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Ranking the NBA's best starting fives: Where do the Wizards rank?

Ranking the NBA's best starting fives: Where do the Wizards rank?

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. (YOU CAN WATCH THE STL TOP 5 VIDEO IN THE ABOVE PLAYER)

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. 

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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. 

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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. 

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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.

 

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John Wall says Wizards will do less talking this year, but could be best team he's played on

John Wall says Wizards will do less talking this year, but could be best team he's played on

The Wizards in recent years have made a habit of trying to speak things into existence and then not having them actually come into existence. They have talked the talk and then sometimes haven't walked the walk.

A few instances come to mind, including Bradley Beal saying of the LeBron James-led Cleveland Cavaliers that "they didn't want to see us" in the playoffs. Beal also said in November that the Washington was the best team in the East, just hours before James scored 57 points in the Wizards' building.

John Wall has made similar proclamations in the past, usually about himself, including how he is the best point guard in the Eastern Conference. Now, these statements were all relatively normal for professional athletes who pride themselves in always feeling like they are the best player on the floor or the field. It's part of the mindset that makes them who they are.

But when those statements are made and then not backed up, they can be tough to defend, and especially for a Wizards team which last season seemed to overlook the lesser teams and suffered a down year because of it.

Wall insists all that is about to change. In his 1-on-1 interview with Chris Miller on our Wizards Tipoff podcast, Wall said the message this year will be much different, much more muted than it has been in the past.

"We want to go out with a different mindset and a different focus. We're not trying to go in and think we're a team that has already established something and got respect from people. We have to earn that respect and that means going out and competing every night against the good teams or the bad teams," he said.

That doesn't mean Wall isn't confident. His belief in himself hasn't wavered and, in fact, he may believe in his team more now than ever. That's because he is happy with the offseason the front office has produced.

They signed Dwight Howard and Jeff Green in free agency, traded for Austin Rivers and drafted Troy Brown, Jr. in the first round. All should help the Wizards improve between Howard representing an upgrade at starting center and the others providing much-needed depth.

When Wall was asked by Chris if this is the most complete team he has played with in Washington, Wall left no doubts.

"Yeah, for sure. I definitely think so," he said. "I think it gives us the opportunity where we don't have to play as many minutes. That's the key. At the end of the year, you kind of fall short because you're fatigued. Nobody uses that as an excuse. You play and try to get into the best shape possible. But if you're playing 24 minutes, the whole half, and then 24 minutes and the whole half, you kind of get tired at some point. I think those guys can take a little of the burden and pressure off of us at times."

Listen to Wall's full 1-on-1 interview on the Wizards Tipoff podcast:

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Austin Rivers believes he can help the Wizards on defense as much as anything

Austin Rivers believes he can help the Wizards on defense as much as anything

When asked at his introductory press conference for how he will fit on the Wizards' roster from a basketball perspective, guard Austin Rivers didn't first cite his three-point shooting, his ability to affect games scoring off the bench or his speed to run the floor with John Wall and Bradley Beal. The first thing he point to was his defense.

That may have surprised some people out there as Rivers has long been known for his scoring ability and not so much his skills on the other end. It's not that he can't play defense, it's just that most of the highlights he's produced over the years have been due to his high-flying finishes at the rim and wicked pull-up jumper from three-point range.

Defense, though, is something Rivers takes pride in and he hopes to continue developing as a defender in Washington.

"With how much Brad and John have to do every night, for them to not have to always guard the best guard on the other team, that's something I can come in here and do. Try to bring that competitive spirit and be one of the defenders on the team," Rivers said.

Rivers' defensive ability has produced some controversy among Wizards fans and media members on social media. Some insist he does not bring value on that end of the floor, while some numbers suggest he does have some defensive potential.

Last season, Rivers averaged a career-high 1.2 steals per game. He was tied for fifth on the Clippers in defensive win shares.

However, his 113 defensive rating was his worst since 2013-14. It was an outlier on the Clippers and not in the good way. He also ranked nowhere near the top of the league in deflections or contested three-point shots, two hustle stats that guys like Wall and Beal fair well in.

Rivers points to two attributes that he believes make him a strong perimeter defender. One is his versatility and the other you could call scrappiness.

"On defense [the Wizards] can switch one through three or one through four. I think that gives us a lot of dangerous options," he said.

As for his scrappiness, Rivers says it comes from the early days of his career.

"I had to figure out ways to be effective without [a jumpshot] and that's how I became a defender. I guess everything happens for a reason, right? I'm happy I did have those early career struggles because it made me find a side of me that I didn't do [early on]. Because I promise you I didn't play any defense at Duke," he said.

The last line drew laughter from those gathered at his introductory press conference. Rivers insists that he now takes that end of the floor very seriously. The Wizards certainly hope he can back up his words.

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