Wednesday, August 28, 2013
8/28/2013 09:15:00 AM | Posted by Jacob Noble | Edit Post
We continue our quest to rank the starting line ups in the NBA. As promised, this is the second installment which will be ranking the middle ground teams. A couple of teams here can jump up and become elite and some of these teams can drop even further than their ranks. Here are your rankings 11 through 20.
20. LOS ANGELES LAKERS
What was once a great line up, the Lakers are on the back nine with their title contending teams. A team that lacks young talent and is relying heavily on Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash and Pau Gasol, all of whom have seen better days. Kobe is coming off a major injury and is expected to miss some time early on in the season. Most Laker fans didn’t think they’d see the day when Jordan Hill and Wesley Johnson start for them. Add in whoever fills in for Kobe during the early part of the season and you will have a line up where only Gasol is recognizable. I say this because Nash is not the same Steve Nash we all know and love. It’s pretty funny that Gasol could be the last one standing after all of this, considering he was the one who was rumored in every trade and blamed for every problem the team had. – Jacob
The more things change, the more everything else seems to change around it. Mark Cubans two year plan of acquiring two Superstar caliber players has blown up in the Dallas Mavericks face, but all is far from lost. An aging Dirk Nowitzki is still the centerpiece of this franchise, and with the addition of Monta Ellis he now has a high volume score joining this crusade. Of course there will certainly be questions surrounding Monta’s efficiency, but the solid addition of Jose Calderon as the starting point guard should find him plenty of open looks. Truthfully Dallas back court should be solid, the biggest question marks will center on how much production they can get from Samuel Dalembert and Shawn Marion. Defensively they’ll be solid, but they are going to struggle on the offensive end up front. The Ellis/Calderon tandem will be expected to carry a heavier scoring load to assist Dirk, especially since Ellis definitely won’t be expected to give much on the defensive side. Another full season on Marion may not bode well, but as long as he’s on the court he’ll do everything in his power to be a factor. How much of a factor remains to be seen. Not a bad starting line-up, but the more talented squads will best them more often than not. – Esau
Unfortunately, Mark Cuban might have to practice patience throughout the 2013-14 season, because the moves he wanted to make over the summer just didn't pan out. They failed to execute the ABC's of selling their franchise (Always Be Closing) to game changing talents like Dwight Howard and Josh Smith, and they were right back at square one, stuck without an adequate support system for their aging veterans. However, we all know that Cuban refuses to be a loser and never leaves the table empty-handed in the offseason. Therefore, he went after Jose Calderon, Monta Ellis, and Devin Harris to supplement their roster. Not necessarily poor players by any standards, but that's a free agent trio comprised of overshooting, underachievement, and more age. Regardless, this is a team filled with proven players that have experience at all levels of basketball coupled with a formidable coach in Rick Carlisle. But with a lack of another A-list talent, the fate of their season rests on the 36 year old knees and shoulders of Dirk Nowitzki . I hate to be a Debbie Downer," but I foresee a potential 7 or 8 playoff seeding at best with an early exit out of the playoffs in 2014. - Matt
After looking at the teams ranked ahead of the Wizards, it’s hard for me to agree that they landed this far down the list. A team that was bit by the injury bug, mixed with young super stars and veterans, the Wizards will most likely win more games than a handful (or more) of the teams ahead of them on this list. Washington has arguably one of the best backcourts in the game with John Wall and Bradley Beal. John Wall is waiting for that break out year, where he throws his name in the hat as the best point guard in the league. Unfortunately his health has prevented that party. Next to him is Bradley Beal, who had a very good rookie campaign. Bradley has proven he can score the ball on the professional level and did so while being the number guy on the team last year. Now with a little help, Beal should begin to flourish even more. The rest of the line up includes a defensive wingman who is past his prime in Trevor Ariza. Trevor can knock down some open shots but he is not reliable on the offensive end. The big men down low, if healthy, can be a very tough front court. Again, with this team, it all comes down to health and the growth of their young guards. – Jacob
