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Ranking all 30 starting lineups in the NBA

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After compiling positional rankings for every starter in the NBA, it’s time to put it all together and find the best starting lineups.

Oklahoma City Thunder v Denver Nuggets Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

Now we can really see where the Denver Nuggets stack up against the rest of the league.

While the bench of an NBA team can affect a game, as can the environment, the coach, and other extenuating circumstances, I have always felt that the teams with the most talented starting lineups are the most likely to win any given game. If I had to pin a number to it, 70 percent of any given game is based on the quality of the starters of the team in question. My opinion of course.

This is why so many are high on the Golden State Warriors. They have a top five player at four different positions. Now that James Harden has moved to point guard, they are closer to having the top player at all four positions than ever before. This is what most of the projections are based on. Not the depth at the end of the bench or the coaching staff, but the players they will start every night.

Are there any teams that come close to the quality of lineup that they have? Well, find out below as I rank each team’s starting lineup from 1 to 30.

A couple of notes before I start though:

POINT SYSTEM

5 points if top 5 at their respective position.

4 points if 6-10.

3 points if 11-15.

2 points if 16-20.

1 point if 21-25.

0 points if 26-30.

(In case of teams tied in points, the team with the highest rated player will advance.)

It is simple, but it gets the job done in most aspects.

Second, a couple of lineups have been changed since the beginning of the series. I will amend where I see fit, but if I miss something, don’t go for the jugular. I will also be keeping James Harden at shooting guard because it would reclassify too many guys at this stage.

Onto the rankings!

1. Golden State Warriors - 21 points

Position Player Ranking Points
Point Guard Stephen Curry 1 5
Shooting Guard Klay Thompson 2 5
Small Forward Kevin Durant 3 5
Power Forward Draymond Green 1 5
Center Zaza Pachulia 24 1

2. San Antonio Spurs – 20 points

Position Player Ranking Points
Point Guard Tony Parker 16 2
Shooting Guard Danny Green 6 4
Small Forward Kawhi Leonard 2 5
Power Forward LaMarcus Aldridge 4 5
Center Pau Gasol 7 4

3. Cleveland Cavaliers – 19 points

Position Player Ranking Points
Point Guard Kyrie Irving 8 4
Shooting Guard *J.R. Smith 13 3
Small Forward LeBron James 1 5
Power Forward Kevin Love 5 5
Center Tristan Thompson 19 2

*This ranking assumes that J.R. Smith will eventually pull a Tristan Thompson and re-sign late.

4. Utah Jazz – 19 points

Position Player Ranking Points
Point Guard George Hill 13 3
Shooting Guard Rodney Hood 10 4
Small Forward Gordon Hayward 7 4
Power Forward Derrick Favors 7 4
Center Rudy Gobert 8 4

5. Los Angeles Clippers – 18 points

Position Player Ranking Points
Point Guard Chris Paul 2 5
Shooting Guard J.J. Redick 8 4
Small Forward Wesley Johnson 26 0
Power Forward Blake Griffin 6 4
Center DeAndre Jordan 2 5

6. Toronto Raptors – 17 points

Position Player Ranking Points
Point Guard Kyle Lowry 4 5
Shooting Guard DeMar DeRozan 3 5
Small Forward DeMarre Carroll 15 3
Power Forward Patrick Patterson 22 1
Center Jonas Valanciunas 14 3

7. Boston Celtics – 17 points

Position Player Ranking Points
Point Guard Isaiah Thomas 6 4
Shooting Guard Avery Bradley 15 3
Small Forward Jae Crowder 11 3
Power Forward Amir Johnson 18 2
Center Al Horford 5 5

8. Memphis Grizzlies – 16 points

Position Player Ranking Points
Point Guard Mike Conley 7 4
Shooting Guard Tony Allen 17 2
Small Forward Chandler Parsons 13 3
Power Forward Zach Randolph 13 3
Center Marc Gasol 6 4

9. Portland Trailblazers – 15 points

Position Player Ranking Points
Point Guard Damian Lillard 5 5
Shooting Guard C.J. McCollum 5 5
Small Forward Evan Turner 24 1
Power Forward Al-Farouq Aminu 24 1
Center Mason Plumlee 15 3

10. Washington Wizards – 15 points

Position Player Ranking Points
Point Guard John Wall 9 4
Shooting Guard Bradley Beal 12 3
Small Forward Otto Porter 12 3
Power Forward Markieff Morris 17 2
Center Marcin Gortat 11 3

11. Detroit Pistons – 15 points

Position Player Ranking Points
Point Guard Reggie Jackson 11 3
Shooting Guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope 18 2
Small Forward *Tobias Harris 14 3
Power Forward *Marcus Morris 15 3
Center Andre Drummond 9 4

*I realize now that I switched Marcus Morris and Tobias Harris’ positions, but they serve the same role under Stan Van Gundy.

