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Toronto Raptors

Five lineups that could dominate the NBA this season

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Raptors (Victory Creative)

The best teams in the league have lineups they can go to at times of need. For some, it's as simple as their starting five. For others, it features three or four of the starters with one or two bench players.

Whatever the case may be, these lineups often change slightly every season based on a team's new personnel and where the NBA as a whole is trending.

The former will make things particularly interesting this season because of a busy offseason that saw the likes of Kawhi Leonard, LeBron James and DeMarcus Cousins change teams.

With that in mind, here are five lineups that we can't wait to see this season that could end up dominating the league...

Boston Celtics

Lineup: Kyrie Irving, Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, Gordon Hayward, Al Horford

We're going to see this lineup a lot in 2018-19 because it's going to be the one that starts and the one that likely closes games for the Celtics.

The thought process behind that is pretty simple: Irving is one of the best scorers in the league and Brown, Tatum, Hayward and Horford are all versatile offensive players who can play with and without the ball in their hands and guard multiple positions on defence.

The combination should make for one of the best two-way lineups in the league. The only notable weakness is Irving's defence, but Brown, Tatum, Hayward and Horford should have no problem covering him with their collective length.

All that remains to be seen is if Brad Stevens can figure out a way for them all to get theirs on offence. Based on what we've seen from him since he became head coach in Boston, there's good reason to believe that he will.

Golden State Warriors

Lineup: Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Kevin Durant, Draymond Green, DeMarcus Cousins

Here's another lineup that is expected to start and end games when everyone is healthy, though this one is slightly different from the Boston one above.

Whereas the Celtics have three established All-Stars in Irving, Hayward and Horford, as well as two of the league's more promising young prospects in Tatum and Brown, the Warriors have five players in their prime who made the All-Star team last season.

The one relative unknown is obviously Cousins, whose 2017-18 season was cut short due to an Achilles tear, but he has the skills to make this lineup totally unstoppable.

Not only can he space the floor for Curry, Thompson, Durant and Green in ways JaVale McGee and Zaza Pachulia could only dream of, Cousins is one of the more talented playmakers - both for himself and others - we've ever seen at the centre position.

More importantly, the addition of Cousins gives the Warriors an answer to the only defensive scheme that gave them issues last season. If teams like the Houston Rockets continue to switch against them, Cousins should feast against the likes of Chris Paul and James Harden in the post.

Los Angeles Lakers

Lineup: Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart, Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma, LeBron James

Or any lineup with LeBron at centre.

It's not something we've seen much from the 14-time All-Star in his career. According to Basketball-Reference, 1.0 percent of LeBron's career minutes in the regular season have come at the five. He's played more centre in the playoffs - most notably in 2011-12, when he logged almost a quarter of his minutes there - but we've yet to see his full potential in that role.

Even though the Lakers will likely play LeBron at centre more out of necessity than strategic reasons - such is life when JaVale McGee is the only proven big man on the roster - it could become Luke Walton's secret weapon by the season's end. LeBron would basically play the Draymond Green role in those situations, only he's a far superior all-around offensive player, particularly when it comes to scoring with his back to the basket.

If Walton surrounds him with four players who can shoot 3s and push the pace, such as Ball, Hart, Ingram and Kuzma, the Lakers might put some of the confusion surrounding their offseason to rest.

Toronto Raptors

Lineup: Kyle Lowry, Danny Green, Kawhi Leonard, OG Anunoby, Pascal Siakam

For a taster of how devastating this lineup could be, check out this possession from Toronto's preseason game against Brooklyn:

The switching. The activity. The pressure. The steal. All pretty impressive, right?

Now imagine switching Jonas Valanciunas with Anunoby.

That would leave the Raptors without a traditional centre, but they'd make up for it by having four wings who can switch across the board in Green, Kawhi, Anunoby and Siakam, plus a scrappy defender in Lowry. Even the best offensive lineups in the league would struggle to score consistently against all of that size and length.

The best defensive lineups would likely struggle to slow them down, too. Lowry, Green and Anunoby are all knockdown 3-point shooters who can space the floor for Kawhi and it doesn't look like teams will be able to ignore Siakam on offence for much longer.

If it's not a lineup Nick Nurse goes to much at the start of the season, don't be surprised if it's Toronto's secret weapon by the time the postseason begins.

Oklahoma City Thunder

Lineup: Dennis Schröder, Russell Westbrook, Paul George, Patrick Patterson, Steven Adams

The Schröder-Westbrook pairing is ... interesting.

On one hand, it probably shouldn't work. Schröder and Westbrook are both ball dominant guards who are haven't shown a huge willingness to play off-ball in their careers.

On the other, if they can figure out how to make it work - beit by both of them tapping into their defensive potential or one of them developing into a more capable off-ball scorer - lineups with the two of them could elevate the Thunder to a new level this season.

Joining them in this hypothetical lineup is Patterson, who signed with the Thunder last summer but struggled to find his footing in his first season with his new team. If he can return to being one of the more valuable role players in the league, as he was in Toronto, he'll give Oklahoma City a huge boost on both ends of the court.

If he can't? The Thunder will have the option of going big with Jerami Grant or small with Alex Abrines or Terrance Ferguson.

Either way, it'll make for a fascinating lineup that will either be wildly successful or wildly confusing.

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