A basketball team’s starting lineup is crucial to its success. They are the first five players who start a game for a particular team. Usually, these are the five best players on the team per position but that’s not necessarily the case. Chemistry is also important for a very successful starting unit. Players that play well together are usually grouped to start the game for a team because a strong start is essential to winning the game.
Let’s take a look at the five best starting lineups in the NBA during the 2019-20 NBA season:
1. Milwaukee Bucks
Eric Bledsoe, Wesley Matthews, Khris Middleton, Giannis Antetokounmpo, and Brook Lopez
The Bucks had the best record in the league when league play was suspended. They had the best record in the league from start to pause and while Giannis Antetokounmpo is the main reason behind that, the Bucks’ starting line-up was the best in the NBA.
Looking at the names, Milwaukee’s starting unit looks mediocre at first glance. Brook Lopez has regressed after a season where he made 182 three-pointers and attempted 512 threes, the most for any seven-footer in the history of the league. Wesley Matthews has looked like a journeyman at the age of 30 and Eric Bledsoe has never risen to superstardom status. But Antetokounmpo and fellow All-Star Khris Middleton have been terrific and this starting five works.
The Bucks are the highest-scoring team in the league at 118.6 points per game this season and their starting unit allowed opponents to score just 92.4 points per 100 possessions. That’s not just the best defensive rating in the league this season but the best in the history of the NBA by 10 points per 100 possessions. That’s not only impressive, but that is also spectacular. With a transcendent defense and high scoring offense, the Bucks have the best starting unit in the NBA in 2020.
2. Los Angeles Lakers
Avery Bradley, Danny Green, LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Javale McGee
If not for the Milwaukee Bucks, the Los Angeles Lakers starting five would have been the best in the NBA this season. They led the NBA in defensive rating and were second in offensive rating. This quintet had a net rating of + 12.6 points, easily unstoppable. The Lakers had the best record in the West and were on pace to win 63 games this season when play was suspended.
Like the Bucks, this starting unit doesn’t look very impressive. Sure, they have two of the league’s Top 10 players in LeBron James and Anthony Davis but the rest are veteran role players they picked up this year or last season: Javale McGee, Avery Bradley, and Danny Green. While you could argue that the success of this unit is mainly because of their dynamic duo of LBJ and AD, this lineup played with great chemistry although they haven’t played together outside of this season.
The Lakers had the second-best record in the league and were just three games behind the Bucks when play was halted. Los Angeles allowed the third-fewest points in the league and were the 7th highest-scoring team in the NBA. They were also 8th in rebounding and 9th in passing and their starting five was the main reason why the Lakers were having their most successful season in nearly a decade.
3. Boston Celtics
Kemba Walker, Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, Gordon Hayward, Daniel Theis
The Boston Celtics lost two starters from the previous season in Kyrie Irving and Al Horford. Despite that, they had a better season and played better this year. The Celtics added Kemba Walker who was an equally high-scoring guard as Irving and they promoted big man Daniel Theis to the starting rotation. While Theis was a downgrade from Horford, Boston still ranked fifth in the league in center net rating.
It also helped that the Celtics had an All-Star season from Jayson Tatum while Jaylen Brown also put up an All-Star worthy year. Gordon Hayward looked better this year than the previous year and he is slowly regaining his form after that gruesome leg injury. This has been good this year. He’s played bigger than his size and has shown the ability to knock down the outside shot. Overall, this five-man lineup had a net rating of +16.5 in over 160 minutes of floor action.
Boston had issues with Kyrie and struggled last season. But they have bounced back big time this year. The Celtics had the third-best record in the East when play was suspended. They ranked second in the league in scoring defense and were 9th in rebounding. Tatum and Brown evolved as a dynamic duo and Brad Stevens looked like a genius once again.
4. Los Angeles Clippers
Patrick Beverley, Paul George, Kawhi Leonard, Marcus Morris, Ivica Zubac
The Clippers have the most talented roster in the NBA but remember that one of their strengths is their deep bench. Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell were the Top 2 reserves in the league in 2019 and appeared to be the same this season. Reggie Jackson was picked up after a buyout with the Pistons. Landry Shamet, JaMychal Green, and Patrick Patterson are solid bench players while Joakim Noah had just been signed.
LA’s starting line-up isn’t their best five on the team but it was still one of the best in the league, despite playing just a total of 21 games together this season. Injuries and load management decisions forced this team to play just one-third of the team’s total games played. Despite that, they had a net rating of +12.8 over 518 minutes of playing together which is impressive.
This lineup has a lot of defensive potentials. George and Leonard are two of the best defensive players in the league while Marcus Morris is one of the few players that can guard LeBron James. Patrick Beverley has always been a pest on defense while Zubac is an old-fashioned center who grabs boards and intimidates opponents entering the shaded lane. If only this team played more games together, I would have ranked them higher.
5. Toronto Raptors
Kyle Lowry, Fred VanVleet, OG Anunoby, Pascal Siakam, Marc Gasol
This is not the best lineup for the Raptors this season because you can plug in Serge Ibaka and Norman Powell instead of Anunoby and Gasol. But that’s not the point. Last season, the Raptors went 17-5 when Kawhi Leonard didn’t play and we said that was an anomaly Then they won the NBA title and then they continued to win this season with Kawhi permanently gone.
I think the Raptors’ success has much to do with the team gaining valuable championship experience last season. VanVleet was a key reserve last year and had his breakout in the 2019 NBA Finals. The super-sub is now a super starter for Toronto. Pascal Siakam was last season’s Most Improved Player winner. He has continued to improve this year and will be an All-Star in no time. Kyle Lowry’s numbers are up this year while before his injury, Gasol was still a force. Ibaka and Powell are having their best offensive seasons too.
Toronto went of a franchise-record 12-game winning streak this season and after Leonard left, most of us thought they would dive this year. But that hasn’t been the case and their new starting unit has been one of the main reasons why they have been very successful. Of course, give the credit to Nick Nurse who’s maintained his team’s hunger this year.