12. Oklahoma City Thunder – 14 points

Position Player Ranking Points
Point Guard Russell Westbrook 3 5
Shooting Guard Victor Oladipo 9 4
Small Forward Andre Roberson 19 2
Power Forward Joffrey Lauvergne 29 0
Center Steven Adams 13 3

13. Houston Rockets – 13 points

Position Player Ranking Points
Point Guard Patrick Beverley 18 2
Shooting Guard *James Harden 1 5
Small Forward Trevor Ariza 17 2
Power Forward Ryan Anderson 19 2
Center Clint Capela 20 2

* ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

14. Indiana Pacers – 13 points

Position Player Ranking Points
Point Guard Jeff Teague 15 3
Shooting Guard Monta Ellis 19 2
Small Forward Paul George 4 5
Power Forward Thaddeus Young 16 2
Center Myles Turner 25 1

15. Chicago Bulls – 13 points

Position Player Ranking Points
Point Guard Rajon Rondo 20 2
Shooting Guard Dwyane Wade 7 4
Small Forward Jimmy Butler 5 5
Power Forward Taj Gibson 21 1
Center Robin Lopez 21 1

16. Charlotte Hornets – 13 points

Position Player Ranking Points
Point Guard Kemba Walker 10 4
Shooting Guard *Marco Belinelli 27 0
Small Forward Nicolas Batum 10 4
Power Forward Marvin Williams 9 4
Center Cody Zeller 23 1

*If Michael Kidd-Gilchrist starts instead of Marco, then so be it. It’s not what I would do with a player has as much injury history as MKG, but to each his own.

17. Denver Nuggets – 12 points

Position Player Ranking Points
Point Guard Emmanuel Mudiay 30 0
Shooting Guard Gary Harris 20 2
Small Forward Danilo Gallinari 8 4
Power Forward Kenneth Faried 14 3
Center Nikola Jokic 12 3

18. Dallas Mavericks – 12 points

Position Player Ranking Points
Point Guard Deron Williams 19 2
Shooting Guard Wesley Matthews 14 3
Small Forward Harrison Barnes 16 2
Power Forward Dirk Nowitzki 10 4
Center Andrew Bogut 22 1

19. Atlanta Hawks – 11 points

Position Player Ranking Points
Point Guard Dennis Schroder 24 1
Shooting Guard Kyle Korver 16 2
Small Forward Kent Bazemore 23 1
Power Forward Paul Millsap 3 5
Center Dwight Howard 16 2

20. Minnesota Timberwolves – 11 points

Position Player Ranking Points
Point Guard Ricky Rubio 14 3
Shooting Guard Zach LaVine 24 1
Small Forward Andrew Wiggins 22 1
Power Forward Gorgui Dieng 25 1
Center Karl-Anthony Towns 4 5

21. Orlando Magic – 10 points

Position Player Ranking Points
Point Guard Elfrid Payton 28 0
Shooting Guard Evan Fournier 11 3
Small Forward Aaron Gordon 18 2
Power Forward Serge Ibaka 11 3
Center Nikola Vucevic 17 2

22. New York Knicks – 9 points

Position Player Ranking Points
Point Guard Derrick Rose 21 1
Shooting Guard Courtney Lee 21 1
Small Forward Carmelo Anthony 6 4
Power Forward Kristaps Porzingis 12 3
Center Joakim Noah 26 0

23. Miami Heat – 8 points

Position Player Ranking Points
Point Guard Goran Dragic 17 2
Shooting Guard Dion Waiters 28 0
Small Forward Justise Winslow 25 1
Power Forward *Josh McRoberts 26-30ish 0
Center Hassan Whiteside 3 5

*I’m so sorry Chris Bosh. You would have kept this team in playoff contention. As it is, this ranking is this high entirely due to Whiteside.

24. Phoenix Suns – 8 points

Position Player Ranking Points
Point Guard Eric Bledsoe 12 3
Shooting Guard Devin Booker 23 1
Small Forward P.J. Tucker 20 2
Power Forward Jared Dudley 20 2
Center Tyson Chandler 27 0

25. Sacramento Kings – 7 points

Position Player Ranking Points
Point Guard Darren Collison 26 0
Shooting Guard Arron Afflalo 25 1
Small Forward Rudy Gay 21 1
Power Forward Willie Cauley-Stein 26 0
Center DeMarcus Cousins 1 5

26. Milwaukee Bucks – 7 points

Position Player Ranking Points
Point Guard *Matthew Dellavedova 23 1
Shooting Guard Rashad Vaughn 26-30ish 0
Small Forward *Giannis Antetokoumnpo 9 4
Power Forward Jabari Parker 28 0
Center Greg Monroe 18 2

*Yes, I do know the Greek Freak will be the ball handler. I will consider him the point forward until he defends the opposing point guard as well.

27. New Orleans Pelicans – 6 points

Position Player Ranking Points
Point Guard *Jrue Holiday 23 1
Shooting Guard Buddy Hield 30 0
Small Forward Solomon Hill 28 0
Power Forward Anthony Davis 2 5
Center Omer Asik 30 0

*Jrue Holiday is the most underrated player on my list. I realize that now. I’m not changing it because Pelicans fans need to quantify how bad their situation is right now though.

