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2023-24 Vendetta NBA Power Rankings: Preseason

NBA Power Rankings

NBA Power Rankings
The Denver Nuggets rank atop our preseason 2023-24 NBA Power Rankings. (Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports)

2023-24 Vendetta NBA Power Rankings: Preseason

The 2023-24 NBA season begins in less than a week away! That means … power ranking time! Below, our team ranked the best NBA teams from worst to best heading into the new season, which obviously will change throughout the season.

Without further ado, let’s hop into our 2023-24 NBA preseason power rankings!

30. Charlotte Hornets

(Matt Hanifan 28, Jack Sabin 29, Jackson Law 29, Alex Chick III 27, Anthony Miranda 29, Jiarmani Depena 30)

Average: 28.7

The 27-win Hornets come in as the last team in our preseason power rankings. After a 43-39 campaign two seasons ago, the bottom fell out. Though they had a strong end to the 2022-23 regular season, going 12-12 over their final 24 games and finishing top-10 in defense post-All-Star break after Mark Williams became the full-time starting center. We don’t know how Brandon Miller will fare compared to Scoot Henderson in their rookie seasons and beyond, but it was a pretty bold move on the Hornets’ behalf. The Miles Bridges situation is very bad, while Kai Jones belittled teammates and publicly announced that he will be requesting a trade on his own Twitter/X account … which could result in a fine and/or suspension. So everything appears to be going great in Charlotte right now!

29. Washington Wizards

(Matt 30, Jack 30, Jackson 30, Chickster 23, Anthony 30, Jiarmani 28)

Average: 28.5

The Wizards do not have much to be optimistic about right now. Having to trade Bradley Beal to the Suns, and Kristaps Porzingis to the Celtics has set in motion the rebuild. Washington has been making smart offseason moves to acquire guards Jordan Poole and Tyus Jones. Extending Kyle Kuzma was a good move too, especially if they look to move him down the line. Washington will be the lovable losers at the very best this season, with Poole poised to take a step now having the green light. Let the young guys come into their own and enjoy the long season ahead. — Depena

28. Detroit Pistons

(Matt 29, Jack 28, Jackson 27, Chickster 30, Anthony 27, Jiarmani 27)

Average: 28

Cade Cunningham played a fraction of the season before a stress fracture in his left shin ended his season. Detroit used up their cap space to acquire Joe Harris and Monte Morris while drafting Ausar Thompson No. 5 overall. There’s plenty of size in the frontcourt and some complementary shooting to go along with it, opening up the floor for Cunningham. The last time Monty Williams took over a rebuilding situation, his team improved by 15 wins. I don’t necessarily see the same leap happening here, but he will have plenty of young, athletic talent to tap into after a gruesome 17-win season a year ago.

27. San Antonio Spurs

(Matt 27, Jack 26, Jackson 24, Chickster 25, Anthony 28, Jiarmani 29)

Average: 26.5

Just when it looked like Popovich’s reign as a dominant head coach was over along with the Spurs dynasty they went out and got arguably the greatest prospect since LeBron James in Victor Wembanyama. The hype seemed almost too good to be true, but watching him in preseason, it’s just so easy to see why every team in the NBA fell in love with him. He will almost certainly end up with multiple MVPs and can quickly become one of the NBA’s top players. Unfortunately for the Spurs though, I don’t think the addition of Victor will change their fortunes too much this season. This still isn’t a great team and outside of Victor, the scoring volume is something I worry about. But what is certain is that Spurs games just became a whole lot more interesting to watch. This year still isn’t the year for the Spurs, but the addition of Victor has made it possible for the Spurs to create yet another dynasty. Just gotta play their cards right. — Sabin

26. Portland Trail Blazers

(Matt 26, Jack 27, Jackson 25, Chickster 28, Anthony 25, Jiarmani 23)

Average: 25.7

The lack of consistently impactful defense at all three levels will be Portland’s biggest drawback. But a young core of Scoot Henderson, Anfernee Simons, Shaedon Sharpe and Deandre Ayton–who they acquired in the Damian Lillard three-team swap–is definitely a good start. This hyperathletic group will exciting to watch offensively, but unfortunately are not in a position to compete with the rest of the West … at least not yet.

