NBA Draft

NBA Power Rankings, way-too-early edition – Our first look at 2023-24


The Denver Nuggets are the 2023 NBA champions. Delivering the franchise its first title, two-time MVP Nikola Jokic has taken that long-awaited next step in his postseason legacy alongside his star teammate Jamal Murray.

Now what?

What lies ahead for Jimmy Butler and the Miami Heat after they made it back to the NBA Finals for the second time in four seasons, only to come up short again? Do they still have confidence in their current roster in a stacked Eastern Conference that will still boast the star-powered Milwaukee Bucks, Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers?

The Nuggets will look to maintain dominance in the Western Conference next season after cruising through the playoffs. LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers, along with Kevin Durant and the Phoenix Suns, are in line to challenge Denver, while the Memphis Grizzlies, LA Clippers and New Orleans Pelicans could face some difficult decisions regarding their franchise superstars.

Note: These rankings are based on where the members of our panel (ESPN’s Kendra Andrews, Tim Bontemps, Jamal Collier, Nick Friedell, Andrew Lopez, Tim MacMahon, Dave McMenamin and Ohm Youngmisuk) think teams belong heading into next season, taking into account potential player movement and the draft. Title odds for 2024 by Caesars Sportsbook.


1. Denver Nuggets
2022-23 record: 53-29
Result: Won NBA Finals
2024 title odds: +475

It took 47 seasons — the longest in NBA history before winning a first title — but the Denver Nuggets are finally world champions. And now that they are champions, the Nuggets look set up to repeat. Their starting five of Jokic, Murray, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Michael Porter Jr. and Aaron Gordon are all under contract through at least 2024-25. Keeping valuable reserve player Bruce Brown will be difficult. The guard is projected to double his salary if he declines the $6.8 million player option for next season. The Nuggets are a tax team and Brown has non-Bird rights, leaving the max contract that Denver can offer the guard at $7.8 million. Denver might need to retool its bench with Jeff Green, DeAndre Jordan, Thomas Bryant, Reggie Jackson and Ish Smith among their eight free agents. But if Jokic, Murray and the Nuggets starters stay healthy, they have the experience to return to the Finals and win. — Youngmisuk


2. Boston Celtics
2022-23 record: 57-25
Result: Lost East finals
2024 title odds: +575

After coming agonizingly close to being the first team in NBA history to rally from a 3-0 deficit to win a playoff series, Boston will now enter the offseason trying to figure out what it needs to do to retool. Among the decisions ahead: whether to give Jaylen Brown a supermax contract extension and what to do with restricted free agent Grant Williams. — Bontemps


3. Miami Heat
2022-23 record: 44-38
Result: Lost NBA Finals
2024 title odds: +1800

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Miami just completed one of the most unlikely Finals runs in NBA history, becoming only the second No. 8 seed to get to the game’s ultimate stage. After the well-earned plaudits fade from one of the most memorable postseason runs in franchise history, Heat president Pat Riley will have to make some interesting decisions about his team. Max Strus and Gabe Vincent will both be free agents. Tyler Herro will have to work his way back after being unavailable for almost the entirety of the postseason because of a broken hand. The Heat still need to decide if they will put together a package for a star to pair with Butler. It will be a busy summer for the organization after a playoff run that won’t soon be forgotten. — Friedell


4. Milwaukee Bucks
2022-23 record: 58-24
Result: Lost East first round
2024 title odds: +700

The Bucks are looking to turn the page following a way-sooner-than-expected exit in the playoffs, and it starts with the hiring of Raptors assistant Adrian Griffin as their head coach. Milwaukee anticipates that a new voice will provide a jolt for a team that finished with the best record in the NBA. The Bucks hope to bring back center Brook Lopez, who will be an unrestricted free agent this summer. — Collier


5. Philadelphia 76ers
2022-23 record: 54-28
Result: Lost East semifinals
2024 title odds: +1200

After hiring Nick Nurse to replace coach Doc Rivers, all eyes on Philadelphia now turn to James Harden — and whether the superstar guard will return to the 76ers this summer. If he does, this team is a championship contender once again. If he doesn’t? Well, work will be required to get Philadelphia back to that level around reigning MVP Joel Embiid. — Bontemps


