2023-24 NBA Power Rankings: How Damian Lillard trade to Bucks shakes up hierarchy before training camp

We have finally made it. After months of trade rumors and drama surrounding some of the biggest names in the league, the 2023-24 NBA season is right around the corner with training camps set to begin. This offseason proved to be a wild roller-coaster ride, especially with the likes of Chris Paul, Bradley Beal and Kristaps Porzingis being traded. Oh, and we can’t fail to mention that Damian Lillard was traded from the Portland Trail Blazers to the Milwaukee Bucks, a move that has slightly shifted the balance of power in a fresh batch of 2023-24 NBA Power Rankings.

Lillard requested a trade from Portland on July 1, but it took close to four months for him to finally get his wish. While he wanted to go to the Miami Heat all along and while everyone in the league believed this was going to happen, Dame now finds himself on a championship-contending team in Milwaukee alongside Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton.

James Harden, another superstar talent who requested a trade in the offseason, has not had the same luck in terms of getting the trade he wants. The Philadelphia 76ers have held zero interest in dealing the former MVP. Despite Harden calling out Daryl Morey throughout the summer, the organization has made it clear that they are keeping The Beard unless they get the exact value they want.

As teams across the league prepare for the start of training camp and Media Days, all eyes are going to be on the new All-Star duos and trios that have been formed. Aside from Lillard with the Bucks, Beal is now with Kevin Durant and Devin Booker in Phoenix, Paul is now with Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green with the Golden State Warriors, and Porzingis is looking to make a title push on the Boston Celtics alongside Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown.

There are some very talented rosters entering the new 2023-24 season, but at the end of the day, they are all still chasing the Denver Nuggets, who are coming off their first championship in franchise history with the same core group looking to run things back. Will anyone be able to dethrone Denver this year? Let’s take a look at how these NBA Power Rankings have changed since the start of August and the offseason’s free agency period.

30. Washington Wizards (No change)

2022-23 Record: 35-47, Result: Missed playoffs (12th in Eastern Conference)

Key additions: G Jordan Poole, G Tyus Jones, G Landry Shamet

Key departures: G Bradley Beal, F/C Kristaps Porzingis, G Monte Morris

The Washington Wizards are finally rebuilding their roster after making several blockbuster trades. The 2023-24 season is the first year of this rebuild, so it shouldn’t be a shock for this franchise to win under 25 games during the regular season. Jordan Poole is a great addition for them, though, and it is certainly a possibility that Washington looks to flip Tyus Jones ahead of the trade deadline. Looking at their long-term approach, the Wizards can really take a step in the right direction if Johnny Davis, Deni Avdija, Corey Kispert and rookie Bilal Coulibaly can assert themselves as contributing weapons.

29. Charlotte Hornets (No change)

2022-23 Record: 27-55, Result: Missed playoffs (14th in Eastern Conference)

Key additions: F Miles Bridges, F Brandon Miller

Key departures: G/F Kelly Oubre Jr., G Dennis Smith Jr.

What should we make of the Charlotte Hornets heading into the new season? Sure, LaMelo Ball is an All-Star and others in Terry Rozier and PJ Washington are steady secondary contributors, but the Hornets really have no identity. They weren’t great offensively last season, they struggled to keep their opponents in front of them defensively, and it just seems like they play every game like it’s a pickup game at the local L.A. Fitness. There’s just nothing really special about this team, which always seems to be dealing with outside distractions. Entering training camp, that distraction is Kai Jones with his questionable use of social media lately. Plus, Miles Bridges is back after missing last season due to domestic violence. Maybe they will surprise everyone based on their position in the NBA Power Rankings, but I wouldn’t count on it.