25. Houston Rockets

(Matt 22, Jack 25, Jackson 26, Chickster 26, Anthony 26, Jiarmani 22)

Average: 24.5

The Rockets inserted three culture-setting-type presences into their locker room this offseason: Head coach Ime Udoka, along with guards Fred VanVleet and Dillon Brooks. Houston still might be towards the bottom of the West in year one, but multiple no nonsensical figures who demand accountability is exactly what the Rockets needed after a disastrous last three seasons. This team could eclipse 30 wins for the first time since 2018-19 and could make noise for a play-in spot, though still have questions defensively after Brooks, Jabari Smith and Tari Eason.

24. Chicago Bulls

(Matt 25, Jack 15, Jackson 28, Chickster 24, Anthony 24, Jiarmani 26)

Average: 23.7

The Bulls are approaching blow-it-up territory, despite retaining Nikola Vucevic on a three-year, $60 million deal and keeping Zach LaVine and DeMar DeRozan. Jevon Carter is a good defensive replacement for the injured Lonzo Ball, but has nowhere near the shot creation to make him a consistently viable option offensively. The Bulls didn’t pick a direction this offseason and haven’t for the last two seasons. They’re confusing and could ultimately bottom-out if they don’t get out to a smooth start.

23. Orlando Magic

(Matt 21, Jack 24, Jackson 21, Chickster 29, Anthony 21, Jiarmani 24)

Average: 23.3

I’ve been high and early on the Orlando Magic before, and you bet your sweet bippy I’m back for more. I know they seem a little low right now, but I could see them rising and finishing top 15 leaguewide before the season is over. That is pretty impressive for as young of a team as Orlando has. Paolo Banchero, Franz Wagner, Wendell Carter Jr. and Anthony Black are excellent building blocks. The Magic even have enough assets to go out and get better by the trade deadline if they are hovering around the play-in/playoffs. All I’m saying is, do not count this Magic team out at any point this season. — Law

22. Toronto Raptors

(Matt 24, Jack 23, Jackson 23, Chickster 16, Anthony 23, Jiarmani 21)

Average: 21.7

The Raptors lost VanVleet for nothing and had an offseason buoyed by Pascal Siakam and, to some extent, Scottie Barnes trade rumors. Nevertheless, the Raptors hired head coach Darko Rajakovic, who is an offensive-minded head coach who will run a motion-centric offense. This will improve Toronto’s dismal halfcourt offense, which was one of the worst in the league last year. They have more functional size than they did at this point last year, but still lack shot creation and shooting offensively, which Rajakovic will have to work around.

21. Indiana Pacers

(Matt 17, Jack 20, Jackson 20, Chickster 19, Anthony 22, Jiarmani 25)

Average: 20.5

The Pacers are in an interesting position ahead of the upcoming season. They have some young talent on the roster but it might not be enough to be super competitive in the East. Firstly, guard Tyrese Haliburton is amazing and he will be one of the best guards in the NBA in a few years. Indiana has some solid veterans in Myles Turner, Bruce Brown and Buddy Hield. However, it is unclear whether Hield will be on the team by the trade deadline. Ultimately, the production from the younger guys on the bench will determine how far the Pacers can go this season. They have the talent to be a playoff team but their real title window will not start this season. — Miranda

20. Atlanta Hawks

(Matt 20, Jack 22, Jackson 22, Chickster 20, Anthony 19, Jiarmani 20)

Average: 20.5 (tie goes to team with better W-L last year)

After an Eastern Conference Finals berth in 2020-21, the Hawks have been mediocre. They’ve gone 84-80 with a combined point differential of plus-152 (0.9 PPG) over the last two seasons combined. After Quin Snyder took over, the Hawks sported a top 5 offense in a down Trae Young season efficiency-wise. I have faith he will rise back up above water, while I’m holding stock on possible leaps from DeAndre Hunter and Onyeka Okongwu. If this group can be a top-7/8 offense over a full season once again, they should reach the 40-win mark for the fourth straight season, even though their ceiling might still be the No. 4-5 seed in the East.

