Comparing the NBA Eastern Conference Superpowers Episode 2: The Starting Lineups

Welcome back to the personally acclaimed series: Comparing the NBA Eastern Conference Superpowers. In the last article, we covered the (projected) top four teams in the East: The Boston Celtics, Philadelphia 76ers, Milwaukee Bucks, and Toronto Raptors, and their trade deadline adventures. In this article, we’re going to compare these titans’ starting lineups now that they have had some time to integrate the players that they brought in over the deadline. Subsequent articles will compare each teams’ star player, benches, and potential death lineups.

Boston Keeping the Course

Starting Lineup: Kyrie Irving/Marcus Smart/Jayson Tatum/Marcus Morris/Al Horford

We’re going to cover the Celtics first because they didn’t make any changes to their starting lineup over the trade deadline. This is, obviously, due to them not making any moves at the deadline. Why should they have? This lineup ranks 1st in offensive rating among lineups that have logged at least 300 minutes together. They’re not lacking on defense either, as the lineup ranks 10th in defensive rating. They’re also fourth in net rating. The early version of the Celtics’ starting lineup didn’t work out, Jaylen Brown and Gordon Hayward over Marcus Smart and Marcus Morris led to a dysfunctional offense and a matador defense. Their new starting lineup has given the Celtics the elite label they were supposed to have the entire season.

Philly’s Big Four

Starting Lineup: Ben Simmons/J.J. Redick/Jimmy Butler/Tobias Harris/Joel Embiid

Yes, several players have started for Embiid recently. No, that doesn’t mean that’s their real starting lineup. This jumbo lineup consisting of essentially three wings, a shooting guard, and a center should take some time to fully get used to. In the few games they have played together though, they have been dominant. In the 73 minutes that lineup has played together, they have the sixth best net rating out of lineups that have played at least 70 minutes together. This isn’t a deviation for the Sixers, though, as their pre-deadline lineup (Wilson Chandler instead of Harris) would have had the second-best net rating out of lineups with at least 300 minutes together (they played 293). Philly’s new starting lineup is putting up numbers that are seemingly unsustainable but the early returns are very good.

Milwaukee Keeps It Going

Starting Lineup: Eric Bledsoe/Malcolm Brogdon/Khris Middleton/Giannis Antetokounmpo/Brook Lopez

The Milwaukee Bucks acquired sweet-shooting Nikola Mirotic at the trade deadline. His 16.4 points per game come in already as third best on the team. He, however, will be coming off the bench for the Bucks. Thus, the Bucks starting lineup remains the same after the deadline. The Bucks own the best net rating and defensive rating in the league, but how does their starting lineup fare? Out of lineups with more than 300 minutes logged, the Bucks’ starting lineup ranks 11th in offensive rating, 12th in defensive rating, and 8th in net rating. Their starting lineup lags behind Boston’s in every statistic yet beats them in overall team statistics. I imagine the answers to that will come out after taking a look at the benches. Their bench just got some added depth as they added Pau Gasol, who agreed to a buyout with the San Antonio Spurs.

Toronto Adds A Starter

Starting Lineup: Kyle Lowry/Danny Green/Kawhi Leonard/Pascal Siakim/Serge Ibaka

The Toronto Raptors made a splash at the trade deadline, acquiring Marc Gasol from the Memphis Grizzlies. His 15.2 points a game rank fourth on the team. His 8.4 rebounds a game rank first on the team. His 4.6 assists a game are tied for second. He has played with the starting group and off the bench in his short team with Toronto. Their starting lineup ranks 8th in Offensive Rating, Fifth in Defensive Rating, and 11th in Net Rating.

Well, there you have it. All four teams’ starting lineups compared. Boston’s lineup has the best overall rankings out of the teams, including the best offensive rating out of the four. The Raptors own the best defensive rating out of the bunch. The Bucks, despite having the best team stats out of the four, has the worst marks out of the four starting lineups. Philly continues to be too new to rank, although the early returns mixed with the old lineup suggest a shift could be possible in these teams’ rankings. Tune in next time, when we compare the star player of each team. In the meantime, take some bets on who I choose to be Philadelphia’s #1 star player.

All stats taken from and

Agu is a Junior at Marquette University pursuing a Business Management Major with a Spanish Business Minor. He is a Milwaukee native and somehow survived 10 years of mediocrity from his hometown team, the Milwaukee Bucks, and is now writing about them in the midst of their best season. He is new on the scene with no credentials but hopes to have a light Wikipedia page in the future.

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