28. Portland Trail Blazers (No change)

2022-23 Record: 33-49, Result: Missed playoffs (13th in Western Conference)

Key additions: C Deandre Ayton, G Jrue Holiday, F Kris Murray

Key departures: G Damian Lillard, F Nassir Little, C Drew Eubanks

The Damian Lillard era is officially over for the Portland Trail Blazers, as they pulled off the offseason’s biggest trade just days ago by sending the superstar guard to the Milwaukee Bucks. Now, the Blazers’ focus turns to their young core of the future. The good news for Portland fans is that Anfernee Simons is still around to lead this backcourt, Jerami Grant is now their key veteran on the wing, and more minutes will be given to Shaedon Sharpe and rookie Scoot Henderson. The Blazers also have Deandre Ayton in their frontcourt and should be able to get a solid return for Jrue Holiday when they eventually trade him. Portland isn’t going to make the playoffs, but they aren’t going to be the worst team in the league either.

27. Detroit Pistons (No change)

2022-23 Record: 17-65, Result: Missed playoffs (15th in Eastern Conference)

Key additions: G Monte Morris, G/F Joe Harris, G/F Ausar Thompson

Key departures: G/F Hamidou Diallo, G Cory Joseph

Right now, the Detroit Pistons will enter the 2023-24 season as a low-end team in the NBA Power Rankings. By the end of the year, it would not be surprising to see them move up into the low 20s and be in the running for a play-in tournament spot after the All-Star break. Detroit has talent on their roster and Monty Williams is going to reinvent the attitude surrounding this young group. Cade Cunningham, Jaden Ivey and Ausar Thompson highlight this core group, plus the Pistons made some moves this offseason to bring in experienced veterans in Joe Harris and Monte Morris. It won’t be long until we start having conversations about the Pistons being a playoff team in the Eastern Conference.

26. San Antonio Spurs (No change)

2022-23 Record: 22-60, Result: Missed playoffs (14th in Western Conference)

Key additions: C Victor Wembanyama, G/F Cedi Osman, F Reggie Bullock

Key departures: F Keita Bates-Diop

It is Victor Wembanyama time for the San Antonio Spurs! David Robinson and Tim Duncan were both drafted first overall and won championships with the Spurs, so the team is hopeful that Wembanyama will bring the Larry O’Brien Trophy back to the city in the future. As their roster is constructed right now, San Antonio enters the new year having options. Reggie Bullock, Cedi Osman, and Doug McDermott are all players to watch pertaining to the trade deadline. We also shouldn’t count the Spurs out from making a big move, as finding an All-Star to play alongside Wemby is going to be essential for their overall growth. They won’t be great, but the Spurs are going to be a competitive team all year long.

25. Orlando Magic (-1)

2022-23 Record: 34-48, Result: Missed playoffs (13th in Eastern Conference)

Key additions: G/F Joe Ingles, G Anthony Black, G/F Jett Howard

Key departures: C Bol Bol

The Orlando Magic added Joe Ingles to be a veteran voice in their locker room and continued to add to their young core with the likes of Anthony Black and Jett Howard. Paolo Banchero is now the face of the organization, and the reigning Rookie of the Year is going to be looking to bring his franchise back to the playoffs alongside Franz Wagner. Orlando’s potential success depends on their ability to defend. This team possesses length and has some really talented defensive options, which is why locking in on that end of the floor can make up for their lack of scoring weapons. It still seems like the Magic are a piece away from being a sure-thing playoff team.

24. Houston Rockets (+1)

2022-23 Record: 22-60, Result: Missed playoffs (14th in Western Conference)

Key additions: G Fred VanVleet, F Dillon Brooks, C Jock Landale, G Amen Thompson

Key departures: F Kenyon Martin Jr., G Josh Christopher, G TyTy Washington

This offseason went exactly how the Houston Rockets needed it to go. They got their guy in Amen Thompson during the draft, and then they were able to land Fred VanVleet and Dillon Brooks in free agency, their two top targets. VanVleet and new head coach Ime Udoka are set to turn the Rockets back into a winning franchise, and they certainly have the personnel to achieve such growth. What will happen with Kevin Porter Jr. is still a question mark, as he continues to go through the legal process stemming from domestic assault allegations against him.

