This has been a tumultuous offseason, with big moves being made across the league. We’re looking at a topheavy Eastern Conference and an incredibly competitive West. Here is a rundown of the all the teams heading into the 2023-24 season.
I’m predicting another middle of the road finish for the Hawks. They’ve lost John Collins, and whilst they’ve certainly got their franchise point guard and centre positions filled, between Deandre Hunter, Saddiq Bey, and Onyeka Okongwu, their wing positions are up for debate. Behind an ageing Bogdan Bogdanovic, there’s a chance that Dejounte Murray could take a big leap, if only his numbers can translate into wins.
The Celtics were known last season for their incredible depth, which made them so formidable throughout the regular season and deep into the playoffs. Since shipping Marcus Smart and Robert Williams III their defence may have taken a hit, but the additions of Jrue Holiday and Kristaps Porzingis should see their starting lineup improve, which can be the difference between playoff success and championship success. Expect to see them battling the Bucks for the top spot in the East, as the gap between those two and the rest of the league only seems to grow.
Losing KD and Kyrie last season set the Nets up with a bright future, plenty of picks and some studs in Dinwiddie, Bridges, and Cam Johnson. They have no real Point Guard, but if Ben Simmons can return to productivity, they could have a squad for the mid-table. I personally don’t like them losing Seth Curry; on a team with Ben Simmons the floor spacing he offers is essential.
I may be biassed as a Timberwolves and Anthony Edwards fan, but I don’t see a good season ahead for Lamelo Ball and the Hornets. P.J. Washington could be set to have a rise in production again, and Terry Rozier will remain scary, but without much help and with the questionable status of Miles Bridges, their ceiling in my eyes is the play-in tournament.
If I were a Bulls fan, I think I’d be writhing on the floor in anguish after this offseason. Yet again, the Bulls front office are sitting back and doing nothing whilst watching big moves being made around the league. It’s frustrating because the Lavine, Derozan, and Vucevic trio were so exciting to watch when they were first put together. With Lonzo Ball possibly sidelined for the season, they will be a play-in team again.
If you want to be entertained this season, I’d watch the Cavaliers or the Kings. Both teams are enjoying a huge uptake compared to past years, and play with the ball movement and the joy that comes with group success. DG the PG is one of the most dynamic in the league, and Donovan Mitchell an incredible scorer. If Evan Mobley keeps developing and stays healthy, alongside Jarrett Allen’s defence, they will be a high seed yet again.
The Dallas Mavericks of 2022-23 were utterly disappointing. The pairing of Kyrie Irving and Luka Doncic, two ball-dominant players, was unsurprisingly unsuccessful; The all-too-familiar “Brooklyn Nets experiment”. They did only play 18 games together, so perhaps there will be more opportunity for success if they get more joint PT. They also added Seth Curry, who has historically been great alongside Luka.
This offseason, the reigning champion Denver Nuggets did not make a ton of changes, understandably, to their roster. They lost Bruce Brown, but the starting 5 remains unchanged from what was so successful last year. After losing out on the MVP award to Joel Embiid, Nikola Jokic will be ready for another title charge with something to prove.
The Detroit Pistons, only a couple years removed from the #1 overall pick, look set up to have a good chance at the same pick next year. If Cade Cunningham stays healthy, they will be in with a good shot at approaching the 11th position in the conference, and without him they’ll be sure to battle the Hornets for the bottom spot. Even with Bojan Bogdanovic increasing production recently, and the acquisition of pieces like Monte Morris and Joe Harris, there is little chance of Motor City making waves this season.
Golden State Warriors
The Warriors are in a difficult position, having narrowly missed out on the play-in last year, they seemed set for a liminal period this offseason. However, after dealingJordan Poole away and keeping Draymond Green, they seem to have sided with the old guard over new rising stars. The splash brothers will continue, despite Klay Thompson’s inconstancy, and the addition of Chris Paul will ensure there’s never a moment where there isn’t hall-of-fame level Point Guard play on the court. The biggest question is whether Paul will start or come off the bench.