6. Phoenix Suns
2022-23 record: 45-37
Result: Lost West semifinals
2024 title odds: +850

Heading into the 2022 playoffs, the Suns had the best record in the NBA and the Coach of the Year in Monty Williams. Now? They have a second straight second-round exit and Frank Vogel on the sidelines. Oh, and Kevin Durant wearing the purple and orange, too. Vogel won a championship in his first season with the Lakers, pushing all the right buttons with LeBron James and Anthony Davis. Can he duplicate that success with Phoenix’s dynamic duo of Durant and Devin Booker? — Lopez


7. Los Angeles Lakers
2022-23 record: 43-39
Result: Lost West finals
2024 title odds: +1200

Prior to being swept by Denver in the conference finals, the Lakers reeled off 18 wins in their previous 24 games from the end of the regular season through the play-in tournament and first two rounds of the playoffs — a .750 winning percentage, better than Milwaukee’s NBA-best mark of .707 for the entirety of the 2022-23 regular season. Was that enough of a sample size to convince L.A. to run it back with the same core, or will the offseason bring more roster upheaval? — McMenamin


8. Memphis Grizzlies
2022-23 record: 51-31
Result: Lost West first round
2024 title odds: +2200

The Grizzlies’ top priority has to be helping Ja Morant deal with his off-court issues that likely will result in a lengthy suspension to start the season. But that isn’t the only pressing matter in Memphis this summer. Expect general manager Zach Kleiman to aggressively pursue a replacement for Dillon Brooks in the trade market, as well as work out a lucrative contract extension for Desmond Bane. — MacMahon


9. New York Knicks
2022-23 record: 47-35
Result: Lost East semifinals
2024 title odds: +5000

The Knicks won a playoff series for the first time in a decade. But beginning with extension talks with Immanuel Quickley, it will be a fascinating summer in Gotham, as the Knicks weigh what direction to take as they hope to build off this past season’s successes. — Bontemps


10. Golden State Warriors
2022-23 record: 44-38
Result: Lost West semifinals
2024 title odds: +1200

Game 5: Nuggets 94, Heat 89
Nuggets win first championship
• Nikola Jokic named Finals MVP
• Stories of Nikola Jokic’s past

Game 4: Nuggets 108, Heat 95
• Gordon’s fit in Denver’s offensive hierarchy
• Heat to go star-searching soon?

Game 3: Nuggets 109, Heat 94
• How Malone is motivating Nuggets
• Inside Jokic and Murray’s chemistry

Game 2: Heat 111, Nuggets 108
• The Heat figured it out … again
• Game 2 win provides Heat with options

Game 1: Nuggets 104, Heat 93
• Here’s how Nikola Jokic put on a clinic
• The trend the Heat will have to break

Bob Myers will not return as GM after stepping down. Draymond Green still has to decide what to do with his player option. The Warriors’ salary is already sky-high. The Warriors might not find it as easy to bounce back to championship level as they have in the past. — Andrews


11. Sacramento Kings
2022-23 record: 48-34
Result: Lost West first round
2024 title odds: +2500

Over 50 wins: check. Coach of the Year: check. Clutch Player of the Year: check. First playoff appearance in 16 years — and a seven-game series against the defending champion Warriors, no less: check. This season was better than expected for the Kings. With every player coming back next season, Sacramento’s rise should continue — but with a much higher bar for success. — Andrews


12. Cleveland Cavaliers
2022-23 record: 51-31
Result: Lost East first round
2024 title odds: +2800

Cleveland’s 51-win season will ultimately be remembered for a 4-1 first-round exit at the hands of the Knicks. The challenge for the Cavs will be upgrading their offense — they scored 94.2 points per game in the playoffs — without compromising their league-leading defense. The good news is they should have time to progress; their core four of Donovan Mitchell, Evan Mobley, Darius Garland and Jarrett Allen are all 26 years old or younger. — McMenamin


