30. San Antonio Spurs
It’s officially Victor Wembanyama season in San Antonio. Gregg Popovich is not one for tanking, but with this roster, he may not have a choice. They have a ton of good tertiary players with high upside but no true primary star. Devin Vassell and Keldon Johnson should take a step forward and they have some interesting rookie prospects, but they do not have the talent to compete for at least the next few seasons.
29. Utah Jazz
Utah traded away both Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell for some young players and a lot of future draft picks. The future looks promising for the Jazz even if the team won’t win a ton of games this season.
28. Charlotte Hornets
There likely won’t be much winning coming from Charlotte this season but that puts them squarely in the Victor Wembanyama sweepstakes. This team has LaMelo Ball but not much else. It will probably be a long year for the Hornets and Buzz City won’t be buzzing too often.
27. Houston Rockets
The Rockets are still in the midst of a rebuild but I think we start to see some progress this year. Jalen Green is a premier breakout candidate and with two potential rookie studs in Jabari Smith and Tari Eason, the Rockets could show they have one of the best young cores in the league. However, they’re still young, inexperienced, and devoid of high level talent, which is why they will finish as one of the worst teams in the league.
26. Indiana Pacers
The Pacers remain committed to a rebuild now and for good reason. They have Tyrese Haliburton to build around now and still may look to trade some of their veteran players for assets. This team won’t likely make the playoffs but could be a fun watch every night.
25. Washington Wizards
Bradley Beal allows this team some level of cushion but he can’t do it alone. Others will need to step up and contribute if they want to reach the postseason. There is no real flaw with this team but also no real difference makers on it other than Beal. They could finish towards the bottom of the East standings or make the play-in and nobody would be shocked by either outcome.
24. Oklahoma City Thunder
Oklahoma City is ridiculed for their clear desire to lose games to get high draft picks but I believe they’ll be a step above many of the bottom tier teams. They have an All-Star worthy player in Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and a rising star in Josh Giddey surrounded by a bunch of talented young guys who all have something to prove. Their defense was surprisingly good towards the end of last season and they have enough playmaking and creation offensively to survive.
23. Detroit Pistons
Detroit is going to be another fun young team who will flash future greatness but struggle with game to game consistency. I think Cade Cunningham becomes an All-Star in year two and takes a significant step forward as a scorer and the rookie play of lottery picks Jaden Ivey and Jalen Duren should make this group a top NBA League Pass team next season.
22. Orlando Magic
The Magic are going to be one of the NBA’s most fun teams next season. It’s rare to see 6’10 ball-handling creators, so the fact that the Magic have two in Paolo Banchero and Franz Wagner is extremely uncommon. Those two leading the way as primary offensive initiators combined with the two-way play of Wendell Carter Jr and the scoring punch brought by Cole Anthony and Markelle Fultz can help Orlando exceed expectations.
21. New York Knicks
The Knicks made a splash in free agency signing Jalen Brunson to form a dynamic lefty trio in the Big Apple along with RJ Barrett and Julius Randle. However, I can’t help but feel discontent with the Knicks’ approach. Those three should be enough for them to be on the cusp of the play-in, but this season should prove that it’s time for the Knicks to commit to the young players on their roster and embrace a true rebuild.
20. Sacramento Kings
With a full season of Domantas Sabonis and a rejuvenated De’Aaron Fox, Sacramento could have one of their most exciting teams in years. They have two big shooting wings in Harrison Barnes and Keegan Murray to pair with those two and a solid bench. Sacramento should be a team that competes night in and night out, but they aren’t a team I’m taking super seriously in regards to playoff success.
19. Los Angeles Lakers
The ultimate wild card team. LeBron James and Anthony Davis lead the way but the rest of the roster is a problem. They lack shooting and wing depth which will cause problems against the better teams. This roster feels like it is one trade away from really contending and with Russell Westbrook still on the roster, it’s difficult to see them winning much.
18. Portland Trailblazers
Damian Lillard’s return will get the Blazers right in the midst of playoff contention once again. This roster as constructed feels like a solid team, but they’ll be facing an uphill battle. But, Damian Lillard’s offensive creation and Anfernee Simons’ production should give them an offensive identity, and their defense led by Jerami Grant, Gary Payton II, and Jusuf Nurkic should provide enough insurance for their defensively challenged stars.
17. Chicago Bulls
Chicago seems to have taken a step back from the elites of the Eastern Conference. They couldn’t hang with them last season and likely won’t once again. They still have Zach LaVine and DeMar DeRozan but it may not be enough. They are one of the more interesting sqauds around the association.
16. Dallas Mavericks
The Mavericks are a tough team to gauge. Luka Doncic’s sensational play should carry them to at least 35 wins this upcoming season. However, the supporting cast around him is severely lackluster. They lost their true secondary creator this offseason and they don’t have much offense outside of Luka. Not to mention, their rim protection and overall defensive identity is shaky. Can Boy Wonder work his magic again this season? We’ll have to see.