Early 2023 NBA Power Rankings

06/30/2023

With NBA free agency almost at hand, now seems like as good of a time as any to check on the current standing of teams around the league before rosters undergo major changes. Keep in mind that these rankings account for the 2023-2024 season; it does not reflect how I view each team's overall future. There will be another Power Rankings list after free agency dies down, so some franchises in these rankings may appear lower than you would expect based on their projected free agency/trade moves.


1. Denver Nuggets

The reigning NBA champs were so dominant in their playoff run that it would be utterly ridiculous to have them anywhere other than the top spot of these rankings. Even with the threat of losing key role player Bruce Brown Jr., Denver is due for a season as title favorites. 


2. Boston Celtics

While it's uncertain how much Marcus Smart's departure from the team will affect the Celtics, the team has certainly become more talented with their acquisition of former all-star Kristaps Porzingis. Considering how excellent of a job Brad Stevens has done as President of Basketball Operations, I am confident he has more moves to make to get this roster in the best position to make another deep playoff run.


3. Milwaukee Bucks

Don't let the embarrassing first-round loss to the eighth-seeded Miami Heat fool you: the Bucks still have the talent and continuity to win another NBA title. Giannis Antetokounmpo is arguably the best player in the world, and if Milwaukee can retain free agents, Khris Middleton and Brook Lopez, they will be a force to be reckoned with yet again.


4. Phoenix Suns

Trading for star shooting guard Bradley Beal was a major gamble on the current roster. The Suns have probably the most talented Big 3 in the NBA. If all goes well, the Suns will win a championship, and the trade will be successful. However, if Phoenix fails to live up to expectations, the trade could end up being disastrous as it stripped the Suns of any future flexibility to improve the roster.


5. Miami Heat

Putting the NBA Finals runner-up Heat at the fifth spot may seem a bit low, but the team has some question marks still to be addressed this offseason. Core contributors like Gabe Vincent and Max Strus are free agents this summer, and the team has already spent significantly on the current roster. It seems acquiring superstar Damian Lillard from the Trail Blazers is the focus, but that is ultimately an unlikely move. Eric Spoelstra has a knack for getting the most out of unheralded players, and he will likely have to do the same again if the team wants to make a return trip to the Finals.


6. Los Angeles Lakers

After a 2-10 start to the season, the Lakers were left for dead by the majority of NBA media and fans. Regrouping and managing to make it to the Western Conference Finals was an impressive turnaround, and Los Angeles will look to build on that momentum going into next season. Re-signing Austin Reaves is a must, and the Lakers, as always, will have their hands in a lot of cookie jars this off-season. If LeBron James and Anthony Davis can maintain their health come playoff time, they will be a tough team to beat.


7. Memphis Grizzlies

Unless he comes into the season out of shape, Ja Morant's 25-game suspension probably won't seriously impact the Grizzlies' ceiling in the playoffs. Replacing Tyus Jones with Marcus Smart has the potential to pay huge dividends, as Smart is a proven playoff performer and tone-setter. Memphis also has the maneuverability to make more improvements if they choose to do so this off-season.


8. Philadelphia 76ers

Home of the reigning MVP Joel Embiid, the 76ers still have work to do to be a true title contender. With James Harden seemingly on the way out, how good Philly ends up being may depend on what kind of return they can get for the aging star. Other than that, the team will depend on Tyrese Maxey to take another step forward and overall team improvement at the hands of new head coach Nick Nurse.


9. Sacramento Kings

The Kings are in an amazing position. They shocked the league by earning the third seed in the Western Conference playoffs. Furthermore, they have significant cap space to acquire a real difference-maker. They are among the best-positioned playoff teams to make a quality move without gutting their roster or future assets.


