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The Best Starting Fives After Free Agency

NBA free agency is essentially over and unless you’re Dennis Schroder, it’s time to start thinking about how teams are going to look in the 2021/22 NBA season. Teams have new players, and some have new coaches, which means new starting fives, a new rotation, and a fresh chance to rank them all. We’ve put our heads together to figure out the best starting fives in the NBA after free agency.

– A collaboration piece with Brandon Rosenthal, James Macey, and Sean Curley

1
Brooklyn Nets

Head Coach: Steve Nash (2nd season)
2020 record: 48-24

Nets starters Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and James Harden
Getty Images

An overwhelming consensus from our panel as the sheer talent of this Nets roster puts them in the top spot.

GJames Harden
GKyrie Irving+
FJoe Harris
FKevin Durant
CBlake Griffin
6thBruce Brown, G

2
LA Lakers

Head Coach: Frank Vogel (3rd season)
2020 record: 42-30

Lakers starters Anthony Davis and LeBron James
Getty Images

Westbrook now joins LBJ and AD in La-La-Land for a new big 3, but this groups success all depends on health.

GRussell Westbrook *
GTalen Horton-Tucker
FLeBron James+
FAnthony Davis
CMarc Gasol
6thCarmelo Anthony, F *

3
Milwaukee Bucks

Head Coach: Mike Budenholzer (4th season)
2020 record: 46-26

Milwaukee Bucks holding the NBA title.
Getty Images

The defending champs bring back all their key pieces to make a run at a repeat.

GJrue Holliday
GDonte DiVincenzo
FKhris Middleton
FGiannis Antetokounmpo+
CBrook Lopez
6thBobby Portis, F

4
Phoenix Suns

Head Coach: Monty Williams (3rd season)
2020 record: 51-21

Suns starting 5
USA Today Sports

Chris Paul is back, Booker and Ayton are a year older, and the young Suns seem poised to contend again.

GChris Paul+
GDevin Booker
FMikal Bridges
FJae Crowder
CDeAndre Ayton
6thCameron Payne

5
Golden State Warriors

Head Coach: Steve Kerr (7th season)
2020 record: 39-33

Warriors starters Draymond Green, Klay Thompson and Steph Curry in 2019.
USA Today Sports

The Dubs Trio is finally back together again and this panel is very excited to see Klay Thompson play basketball again.

GSteph Curry+
GKlay Thompson
FAndrew Wiggins
FDraymond Green
CJames Wiseman
6thOtto Porter Jr, F *

6
Miami Heat

Head Coach: Eric Spoelstra (12th season)
2020 record: 40-32

Heat starters Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo
Getty Images

Miami got a little older and a little better in hopes that they can recreate the magic that brought them to the 2020 NBA Finals.

GKyle Lowry *
GDuncan Robinson
FJimmy Butler+
FPJ Tucker *
CBam Adebayo
6thTyler Herro, G

7
Utah Jazz

Head Coach: Quin Snyder (3rd season)
2020 record: 52-20

Jazz starting 5
Deseret News

The Jazz finished with the best record in the NBA last season, and they’ll return all five of their starters to run it back.

GMike Conley
GDonovan Mitchell
FBogdan Bogdanovic
FRoyce O’Neal
CRudy Gobert+
6thJordan Clarkson, G

8
Philadelphia 76ers

Head Coach: Doc Rivers (2nd season)
2020 record: 49-23

76ers starting 5
USA Today Sports

Philly’s starters had the best +/- of any team in 2020, but the real question is will Simmons be on the roster?

GBen Simmons
GSeth Curry
FDanny Green
FTobias Harris
CJoel Embiid+
6thFurkan Korkmaz, F

9
Denver Nuggets

Head Coach: Michael Malone (7th season)
2020 record: 47-25

Denver Nuggets starting 5
USA Today Sports

Denver is bringing everyone back but losing Jamal Murray is tough, even if you have the reigning MVP.

GMonte Morris1
GWill Barton
FMichael Porter Jr.
FAaron Gordon
CNikola Jokic+
6thJeff Green, F

1 Jamal Murray out most of 2021/22 NBA season


10
Dallas Mavericks

Head Coach: Jason Kidd (1st season)
2020 record: 42-30

Getty Images

Luka is a superstar and Dallas brought his gang of shooters back for another run.