13. LA Clippers
2022-23 record: 44-38
Result: Lost West first round
2024 title odds: +1600

The Clippers’ fortunes rest on Kawhi Leonard’s right knee, as he tore the meniscus in the same knee that required surgery for a torn ACL. Paul George did not play in the first-round loss to Phoenix because of a right knee sprain. The Clippers will certainly look to improve, but the new collective bargaining agreement rules will make it difficult to upgrade around their star duo that played just 38 games together in 2022-23. — Youngmisuk


14. New Orleans Pelicans
2022-23 record: 42-40
Result: Lost West play-in
2024 title odds: +3000

Health, health, health. Whether New Orleans looks like the team from December — when it was tops in the West — or the one that missed the play-in tournament is going to come down to health. Zion Williamson missed the final 45 games because of a hamstring injury. Brandon Ingram has missed 64 regular-season games over the past two seasons. Things will be looking up for New Orleans if its stars can stay on the court. — Lopez


15. Oklahoma City Thunder
2021-22 record: 40-42
Result: Lost West play-in
2023 title odds: +7000

The Thunder were supposed to be in the Victor Wembanyama sweepstakes but instead found themselves one win from sneaking in as the No. 8 seed via the play-in tournament. And they did it all with Chet Holmgren — the No. 2 overall pick from last year’s draft — missing the entire season because of a foot injury. With Shai Gilgeous-Alexander becoming a first-team All-NBA selection and a hoard of draft picks ahead, the future is bright in Oklahoma City. — Lopez


16. Minnesota Timberwolves
2022-23 record: 42-40
Result: Lost West first round
2024 title odds: +5500

The Timberwolves were not nearly as successful as they hoped they would be when they made the blockbuster trade to acquire Rudy Gobert last summer. Sure, injuries tore apart their season. But even whole, the Wolves showed few glimpses of a team ready to compete in a stacked West. — Andrews


17. Dallas Mavericks
2022-23 record: 38-44
Result: Missed postseason
2024 title odds: +1800

All eyes are on 7-foot-5 French prospect Victor Wembanyama, the 2023 projected top pick. We’ll have complete coverage leading up to the June 22 draft on ESPN.

What Victor is leaving behind for the NBA
• Spurs win lottery, right to draft Victor
Givony’s mock draft: Victor at No. 1
• How would Wemby fit on the Spurs?
• Inside Wemby’s decade-long NBA plan
• Snapshot into life of likely No. 1 pick
• How to watch Victor Wembanyama

The Mavs have their work cut out to position themselves for a bounce-back campaign. It remains to be seen if other serious suitors emerge for Kyrie Irving, but he has leverage regardless because losing him would be a disaster for Dallas. The Mavs also must improve the supporting cast around Luka Doncic and, hopefully, Irving. They will likely dangle the No. 10 overall pick in pursuit of a quality, defensive-minded role player who can help them win right away. — MacMahon


18. Atlanta Hawks
2022-23 record: 41-41
Result: Lost East first round
2024 title odds: +6000

After being hired midseason, coach Quin Snyder was able to lay a foundation over the final 28 games of the regular season, a play-in tournament win over the Heat and a six-game series loss to the Celtics in the first round. Now, Snyder and Landry Fields, who oversees the team’s basketball operations, have to figure out how to take the Hawks to the next level. — Lopez


19. Brooklyn Nets
2022-23 record: 45-37
Result: Lost East first round
2024 title odds: +12500

The Nets love Mikal Bridges. They believe in young players Cam Johnson and Nic Claxton. And they hope Ben Simmons can turn around his career. The Nets have a long way to go to get back to championship contention, but they do have pick Nos. 21 and 22 in this month’s NBA draft as well as trust in the culture they are putting back together. — Friedell


20. Chicago Bulls
2022-23 record: 40-42
Result: Lost East play-in
2024 title odds: +10000

The Bulls could face some major roster decisions with Nikola Vucevic and Coby White entering free agency. However, despite missing the playoffs this past season and winning one playoff game over two campaigns with this core, Bulls vice president Arturas Karnisovas says he intends to keep this roster intact. — Collier


21. Toronto Raptors
2022-23 record: 41-41
Result: Lost East play-in
2024 title odds: +6500

The Raptors are hiring Grizzlies assistant Darko Rajakovic as the franchise’s replacement for Nick Nurse, but that’s just the beginning of their work this summer. Fred VanVleet will become a free agent and Gary Trent and Jakob Poeltl are expected to join him. Two more players — Pascal Siakam and O.G. Anunoby — are a year away from getting there. — Bontemps