19. Brooklyn Nets

(Matt 23, Jack 21, Jackson 18, Chickster 22, Anthony 18, Jiarmani 19)

Average: 20.2

The Nets hit the reset button last deadline, flipping Durant for multiple picks and players, including two-way star Mikal Bridges and 3-point sniper Cam Johnson. The Nets sat around .500 for most of the rest of the season and got swept by the Philadelphia 76ers in the first round of the playoffs. We got to see how potent of a threat Bridges is with the ball in his hands as a No. 1 option, but the Nets don’t have much creation outside of him. They’re loaded with multi-positional wings … and, dare I say, Ben Simmons has looked more motivated this offseason than he has over the last 3-4 seasons. If he’s healthy, and the rest of their aforementioned core–along with Nic Claxton–are, then the Nets are going to be feisty out in the East.

18. Utah Jazz

(Matt 19, Jack 18, Jackson 17, Chickster 18, Anthony 20, Jiarmani 18)

Average: 18.3

The Jazz exceeded any expectations that anyone had for them last year, especially from Walker Kessler and Lauri Markkanen. Buying low on John Collins was an excellent move by trader Danny, too. Considering how deep the West is this year, I’m not expecting a 40-win season, but I am expecting continued growth from their young core. Plus, based on what we saw over the summer, Keyonte George looks like a home run pick at No. 16; I’d still temper my expectations because of how many score-first guards Utah has, but he looks like a player that will be a rotation player from Day 1.

17. Dallas Mavericks

(Matt 18, Jack 17, Jackson 19, Chickster 15, Anthony 17, Jiarmani 15)

Average: 16.8

The Dallas Mavericks are in a weird situation. Luka Doncic is one of the best players in the NBA, and Kyrie Irving is one of the better point guards in the league, yet it feels like the ceiling for this team just isn’t very high. The move to get Grant Williams was a solid one, but lack of defense elsewhere on the team holds Dallas back from being competitive deeper in a playoff run. That is, if they can even make it to the playoffs (might be my hottest take of the year). — Law

16. Minnesota Timberwolves

(Matt 16, Jack 16, Jackson 16, Chickster 17, Anthony 16, Jiarmani 17)

Average: 16.3

We only saw the Wolves’ new trio of Anthony Edwards, Karl-Anthony Towns and Rudy Gobert play a combined 26 games last season due to a midseason injury from Towns. He only played 29 games, so we haven’t really gotten a big enough sample of how the Towns-Gobert frontcourt. Anthony Edwards had a great summer and looks to build off his 25-6-4 stat line last season. Should their top-3 stay healthy–in addition to Mike Conley, Jaden McDaniels and budding rookie Leonard Miller, who I’m exceptionally high on–this group has a puncher’s chance to avoid the play-in in a deep Western Conference.

15. Oklahoma City Thunder

(Matt 15, Jack 19, Jackson 14, Chickster 14, Anthony 15, Jiarmani 16)

Average: 15.5

The expectations for the Oklahoma City Thunder are steadily starting to rise. ESPN recently voted Shai Gilgeous-Alexander as a top 10 player in the NBA. Fair or not, such a high ranking comes with high expectations. Chet Holmgren is set to finally make his NBA debut after missing all of last season with injury. This is a good Thunder team and should be fun to watch. — Law

14. New York Knicks

(Matt 12, Jack 14, Jackson 11, Chickster 21, Anthony 13, Jiarmani 11)

Average: 13.7

The Knicks have stability in the backcourt with Jalen Brunson, R.J. Barrett and Josh Hart, plus adding 3-and-D menace Donte DiVincenzo, who’s a perfect player for Tom Thibodeau. Conventional wisdom suggests the Knicks take a step back, given their history, but they improved–despite flipping Obi Toppin for pennies on the dollar–with a steady presence at the helm in Brunson. If things go right, this is a top-4/5 seed in the East.

13. New Orleans Pelicans

(Matt 11, Jack 12, Jackson 12, Chickster 9, Anthony 14, Jiarmani 13)

Average: 11.8

New Orleans’ ceiling is dependent on the health of Zion Williamson. He’s played 118 games in four seasons. That trend can’t continue. He looks like one of the most dominant players whenever he’s on the floor, and the Pels have experimented with Williamson at the 5 as a dunker-spot hub this preseason. Brandon Ingram had an uneven summer in FIBA, but I expect him to bounce back at the start of the regular season. This group was atop the West with Williamson and Ingram both healthy and still won 42 games, so I’m anticipating more fruitful results if their two most important players can remain healthy.