GLuka Doncic+
GTim Hardaway Jr.
FDorian Finney-Smith
FKristaps Porzingis
CDwight Powell
6thReggie Bullock, G/F *

11
Atlanta Hawks

Head Coach: Nate McMillan (2nd season)
2020 record: 42-30

Hawks starters Trae Young and John Collins
NBA.com

The Hawks are fully healthy and they have a great chance to get right back to the ECF.

GTrae Young
GBogdan Bogdanovic
FKevin Huerter
FJohn Collins
CClint Capela
6thLou Williams, G

12
LA Clippers

Head Coach: Tyronn Lue (3rd season)
2020 record: 42-30

Clippers starters Paul George and Reggie Jackson
Getty Images

The loss of Kawhi to injury hurts their ceiling but the Clippers are still dangerous as presently constructed.

GReggie Jackson
GPaul George+
FNic Batum2
FMarcus Morris Sr.
CIvica Zubac
6thLuke Kennard, F/G

2 Kawhi Leonard + out most of 2021/22 NBA season


13
Chicago Bulls

Head Coach: Billy Donovan (2nd season)
2020 record: 31-41

Associated Press

The Bulls retooled their roster and brought in Lonzo and Derozan to play along LaVine and Vooch. Not too sure of the fit but this unit is a nice 2K starting 5.

GLonzo Ball*
GZach Lavine
FDemar Derozan*
FLauri Markkanen
CNicola Vucevic
6thAlex Caruso, G*

14
Portland Trailblazers

Head Coach: Chauncey Billups (1st season)
2020 record: 42-30

Blazers starters
Getty Images

Dame said it best — this team can’t get it done as currently constructed, but they’ll be fun to watch.

GDamian Lillard
GCJ McCollum
FNorman Powell
FRobert Covington
CJusef Nurkic
6thAnfernee Simons, G

15
Boston Celtics

Head Coach: Ime Udoka (1st season)
2020 record: 42-30

Celtics Starters
Getty Images

The Celtics didn’t add a difference maker, but they still have two all-stars entering the prime of their careers.

GMarcus Smart
GJosh Richardson *
FJaylen Brown
FJayson Tatum
CRobert Williams III
6thDennis Schroder, G *

16
New York Knicks

Head Coach: Tom Thibodeau (3rd season)
2020 record: 41-31

Knicks starters
USA Today Sports

Kemba and Fournier are great additions to take the load off Randle — this team should be fun to watch and MSG will be rockin’.

GKemba Walker *
GEvan Fournier*
FR.J. Barrett
FJulius Randle+
CMitchell Robinson
6thDerrick Rose, G

17
Memphis Grizzlies

Head Coach: Taylor Jenkins (3rd season)
2020 record: 38-34

Grizzlies starters
NBA.com

The Grizz are young and hungry but they’ve got to supply Ja with some support in order to take the next step.

GJa Morant
GDillon Brooks
FKyle Anderson
FJaren Jackson Jr.
CSteven Adams*
6thBrandon Clarke, F/C

18
Charlotte Hornets

Head Coach: James Borrego (4th season)
2020 record: 33-39

hornets starters
USA Today Sports

The Hornets will need Lamelo and Hayward to be healthy to compete, and the addition of Oubre Jr. only adds to this team’s League Pass value.

GLamelo Ball
GTerry Rozier
FGordon Hayward
FP.J. Washington Jr.
CMason Plumlee *
6thKelly Oubre Jr.*
Miles Bridges

19
Indiana Pacers

Head Coach: Rick Carlisle (1st season)
2020 record: 34-38

pacers starters
USA Today Sports

The Pacers have a very solid young core that competes, but someone will need to step up to help Sabonis.

GMalcolm Brogdan
GCaris LeVert
FT.J. Warren
FDomantis Sabonis
CMyles Turner
6thT.J. McConnell

20
Minnesota Timberwolves

Head Coach: Chris Finch (2nd season)
2020 record: 34-38

wolves starters
NBA.com

The Wolves are in a better spot this year, but it remains to be seen if the D-Lo/Edwards/KAT triptych is good enough to make any noise.

