Ranking every NBA starting five; where do Sixers land?

Sixers Warriors Joel Embiid (Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)
Sixers Warriors Joel Embiid (Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images) /
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(Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)
(Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images) /

18. . . . Boston Celtics. 3. team

3. Celtics — Marcus Smart, Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, Al Horford, Robert Williams III

The Celtics’ starting five was bulletproof last season. This is probably the best defensive group in the league — Marcus Smart generating chaos on the perimeter, Jayson Tatum checking the opposition’s top wing, Al Horford switching gracefully between the post and the perimeter, and Robert Williams swatting everything within a one-mile radius at the rim. Meanwhile, Tatum and Brown continue to build rapport as one of the NBA’s foremost star duos. Tatum is on the verge of perennial MVP consideration, Brown is an All-Star, and the Celtics received star-level contributions from Smart and Williams last season. Without even starting on Boston’s impressive bench unit, it’s not hard to peg the Celtics as threats to repeat as conference champs.

2. team. 41. . . . Golden State Warriors

2. Warriors — Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Andrew Wiggins, Draymond Green, Kevon Looney

Golden State won the championship. Next season, they will have a strong opportunity to repeat. Stephen Curry remains completely undeniable — one of the truly great offensive talents of our time. He can bend and warp a defense without touching the ball. Meanwhile, Klay Thompson will be further removed from his injury (and therefore in more of a playing rhythm), while Draymond Green is still the defining defensive force of his generation. Add in Andrew Wiggins’ growth from unreliable chucker to two-way All-Star, and the Warriors are the team to beat out West. Even Kevon Looney, who’s not exactly a brand name, has a years-long resumé of successfully starting at center.

89. . . . Milwaukee Bucks. 1. team

1. Bucks — Jrue Holiday, Grayson Allen, Khris Middleton, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Brook Lopez

The Bucks were a bounce or two away from knocking Boston out in the second round despite missing Khris Middleton, a top-25 player and their best perimeter scorer. When healthy, Milwaukee is still the team to beat. Giannis Antetokounmpo has cemented his place atop the NBA throne — he’s the best player in the league, and he dominates on both sides of the ball. Middleton is perpetually underrated as the No. 2 star, while Jrue Holiday’s playmaking-defense combo makes him an effective backcourt leader. Brook Lopez is the ideal complement in the middle. He can spread the floor and make room for Giannis on offense, while his rim protection on defense is what allows Giannis to take so many risks in the free safety role. Grayson Allen hits 3s and gets under the opponents’ skin. That’s what you need sometimes.

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