12. Los Angeles Clippers

(Matt 14, Jack 13, Jackson 15, Chickster 5, Anthony 12, Jiarmani 12)

Average: 11.8

How available will Kawhi Leonard and Paul George be this season with the NBA’s new rest rules? Are the Clippers really going to trade (valuable assets) for James Harden? It wasn’t Ty Lue’s prettiest season with his rotations (play Terance Mann more, please!), but those are the two questions I want to be answered before anything.

11. Philadelphia 76ers

(Matt 13, Jack 11, Jackson 13, Chickster 6, Anthony 9, Jiarmani 10)

Average: 10.3

Well, we still don’t know for sure what’s happening with James Harden, but it seems like for now he is going to be a member of the Sixers come the start of the season. Whether he plays and how hard he plays still isn’t known so time will tell with that. But aside from that, this Sixer team still just has no defense on the perimeter and matches up horribly with the top teams in the East. Kelly Oubre Jr. will be a nice piece of the bench, but once again, I just don’t see this Sixers team making it very far. Moving on from Doc Rivers was a good call but still don’t think it will be enough to get the Sixers past the second round. But hey, trust the process right?? — Sabin

10. Miami Heat

(Matt 9, Jack 7, Jackson 5, Chickster 7, Anthony 11, Jiarmani 14)

Average: 8.8

On paper, the Miami Heat had a brutal offseason–losing two starters in Max Strus and Gabe Vincent while missing out on Bradley Beal and Damian Lillard. They replaced them with two-way wing Josh Richardson, who spent the first four years of his career in Dade County, and rookie Jaime Jaquez Jr. But dare I say: Erik Spoelstra might be onto something when he says this current iteration is deeper than it was last year. They have a more functional frontcourt behind Bam Adebayo and are far deeper at the wings. The only position they’re not deeper in is at point guard outside of Kyle Lowry. Though they will compensate for the lack of a true point guard with de-facto point guards Tyler Herro, Richardson, Jimmy Butler and, to some extent, Caleb Martin, Nikola Jovic and Jaime Jaquez Jr. Its shooting can’t be as bad as last year, right? If things go right, this is another top-4/5 seed in the East.

9. Sacramento Kings

(Matt 10, Jack 10, Jackson 8, Chickster 12, Anthony 5, Jiarmani 8)

Average: 8.8

The Kings are looking to replicate last year’s success. They were a three-seed with two all-stars and the Coach of the Year. Now, Sacramento has kept all of their core as well as added some solid rotation players. It will be interesting to see if De’Aaron Fox and Domantas Sabonis can carry the team to the highest offensive rating again. Also, how big of a leap can Keegan Murray take in his second year? These three players will have a huge influence on the Kings next season. Sacramento might not be able to be a three-seed again but they have the talent and culture to claim another playoff berth. — Miranda

8. Golden State Warriors

(Matt 7, Jack 8, Jackson 9, Chickster 11, Anthony 10, Jiarmani 7)

Average: 8.7

The Warriors acquired 38-year-old point guard Chris Paul to diversify their menu offensively. Though Golden State’s point-of-attack defense with Paul, Curry and Klay Thompson–the best defender of the trio–is a concern (especially now that Donte DiVincenzo is a Knick), putting extra strain on Andrew Wiggins, Draymond Green, Moses Moody and Jonathan Kuminga (if the latter two emerge in the rotation) on the wings/back-line. Golden State dipped to No. 14 in defense last year, but they know what it takes to win a title and will certainly be motivated to win their fifth in a decade. It’s definitely going to be an uphill climb in this deep Western Conference, but nothing that this group hasn’t overcome before (albeit with fresher legs).