Lots of big offseason pickups in the face of a disappointing 22-23 season mean that the Rockets have a lot of question marks for the coming months. Adding Fred Vanvleet at PG will certainly elevate their play, and Dillon Brooks’ defence is an asset, misbehaviour aside. Victor Oladipo, too, will be a didactic veteran presence in the locker room for young players like Jalen Green and Jabari Smith Jr. There’s no way at this point to say for certain where they’ll fall in the bottom two thirds of the tables.
The addition of Obi Toppin this offseason will be the biggest aspect of the Pacers’ game to watch in this coming season. Having spent the whole of his young career playing behind Julius Randle, we will see what happens when Toppin is given more room to breathe, especially with the passing acumen of Tyrese Haliburton. Myles Turner will continue to shine defensively as he hits his prime, and Bruce Brown’s experience will be invaluable.
Los Angeles Clippers
These Clippers are anticlimactic. When the league heard that two of the most gifted players, two-way legends, were teaming up in Los Angeles, there was a sense that they’d be a difficult team to overcome for years. Now four years down the line, the ability of Kawhi Leonard and Paul George to stay healthy has been a constant factor, especially as both are now 32. Re-signed Russell Westbrook will continue to impact the offence, and they can be contenders if injuries are managed properly. That’s a big “if”.
Los Angeles Lakers
The Lakers have had a brilliant offseason, clearly trying to make the most of “oldest in the league” Lebron before it gets too much for him. Keeping Anthony Davis and Lebron healthy will be paramount to the Lakers’ season, but also their free agent pickups; Prince, Vincent, Reddish, and Hayes will all contribute massively. The defensive effort of Vanderbilt combined with Russell on a good day will see them easily contending for a ring this year.
I am personally buzzing to watch the Grizzlies this coming season. Already third in defensive rating last year, adding Marcus Smart to a roster already containing reigning DPOY Jaren Jackson Jr. might see them post the best defence in the league. However, with Ja Morant suspended for 25 games due to his antics and Brandon Clarke out with an injured achilles, the offence will have to pick up quickly.
The Miami Heat didn’t make any big moves this offseason, despite trying hard to land Damian Lillard, and it seems like all the other teams in their conference became far better. I’m predicting another boring season with the core of Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo, and Erik Spoelstra working as they always have until they somehow turn it up in the postseason again.
The blockbuster trade of this offseason, and yet again the Bucks front office have me kicking myself over choosing to support my dad’s Minnesotan team over my mum’s Wisconsinite. The duo of Giannis Antetokounmpo and Damian Lillard will be hard to stop, and though the loss of Jrue Holiday will impact them defensively, when the whole team with Brook Lopez and Khris Middleton is healthy there looks to be very little downside for the Bucks. This is a lesson in what to do when your superstar says he’d leave to win a championship with another team.
The Timberwolves are my team, and though we did lose a couple players whose production I liked last year — Taurean Prince and Jaylen Nowell — the re-signing of fan favourite Naz Reid has assuaged my doubts. Jaden McDaniels will continue to be one of the best defensive players in basketball. In terms of our big three, I predict Anthony Edwards will rise again in points per, as he has steadily by 3 each year historically, and he will become the undisputed superstar which he has the potential to be. In the end, once Karl-Anthony Towns and Rudy Gobert have played more than 27 games together, we can decide whether the Twin Towers experiment was successful, and maybe move on from one of the two before the deadline.
New Orleans Pelicans
The New Orleans Pelicans are one of the most exciting teams in ball when Zion Williamson is on the court. With Brandon Ingram healthy too, they were a statistical marvel at the start of last season, and Pelicans fans must pray to any god imaginable to see the season through. With injuries however, the Pelicans go from contending for a seed above the play-in, to contending within the play-in tournament.
New York Knicks
Knicks fans should be happy, and that’s not something basketball media gets to say often. With their current roster they have depth across the board and adding Jalen Brunson has meant that they’re finally solid in the PG department. Julius Randle and RJ Barret will have to pick up once again in the regular season, and whilst they’re definitely not title contenders yet, they have the personnel and picks to acquire another all-star when the time comes.
