Ranking the 10 best 2019/2020 NBA starting lineups after free agency

Free agency is the word.

We’ve arguably had one of the most tumultuous free agency periods in NBA history. From AD signing with the Lakers, to the Kyrie/KD Brooklyn move and now Kawhi and PG suiting up for the Clippers. It’s been one to remember.

With most of the marquee players off the board and signed with teams, it’s time to preview next years starting lineups. Who has the best starting 5 to take the floor in October? Let’s find out.

10 – Golden State Warriors 

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Projected starting lineup: 

PG – D’Angelo Russell

SG – Steph Curry

SF – Alfonzo McKinnie

PF – Draymond Green

C – Willie Cauley-Stein

You can’t write off the Warriors just yet. Steph Curry may have struggled in the absence of Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson, and he’ll very much need to be the franchise centerpiece going in to the 2019/2020 season. But he has is helped by the addition of D’Angelo Russell. Russell, a ball dominant Point Guard, grew as a facilitator in Brooklyn. At just 23 years of age, his growth is expected to continue.

A lot will ride on the fit of Curry and Russell going forward, but Curry’s catch and shoot abilities will more likely see him at the 2. Draymond Green silenced the doubters in the playoffs with his aggression and all-round performances. The addition of Cauley-Stein adds a centre who started 81 games last season, and McKinnie provided valuable minutes from the bench.

9 – Denver Nuggets

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Projected starting lineup: 

PG – Jamal Murray

SG – Gary Harris

SF – Malik Beasley

PF – Jerami Grant

C – Nikola Jokic

It might be an underestimation to rank the Nuggets so low after being the second seed in the West last year, but they still have a lot of room for development. Star big man Nikola Jokic put on a show night after night, and showed why he was a max-level contract player. The developing Jamal Murray/Gary Harris combo got valuable playoff minutes this year.

The Nuggets were a well coached team in the regular season, but ultimately ran out of options when it mattered most in the playoffs. I expect them to place higher than some of the teams below in the regular season given their depth. The starting 5, however, does have as much upside for the future as most teams. Expecting another monster season from Jokic, it will be interesting to see his fit with Grant at the 4. He was a valuable asset for OKC. If they can improve their spacing in this 3-point dominated league, their defense will do the rest.

8 – Boston Celtics 

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Projected starting lineup: 

PG – Kemba Walker

SG – Jaylen Brown

SF – Gordon Hayward

PF – Jayson Tatum

C – Enes Kanter

A problem for a lot of Boston Celtics teams in the past has been their scoring. Consistently one of the better defensive teams in the league, they have now bolstered their offense with the addition of All-Star PG Kemba Walker. However, with the loss of Al Horford, their ring general, they may lack leadership against some of the better big-men in the league.

The growth of Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum was somewhat halted with the failed Kyrie experiment last year. Brown showed particular shine at times, but more will be asked of Tatum who relished in a leading role the year before. As pointed out by my colleague PK, Gordon Hayward should feel more comfortable on the floor alongside Kemba Walker this year. Kanter proved his worth for Portland in the playoffs offensively, but showed gaping holes in his pick and roll defense. I expect a talented coach like Brad Stevens to get the best out of this starting 5.

7 – Toronto Raptors 

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Projected starting lineup: 

PG – Kyle Lowry

SG – Fred Vanvleet

SF – OG Anunoby

PF – Pascal Siakam

C – Marc Gasol

Losing a franchise-altering star in Kawhi Leonard is going to hurt the Raptors this year, no doubt. But they still have the bones of an NBA Championship winning team. What Raptors fans can be hopeful about is the development of Pascal Siakam and Fred Vanvleet. Siakam stepped up at times for the Raptors in the playoffs and led the team in scoring. Vanvleet arguably won them Game 6 of the finals with huge makes from the 3 point line.

A lot will ride on the maintenance/regression of Kyle Lowry and Marc Gasol. Both will turn 34 and 35 respectively, and if father time is anything to go by, we may have seen the best of both already. Anunoby spent most of last year on the sidelines, but was an important part of the previous years starting lineup. With or without Kawhi, they have the coaching and system to still be a threat in the playoffs, especially in an Eastern Conference that’s still as top heavy as last year.

6 – Houston Rockets 

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Projected starting lineup: 

PG – Chris Paul

SG – James Harden

SF – Eric Gordon

PF – PJ Tucker

C – Clint Capela

If there’s one team I have sneaky feeling about their regression, it’s the Houston Rockets. Injuries weren’t helpful to Houston last year, with lengthy absences for both Chris Paul and Clint Capela. An insurmountable load was placed on James Harden – and he came up trumps with an incredible offensive season. But is this sustainable? Regardless of their projected regular season win totals, starting 5 vs. starting 5 they still possess one of the better lineups in the league.

This Rockets team were the greatest threat to the Warriors over the last few years, bar Kawhi. No ones getting younger, but they have the experience to come up trumps against most. Mike D’Antoni should be able to address the Harden load-management saga, and if they get more from their roster they could be still be a Top 3 team in the West. Chris Paul will have a lot to prove to stay healthy over 82 games, as will Capela’s defensive prowess in the playoffs. I’m not convinced just yet with the Rockets at 6, but I’m willing to give them the benefit of the doubt.

5 – Philadelphia 76ers 

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Projected starting lineup: 

PG – Ben Simmons

SG – Josh Richardson

SF – Tobias Harris

PF – Al Horford

C – Joel Embiid

A lot of these teams have caveats, and to be honest, there’s not much between a lot of the Top 10. In my opinion, Philly could be Top 3 next season, or tenth, depending on a number of factors. In the playoffs, the 76ers ran the Raptors closest to elimination. A positive sign by most stretches, but disappointing for a team that heralded 4 All-Star caliber starters. Joel Embiid proved his health over the regular season, but it caught up to him late in the playoffs.