23. Toronto Raptors (No change)

2022-23 Record: 41-41, Result: Lost in East play-in (9th in Eastern Conference)

Key additions: G Dennis Schroder, F Jalen McDaniels, G Gradey Dick

Key departures: G Fred VanVleet, G Dalano Banton

The Toronto Raptors were unable to keep Fred VanVleet in free agency, failed to land Damian Lillard in a trade during the offseason and did not really make any moves to improve their roster. This team missed the playoffs last year, which is why they will miss the playoffs and finish with an even worse record this upcoming year. No matter how you look at things in Toronto, a rebuild presents itself. This organization, one that has been known for finding success while facing adversity, is on a downhill spiral in the East. Keep an eye on Pascal Siakam’s availability ahead of this year’s trade deadline, as he could wind up being the big name on the move in the final year of his contract.

22. Chicago Bulls (No change)

2022-23 Record: 40-42, Result: Lost in East play-in (10th in the Eastern Conference)

Key additions: G Jevon Carter, F Torrey Craig

Key departures: G Patrick Beverley, F Derrick Jones Jr., F Javonte Green

It is such a shame that Lonzo Ball continues to deal with knee problems because when he was healthy, the Chicago Bulls looked like they could be one of the better teams in the East. Now, the destruction of their All-Star core seems imminent, especially if they are unable to prove they can win at the highest level over the course of the first month of the regular season. Zach LaVine and DeMar DeRozan both have suitors out there, and the Bulls don’t have many future assets. This is why a potential trade seems to make the most sense right now. As far as what they did in the offseason, Jevon Carter and Torrey Craig will help fill gaps on the bench. Patrick Williams is the key to the Bulls taking a step forward, though, especially since he can take pressure off LaVine and DeRozan.

21. Brooklyn Nets (No change)

2022-23 Record: 45-37, Result: Lost in first round (6th in Eastern Conference)

Key additions: G Lonnie Walker IV, G Dennis Smith Jr., F Noah Clowney

Key departures: G Seth Curry, G/F Joe Harris, G Patty Mills

Ben Simmons appears ready for training camp and the start of the regular season, but what version will the Brooklyn Nets be getting? If it is the All-Star-caliber player, the Nets will be in a good spot seeing as Mikal Bridges, Cameron Johnson and Spencer Dinwiddie can carry the load offensively. If it is the other version of Simmons… well, the Nets are in trouble since the former top pick is still guaranteed over $75 million. Nonetheless, this is a team that still has a lot to prove before they can rise up the NBA Power Rankings.

20. Minnesota Timberwolves (-2)

2022-23 Record: 42-40, Result: Lost in West play-in (9th in Western Conference)

Key additions: G Shake Milton, F Troy Brown Jr., F Leonard Miller

Key departures: G Jaylen Nowell, F Taurean Prince, G Austin Rivers

Anthony Edwards is the face of the Minnesota Timberwolves and is once again going to have an All-Star season. Whether or not Karl-Anthony Towns and Rudy Gobert can play alongside one another and make a positive difference is yet to be seen. the Timberwolves as a whole are a tough team to assess right now because of the inconsistency problems they had a season ago. They were a different team each and every night, plus the T-Wolves still have questions surrounding where production will come from outside of their starting lineup.

19. Indiana Pacers (+1)

2022-23 Record: 35-47, Result: Missed playoffs (11th in Eastern Conference)

Key additions: G/F Bruce Brown, F Obi Toppin, F Jarace Walker

Key departures: F Oshae Brissett

There is a lot to like about the Indiana Pacers right now. Rick Carlisle has a high-energy team that is just simply fun to watch. Tyrese Haliburton is rapidly becoming one of the best passers in the entire league, and the team got quicker with the additions of Bruce Brown, Obi Toppin and Jarace Walker this offseason. Brown is going to fill a lot of holes for Indiana due to his ability to impact the game in many ways. He’s one of the best glue guys in the league and was a big reason why the Denver Nuggets won the 2023 NBA Finals. It has been a few years since they’ve been in the playoffs, but the Pacers should absolutely be a team that competes for a postseason spot this year.

