NBA / Oct 14, 2010 / 11:30 am

The NBA’s Best Starting Lineups

Kobe Bryant (photo. Nike)

Just this offseason alone, the NBA witnessed — no pun intended — the most significant and active free agency period in League history.

The city of Cleveland now loathes their once beloved LeBron James, while Chris Bosh was put on the Toronto hit list right alongside Vince Carter. On paper, the Miami Heat now have the best “Big Three” in the NBA, but as Kevin Garnett noted when he changed his jersey number in Boston, five is a team.

Judging the best starting fives in the NBA needs a little more than just the “on paper” eye test. Through a little research, I found exactly which teams have the best five-man lineups going into the season:

Rec: Overall record with the starting five
Min: Total minutes played together this season
Off: Points scored per 100 possessions
Def: Points allowed per 100 possessions

ATLANTA HAWKS (53-29, 34-7 at home)
The Hawks are one of the most talented teams in the League, but when it comes to the playoffs, they just seem to fade away. Jamal Crawford, who won the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year award last season, was a big reason why the Hawks posted their best record since ’97. With JC in the lineup, the Hawks Off shoots up to 1.20, opposed to 1.09 with Marvin Williams in the lineup. As for their Def, it goes from 1.03 to 1.09 with Crawford starting over Williams. There’s no question that the Hawks win more and lose less with Crawford (36-22, 62.0 win percentage compared to 38-34, 52.7 win percentage), but he’s better suited coming off the bench. Crawford wants a contract extension, Al Horford is an All-Star, Josh Smith has a chance at Defensive Player of the Year, and with Joe Johnson signing his mega-deal this summer, there’s no telling how this team will fare.

LOS ANGELES LAKERS (57-25, 34-7 at home)
If it weren’t for the Lakers’ bench help, they wouldn’t be where they are now as two-time defending champions. With a lineup of Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Ron Artest, Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum, this starting five posted a record of 25-15 while playing 668.3 combined minutes. They managed to win their games at a 62.5 percent rate with an Off of 1.15 and Def of 1.03. There’s no question that Lamar Odom has a chance to win the Sixth Man award, but when the Lakers put him in and take Bynum out (unless he’s injured), they’re actually worse in every statistical category (Off 1.09, Def 1.05, Rec 21-23) but seemingly better with both Odom and Bynum in the lineup (Off 1.07, Def 1.02, Rec 20-13). Even with that said, the Lakers still remain the team to beat due to their deep bench, and I expect their defense to be even better with the addition of Matt Barnes.

DALLAS MAVERICKS (55-27, 28-13 at home)
Want to know how bad the Mavericks are going to miss Erick Dampier? In just 343.3 minutes, a lineup that consisted of Jason Kidd, Jason Terry, Shawn Marion, Dirk Nowitzki and Dampier managed to post a 25-12 record with a 67.5 win percentage, and an Off of 1.14 and Def of 0.95. If you switch Terry for Caron Butler and Dampier for Brendan Haywood, their Off drops to 1.11 and their Def shoots up to 1.07 and finish with a 10-8 record while winning at 55.5 percent of their games. Defense wins championships, and if Dallas plans on doing so, they better hope Haywood steps up on that side of the ball. If it makes Dallas fans feel any better, Haywood did boost his Defensive Warp to 7.1 with Dallas after posting a 0.5 with the Wizards.

BOSTON CELTICS (50-32, 24-17 at home)
When Kevin Garnett came to Boston, they instantly turned into a defensive-minded team. How do you think they won an NBA title the same season? After logging 1,179 minutes last season, Garnett, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, Rajon Rondo and Kendrick Perkins posted a record of 38-19 (66.6 win percentage) with an Off of 1.13 and a Def of 1.00. Unfortunately, Perkins went down in the playoffs with a major knee injury, so what did the Celtics do? They went out and signed (and drafted) nothing but defensive players. With ‘Sheed Wallace retiring — although he made their defense worse when he was in the lineup — and even with Perkins out until February, I expect Shaq, J.O., Big Baby and rookie Avery Bradley, to help keep the Celtics’ defense in lockdown mode until Perkins comes back.

ORLANDO MAGIC (59-23, 34-7 at home)
Unfortunately for the Magic, with Matt Barnes playing in Los Angeles, their numbers significantly drop unless someone steps up. When Barnes was there, the Magic conjured up a 35-13 record (72.9 win percentage) and an Off of 1.15 and Def of 0.99. Mickael Pietrus will more than likely start in Barnes’ place, which puts the Off at 1.09 and Def at 1.03, and a record of 15-13 (53.5 win percentage). Even though his Defensive Warp is at a -0.1, Pietrus is Orlando’s best wing defender and can be very relentless, but sometimes lets his offense dictate his defense. Pietrus values his defense and don’t forget whom he guarded against Cleveland, but even if he struggles, he still has Dwight Howard to watch his back.