28. Brooklyn Nets – 5 points

Position Player Ranking Points
Point Guard Jeremy Lin 25 1
Shooting Guard Bojan Bogdanovic 29 0
Small Forward Rondae Hollis-Jefferson 27 0
Power Forward Trevor Booker 27 0
Center Brook Lopez 10 4

29. Los Angeles Lakers – 3 points

Position Player Ranking Points
Point Guard D'Angelo Russell 29 0
Shooting Guard Jordan Clarkson 22 1
Small Forward *Luol Deng 16-20ish 2
Power Forward Julius Randle 30 0
Center Timofey Mozgov 28 0

*It’s scary that the Lakers need to insert an aging Luol Deng into the starting lineup to actually beat the 76ers in terms of a starting lineup.

30. Philadelphia 76ers – Ehhhhhhhhhh.

Position Player Ranking Points
Point Guard Jerryd Bayless 27 0
Shooting Guard Gerald Henderson 26 0
*Small Forward Your Guess Is
*Power Forward Probably Just As
*Center Good As Mine

*We think that Joel Embiid is the starting center, but given the injury to Ben Simmons, I don’t know what to believe anymore.


Three big takeaways from this exercise:

1. Ranking the Nuggets is hard. I tried to put my homer-ism for the Denver Nuggets aside during this task, and I believe it worked. They come in at 17th on the rankings overall, including ninth in the Western Conference. That seems pretty fair to me, and given the strength of the bench, it may be possible to push for a seven or eight seed.

Also, in a tweet I put out earlier:

The Paul Millsap trade was my personal touch, as it was a prediction, but if that lineup were to be assembled just like that, it would accumulate 18 points, good for fifth in the NBA.

Of course, it involves projection of growth, something that isn’t guaranteed, but it goes to show just how quickly the Nuggets could leap up the standings if they have some internal and external growth. Good things are on the horizon for this team...eventually.

2. There are several teams I am high on for the upcoming season:

  • The Utah Jazz
  • The Washington Wizards
  • The Detroit Pistons

Each team still features young talent with an upward curve. Players like Dante Exum, Rodney Hood, Bradley Beal, Otto Porter, Tobias Harris, and Stanley Johnson are not in their final forms. Harris is the oldest at 24, but it’s clear that his game is just now being unlocked as a floor spacer at power forward.

On the other side, if Utah and Washington don’t make the playoffs this year, then they are seriously going to look different the following year. Gordon Hayward can walk, John Wall can demand a trade. Both franchises are in the precarious position of a required development jump. If that doesn’t happen, expect a blow up.

Detroit is in a better position because of the youth of the Jackson-Harris-Drummond trio, but if they don’t win a playoff series within the next two years, they may be asking themselves similar questions.

On the flip side, I’m low on several teams:

  • The New York Knicks
  • The Atlanta Hawks
  • The Dallas Mavericks

All three have factors in common: an older star who can leave in a year or two, a young player the team is relying on for a big jump in production, and older complementary veterans who used to be stars that only hold name value as of now.

The Knicks are in the best position because they have the best young player to eventually build around in Kristaps Porzingis, but judging from the starters around him, it’s not happening anytime soon.

The Hawks are in an odd position where they turned over the keys to the convertible to Dennis Schroder, but they also have Kyle Korver, Paul Millsap, and Dwight Howard, all with over 20,000 minutes on their mileage counter.

Lastly, the Mavericks have $123 million guaranteed to Harrison Barnes and Wesley Matthews. Both guys looked like the future of the NBA at one point, but extenuating circumstances have changed that. We will see what the future looks like in Dallas when Dirk Nowitzki finally hangs up the sneakers.

3. How long will the distinct tiers of the NBA last?

It’s pretty blatant that the Warriors, the Spurs, and the Cavaliers are the class of the NBA. Some people will remove the Spurs from that list now that Tim Duncan has retired, but Pau Gasol is no slouch. He’s actually a better player right now.

But that’s beside the point. It’s the Warriors, the Spurs, the Cavs, and everyone else. There will be the occasional team in the Eastern or Western Conference Finals that breaks through and takes one of those teams deep in the series, just like the Thunder last year.

Does anyone really believe that the Warriors and Cavaliers won’t rematch this next summer? Warriors-Cavaliers III sounds like a series of movies that I don’t have any interest in. The NBA has to be grateful that the teams showcase drama and marketable, if not controversial stars in LeBron James, Kyrie “Uncle Drew” Irving, the Splash Bros, Kevin Durant the joiner, and Draymond Green, just a sack of fun.

How long will it take before the NBA world will stop appreciating greatness and beg for something new? Will viewership go down? Will changes be made to the next CBA? I for one see this as the circle of life for star teams. The question is, who will be there to take the torch in a few years?


Well that wraps it up for me. I hope you guys enjoyed the series. I know I did. The Nuggets are in a good place right now. I like to analyze types of changes they could make that would either speed up the process or make the process more likely to result in playoff wins. In spite of that, let’s just enjoy the internal development we are bound to see this year.

As you guys know, I’m excited for this team. Keep spreading the word to everybody you know: the Nuggets aren’t just the next dark horse, trendy playoff pick. They are for real, and once they arrive, they are staying for awhile.