18. Dallas Mavericks (+1)

2022-23 Record: 38-44, Result: Missed playoffs (11th in Western Conference)

Key additions: F Grant Williams, G Seth Curry, F Derrick Jones Jr.

Key departures: F Reggie Bullock, F Davis Bertans, C JaVale McGee

Even though they had a good offseason, it’s still hard to look at the Dallas Mavericks and claim that they have what it takes to rise up the NBA Power Rankings. Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving cannot do everything on their own offensively, plus the Mavs ranked 24th in the league in defensive rating this past year. There are certainly encouraging signs that exist on this roster. Grant Williams will provide a boost as a 3-and-D player on the wing, while rookie center Dereck Lively II could give the Mavs a player they have not had at the center position in a while due to his length and underrated shooting abilities.

17. Utah Jazz (No change)

2022-23 Record: 37-45, Result: Missed playoffs (12th in Western Conference)

Key additions: F John Collins, G Keyonte George, F Taylor Hendricks

Key departures: F Rudy Gay

The Utah Jazz are a team similar to the Pacers in the sense that they are young and play with a lot of energy. Lauri Markkanen’s breakout season was everything the Jazz had hoped for when they traded away Donovan Mitchell, while Walker Kessler’s big rookie season was an added bonus. These two, along with Jordan Clarkson, are now key parts of this franchise’s long-term success plan. The Jazz still need to make some moves, especially with Kelly Olynyk and Talen Horton-Tucker being in the final year of their contracts. Collin Sexton is another name that could pop up in trade rumors, especially since the Jazz drafted and intend on playing rookie Keyonte George a lot this season.

16. Oklahoma City Thunder (-1)

2022-23 Record: 40-42, Result: Lost in West play-in (10th in Western Conference)

Key additions: G Vasilije Micic, G Cason Wallace, F Davis Bertans

Key departures: F/C Dario Saric

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is not just an All-Star and one of the best scorers in the league, but he is going to enter the 2023-24 season as a legit MVP candidate because of how he helped the Oklahoma City Thunder grow into a threatening team. Chet Holmgren is preparing to make his rookie debut after being selected second overall in last year’s draft, and Jalen Williams is another youthful talent who could follow in Gilgeous-Alexander footsteps in terms of becoming a star. There is a lot to like about the Thunder, plus GM Sam Presti still has long-term options available with all the draft capital they own.

15. Atlanta Hawks (+1)

2022-23 Record: 41-41, Result: Lost in first round (8th in Eastern Conference)

Key additions: G Patty Mills, F Wesley Matthews, G Kobe Bufkin

Key departures: F John Collins, G Aaron Holiday

The Atlanta Hawks were not good last year, it’s that simple. They could not close out games and there just seemed to be a disconnect internally. Trae Young and Dejounte Murray are back as one of the league’s best backcourt duos, but even without John Collins, the Hawks may be in a better position entering this season. Collins’ departure has created a large $23 million trade exception the team will most definitely use to increase their playoff chances. Bringing in another impactful talent alongside Young and Murray is certainly the goal this front office has right now.

14. New Orleans Pelicans (No change)

2022-23 Record: 42-40, Result: Lost in West play-in (8h in Western Conference)

Key additions: C Cody Zeller, G Jordan Hawkins, F E.J. Liddell

Key departures: C Jaxson Hayes, G Josh Richardson

Zion Williamson is healthy. When was the last time you heard that? The New Orleans Pelicans actually have their stars healthy with Williamson and Brandon Ingram returning from injury, yet they still cannot seem to get the injury bug out of their locker room. Trey Murphy III had surgery for a partially torn meniscus, and now the team is also going to enter training camp without Jose Alvarado and Larry Nance Jr. due to ankle injuries. The Pelicans are short-handed right now, which gives us a chance to see what Dyson Daniels, Naji Marshall and potentially rookie Jordan Hawkins are made of early on. At full-strength, the Pels can be a dangerous team in the West.