The addition of Al Horford allows every other starter the room to shine. I describe Horford as a camouflage type player. He does the dirty work, the organising, makes the plays you don’t see on TV. He worked well in Boston as a 4 or 5, so his fit with Embiid will be interesting. Josh Richardson is a do-it-all guard that should add versatility to a team with determined roles. Much more will be needed of Tobias Harris, who is a max contract player now, as he failed to show up in the playoffs. Ben Simmons is the X-factor here. Now that they have a full strength starting 5 from October onward, they could grow into a formidable force in the East.

4 – Los Angeles Lakers 

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Projected starting lineup: 

PG – LeBron James

SG – Quinn Cook

SF – Danny Green

PF – Kyle Kuzma

C – Anthony Davis

News broke today (good timing) that LeBron will be the starting PG on this new look Lakers team. When I say new look, I say so with hesitation, as the Lakers brought back the some of their former roster pairings this week. It’s a confusing puzzle to determine what lineup they’ll go with, but I think to maximise the AD-LeBron potential you need shooters to space the floor. Cook can run some plays, or at least start with the ball on certain possessions, but LeBron will ultimately be the ball-handler.

AD’s rebounding, rim protection and versatility will provide much needed stability for the Lakers who seemed to lack all of the above last year. Cook and Green are high percentage 3 point shooters so their roles are determined. It all depends on if they sign a larger body for the 2 position, as LeBron will likely still guard the oppositions starting small-forward/star player. Ultimately, all rotationals aside, this team has two of the best players in the league. AD is only getting better, and was Antetokounmpo level developing during his peak with the Pelicans. I expect them to do much much better this year.

3 – Utah Jazz 

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Projected starting lineup: 

PG – Mike Conley

SG – Donovan Mitchell

SF – Bojan Bogdanovic

PF – Joe Ingles

C – Rudy Gobert

The Jazz have always been defensively astute with Rudy Gobert as the defensive general of the team. A two-time DPOY, Gobert and his teammates know that making the playoffs is not good enough for this team next year. Mike Conley is an underrated pickup for this team, coming off a stellar season in an underwhelming Grizzlies uniform. Pair that with one of the best young guards in the league, Donovan Mitchell, and they have an elite guard lineup alone.

Bojan Bogdanovic had to mold into a number 1 option in Indiana with the absence of Victor Oladipo, and he didn’t do half bad. They have high percentage 3 point wings in Bogdonavic and Ingles now – which most teams cry out for. The Jazz have the perfect offense/defense balance when looking at a Starting 5. A lot has to be said for most teams as to how they’ll fit together, and one negative could be that they don’t have a proven star. I put that in italics, as Conley or Mitchell could step up to the plate in that regard. Not withstanding any injuries, the Jazz have arguably one of the most complete teams next year.

2 – Los Angeles Clippers 

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Projected starting lineup: 

PG – Patrick Beverley

SG – Landry Shamet

SF – Paul George

PF – Kawhi Leonard

C – Montrezl Harrell

Despite all the trades we’ve seen in the past week, none had more of a significant impact than the Kawhi Leonard trade. It opened up the East, made the Raptors worse, left Lakers fans in disappointment, upped the Clippers vs. Lakers dynamic and now disbanded the Big 2 in OKC. It didn’t take Paul George long to pursue a role as Kawhi’s partner in crime and boy is this a tantalizing prospect.

Doc Rivers coached the hell out of the Clippers last year – who took the mantle of the NBA’s most overachieving team without any clear stars. They got valuable minutes from Lou Williams, Montrezl Harrell, Danilo Gallinari and more. Taking the Warriors to 6 was no mean feat, and it’s as good of a sign as any for what’s to come with the Clippers. Kawhi showed he can be the best player in the league on his day, and ranking third in most MVP votes, PG is as good of a second option. I’m bringing them down a mark for health reasons – as Kawhi may only play 60-65 games and PG has had surgery after surgery. A healthy Clippers team could be the favourite to win it outright next year.

1 – Milwaukee Bucks 

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Projected starting lineup: 

PG – Eric Bledsoe

SG – Wesley Matthews

SF – Khris Middleton

PF – Giannis Antetokounmpo

C – Brook Lopez

Somehow, despite not making many changes in the off-season at all, I have the Bucks as the best starting 5. The reason being – they were the best team in the league last year. Despite falling to the Raptors and Kawhi, Milwaukee possess the biggest trump card of them all – reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo. His ever-growing game can only send shivers to other NBA teams, with most not knowing what to do to defend him. The Raptors may have given the blueprint last year, but no team has molded a perfect foil to the rim-running game of Giannis next year.

The Bucks may sneakily go under the radar next year depsite having come leaps and bounds from 2017-2018. They did lose Malcolm Brogdon, a valuable asset, but the addition of Wesley Matthews is a cheaper, and not that much worse, alternative. Lopez is the perfect fit for Antetokounmpo’s lane dominance, and Middleton will have as much pressure as ever this year to live up to his max-contract status. In an Eastern Conference as wide open as ever – expect the Bucks to dominate next year.

Thank you for reading this article. As the off-season develops, my thoughts may change on some of the placements above, but for now it seems like a gap is forming between the top 4-5 in each conference and everyone else. It’s going to make for an interesting start to next season, that’s for sure. 

– Jonny 

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