After an extended hiatus, Crucial Baskets brings back NBA Depth Charts, a feature to help you keep up with your favorite team’s lineups and rotations!
We’re two days away from preseason basketball! In the upcoming two to four games teams will sort out which players they’ll take into the regular season and in which five-man combinations they work best. When those teams have the answers, the NBA Depth Charts feature here at Crucial Baskets will keep you up-to-date!
After an extended hiatus, I am proud to announce I’m bringing this feature back for the 2020-21 season. With the potential insanity of this season, you’ll need to keep up with whose in your favorite team’s lineup more than ever! You can access them now through this link, but more importantly the Depth Charts tab will always be available at the top of every webpage on this site!
I take a holistic approach to these depth charts. Lineup data, player build and skillset, comments from players, coaches, the front office, and established journalists and analysts, and the eye test are all incorporated into my determinations. The charts will be updated at least every
Monday Tuesday. I’ll post an accompanying article such as this where I speak on the changes I made that week. Of course, I will update any major injuries and transactions as soon as possible.
I decided to leave the charts mostly injury-free since this is the first release. However, I did include the injuries to Jonathan Isaac and Klay Thompson since those two are already ruled out for the entire season.
So without further ado, here are my thoughts on our first batch of depth charts of the 2020-21 NBA season! Again, you can go to this link or the “NBA Depth Charts” tab above to access the charts if you want to view them while you read along.
The Hawks made some major moves over the offseason. It’s clear they’re ready to take the next step. Assuming health (a huge assumption in these days & times), they’re a shoe-in for the 2021 NBA Playoffs.
They clearly have depth on their roster. So much so, that I think Kevin Huerter gets bumped from starting shooting guard to second off-guard off the bench! Even so, I couldn’t bare taking him completely out of the rotation. We’ll see how Lloyd Pierce works things out once games start. Is he willing to start the season going 11-deep, Or will he find a way to keep Huerter more involved?
I figured the starting center position is Daniel Theis’ to lose. At the back-up shooting guard spot, I was hesitant to give it to Aaron Nesmith. However, it seems that he is statistically the better player out of the gate that Romeo Langford is after a year in the league. I’m sure that’s being settled in training camp right now, so we’ll see how things ultimately shake out.
Cristiano Felicio is the longest-tenured member of the Chicago Bulls, and is owed $7.5 million this season. However, he isn’t a very good NBA player, playing just 22 of the team’s 65 games last year. I have a feeling that he may be on his way out.
Despite the steep price tag, this is the final year of Felicio’s deal. So if he’s cut and not claimed off waivers, his contract would only be on the books for this season. Additionally, the Bulls brought in Noah Vonleh on a non-guaranteed minimum deal. If he can prove his worth, he’ll earn a spot on the team. Whose spot?
Well, Luke Kornet has the cheaper contract to drop ($2.3 million) and is only marginally better than Felicio. The kicker is that Kornet and Vonleh have the same agent! I think that synergy might be enough to leave Felicio as the odd man out in the Windy City.
The Mavs have 16 guaranteed contracts on their roster. The two cheapest belong to point guards J.J. Barea and Tyrell Terry. Rookie Terry’s deal was signed using a mid-level exception while 14-year player Barea was re-signed using the veteran’s minimum. I working under the theory that Barea is getting one more deal for the road. He’s there to be a veteran training camp body that helps the other guards learn the ropes and then pass the torch. But that’s just my theory. We’ll find out the truth at some point between now and the roster deadline.
Despite my assertions last week, head coach Dwane Casey has confirmed that rookie Killian Hayes is the Pistons’ starting point guard. I think that just speaks to Hayes’ potential and Detroit’s focus on the future. Derrick Rose will serve as mentor and sixth man. We’ll see if he is willing to hold that role through the whole season, or if he’ll ultimately be bought out and seek a spot on a playoff-contending team.
The Rockets are under new management in the front office and on the sidelines. However, I still have trouble imagining this team going beyond 9-deep in the rotation. Maybe that will change once things are in motion, but for now I see Stephen Silas keeping things streamlined in Houston.
Los Angeles Clippers
Again, the Clippers have a new coach (albeit a promoted assistant), but I can’t unsee them having super-subs at guard and center. Serge Ibaka is good enough to start, but will he or is he just the new Montrezl Harrell?
You may also notice that I have Kawhi Leonard as starting shooting guard and third-string power forward. I came to this admittedly-bizarre conclusion very early last season. Basically, the Clippers expanded Leonard’s playmaking responsibilities, but also put him in plenty of lineups that utilized his skills as a small-ball power forward. Meanwhile, Paul George doesn’t seem like a player that is willing to play up or down a position; he is just a small forward. We’ll see if new head coach Tyronn Lue employs Leonard and George the same way.
Los Angeles Lakers
I was all ready to load up LeBron James as the starting point guard for another season with Dennis Schroder in Rajon Rondo’s role. However, Schroder has stressed that he came to Los Angeles with the intent to start games.
Wesley Matthews also came to the team with the same expectation. That would bump Kentavious Caldwell-Pope back to the bench. That makes a little sense, though, since Avery Bradley, a veteran 3&D guy like Wes, was the starting 2 for much of last season.
So there you have it. LeBron at the 3, KCP on the pine. Ladies, gentlemen, and non-binaries, behold your 2021 Lakers starting backcourt: Dennis Schroder and Wesley Matthews!
Oklahoma City Thunder
First of all, if I knew Theo Maledon was coming over to the States this year, I would have put him third in my Rookie Excitement Rankings and bumped Denver’s Facundo Campazzo down to sixth!
Secondly, this roster was the one to give me the most trouble. There’s just so much rotational flexibility with this roster. New head coach Mark Daigneault has a lot of options. I can’t wait until OKC actually plays games so I can get some clarity!
I will admit that part of the trouble was figuring out how Vincent Poirier fit into the proceedings. I didn’t realize he and Maledon were also part of the Al Horford trade until it went official on Tuesday.
Portland Trail Blazers
I expected Carmelo Anthony to fall into the sixth man role following their acquisition of Robert Covington. However, I was genuinely surprised when head coach Terry Stotts announced that Derrick Jones Jr. would be the starting small forward. I figured that was Rodney Hood’s spot to lose since he started all 21 games he played for Rip City last year. But the move seems to be for injury-recovery reasons. Nevertheless, if healthy, Hood is poised to be a potent contributor off the bench.