13. Miami Heat (-1)

2022-23 Record: 44-38, Result: Lost in NBA Finals (8th in Eastern Conference)

Key additions: G Josh Richardson, C Thomas Bryant, G/F Jaime Jaquez Jr.

Key departures: G Gabe Vincent, G/F Max Strus, G Victor Oladipo

Even though they constantly remind us not to doubt them, the Miami Heat seem primed to take a step backwards after making it to the NBA Finals. Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo and Tyler Herro are all great players, but the Heat have always relied upon their depth to find success. The departures of Gabe Vincent and Max Strus have removed a large chunk of this team’s depth, something they have yet to address. Who knows, maybe they will come out and again emerge as one of the better teams in the league, but Heat fans are extremely upset after the team failed to trade for Damian Lillard. Things are just a little awkward right now in Miami, but perhaps they will turn around and make a big move after missing out on Dame.

12. Memphis Grizzlies (-2)

2022-23 Record: 51-31, Result: Lost in first round (2nd in Western Conference)

Key additions: G Marcus Smart, G Derrick Rose, G Josh Christopher

Key departures: G Tyus Jones, F Dillon Brooks

The Memphis Grizzlies have been regular-season heroes for the last two years, posting back-to-back 50-win seasons. They will not have Ja Morant for the first 25 games of the season as a result of his suspension, putting a lot of pressure on the likes of Desmond Bane and Jaren Jackson Jr. This year is truly the time that Memphis needs to prove that they can win when it matters most, especially since the front office has invested a lot of money into this core group. Marcus Smart’s arrival will provide stability and gives the Grizzlies the last two Defensive Player of the Year recipients. Losing the voices of Dillon Brooks and Tyus Jones may prove to be costly in the end.

11. New York Knicks (+2)

2022-23 Record: 47-35, Result: Lost in East semis (5th in Eastern Conference)

Key additions: G Donte DiVincenzo

Key departures: G Derrick Rose

When there is a lot of hype surrounding a sports franchise in New York City, it is normally revolving around the New York Yankees or New York Giants. Nobody ever has anything nice to say about the New York Knicks, but this offseason, nothing bad can be said about them! The Knicks are in a fantastic position right now, and the addition of Donte DiVincenzo gives them yet another utility player who can fill gaps around Jalen Brunson and Julius Randle. This is a team that not only has playoff aspirations, but true championship expectations moving forward. Nobody is going to want to see them late in the year.

10. Philadelphia 76ers (-1)

2022-23 Record: 54-28, Result: Lost in East semis (3rd in Eastern Conference)

Key additions: G/F Kelly Oubre Jr., G Patrick Beverley, C Mo Bamba

Key departures: G Shake Milton, F Jalen McDaniels

The Philadelphia 76ers are trending down right now. James Harden has created yet another dark cloud over the organization he is with, casting even more doubt on where his future lies. It doesn’t seem like Harden is going to be playing in Philly anymore, leaving Joel Embiid to carry the 76ers to the Eastern Conference Finals, somewhere they haven’t been since 2001. It’s really hard to buy into this team right now, especially with all the uncertainty that surrounds the roster and front office.

