Jackson 5: Greatest starting-5’s in NBA history

By Aaron Jackson,

With the Golden State Warriors adding DeMarcus Cousins to their starting-5 the question that will burn throughout the 2018-19 NBA season is, “Is that the greatest starting-5 in NBA history?” It’s a question that in all honesty we won’t know the answer to until next June, but that’s not going to stop me from speculating. Here are my top-5 starting-5’s in NBA history.

5. 2002-03 San Antonio Spurs: To start off this list I take a team from fairly recent history. Depending on the match up their starting-5 consisted of Tony Parker, Stephen Jackson/Manu Ginobili, defensive superstar Bruce Bowen, Tim Duncan and David Robinson. That’s an incredibly potent lineup, and one that really had all the right pieces to the puzzle. Sometimes when you create these incredible starting-5’s some of the pieces don’t fit perfectly, but I don’t think that’s the case here.

4. 2007-08 Boston Celtics: Ray Allen, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett are your headliners here, but Rajon Rondo and Kendrick Perkins fill out the starting 5 admirably. I debated between this team and one of the Miami Heat teams featuring Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade and LeBron James, but went with the C’s because the other two starters for the Heat (Carlos Arroyo and the corpse of Zydrunas Ilgauskas) were barely serviceable NBA players, never mind starters.

3. 2018-19 Warriors: I know, I know, they haven’t even played a game together yet. But does that really matter? If nothing else we have to realize that in today’s NBA teams gel much faster than they used to. “Team chemistry” just doesn’t mean what it once did. Look at the Cleveland Cavaliers this past year. They had some of the worst chemistry in the NBA but still made it to the finals. This Warriors team will gel quickly, especially since they’re only adding one piece. Kevin Durant, Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and DeMarcus Cousins in my mind will be the greatest starting-5 in NBA history. I only have them at three because of Cousins health and my desire to actually see it happen. There’s a real chance we could see four players in the starting-5 average 20 plus points a game over the course of the season, something I’m fairly positive has never happened. The 1970 Lakers came close, with Jerry West, Wilt Chamberlain and Elgin Baylor all over 20 and Happy Hairston at 19. In conclusion, let me just ask you this; If you were to send out a starting five of Kyrie Irving, DeMar Derozan, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Kristaps Porzingis and Joel Embiid (likely the Eastern Conferences’ starting five in next year’s All Star game) versus the Warriors starting-5 who would you take? That’s what I thought.

2. 1986-87 Celtics: The only franchise to make this list twice, though the Los Angeles Lakers could certainly make the case that they’ve been robbed. This Celtics squad featured an in-their-prime Larry Bird and Kevin McHale both putting up over 25 a game, and also featured three players averaging 9-plus rebounds a game (Bird, McHale, Robert Parish). Oh, yeah, I guess Danny Ainge and Dennis Johnson were alright too.

1. 1987-88 Lakers: How do you compete with that previous team? Well, the Lakers seemed to have figured it out. Despite having a 40-year-old Kareem Abdul Jabbar it’s pretty clear this team has to go down as one of the best in NBA history. He was still getting it done, Magic Johnson was at his peak, Byron Scott and James Worthy combined for 40 a night and AC Green was still a defensive star. I’ll probably catch some flack for putting them ahead of the Celtics the year before, but to me this is the best starting 5 in NBA history.

And if that wasn’t enough research for you, here’s legendary sportswriter Bob Ryan’s take on the best starting-5 in NBA history —


Aaron Jackson (@AaronRJackson on Twitter) is a co-host on The Drive, weekdays 4pm to 6pm on 92.9fm The Ticket and streaming live at DriveShowMaine.com. Follow us on Twitter, @DriveShowMaine and “Like Us” on Facebook, Drive Show Maine.