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Starting Five: Darren Collison, Wesley Matthews, Bojan Bogdanovic, Thaddeus Young, Myles Turner
Indiana would easily be a top-10 starting five with a healthy Victor Oladipo, and the team has managed to stay afloat with Evans in his place. Wesley Matthews, fresh off a buyout with the New York Knicks, is on his way as well and expected to take over Oladipo’s old spot.
Despite the loss of Oladipo, team president Kevin Pritchard said the Pacers aren’t about to throw in the towel, per J. Michael of the Indianapolis Star:
“When Victor went down you could easily justify, let’s take it back, let’s look to the future. I don’t like ‘tank.’ I don’t like that word. We could’ve looked at that. That never got off anybody’s tongue. We never thought about that. … I spoke to the team today. I always speak to the team right after a trade deadline. The truth is I couldn’t be more proud of this team. This team is competing their butts off. Maybe we’re not the most talented team in the East but I can see it in their eyes. They feel like that they can compete with anybody.”
While Evans has struggled as a starter, the Pacers have won three in a row with him in that role and carry an impressive net rating of plus-12.2 with this five-man unit all season. Don’t count Indiana out just yet.
Starting Five: D’Angelo Russell, Joe Harris, Caris LeVert, Rodions Kurucs, Jarrett Allen
The return of LeVert from a right foot dislocation means a big boost to the Nets starting lineup.
“I thought he looked good, looked athletic, he was athletic, came downhill like he does, make some passes,” head coach Kenny Atkinson said, per Tom Dowd of BrooklynNets.com. “Obviously there were a few bumps here and there, but for the most part I think he was a plus-five on the sheet, so he had some positives tonight and played well.”
LeVert (17.9 points, 4.1 rebounds, 3.7 assists) and Russell (19.8 points, 6.5 assists) are the primary building blocks for a Nets team that has surged to sixth place in the East.
Harris has built himself into one of the NBA’s best three-point shooters, while Allen has proved to fear no man at the rim with his shot-blocking abilities.
Brooklyn is quickly becoming a team no one wants to face in the postseason and an enticing future home for this summer’s free agents.
Starting Five: Jrue Holliday, Elfrid Payton, Darius Miller, Julius Randle, Anthony Davis
New Orleans has the fourth-highest-scoring starting lineup in the NBA (84.9 points per game, per hoopsstats.com). It’s also third in rebounding (32.8) and second in assists (20.1).
So, why not rank the Pelicans higher?
Davis is obviously the biggest reason for these numbers, and his playing time through these awkward next two months could vary. He was already held out of an entire fourth quarter, and ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reports Davis will see a reduction in minutes while playing fewer, if any, back-to-backs.
New Orleans is already thin on the wing, and having Davis for limited minutes (or not at all on some nights) knocks it down a few spots here.
Starting Five: Rajon Rondo, Brandon Ingram, LeBron James, Kyle Kuzma, JaVale McGee
No Anthony Davis means this is still a middle-of-the-road lineup that’s keeping its head above water simply because of James.
Los Angeles did nothing at the trade deadline to show it’s pushing for a championship this season with James at age 34, instead relying on internal growth and max cap space this summer. No word on what percentage that cap space is shooting from three this season.
Rondo keeps the seat warm at point guard until Lonzo Ball returns, which may not be until March. If James can somehow carry this starting five into the Finals, it may be the most impressive feat of his career.
Starting Five: Bryn Forbes, DeMar DeRozan, Rudy Gay, Davis Bertans, LaMarcus Aldridge
San Antonio remains an extremely efficient group, even as the roster drifts further and further away from the championship version of yesteryear.
Spurs starters are third in three-point shooting (39.9 percent, per hoopsstats.com), fourth in field-goal percentage (48.8 percent) and fourth in free-throw percentage (83.5 percent).
DeRozan and Aldridge are both scoring at least 21.0 points per game, and Gay has surprised with his 14.4 points on a career-high 43.0 percent shooting from three. Had Dejounte Murray not torn his ACL before the start of the season, this would be a top-10 unit.