9. Los Angeles Clippers (+2)

2022-23 Record: 44-38, Result: Lost in West semis (5th in Western Conference)

Key additions: F Kenyon Martin Jr., F Kobe Brown

Key departures: G/F Eric Gordon

Los Angeles Clippers president Lawrence Frank recently told reporters ahead of training camp that Kawhi Leonard and Paul George are “fully healthy.” That’s all I need to hear to once again claim that the Clippers are championship contenders. This team has the depth they need to go on a deep postseason run as long as Leonard and George are on the floor together. Russell Westbrook also proved to be a big addition for the organization, taking pressure off Leonard and George as the main facilitator. All the Clippers need is to get back to being the high-level defensive team they were a couple of seasons ago in order to fight for the top spot in the NBA Power Rankings. And, of course, Kawhi and PG-13 actually have to stay healthy.

8. Cleveland Cavaliers (-1)

2022-23 Record: 51-31, Result: Lost in first round (4th in Eastern Conference)

Key additions: G Max Strus, F Georges Niang, G Ty Jerome

Key departures: G/F Cedi Osman, C Robin Lopez, G Danny Green

Max Strus and Georges Niang are two key shooting weapons that have been very dependable through the years. Shooting held the Cleveland Cavaliers back this past year, especially since they had no real perimeter depth on their bench. Winning 51 games a season ago was no fluke for the Cavs, though, as this team is really good and disciplined defensively. Evan Mobley is entering a crucial thirds season as he looks to become a legit All-Star talent. He’s the X-factor for Cleveland to once again become a contending threat and has the potential to become the best two-way big man in the league. This was a really good offseason for the Cavaliers, an organization that is once again putting themselves on the map.

7. Golden State Warriors (+1)

2022-23 Record: 44-38, Result: Lost in West semis (6th in Western Conference)

Key additions: G Chris Paul, G Cory Joseph, F/C Dario Saric

Key departures: G Jordan Poole, G Donte DiVincenzo, F Andre Iguodala

Everyone was talking about how the dynasty was back in 2022 when the Golden State Warriors won their fourth championship since 2015. Now, everyone is saying how the dynasty is dead since they lost in the Western Conference Semifinals last year. As long as Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green are healthy, the Warriors will have a chance to win any game they play. Andrew Wiggins and Kevon Looney are still around, plus Chris Paul is actually a sneaky-good addition for this team because of the way he can facilitate the offense around Curry and Thompson. The Dubs are at their best when people doubt them, and they are even more dangerous when they can be the hunters instead of the hunted.

6. Los Angeles Lakers (No change)

2022-23 Record: 43-39, Result: Lost in West Finals (7th in Western Conference)

Key additions: F/C Christian Wood, G Gabe Vincent, F Taurean Prince, G/F Cam Reddish, C Jaxson Hayes

Key departures: G Dennis Schroder, G Malik Beasley, C Mo Bamba, F Troy Brown Jr.

The Los Angeles Lakers had the best offseason out of any team in the league. There is no arguing this, as they made upgrades up and down their roster by adding players like Christian Wood, Gabe Vincent and Taurean Prince while retaining their top talents. Still, everything for this franchise revolves around the health of LeBron James and Anthony Davis. Even at 38 years old, James will continue to make a huge impact and will his team to victories. As long as they are healthy, the Lakers will be near the top of the NBA Power Rankings.

5. Sacramento Kings (No change)

2022-23 Record: 48-34, Result: Lost in first round (3rd in Western Conference)

Key additions: F Sasha Vezenkov, G Chris Duarte, C JaVale McGee

Key departures: G Terence Davis, C Richaun Holmes, F Chimezie Metu

Mike Brown did a fantastic job in Year 1 as the head coach of the Sacramento Kings. Now, the 2023-24 season presents the challenge of backing up what they did last year, so people don’t call them a “one hit wonder.” Mediocrity has always been attached to the Kings, yet everything about them screamed contender last year. If they had not run into the Warriors in the first round of the playoffs, the Kings had a real shot at winning their first playoff series since 2006. They even took the defending champions to seven games! De’Aaron Fox and Co. now understand what they are capable of doing, which is why they are going to look more confident and a lot more relaxed this upcoming year. Sasha Vezenkov is also going to prove to be a huge addition on the wing.