7. Los Angeles Lakers

(Matt 5, Jack 9, Jackson 10, Chickster 10, Anthony 7, Jiarmani 5)

Average: 7.7

The Lakers had one of the most active offseasons of any team across the NBA. They brought back the majority of their young core while adding Gabe Vincent from the reigning East champion Heat, Taurean Prince, Jaxson Hayes and Christian Wood on a two-year minimum deal. Los Angeles has considerably more (complementary) spacing, 3-point shooting, lineup versatility and depth than it did at this time last year. Don’t forget, after the trade deadline, they went 18-9 with the NBA’s 8th-best NET rating and ultimately made the West Finals as a No. 7 seed. Assuming LeBron James and Anthony Davis remain healthy, the Lakers are at the top half of a loaded Western Conference.

6. Cleveland Cavaliers

(Matt 6, Jack 5, Jackson 7, Chickster 13, Anthony 8, Jiarmani 6)

Average: 7.5

Despite winning 50-plus games for the first time since LeBron James departed after 2017-18, the Cavaliers were the 12th-most efficient 3-point shooting team, but were near the bottom-third in long-range attempts on a per-possession basis. It didn’t help they went ice cold–to put it lightly–from distance against the New York Knicks, either. The Cavs added Max Strus and Georges Niang (while losing Cedi Osman and Lamar Stevens) to alleviate their shooting problem. Perhaps their biggest question heading into the season is how their frontcourt holds up behind Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen, which still has yet to be addressed head-on.

5. Memphis Grizzlies

(Matt 8, Jack 6, Jackson 6, Chickster 8, Anthony 6, Jiarmani 9)

Average: 7.2

The Memphis Grizzlies come into the 2023-24 season missing their best player in Ja Morant. On a positive note, Memphis has been able to hold its own in the past when Ja has missed time. Dillon Brooks is gone, but Marcus Smart is in and Derrick Rose returns to the city where he spent his college days. Memphis looks to refocus and establish themselves as a legitimate threat in the West. — Law

4. Phoenix Suns

(Matt 4, Jack 4, Jackson 4, Chickster 4, Anthony 4, Jiarmani 4)

Average: 4

Let’s be honest the Suns need to at least make the Western Conference Finals this year. They changed up the roster when they traded the former number one overall pick DeAndre Ayton and point guard Chris Paul. They got a host of players in return headlined by Bradley Beal and Justus Nurkic. The Suns’ big three of Devin Booker, Kevin Durant, and Beal should get them up to a solid seed in the playoffs. Now, it will be up to new head coach Frank Vogel to rally the team together to make a deep playoff run. The Suns will need to find their identity with all these new players. Ultimately, if the Suns can play tough defense they have the firepower to out-score teams on any given night with their big three alone. — Miranda

3. Boston Celtics

(Matt 2, Jack 3, Jackson 2, Chickster 3, Anthony 2, Jiarmani 3)

Average: 2.5

The Celtics have championship or bust expectations. The Porzingis and Holiday trades have served as a warning to the entire NBA that the Celtics are looking to win it all. Especially with Jrue Holiday being that championship leader they have been looking for. With that, there have been significant age and personnel changes that could lead to championship results or the next “superteam” meltdown. If the stars align for the Celtics, they can be the best team in the NBA both on offense and defense. Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown looked to take the Celtics to the promised land, this year may very well be the year banner No. 18 comes to Boston. — Depena

2. Milwaukee Bucks

(Matt 3, Jack 2, Jackson 3, Chickster 2, Anthony 3, Jiarmani 2)

Average: 2.5

The Milwaukee Bucks made a HUGE *insert Chris Smoove “Splaaaaaaaaaaaaash” music* this offseason by making a trade for disgruntled star Damian Lillard. I thought it was a solid trade all around, with Portland getting good assets to move on with and the Bucks getting someone that can space the floor and leave room for Giannis Antetokounmpo to operate attacking the paint. The Bucks might very well be the No. 1 team in the East, easily number two only behind Boston. — Law

1. Denver Nuggets

(Matt 1, Jack 1, Jackson 1, Chickster 1, Anthony 1, Jiarmani 1)

Average: 1

The Nuggets are primed to go on another title run as the reigning NBA champions. Although losing key contributors like Bruce Brown and Jeff Green is not ideal. Another MVP-level performance from Nikola Jokic, a breakout from Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr., and consistent production from the likes of Aaron Gordon can very much see Denver competing deep into the spring once again. Anticipate them being the best offense in the NBA and have a top-5 defense en route to the top seed in the West despite all the off-season movement. — Depena


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