10. Golden State Warriors

Now that the Warriors have finally proven themselves to be mortal after being taken down by the Lakers in the playoffs, they are possibly in a do-or-die season next year. Trading Jordan Poole for a 38-year-old Chris Paul further puts pressure on winning next season, and Golden State will also have to re-sign Draymond Green to major money. Injuries are a concern for this team, but as long as Steph Curry is healthy, the Warriors will have a puncher's chance.


11. New York Knicks

Thanks to Jalen Brunson, the Knicks exceeded expectations last season, making it to the second round of the playoffs. While the team is not nearly in desperation mode, their moves this offseason could shape the next few years for New York's most popular basketball team.


12. Cleveland Cavaliers

The Cavs received a lot of hype after acquiring Donovan Mitchell from the Utah Jazz. Their promising season ended in disappointment, however, when they were dismantled in the first round of the playoffs in five games by the Knicks. This team is still exceptionally young, and the playoff experience will hopefully prove to be a valuable learning opportunity. Now that they know what to expect, maybe the bright lights of the playoffs won't be too much for them again.


13. Minnesota Timberwolves

After making a massive trade for Rudy Gobert, the Wolves found themselves in basically the same spot they were in the year before. While they fought hard, the injured Minnesota roster was no match for the Denver Nuggets. One bright spot for the team was the exceptional playoff performance from 21-year-old Anthony Edwards, who showed definitively that this team is now his to lead.


14. New Orleans Pelicans

When the team was healthy, the Pelicans were one of the best teams in the West. With Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram being the team's star players, however, health is sadly no guarantee. New Orleans has a high ceiling, and significant assets if they want to push some of their chips in, but they are a bit too volatile to be placed any higher than 14 in these rankings for now.


15. Oklahoma City Thunder

The Thunder were one win away from making the playoffs, and practically the team's entire rotation is aged 24 and younger. Chet Holmgren will make his debut after missing all of last season, and he will hopefully have a positive impact on the team right away. Oklahoma City could end up being a 50-win team this upcoming season, but they could probably use a veteran or two to help steer the ship.


16. Los Angeles Clippers

Up until the last playoffs, I have stubbornly held onto all my Clippers stock, even as the team showed time and time again that it can't stay healthy for an entire season. I am saddened to say I have given up my stocks...Paul George and Kawhi Leonard just cannot hold up come playoff time. That said, the sheer talent on the roster still prevents them from falling too far down in the power rankings.


17. Atlanta Hawks

After putting up a better fight against the Celtics than expected, the Hawks have something to build off of from last season. Trading John Collins in what was essentially a salary dump deal hurts the team immediately but opens up some flexibility for the team in the future. Unfortunately, there doesn't appear to be a path to contention at this point, but maybe consistent playoff appearances are good enough for now.


18. Dallas Mavericks

You'd be hard-pressed to find a team with a more disappointing 2022-2023 season than the Mavericks. After making a surprise appearance to the Western Conference Finals in 2022, Dallas failed to even make the play-in, despite having Luka Doncic and trading for Kyrie Irving at the trade deadline. Now the team is in a position where they may lose Kyrie in free agency and won't have nearly enough talent to make use of a unique superstar like Doncic.


19. Brooklyn Nets

In honesty, the Nets likely wouldn't have made the playoffs if it weren't for the play of Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant in the first half of the season. That said, Mikal Bridges showed legitimate star potential once he landed in Brooklyn. It's not improbable that the Nets decide to make a move for a star this summer.


20. Toronto Raptors

Despite having a talented roster, the Raptors greatly underperformed last season and were ultimately eliminated from the play-in tournament by a nine-year-old girl. Fred VanVleet may be gone from the team this offseason, but PBO Masai Ujiri has proven effective at improving the roster when it disappoints. There just doesn't seem to be much going for the Raptors at this point, with even 2020 Rookie of the Year Scottie Barnes stagnating last year.


