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 Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
(Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) /

. . New Orleans Pelicans. 12. team. 69.

12. Pelicans — CJ McCollum, Brandon Ingram, Herbert Jones, Zion Williamson, Jonas Valanciunas

The Pelicans have a real chance to vault into contention next season. It all starts, of course, with Zion Williamson — or, more specifically, Zion Williamson’s health. If the former No. 1 pick can stay on the court, New Orleans is going to have one of the most dominant offenses in the league. Williamson was knocking on the door of superstardom last time we saw him. He managed to operate as both a playmaking hub and go-to scorer despite bearing no semblance of a reliable 3-point shot. He’s just too strong and too fast to keep out of the paint. He now has two co-stars in Brandon Ingram and CJ McCollum, while Valanciunas’ ability to step outside and hit 3s will afford Williamson even more room to terrorize the paint. Herbert Jones, meanwhile, is already one of the best wing defenders in the game.

team. 125. . . . Atlanta Hawks. 11

11. Hawks — Trae Young, Dejounte Murray, DeAndre Hunter, John Collins, Clint Capela

The Hawks — like so many other teams — just need everyone to stay healthy. DeAndre Hunter has flashed game-changing potential on both sides of the ball, but he’s never on the court. If he can take the next step at full health, in conjunction with Dejounte Murray and Clint Capela anchoring the defense, then Atlanta might finally have a team that can win on both sides of the ball. There are other factors at play, of course. Trae Young will have to adjust his approach with Murray in the mix, hopefully leading to more off-ball reps where he can leverage his shooting gravity. Also, how does Clint Capela look on heels of a somewhat disappointing season? Does he bounce back, or do we edge closer to Onyeka Okongwu’s inevitable takeover?

. Minnesota Timberwolves. 10. team. 86. .

10. Timberwolves — D’Angelo Russell, Anthony Edwards, Jaden McDaniels, Karl-Anthony Towns, Rudy Gobert

The Wolves finally made another splashy trade to pair a top-level star with Karl-Anthony Towns. That star is Rudy Gobert, arguably the best defender of his generation. The nature of the Gobert-Towns partnership will be interesting to monitor — recent history has taught us that “Twin Tower” experiments can go wrong. That said, Towns is the best big man shooter of all time on paper, and Gobert’s rim protection virtually guarantees your team a top-10 defense. With Anthony Edwards on the verge of his star leap, and two useful complementary talents in D’Angelo Russell and Jaden McDaniels rounding out the lineup, it’s hard to find much fault in this group.