GD’Angelo Russell
GAnthony Edwards
FJosh Okogie
FJaden McDaniels
CKarl Anthony-Towns
6thNaz Reid, F/C

21
Washington Wizards

Head Coach: Wes Unseld Jr. (1st season)
2020 record: 34-38

wizards starters
Wizards Twitter

The new-look Wizards should be interesting to watch, as they have some talent — the spotlight is solely on Bradley Beal now.

GSpencer Dinwiddie*
GBradley Beal+
FKyle Kuzma*
FRui Hachimura
CThomas Bryant
6thMontrezl Harrell, F/C*

22
Sacramento Kings

Head Coach: Luke Walton (3rd season)
2020 record: 31-41

Kings starters
Getty Images

The Kings are young and talented but ultimately lack the depth and leadership to make a playoff run.

GDe’Aaron Fox
GBuddy Hield
FHarrison Barnes
FMarvin Bagley III
CRichaun Holmes
6thTyrese Haliburton

23
New Orleans Pelicans

Head Coach: Willie Green (1st season)
2020 record: 31-41

Pelicans starters
Getty Images

Year two of the Zion/Ingram pairing will need to be better to prove they can coexist.

GNickeil Alexander-Walker
GDevonte’ Graham*
FBrandon Ingram
FZion Williamson
CJonas Valanciunas*
6thKira Lewis Jr., G

24
Toronto Raptors

Head Coach: Nick Nurse (4th season)
2020 record: 27-45

The Athletic

The Raps remain dangerous despite this looking like a rebuild year.

GFred VanVleet
GGary Trent Jr.
FOG Anunoby
FPascal Siakam
CKhem Birch
6thChris Boucher, F/C

25
San Antonio Spurs

Head Coach: Greg Popovich (23rd season)
2020 record: 33-39

Spurs starters
NBA.com

The Spurs are now in rebuilding mode, but they still have Pop. This panel still can’t rank other teams above the Spurs due to Popovich.

GDejounte Murray
GDerrick White
FDoug McDermott*
FKeldon Johnson
CJakob Poeltl
6thLonnie Walker IV, F

26
Detroit Pistons

Head Coach: Dwane Casey (4th season)
2020 record: 20-52

pistons starters
Getty Images

Cade Cunningham will be the main draw but the Pistons have sneakily assembled a nice collection of young players the last few years.

GKillian Hayes
GCade CunninghamR
FSaddiq Bey
FJerami Grant
CIsiah Stewart
6thKelly Olynyk, F/C

27
Houston Rockets

Head Coach: Stephen Silas (2nd season)
2020 record: 17-55

rockets starters
Getty Images

Young, hungry, talented but inexperienced.

GJohn Wall
GKevin Porter Jr.
FJalen GreenR
FDaniel Theis*
CChristian Wood
6thJae’Sean Tate

28
Cleveland Cavaliers

Head Coach: Larry Drew (1st season)
2020 record: 22-50

cavs starters
Getty Images

Despite their ranking, Cleveland’s starting five has the potential and talent to prove this panel wrong.

GDarius Garland
GCollin Sexton
FIsaac Okoro
FKevin Love
CEvan MobleyR
6thRicky Rubio*

29
Orlando Magic

Head Coach: Jamahl Mosley (1st season)
2020 record: 21-51

Magic starters
NBA.com

The Magic are entering another rebuilding year but at least Jalen Suggs seems like the real deal.

GCole Anthony3
GGary Harris
FTerrence Ross
FMoritz Wagner
CWendell Carter Jr.
6thJalen SuggsR

3Markelle Fultz out most of 2021/22 NBA season


30
Oklahoma City Thunder

Head Coach: Mark Daigneault (1st season)
2020 record: 22-50

thunder starters
USA Today Sports

The Thunder are in complete rebuilding mode, and they’ve given SGA (or Poku) the keys to the future.

GShai Gilgeous-Alexander
GLuguentz Dort
FAleksej Pokusevski
FDarius Bazley
CIsaiah Roby
6thDerrick Favors, F/C*

*New to team
+20/21 All-NBA Selection
R Rookie

Thanks for reading!

– A collaboration piece with Brandon Rosenthal, James Macey, and Sean Curley

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