(Picture via NBA)
I typically don’t do things like this (because I think they’re pointless), but this season is as good as any for the masochistic practice of predictions! Yes, these will, in part, be your typical run-of-the-mill record predictions, but I’ll also throw in some power rankings to spice it up. Let me start by differentiating between those two things: 1) The win predictions are, shockingly, the number of games I estimate a team to win in 2023. By no means are they accurate or reliable, but they serve as ballparking values for more-or-less how I’m feeling about a team right now. 2) The power rankings, or the actual order in which teams are ranked, are based on the likelihood that I think each team will win the title. These are what I’d consider my actual “ranking” of each team. That means I may project a higher win total in the regular season for a team whose championship odds are superseded by another. With that wrapped up, let’s get into the nitty-gritty!
(NB: I don’t end up predicting wins. Fairly self-explanatory.)
“Just wait and see, five years from now…”
30. Utah Jazz
29. Houston Rockets
Jalen Green could drop 20 a game. Looking out for him to blossom into a real offensive threat in the near future.
28. Oklahoma City Thunder
27. San Antonio Spurs
Sometimes I forget they exist.
26. Indiana Pacers
25. Detroit Pistons
Minefield of young talent. Not nearly fleshed out enough to make a push for anything, but I am eager to explore the synergies between their rookies and sophomores.
24. Sacramento Kings
Mike Brown as HC will make them an interesting watch. Preseason has shown us some gritty, switch-heavy defense, although the Kings have been treating the preseason like it’s the NBA Finals. They have an interesting assortment of players who are worth the view.
23. Orlando Magic
22. Washington Wizards
I am oddly intrigued by this team. Not because I think they’ll be good, but because Beal-Porzingis will be an interesting offensive combo spread over time. Would tune into several of their games for Deni Avdija alone.
21. Charlotte Hornets
20. New York Knicks
19. Chicago Bulls
18. Portland Trail Blazers
17. Atlanta Hawks
16. New Orleans Pelicans
Looking like they could ascend to “good” in the near future if the indicators show up. Throwing Zion into Ingram-McCollum offenses could be dangerous (for the opponents). But they did lose Tony Snell. Probably near the top of my watchlist. Basically tied with next team.
15. Los Angeles Lakers
Darwin Ham might be a basketball genius. Anthony Davis’s health is obviously key if they want to come close to contending. LeBron will probably still receive soft MVP consideration. Austin Reaves will manhandle your favorite backcourt. But the Westbrook signals don’t look great so far, especially on defense. If that domino doesn’t fall, I don’t see a spectacular ceiling for this team.
14. Memphis Grizzlies
13. Toronto Raptors
Canadians are too defensive of their basketball team for me to risk ranking them any lower. But seriously, the Raptors are looking like they’ll be a good team. They’re young and complement each other well enough, so some upside is feasible. Not quite past that play-in level. Not quite average.
12. Minnesota Timberwolves
I don’t know.
11. Cleveland Cavaliers
10. Brooklyn Nets
By now, I’m just playing Russian Roulette trying to get this right.
9. Dallas Mavericks
8. Denver Nuggets
Lots of offense! Lots of offense! Jokic-MPJ-Murray lineups, in the spirit of throwing out predictions, will produce the highest offensive ratings in history this season. That’s it. Keep Murray healthy. Don’t let Michael Porter Jr. handle the basketball. Jokic. Defensive questions.
7. Miami Heat
6. Phoenix Suns
No, I don’t think this team fell off a cliff. Well-coached, Devin Booker is a legitimate primary offender (get it?) at this point, so Chris Paul’s aging curve at least has a failsafe. Losing JaVale McGee is only a minor tragedy. Not sure if this is going to be a team that runs away with another top seed, though.
5. Philadelphia 76ers
De’Anthony Melton and P.J. Tucker are sneaky good pieces. Harden and Embiid shared minutes will produce some of the highest offensive ratings in the league, and they’re looking like a contender for one of the league’s best defenses too. Montrezl Harrell? I really don’t know.
4. LA Clippers
Literally flipped a coin to choose between them and Philly. No, I’m not kidding! I know that sounds like a joke, but it’s not.
3. Boston Celtics
This team got better on paper, but… Until they demonstrate in the regular season that the off-court predicaments are going to bleed into the on-court stuff to a “significant” level, I’m riding with the talent. Malcolm Brogdon is such a savvy addition to this roster, brings the pick-and-roll chops their offense would have thrived with last year. Timelord’s knee and the other stuff likely will cost them several games in the regular season, so let’s hope for them that home-court advantage falls their way (even if it’s not crucial).
2. Milwaukee Bucks
The Bucks added Joe Ingles! Let us fall to our knees and rejoice in this miracle! But seriously, that was quite the player to bring in during an offseason in which they lost no rotational pieces. Milwaukee underperformed in the regular season last year and lost a cutthroat semis that was decided by Grant Williams’s hot hand. This team is legitimately great and there should be no surprises if they capture their second title in three seasons next June.
1. Golden State Warriors
I’m liking Golden State to repeat for the championship this year. (Not particularly worried about the Draymond situation yet.) Donte DiVincenzo looks to be a prototypical Warrior, passing to cutters with solid perimeter defense off the bench. But Gary Payton II will be sorely missed at the point-of-attack. That dude was legitimately a monster and his contributions will never be fully appreciated. JaMychal Green also has some passing chops apparently, is a nice movement shooter you can stick in the corner and pull defenses. James Wiseman is not a finished product, but he’s big (even if his handle is vulnerable), incredible lateral quickness for his size, with a wide dunk radius that adds some versatility to the Warriors’ passing targets with lob finishing. Poole continues to grow, Curry (no explanation needed), and Draymond doesn’t fall off a cliff, and this team is a sure contender.
Time to roast me in the comments!