handler after the Greek Freak. Khris Middleton missed most of last year with an injury, but looked good when he came back last year, and is a great shooter and scorer if they use him at the 3 to start.
Jabari Parker is likely going to miss some time to start the season, but when healthy, he's a major talent that the Bucks have added to this group. Yes, the problem is his health, but we're looking at fully healthy lineups for all these teams, so we're keeping him in there.
At center, is where the biggest non-health question is. Do they go with the young, but major upside talent in Thon Maker? Or do they go back to Greg Monroe, who's pretty much been in trade rumors since they signed him.
Either way, despite not being as flashy as what Oklahoma City did in terms of adding Paul George's star power, the drop off after the best two players for the Bucks is far less than what the Thunder have going for them.
They're still another star away from contending, but with that balance and potential they have in place, watch out for the Bucks this season.
4. Boston Celtics
The Celtics will look a little different this season. Boston's roster as a whole has just six returning players: Isaiah Thomas, Al Horford, Jae Crowder, Marcus Smart, Jaylen Brown and Terry Rozier. Of course, adding Gordon Hayward was kind of a big deal.
The question is, what type of lineup do they plan on using? Brad Stevens told the Associated Press recently "I don’t have the five positions anymore. It may be as simple as three positions now, where you’re either a ball-handler, a wing or a big."
So do they go Thomas, Hayward, Crowder, newly acquired Marcus Morris, and Horford? Or do they add Rozier at shooting guard, and put Hayward at the 3 instead. What about rookie Jayson Tatum? He's already being compared to Celtics legend Paul Pierce. When does he crack the starting lineup?
With all the questions, there also means a learning curve when it comes to chemistry. Obviously, the talent is there in Boston, but it may take some time for Stevens to figure out exactly what five guys work best together to start games.
3. Washington Wizards
This is where talent and chemistry come together.
The Wizards return the same starting five that helped get them a win away from the Conference Finals last season. With their constant questions when it came to depth, the group of John Wall, Bradley Beal, Otto Porter, Markieff Morris, and Marcin Gortat carried this team to 49 wins and a major step forward last year.
Continuity is something that's hard to come by in the NBA, especially with free agency as aggressive as it's been in recent years. Having this core together again, with their past experience and established talent, gives the Wizards a lineup that can't be overlooked anymore around the league.
2. Minnesota Timberwolves
Who isn't excited to watch them this year? Arguably the most talented outside of the Warriors or Cavs, youth is what still has this starting five in a position where they need to prove themselves. Expectations were high last year, and after winning just 31 games, Minnesota went out and added the veteran leadership and All-Star talent they needed to mix with the young core they already have.
Obviously, Jimmy Butler is a major difference maker, but don't overlook point guard Jeff Teague. His playoff experience and leadership will be a major benefit to the young core of Andrew Wiggins and, the future best big man in the NBA, Karl Anthony-Towns. Gorgui Dieng often gets overlooked, but if he earns the starting power forward spot over Taj Gibson, he should take a major leap forward this season as well.
1. Houston Rockets
Adding Chris Paul to an already potent lineup in Houston sent the NBA world into a temporary state of shock. Obviously, the question remains as to whether or not Paul and James Harden and split ball-handling duties like coach Mike D'Antoni seems to plan on doing. That being said, there's a tremendous amount of talent coming at you this year when you see the Rockets. Add in Trevor Ariza, who brings defense to the lineup, Ryan Anderson (unless he's traded) and his stretch-4 abilities, and Clint Capela's continued growth on both ends of the floor, and you have a team in Houston that as the potential to at least put a scare into the Warriors out west.
Now, if they add Carmelo Anthony on top of this, things get even more compelling in Houston.