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  • Detroit Dave

    I wonder what the starting lineup of Billups, Rip, Prince, Sheed combined record was

  • Reter

    This article sucks. Where’s Miami? Perhaps you should have used both qualitative and quantitative measures, that way you wouldn’t have to leave out what is arguably the best team in the league.

  • Joe’s Momma

    @ Reter

    The argument is based off stats from last year, so there is no way to measure the new look Miami team. Obviously with their team as currently assembled, the got to be mentioned, even if its only based on an eye ball test.

    I think wins/losses is an accurate way to measure, but then you got injuries and suspensions, mins played, ect. to account for.

    If this was 2002, this years Celtics take the cake hands down (+ Rondo of course)

    But since it is 2010 I gotta go with the defending champs. They got everything you need: outside shooting, rebounding, defense, clutch shooting, interior defense/offense, shot blocking, stamina, etc.

    There should be a best bench article (hint, hint), that would be interesting to see how everyone argues that out.

  • http://tolulope.edun@gmail.com Y.G.

    I stopped reading after it said that Odom & Bynum are the best forward combo for the Lakers, statistically speaking. Every Laker fan knows that the best forward combo for Lakers is Gasol & Odom. This why I laugh at the John Holingers & Darryl Moreys of the world. Numbers are overrated. Basketball is totally different than baseball.

  • Dawan Farnsworth

    Yo cuz, what you be thinking about my rockets son…..bc dat team is bouts to be tight yo…aaron “speedster” brooks, kevin “lightz out” martin, shane “lock down and spit in yo face” battier, luis “ima g” scola, and yao “da best center ever” ming……its bouts to be krazy yo…

    hit me back my dude

    Dawan #21 reppin my lyfe cuz

  • http://yourboychise.blogspot.com/ Chise


    Amen brother. Stats are for nerds.

  • http://www.dimemag.com Andrew Macaluso

    @ Chise & Y.G.

    Men lie, women lie, but numbers don’t.

  • Steve Ferguson

    My mayyyne man. How you been forgettin’ about them Heaters? I would take those 3 over anyones 5, ya digg.

  • james

    The Jazz’s isn’t too shabby.

    Jefferson, Millsap, Kirilenko, Bell, Williams

  • Sam

    Pietrus is almost guaranteed to come off the bench for ORL. It’s a role he prefers and one SVG values him in. Q Rich is likely to start at the 3 unless SVG decides to go bigger and move Rashard down and start either Brandon Bass or Ryan Anderson at the 4. Might wanna do some research next time….

  • control


    Yeah, numbers straight out lie to your face, quite a bit. Proof: Zach Randolph.

  • darkness

    Ummm, no way Atlanta has one of the best starting fives.

    Teams that should be on this list are,

    Miami: Wade, Miller, Lebron, Bosh and Anthony/Udonis/or basically any 6 10 or taller bum off the street

    Chicago: Rose, Brewer/Korver, Deng, Boozer, Noah

    OKC: Westbrook, Harden, Durant, Green, Kristic/Ibaka/Aldrich

    San Antonio: Parker, Ginobili/Hill, Jefferson, Duncan, Splitter

    Houston: Brooks, Martin, Battier, Scola, Yao

    Even Milwakee can crack this list: Jennings, Salmons/Redd, Maggete, Ilyasova/Gooden, Bogut

    Utah should be on here too: Williams, Miles, Kirilenko, Jefferson, Okur

    On paper, there are a lot of good starting fives.

  • http://www.dimemag.com Andrew Macaluso

    @ Control

    Oh I see because Randolph averaging 20.1-ppg, 11.7-rpg and shooting 48% from the field last season was just a lie, right ….

  • http://www.dimemag.com Andrew Macaluso

    @ Darkness

    Like I stated at the beginning of the article, I’m not doing rosters that look good on “paper” because that wouldn’t even need to be written up. All the teams you mentioned take away from the actual idea of my piece since they haven’t even played a regular season game yet. As for the Rockets, Kevin Martin played in 24 games with Houston last season and Ming didn’t even play, where’s the chemistry?

  • Sam

    Pietrus coming off the bench. Do some research

  • control


    No, those numbers aren’t a lie, I’m sure you got them from a valid source like “nba.com” or something, but his impact on his teams winning games is a lie. Guy has been getting numbers like that for years, yet his teams have been trash a lot more than they’ve won anything. For the most part, when he goes to a team, it completely under achieves, regardless of whatever numbers he puts up.

    Also, if you go based completely on numbers, then that means Manu ain’t shit, yet he is apparently good enough that some people on here say some shit about him being 2nd best SG next to Kobe (or even better, sorry Ian!).