The Cavs are a team that is sick of being bad, and ready to do something about it. That sort of rabid desire to avoid another trip to the lottery could be instrumental in guiding the team to the playoffs in the Leastern Conference this year, and they have the personnel to do it. Kyrie Irving is a young superstar ready to take that next step to the uber-elite level. He is entering his third year, the same year that Derrick Rose (the last guard to take the league by storm the way Irving has) won his MVP award. The Duke product could be headed for a similar breakout if he can stay healthy. Speaking of staying healthy, he could have a lot more help this year if former All-Star Andrew Bynum logs significant minutes. Bynum does a lot of goofball stuff off the court, but he is positively enormous and averaged 19 and 12 in his last healthy NBA season. And ask any guard what having a dominant big man on your side can do for you (see Bryant, Kobe). Another young player, Dion Waiters, will probably develop into a solid contributor this year, as well. Waiters shot selection is often cringe-worthy, but his game is D-Wade-esque and his per-36 numbers of 18 points, 4 assists, 3 rebounds, and a steal are nothing to sneeze at. - Gerard
This could be the year that all the pieces finally come together for the Timberwolves. After two years of flashing promise only to be dashed by injuries, they could be building a solid young nucleus for their future in Minnesota. Ricky Rubio is one of the most exciting young talents we have at point guard right now. His passes are pinpoint and flashy, his defense is on it's way to becoming more than solid and his personality dictates the culture for whatever he team he's playing for at that time. His ACL injury now a solid 18 months in his rear view I expect him to take another step toward all star status, setting up easy looks for Kevin Martin and Chase Budinger on the wings and making life easy for Kevin Love and Pekovic on the blocks. Love is poised for a bounce back year after a broken hand limited him to 18 games and destroyed his shooting percentages. He should be ready to take his rightful place as the best power forward in the game. A guy who can give you 25-13 while hovering near 40% on threes is a matchup nightmare for any opponent and nearly unheard of in this league. Meanwhile Pekovic is a nice throw back, bruising center who can punish guys on the block and grab the few rebounds Love will miss. Martin, fresh off the bench in OKC where he did a fine job replacing James Harden's scoring is looking to settle back into the role of deadeye shooter and will be a beneficiary of Ricky Rubio's dead eye passing and Love and Pekovic double teams. If they stay healthy and Budinger can fill the lanes on the break and hit open looks as the fifth option in this offense I would expect the Wolves could see themselves climbing in these rankings sooner rather than later.- Bryan
15. NEW ORLEANS
Through a series of surprising, albeit rather exciting offseason moves, New Orleans enters the season with a totally revamped starting five. The process of the transformation that the Pelicans have gone through is really no different than that of a 16 year old playing NBA2K and throwing together a mishmash of players on a team based on their names, as opposed to how well their strengths and weaknesses fit together. We saw this last year with the Lakers. Basketball is the type of sport where five players who may not have a ton of talent, but play well together, can beat five other players who are considered to have considerably more talent.
The Pelicans have a projected starting five that is extremely young, with their oldest player being Jason Smith, who is only 27. He’s a below average player, but brings a little bit of rebounding and interior defense.
The point guard spot is being held down by Jrue Holiday, who shockingly was traded by the 76ers during this year’s draft for the 6th overall pick (Nerlens Noel) and a protected first rounder next year. Holiday is coming off a year where he earned his first all-star selection, but you can very easily name at least 10 point guards that you would start a franchise with before you even thought of him. He’s a perfectly fine player, but he’s not an elite talent.
Eric Gordon projects to be the starting shooting guard, and when healthy is a dynamic player, with the operative word in that sentence being “when”. Gordon has played in a combined total of 51 games over the last two years. If the Pelicans are going to be in contention for one of the last two playoff spots in the West, then they need him to play some semblance of a full season.
Perhaps the most confusing, if not intriguing addition to this roster is free agent addition Tyreke Evans. When you look at his per game averages, you see the numbers that a perennial all star puts up. However, he has not progressed since coming into the league, and has not played a lot of small forward. He is used to having the ball in his hands and creating for himself and for others, so it will be interesting to see how well he meshes with Holiday and Gordon.
However, this team will only go as far as its franchise player Anthony Davis will take them. After an injury plagued first season, Davis must take the next step in his development into the All-NBA center the Pelicans hope they drafted first overall in last year’s draft. Coming into the league, Davis was rail-thin, and hopefully he has worked this summer to put on some muscle to handle the rigors of a full 82 game NBA season. If Davis can show a more polished offensive game, and continue to assert himself as the dominating defensive presence that his skills suggest he can be, then the Pelicans will be a very tough team to play.