22. Utah Jazz
2022-23 record: 37-45
Result: Missed postseason
2024 title odds: +15000

The Jazz have many pathways as they attempt to build around All-Star forward Lauri Markkanen and All-Rookie center Walker Kessler. Utah has not traditionally been a free agency destination, but the Jazz have $30 million in salary cap space, which also could have significant value in the trade market. Additionally, Utah has three first-round picks in this month’s draft and several extra picks in the years to come after the roster renovation over the past year. — MacMahon


23. Indiana Pacers
2022-23 record: 35-47
Result: Missed postseason
2024 title odds: +15000

The Pacers are in rebuilding mode, but the future of their roster is already off to a strong start with guard Tyrese Haliburton, who made his first All-Star Game this past season. Indiana also owns three first-round picks in this month’s draft: Nos. 7, 26 and 29. — Collier


24. Orlando Magic
2022-23 record: 34-48
Result: Missed postseason
2024 title odds: +12500

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The core in Orlando is solid. 2022 No. 1 pick Paolo Banchero is the reigning Rookie of the Year. Franz Wagner continues to come into his own. Wendell Carter Jr. keeps improving. And Markelle Fultz is showing more and more why he was the No. 1 pick in 2017. The Magic have the Nos. 6 and 11 picks in this month’s draft in addition to cap space. Things are finally looking up again in central Florida. — Friedell


25. Portland Trail Blazers
2022-23 record: 33-49
Result: Missed postseason
2024 title odds: +7500

The Blazers didn’t win the Victor Wembanyama sweepstakes, but they did nab the No. 3 pick in the draft. Of course, Damian Lillard, 32, wants to play for a contender and win now. There would be no shortage of suitors if Lillard wants a change of scenery. — Youngmisuk


26. Washington Wizards
2022-23 record: 35-47
Result: Missed postseason
2024 title odds: +25000

Team owner Ted Leonsis has a new right-hand man to rebuild Wizards basketball in Michael Winger. Winger played a large role in helping shape the Clippers’ roster, and he will now try to turn around a franchise that has made the postseason once since 2017-18. Once Winger assembles his front office, he can start to improve the team with the No. 8 pick in the draft — and see what Bradley Beal has in mind for his future. — Youngmisuk


27. San Antonio Spurs
2022-23 record: 22-60
Result: Missed postseason
2024 title odds: +15000

Perhaps the biggest postseason move of them all — so far — has been the Spurs locking up the No. 1 pick in the upcoming draft and the right to select Victor Wembanyama. Everything changed for the Spurs when their 14% chance at the French phenom hit. It will be the third time the Spurs have had the No. 1 overall pick in the draft; they took David Robinson in 1987 and Tim Duncan in 1997. — Lopez


28. Houston Rockets
2022-23 record: 22-60
Result: Missed postseason
2024 title odds: +9000

Tilman Fertitta has declared that “Phase 2” of the Rockets’ rebuild began with the hiring of coach Ime Udoka, and the billionaire team owner expects Houston to be competitive next season. The long-rumored return of James Harden would help in that regard, but would bringing back “The Beard” stunt the development of Jalen Green? That’s a concern Green expressed on Paul George’s podcast. — MacMahon


29. Charlotte Hornets
2022-23 record: 27-55
Result: Missed postseason
2024 title odds: +20000

The Hornets missed out on Victor Wembanyama, but the good news is with the second pick they should be able to add a potential future star in Brandon Miller or Scoot Henderson. With guard LaMelo Ball expected to be fully healthy and coach Steve Clifford still running the show, the Hornets appear to finally have the players in place to push out of the East basement. — Friedell


30. Detroit Pistons

2022-23 record: 17-65
Result: Missed postseason
2024 title odds: +60000

The Pistons already made a big splash this offseason by making Monty Williams the highest-paid coach in the NBA to guide their young team. For now, the Pistons are still preaching patience, but with cap space and the No. 5 pick in the draft, things could be setting up for an intriguing offseason in Detroit. — Collier

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