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5 surprising starting lineups we've seen so far in the 2021-22 NBA pre-season

Orlando Magic v Boston Celtics
Orlando Magic v Boston Celtics

Reading too much into an NBA preseason is a common mistake. But there are a few notable things to be taken from the games currently taking place. Coaching staffs and front offices around the league will tell you not to read too much into the rotations that are seen during preseason as they are just testing things out.

The notable aspect is realizing what they are willing to test during this time. Playing time, specifically for younger players, is substantial in honing your skills, developing chemistry with teammates, and the trust your coaching staff displays in you.

I'm probably reading too much into it, but there were some starting lineups on opening night of the NBA preseason that stood out. Here are the five NBA starting lineups that drew my attention at the start of the 2021-22 NBA preseason.


#5 - Cleveland Cavaliers

Cleveland Cavaliers v Brooklyn Nets
Cleveland Cavaliers v Brooklyn Nets

The Cleveland Cavaliers' starting lineup for preseason game one against the Chicago Bulls was Darius Garland, Collin Sexton, Isaac Okoro, Evan Mobley, and Jarrett Allen.

Obviously, Cleveland's willingness to select USC big man Evan Mobley as the third overall selection in the 2021 NBA Draft signals an intrigue in his upside and future. While Mobley played a significant amount of his college minutes alongside a more traditional center, many in NBA circles believe the prospect is a center.

At the same time, the Cavaliers commitment to Jarrett Allen is apparent by their agreement to a five-year $100-million extension early this offseason. It appears as though both players will be regulars in Cleveland's rotation, and Mobely will be tasked with guarding more mobile players as a forward between the two.


#4 - Boston Celtics

Boston Celtics Media Day
Boston Celtics Media Day

Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart were all expected starters for the Boston Celtics going into the 2021-22 NBA season. The center rotation later caused commotion between Robert Williams and the recently acquired Al Horford.

The final wing position could have gone a handful of ways for Boston. Brown and Tatum are versatile, so new head coach Ime Udoka could have elected to start a guard such as Josh Richardson, Dennis Schroder or Payton Pritchard.

More size from a forward or wing seems to be an option with the likes of Aaron Nesmith, Grant Williams and Juancho Hernangomez as valid options. Deciding to go with Hernangomez as the starter in preseason game one was a shock to many and we will see if that sticks as the regular season rolls around.

The starting center battle between Horford and Williams was also one to keep an eye on. Williams seems to be the starter for now.

#3 - Sacramento Kings

Milwaukee Bucks v Sacramento Kings
Milwaukee Bucks v Sacramento Kings

Primary improvements for the Sacramento Kings this past offseason revolve around depth. Last year, the addition of Tyrese Haliburton at pick 12 was substantial and there was talk of him deserving to start over sharpshooter Buddy Hield.

Head coach Luke Walton specifically mentioned that the media should not read too much into his preseason rotations, but his willingness to start Haliburton over Hield is notable.

De'Aaron Fox, Harrison Barnes and Richaun Holmes were all expected starters this season, but after that were two question marks. Haliburton filled one of those and the other wing position was occupied by Marvin Bagley III.

Maurice Harkless could have been considered, but Bagley was on the floor for tipoff in the Sacramento Kings' preseason opener.


#2 - Memphis Grizzlies

Memphis Grizzlies v Utah Jazz - Game Five
Memphis Grizzlies v Utah Jazz - Game Five

Sidelined potential starters for the Memphis Grizzlies on opening night of the preseason include Dillon Brooks and potentially Jarrett Culver, although the latter seems unlikely.

No player on this Memphis roster has started more games than the 69 Kyle Anderson appeared in last season. Yet, for some reason, he came off the bench in their first preseason appearance.

The Grizzlies' willingness to embrace youth and growth has been apparent the last few seasons, and their starting lineup in game one may be continued signs of that thought process. The five on the floor at tipoff were Ja Morant, De'Anthony Melton, Desmond Bane, Jaren Jackson Jr., and Steven Adams.

Bane and Melton are impactful defensive players with specific offensive skillsets, but we will see if they remain the favorites to start over Anderson and others throughout the 2021-22 NBA season.


#1 - Orlando Magic

2021 NBA Rookie Photo Shoot
2021 NBA Rookie Photo Shoot

In my mind, Jalen Suggs has a limited chance to win the NBA Rookie of the Year award in the upcoming season. This is due to the fact that the Orlando Magic have already rostered two upcoming sophomore guards in R.J. Hampton and Cole Anthony.

Neither of the two aforementioned names started for the Magic in preseason game one, but Suggs and Gary Harris did. The entire five were Jalen Suggs, Gary Harris, Terrence Ross, Franz Wagner, and Wendell Carter Jr..

Suggs being preferred over other young perimeter talents in Orlando could prove to be beneficial for his future development as a leader in the NBA. While his upside is undeniable, I was surprised to see the Gonzaga rookie gifted a starting role in his first NBA opportunity.

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Edited by Sankalp Srivastava
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