Overall, the Pelicans rate as having a good, but not great, starting five. It certainly looks good on paper when you look at the players individually, but I have serious concerns about how that will translate on the court when they actually have to play. - John
Looking at the Blazers starting lineup, it’s hard to see any critical flaws. They have the rock solid pivot man in LaMarcus Aldridge. They have the sharpshooter in Wes Matthews. They have the swiss army knife that is Nic Batum (aka Scottie Pippen with three-point range). One of their tragic weaknesses last year (ESPECIALLY on defense) was that they had tiny JJ Hickson masquerading as a center all season long, but that was corrected when they picked up rugged, rim-protecting big man with funny hair Robin Lopez. And of course, they have emerging superstar Damian Lillard, who we can only assume is going to actually get better this year (quite a feat considering how impressive he was last year). If Lillard can improve his defense in particular, the rest of the West should be on notice. The Blazers are long, athletic, and they can shoot the three and defend. What more can you ask for? - Gerard
Joe Dumars may not be building a title contending team, but he has definitely created a line-up that will be watched heavily on League Pass. The Front Court of Andre Drummond, Greg Monroe, and Josh Smith are going to be exciting, even if it is a bit awkward at times. The PG swap of Brandon Knight for Brandon Jennings could either be really brilliant or really bad with no telling which team actually benefited from it. While this allows Rodney Stuckey to only play at the 2, there are legit concerns on whether Jennings is actually the best option at point guard here. Also let’s not get it twisted, Detroit will be a highlight reel every night, but when it comes to truly competing that’s where the experiment gets interesting. Imagine this line up spacing the floor, disaster waiting to happen. Smith and Jennings will smooth shoot you out of a game, but it will be great to watch them do it, and they might actually work in their favors most nights. Of course Jennings could finally get “it”, and rack up double digit assists every night while Andre Drummond continues his ascension as one of the premier young big men in the league. Oh, the world is definitely waiting to see how this experiment turns out. – Esau
Not sure why I have them so high, especially after I hate Lawson for his off the court distractions. Gallo is coming back from an injury, and JaVale is just a bad bozo highlight machine. Faried remains a double-double beast, and plays with the most energy in all of the NBA. Losing Iguodala should have had me raise the red flag, but I’m still steaming over my pick of them in the Finals last season. Injuries derailed that dream. Still, Mannimal & JaVale soaring to the hoop for dunks is a heck of a lot of fun. – Kez
The Nuggets were fortunate enough to attract one of the top free agents in the 2013-14 free agency market, Head Coach Brian Shaw. Given that this'll be Shaw's first gig at the coaching helm of an NBA squad, he's got motivated talent suiting up in Denver that should pair well with his rumored "Triangle-ish" offense. Ty Lawson is a top -12 PG at worse and I'm very high on the Nuggets' front court. In fact, I'll go out on a limb and argue that Javale McGee, Kenneth Faried, and Danilo Gallinari make up one of the NBA's top-3 starting front court's going into 2013-14. Also, new additions like Randy Foye, JJ Hickson, and Nate Robinson, will only expand Denver's already diverse offensive arsenal. Although George Karl is and was a highly respected, decorated basketball coach I think that this blend of youth and athleticism needed a fresh leader with recent NBA playing experience. Shaw should fit-in perfectly. – Matt
11. NEW YORK
Four of the five Knicks starters were selected in the top 5 of their draft. That alone should make them a contender on paper, but of course championships aren't won on paper. Carmelo Anthony is one of the best, if inefficient at times, scorers in the league. Fresh off his first scoring title he appears hungry for more. If he can curb his appetite for all the shots and make quick decisions with the ball he can be deadly. Tyson Chandler battled injuries and fatigue a season after winning the league's defensive player of the year, finally near 100% his defense and toughness will be key if the Knicks want to go far in the playoffs. Iman Shumpert is growing up before our very eyes, a true defensive stopper he seemed to develop a nice three point stroke last season as well. Now a full season removed from a devastating ACL tear, he should have nearly all of his explosiveness back and could be a nightmare in transition and getting to the basket. As one of the few draft picks the Knicks have kept for themselves over the years, his development is huge going forward. After the top three it drops off a bit. Ray Felton is sometimes good but mostly just serviceable and shot happy while former number 1 overall pick Andrea Bargnani could be refreshed from a change of scenery and help with perimeter shooting while creating matchup problems at the 4 or just take up space. It all adds up to a starting five right around the middle of the league. If everyone plays to their potential it could be more, but this is the Knicks we're talking about so I wouldn't count on it. I'm bracing for the worst but hoping for the best, which should probably be the Knicks fan slogan at this point. – Bryan
It pains me, because I hate three of these guys, think one stinks, and kind of like one of them only because of his fun hair. But Chandler can still affect games on the defensive end, and get his dunks to keep his FG % up, and Felton (though Rondo did not play) looked not like a chubby donut in the Playoffs, occasionally. We all know that Melo is good, probably a top 7 player in the League, so that gives them a bump. And it should be fun (if he’s healthy) to see a full year of an improved Shumpty Shump. Andrea is the wild card, and we can expect him to just BOMB away from three, while playing as much defense as Amare (6th man) usually does. They are fun when they are hitting their shots, and dangerous as well. - Kez