21. Chicago Bulls

This is probably the most directionless team in basketball. With rumors that the Bulls are nearing a new long-term deal with Nikola Vucevic, who will be 33 at the beginning of next season, they are showing that they aren't quite ready yet to pull the trigger on a rebuild. The problem with that is the team simply doesn't have nearly enough juice to make any noise in the playoffs, and they don't have any prospects that look like they can be cornerstones of the franchise. They're only this high in the rankings because they still have the talent to make the playoffs, even if that isn't the best route for Chicago.


22. Orlando Magic

Orlando had an abysmal start to last season, sporting a 5-20 record to start their campaign. After that putrid start, the Magic went 29-28 the rest of the way. If the last half of their season is any indicator, Orlando has a real shot at making the playoffs next season, with plenty of young talent that could see noticeable improvement. Paolo Banchero and Franz Wagner have the potential to be a deadly front-court duo for years to come with Florida's oft-forgotten basketball team.


23. Indiana Pacers

The Pacers have interesting young pieces, namely all-star point guard Tyrese Haliburton and solid, if inefficient, sophomore Bennedict Mathurin. With Myles Turner anchoring the team's defense, the Pacers could become a play-in team but are unlikely to be much more than that, barring a significant move.


24. Utah Jazz

Utah fell off after a hot start to last season, but Lauri Markkanen's astonishing rise to stardom should be a point of pride for the Jazz and its fans. Walker Kessler's rookie season was also much better than expected, and now the team has three new first-round prospects to mold into future rotation players. The amount of future draft capital this team has is ridiculous, but it's unlikely they cash those in to win now. The arrival of John Collins was ideal talent acquisition, and this team has the potential to at least be close to a play-in spot if things fall in their favor.


25. Portland Trail Blazers

Moving up in the draft lottery and drafting Scoot Henderson with the third pick greatly helps their future rebuild if the team decides to move on from long-time superstar Damian Lillard. At this point, that decision could go either way, and the team will be better off making a firm decision one way or the other. Portland would get a nice haul for Lillard, and Scoot and Shaedon Sharpe are an impressive duo to build around for the next decade.


26. San Antonio Spurs

Somehow, someway, the Spurs did it again. They managed to get the first overall pick in the draft, and with it, they selected their first generational player since Tim Duncan in Victor Wembanyama. Expectations are sky-high for the 7'5 center from France, with many already lauding him as a future top-10 player of all time. While he could start off amazing right out of the gate, he still is only 19 years old. Predicting him to lead a Spurs team that was awful last season to the playoffs is asking a lot, and I prefer to give him a season of learning and adapting to the NBA style of play before he's playing winning basketball.


27. Houston Rockets

The Rockets have been thrown around in a lot of rumors surrounding free agents this summer, and they will surely be one of the most active teams in July. As they stand now, they are not even close to a playoff team. In a few weeks though, maybe that will have changed if the Rockets make a splash or two.


28. Detroit Pistons

Motor City's basketball team was the worst in the NBA last season, in no small part due to Cade Cunningham's season-ending injury in November. The team has intriguing young talent, between Cunningham, Jaden Ivey, Ausar Thompson, and a bevy of young, big men. As it currently stands, the roster's construction makes little sense. They have way too many bigs that need minutes (Marvin Bagley III, James Wiseman, Jalen Duren, and Isaiah Stewart), which indicates that a trade or two is on the horizon for this young team.


29. Charlotte Hornets

Brandon Miller made sense from a team fit standpoint, but that didn't stop Charlotte fans from booing his selection by the team with the second overall pick in the draft. He and LaMelo Ball make for an exciting young duo, and they may be getting Miles Bridges back next season, but there's not much going on with the Hornets' roster outside of those three players.


30. Washington Wizards

Finally, the Wizards did what they should have done a couple of years ago: trade Bradley Beal. He's a talented player and stuck with the team for a long time, but it was just time for both sides to cut ties. Now the Wizards have the chance to enter a full rebuild, and they were even able to take a flyer on a championship-winning player in Jordan Poole. Washington is a long way from the playoffs, but the path they're going down now is more promising than anything they've had since John Wall. 


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