    You also can’t say Kobe is even close to being best player in the game, if you go purely by numbers. Yet, it’s debated all day here that he IS the best player in the game…numbers don’t mean shit when it comes to winning (though HORRIBLE numbers do say something).

  • Money

    Hypothetical Best Starting 5:
    PG: LeBron
    SG: Kobe
    SF: Durant
    PF: Duncan
    C: Howard

  • lowblow

    Memphis has one of the sickest starting fives, but the bench is ridiculously terrible…last year anyways

  • Dawan Farnsworth

    I guess I gets no response, bc you know my rockets iz madd tight cuz

  • Stunnaboy09


    I agree with numbers lying sometimes, but on the other hand peoples emotions play into saying things,

    ie you and Rondo, 50% of America and Kobe

  • fan in Japan

    I don’t get how you can say this is an article about the best starting fives, when you are basing it on TEAM stats. Sure the OFF and DEF are specific to the players, but wins and losses are based on starters AND the bench.

    The first thing you say about the Hawks is with JC in the lineup they are better statistically, but then you say, “There’s no question that the Hawks win more and lose less with Crawford (36-22, 62.0 win percentage compared to 38-34, 52.7 win percentage), but he’s better suited coming off the bench.”

    Then you talk about how the Lakers are the team to beat because of their bench. What’s the point of this article? Have some focus, boy!

  • control


    It’s funny you call me emotional about something, the reason I’m divorced is because I’m a cold hearted bastard :)

    Nothing I say about Rondo is really false…I will grant you that some of it is pure opinionated…like that whole him being a douchebag thing. But as far as his basketball skills, it’s just fact that he’s a horrible shooter, that defenses know this and play 10ft off him, and that opens up passing lanes and rebounds that no other point guard in the league will get, purely because he is such a horrible shooter. It’s my opinion that someone who is suppose to be a top rated point guard should be able to shoot better than a fucking center…people have different criteria about things though.

  • Stunnaboy2K11

    You know what control, for that statement and the fact that you only used “douchebag” (your go to insult) once I will finally change my screen name.

    Even I admit my emotions play into things, i swear by my life Noah is shit, Kobe is not the best player in the NBA and Rondo is a top 5 PG and will debate this till I die, constantly changing stats and selectively responding to things to get my point across.

    It’s why I love basketball so much…

  • llJ

    i think numbers are a lie as far as defence
    offensively is more obviously, but can lie also
    look at Thabo Sefolosha
    great on ball defensive player
    averaged 1.4 steals last yyear
    going by numbers chris paul is a better defender then him
    chris paul gets a lot of steals but he isnt a top ranked on ball defender like thabo

  • ??

    @Andrew Macaluso

    “Oh I see because Randolph averaging 20.1-ppg, 11.7-rpg and shooting 48% from the field last season was just a lie, right ….”

    No it wasnt a lie, but given your logic (“Men lie, women lie, but numbers don’t”).. you’re saying then that Zach Randolph is better than

    Pau Gasol – 18.3ppg 11.3rpg
    Tim Duncan – 17.9ppg 10.1rpg
    Al Horford – 14.2ppg 9.9rpg

    is that right??? You see Macaluso, its true, numbers DONT lie – but only if you have ALL (and by that i mean thousands and thousands) statistical data at your disposal. Otherwise, numbers simply are IMPERFECT and PARTIAL.

    By the Way, please DO NOT BE RUDE to your readers.. Snotty and Sarcastic comments like that is far from being professional and only damages the good reputation of Dime Magazine.

  • http://www.dimemag.com Andrew Macaluso

    @ ??

    I’m not being rude at all. I’m just stating my facts/opinions, I’m sorry if it seemed that way.

    But for the Randolph/Horford comparison – Randolph actually had a Defensive Warp of 11.8 compared to Horford’s 10.9. Gasol finished with 12.9 (he had a down year defensively) and Duncan remained king with 15.5

  • ??

    @ Macaluso

    Just seemed that way with the sarcastic “right…” at the end of your comment

    Yup I agree with that, and the comparison between randolph and horford is a tricky one (it was a stretch for me to include him there) but i do completely believe that horford is a better player than Z-Bo

    If Al had Marc Gasol as his center and was playing his more natural PF position, i think he’d prove to be a better player than Zach, yes?

  • http://www.dimemag.com Andrew Macaluso


    I agree completely that Horford is a better all around player. Having played at Florida under Billy Donovan taught him defense, I can’t say the same for Z-Bo since he left after his freshman season at Michigan St. That was Randolph’s problem his entire career, he just didn’t commit to defense until last season with Memphis.

  • KB8toSG8

    LOL. The Lakers won the last 2 championships despite the bench. Not due to it lol. This thing cracked me up big time.