I can say with confidence that the Chicago Bulls have the best starting lineup in the NBA.
Chicago is set apart from many of the other star-filled lineups in the league like the Miami Heat, Boston Celtics, Oklahoma City Thunder and even the New York Knicks, in that the Bulls can boast the most well rounded starting five in basketball.
While the Heat may have two of the biggest stars in the league in Dwyane Wade and LeBron James, they round out their lineup with mediocre to below average players like Joel Anthony and Mario Chalmers.
The star-studded Knicks have Carmelo Anthony, Amare Stoudemire and the newly acquired Tyson Chandler, but will open the regular season with a less than stellar 33-year-old Mike Bibby as their starting point guard.
The Bulls have no weak spot in the starting lineup. From point guard to center, each player in the starting lineup is well above average.
While it is my personal opinion that this is the best starting lineup in the league, there is statistical merit for the claim as well.
Using the Player Efficiency Rating, the Chicago Bulls’ projected lineup in 2011-12 has the highest average among starting fives in the league.
For those unfamiliar, Player Efficiency Rating or PER was developed by ESPN.com columnist John Hollinger and calculates all a player’s positive accomplishments, like points scored, steals and blocks, while subtracting the negative accomplishments like turnovers.
It then processes a rating of that player’s performance.
PER is not the be-all, end-all of basketball statistics, but it gives a nice snapshot into how effective a particular player is over the course of a season.
In the Bulls’ case, last season’s PER numbers show that despite not having the most stars in their lineup, they have the highest average rated lineup in the league with a 18.48 PER.
Rose led the Bulls with a PER of 23.5, good enough for tenth in the league. The front court of Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah tied for second with 18.8.
Boozer’s particularly encouraging as most would consider last year a huge disappointment for the Bulls’ free agent acquisition.
Boozer’s 18.8 PER rating, which was one of the worst of his career, is a testament to how good he really can be. Even in an off year, he still ranked in the top half of the league and tied for second on the best starting lineup in the NBA.
Much like Boozer, Richard Hamilton’s 2010-11 can only be described as disappointing.
Despite near career-lows in most offensive categories, he still ended up with a 15.8 PER, still far and away among the top half of the league.
It is reasonable to expect Hamilton’s PER to increase this season with increased playing time, working off of Rose and the extra motivation of playing on a championship caliber team.
One way or another, Hamilton is going to far exceed Bogans’ abysmal 9.0 PER last season.
Other teams in the league, despite more star power, do not boast nearly as well-rounded of a roster as the Bulls.
Miami, despite having two of the top five PER leaders in Wade (25.6) and James (27.3) and a highly ranked Chris Bosh (19.4), still came in behind the Bulls at 17.98.
This is due to two duds in their lineup, as Anthony (7.3) and Chalmers (10.3) ranked lower than any individual in the Bulls’ projected lineup.
The re-stocked NBA champion Dallas Mavericks also came in below the Bulls at 16.62.
Despite the additions of Lamar Odom (19.4) and Vince Carter (14.2), as well as NBA Finals MVP Dirk Nowitzki (23.4), the lack of an efficient center will leave their overall rating lower.
The two teams closest to the Bulls are the Boston Celtics (17.34) and the Los Angeles Lakers (17.68). Both teams, however, have glaring weaknesses.
The Lakers have three 20+ PER rated players in Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum but Derek Fisher (8.9) and Metta World Peace (11.2) are both below average.
Whether you want to use statistics or merely look at lineups, the Chicago Bulls have the NBA’s best starting lineup.
It remains to be seen whether the depth of the starting lineup will be the answer, but the Bulls have put themselves in a position to be one of the NBA’s top teams in 2011-12.