4. Boston Celtics (No change)

2022-23 Record: 57-25, Result: Lost in East Finals (2nd in Eastern Conference)

Key additions: F/C Kristaps Porzingis, F Lamar Stevens, F Oshae Brissett

Key departures: G Marcus Smart, F Grant Williams, F Danilo Gallinari

The Boston Celtics wanted Kristaps Porzingis in their frontcourt and got him this offseason. However, they lost Marcus Smart in the process. Offensively, this team is going to be a lot better and Jayson Tatum will finally have the added help he was lacking at times in the postseason. However, Boston’s defense is going to take a hit early on with Smart not being around anymore. Derrick White really has a chance to prove that he’s a high-level two-way guard this season. The starting point guard spot is his entering camp and, for the moment, the Celtics have a strong defensive frontcourt with Porzingis and Robert Williams III being shot-blocking threats. This season is once again championship or bust for the C’s.

3. Phoenix Suns (+1)

2022-23 Record: 45-37, Result: Lost in West semis (4th in Western Conference)

Key additions: G Bradley Beal, G Eric Gordon, G Jordan Goodwin, C Bol Bol, C Drew Eubanks

Key departures: C Deandre Ayton, F Torrey Craig, G Cam Payne, C Jock Landale

To say the Phoenix Suns were busy in the offseason would be an understatement. Bradley Beal highlights the vast list of additions this organization made during the summer, as he helps form arguably the best star trio in the league alongside Kevin Durant and Devin Booker. Deandre Ayton’s departure may come as a surprise to some, especially seeing as he played a huge part in their run to the NBA Finals in 2021, but the writing had been on the wall for this one. Jusuf Nurkic fits in much better at the center spot in new head coach Frank Vogel’s system. By moving Ayton, the Suns now opened up a little more room to facilitate future trades. The Suns want to win a championship right now by any means necessary, which is why they gave up all of their future assets over the summer.

2. Milwaukee Bucks (No change)

2022-23 Record: 58-24, Result: Lost in first round (1st in Eastern Conference)

Key additions: G Damian Lillard, G Malik Beasley

Key departures: G Jrue Holiday, G Grayson Allen, G Jevon Carter

Damian Lillard, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton. That’s a talented group right there. The Milwaukee Bucks’ Lillard trade broke the NBA world and made it clear that they were going to get Giannis the help he wanted, even though Jrue Holiday helped them win a title in 2021. The Bucks have moved on from their ugly playoff loss to Miami and now have two of the best scorers in the league today. Lillard and Antetokounmpo cannot be stopped offensively, which is why they are title favorites in the East. This team’s chance of winning it all comes down to their depth and ability to defend out on the perimeter, as Holiday, Grayson Allen and Jevon Carter were all players who made Milwaukee one of the better defensive teams in the league last season.

1. Denver Nuggets (No change)

2022-23 Record: 53-29, Result: NBA champions (1st in Western Conference)

Key additions: G/F Julian Strawther, F Hunter Tyson, G/F Justin Holiday

Key departures: G/F Bruce Brown, F Jeff Green, C Thomas Bryant

Until they are beaten in the playoffs, it’s hard to come up with an argument against the Denver Nuggets in this spot. While his quest for three straight MVPs was ruined by Joel Embiid, Jokic followed up his 2021 and 2022 MVPs with the 2023 Finals MVP. That’s a pretty good trade-off if you ask me. This Nuggets core group proved to be relentless last year as they finally stayed healthy and broke through to win it all. It’ll be interesting to see how the defending champions rebuild some of their lost depth with Bruce Brown and Jeff Green leaving in free agency. Rookies Julian Strawther, Hunter Tyson and Jalen Pickett will all see some playing time, but it is second-year wing Peyton Watson who the franchise is exceptionally high on. Denver has the best player in the world right now and is still the kings of the NBA Power Rankings entering the new year despite their rivals in the Western Conference making big moves.

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