Oklahoma City Thunder
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander will bring this team to new heights, alongside the electric passing of Josh Giddey, and Jalen Williams also having a breakout year. However, the number one thing that Thunder fans will be looking out for is Chet Holmgren’s debut game. Already impressing in the preseason, Holmgren will add to the young core that the Thunder front office has crafted, and they’ll at least make the play-in again this year.
The Magic have seen success last year behind Paolo Banchero’s play, and should hope to follow it up this year. Maybe we’re asking too much, but we’d love to see him and Franz Wagner step up. There is also the question of Markelle Fultz, who it felt was definitely finding his footing last year, and looks to be the consummate PG of the Magic’s future, suddenly sharing the court with 6th overall pick Anthony Black. The Magic should hope for a play-in spot this year.
It is a wholly unenviable position for a front office to be in, holding onto a dissatisfied James Harden. He has detonated many other teams when he’s felt like a change, and nobody seems to want to trade for him. Joel Embiid talked enthusiastically last year about how he’s “never been so open in his life” after the Harden trade, and now it looks like the reigning MVP will again be facing down the league without a co-star. Patrick Beverley picked up in the offseason is great for the team defence, and Tyrese Maxey and Tobias Harris continue to be valuable, but unless either of them can tack on another 5 points per, Embiid may be flying solo still.
The Suns have put all their eggs in the 23-24 season basket. Subscribing to the Nets manual of winning, they have collected three of the league’s highest volume scorers in Bradley Beal, Devin Booker, and Kevin Durant. With Jusuf Nurkic also making an appearance in the starting lineup, the biggest questions are these: what about the defence, and what happens if the big three get injured? It’s the same issue that plagued the Nets: injuries and availability. Title or bust is the name of the game in Arizona, and we will see how it pans out for them.
Portland Trail Blazers
Damian Lillard finally “ran from the grind”, despite once saying he wouldn’t, and the Blazers enter a rebuild around young star Scoot Henderson. The addition of Robert Williams III combined with the extension offered to Matisse Thybulle should shore up their defence, whilst Deandre Ayton remains their biggest game-changing pickup of the offseason. The question becomes whether Henderson is ready to have the ball in his hands so often on the NBA stage.
The Kings were a huge shock last year, posting the best ever offensive rating in a season at 119.4. Damontas Sabonis has made a huge leap, and they should hope that one of their other stars can fill a similar role to see more playoff success than they have already. Keegan Murray needs to improve for this to happen. De’Aaron Fox, Harrison Barnes, and Malik Monk will continue to score as they need to, and we could see the Kings make a deeper run if they keep up their offensive quality.
San Antonio Spurs
The Spurs pick up Victor Wembanyama, the league's hottest commodity, and under Gregg Popovich, he's sure to develop well. Alongside Devin Vassell, Keldon Johnson, Zach Collins, and Milton Keynes native Jeremy Sochan, the starting lineup has zero players over 25. This is good news, as it shows the possible longevity of whatever Pop will build. We’ve already seen Wemby torching players in preseason, but can he stay fit, and can it translate to the big stage of the regular season?
The Raptors officially have one of the worst positional depth charts at PG with the loss of Fred Vanvleet, and Dennis Schroder is a poor replacement. Despite this, the talented Pascal Siakam, OG Anunoby, and Scottie Barnes are all assets to the team. However, Barnes must still develop if he’s going to see any playoff basketball, which I don’t think is likely.
The addition of John Collins and the re-signing of Jordan Clarkson paints a lukewarm picture for the Jazz's future. If Keyonte George and Taylor Hendricks — both selected in the first round — hit the ground running, we could be looking at a fun Jazz team, as Lauri Markkanen seems to have settled in as their go-to guy. Otherwise, there’s a chance they could bottom out, not starting this season with Mike Conley as they did last year.
Kyle Kuzma and Jordan Poole will make an interesting duo. After the loss of Bradley Beal and Kristaps Porzingis, they will have to fill some big offensive shoes. Both have been spurned by big-market teams, and whilst Kuzma is shocking people with his production, he is perhaps unsuited to the first option. Poole will still be reeling from a big fall-off after his breakout season with the Warriors, and will either rise to the occasion or fall further from the limelight. Most power rankings have the Wizards among the bottom three teams in the league.
Images: Wikimedia Commons