We’re all accustomed to rankings by now. That doesn’t mean they get any older, or younger for that matter. Whether you’re at the barbershop or the bar, you’re pitting players against players, and teams against their counterparts.
Here’s how all 30 NBA teams rank, from top to bottom. With a revamped roster, also see where the Minnesota Timberwolves rank among the pack.
Tier 1 - Potential Number One Seeds
The Bucks finished third in the league in scoring at 115.5 points per game (PPG), second on the glass with 46.7 rebounds per game (RPG) and top five in 3-point percentage at 36.6%. On the other end, they allowed the fourth fewest points in the paint in the association. Giannis Antetokoumnpo looks primed to catapult the Bucks to another 60-win season, NBA Finals run.
It’ll be a tall task taking down a now healthy Clippers’ team with an enormous chip on their shoulder out West. The addition of John Wall gives them a great two-way playmaker, and Kawhi Leonard and Paul George are set to return as the best perimeter duo in the NBA.
The defending champs are running it back and finally adding 7-footer James Wiseman, who can run in transition, and protect the rim – a weakness Memphis exploited last postseason. The Warriors look deep and dangerous – not only due to Draymond Green’s antics in practice.
4. Phoenix Suns
Cameron Johnson finished ninth in the NBA among all players (min 66 games played, 1 3-point attempt per game) in catch and shoot 3-point percentage at a whopping 43%. He’ll be a spacing upgrade over Jae Crowder who finished 87th. Defensively, they are stout on the perimeter and the wing. If CP3 holds up, they could emerge as favorites to come out of the West.
Denver might have the biggest boom-potential of any team, regardless of conference. Two-time MVP Nikola Jokić is getting his No. 2 and 3 options back in Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr, plus perimeter reinforcements in Bruce Brown and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.Last time we saw a fully stacked Nuggets team, they came back from 3-1 deficits in back-to-back playoff series.
All signs point to 2022-23 being a season where Philadelphia finally puts it all together. No more Ben Simmons drama. Joel Embiid has an ax to grind with everyone for a perceived MVP snub. James Harden has a chip on his shoulder. The sky’s the limit for Tyrese Maxey. The bench is much improved offensively. P.J Tucker adds championship toughness to the defense.
7. Miami Heat
If Jimmy Butler had taken that dribble inside the 3-point line, we might have been having a very different discussion about the Eastern Conference champs, and maybe even eventual NBA champions. But 2021-22’s most efficient 3-point offense (37.9%), and 3-point defense (33.9%). Miami’s toughness, culture, coaching, and efficiency has them well positioned for a top 3 seed.
Tier 2 - Safe Playoff Picks
The Grizzlies led the league in steals, blocks, rebounds, and points in the paint last season. A balanced attack on both ends of the floor, a year’s worth of added experience fares to do much for a team that had the eventual champs on the ropes by as much as 55 points in last year’s WCSF. In a healthier West, Memphis may fall closer to earth, but a top 5 seed is no slouch.
A thorn in the Nets’ side was their perimeter defense, where they conceded 14 fast break PPG, good for 25th in the league, and couldn’t contain the 3. But they do have a healthy Ben Simmons, who will do wonders for a team looking for an infusion of pace and defense. Brooklyn has two all world perimeter defenders 6’10 or taller who will make life hell for opposing wings.
10. Boston Celtics
Ime Udoka is out as head coach. The East is much stronger than the days of yesteryear, but Brad Stevens acquired Malcolm Brogdon, a former 50-40-90 club member who is a shooting and playmaking upgrade at the point guard spot. But until we see how Boston plays under an interim coach, they don’t get the benefit of the doubt over the three teams ahead of them.
Cleveland has it all – a legitimate superstar with the seventh highest playoff PPG average of all time in Donovan Mitchell. Add to that a bonafide 20 PPG scorer in Darius Garland. They have elite rim protection with Jarrett Allen and Evan Mobley and a do-it-all wing in Caris LeVert. The Cavs may need the season to get rolling, but out east, any top four team should fear Cleveland come playoff time.
12. Dallas Mavericks
Dallas’ starting five are all over 6’5”, improving their toughness, and imposition in the front court. They can go small and shoot you off of the floor. They can go big and bully you out of your lunch money. They have specialists for every specialty. The Mavs have the opportunity to exceed these expectations, and, barring catastrophe, scratch at the door of 50 wins.
Tier 3 - Play-in Players
Someone say “Zion Williamson” the way Jalen Rose says “De-troit Bas-ket-ball.” The man amongst boys is back, looking like he’s been in the gym all summer pumping iron, in full cutting season mode. The Pelicans have three volume scorers with unique playing styles that project to mesh well. A seventh seed seems realistic. But anything can happen in the “A.”
14. Chicago Bulls
Chicago will be without their $20 million floor general in Lonzo Ball to start the year. Despite that, Demar Derozan, Zach Lavine, and Nikola Vucevic combined for nearly 70 points last season – a perfect recipe for success, when given supplementary help from the “others.”
15. Atlanta Hawks
Trae Young led the entire league in 3-point catch and shoot percentage last year at 50% (min 66 GP, 1 3PM). Dejounte Murray gives Atlanta two natural point guards starting alongside one another. Murray will take pressure off of Young, who sported the fourth-highest usage rate in the league in 2021-22.
16. Minnesota Timberwolves
What’s interesting is, Minnesota can have a Memphis Grizzlies-esque season, where they win a bunch of regular season games and lead the league in a handful of stats. But when examining the pool of teams in contention, one can’t affirm such a claim with certainty.
Minnesota led the league in scoring at 115.9 PPG. Yet they were in the play-in-tournament come season’s end. With their notable addition of Rudy Gobert, the experiment with two big men can either be a match made in heaven, or an eye sore warranting mid-season trade groanings. Minnesota finishing games on defense the way they started games on offense last season will probably have them exceed this appraisal. But for now, it stands.
A fully healthy Lakers’ squad, as presently constructed, is expected to best 33 wins from a season ago. But their health is a big question mark, especially with one Anthony Davis notorious for getting hurt. With or without a blockbuster Russell Westbrook trade, L.A forecasts to be a bottom-half team out west with crazy boom potential if all goes smoothly.
18. Portland Trailblazers
Jerami Grant replacing CJ McCollum as the Blazers’ number 2 option gives Portland more size and defense in the front court. Anfernee Simons looks to take the next step offensively. With three potential 20 point per game scorers next season, Rip City looks to fall a bit short in the Victor Wembanyama sweepstakes, and instead will vie for a play-in seed.
19. Toronto Raptors
Much of Toronto’s potential rests on the growth of reigning Kia Rookie of the Year Scottie Barnes, and the coming-into-his-own of OG Anunoby. Pascal Siakam and Fred Vanvleet will need this wing combo to step their game up to squeeze out of the play-in rounds. They’ll more likely than not win more games than they lose, but not by much.
20. Sacramento Kings
On paper, Domantas Sabonis is a do it all scoring power forward. De’Aaron Fox is a dynamic point guard who can run the break. And the supporting cast is filled with shooters and defenders, young and seasoned. But the Kings have wallowed in limbo since drafting Fox, and until they show otherwise, they’ll have work to do to make the final eight in the occident.
Washington has a bevy of tools at their disposal. A 25 PPG scorer in Bradley Beal; a two way unicorn in Kristaps Porzingis, and new addition Will Barton, who along with Kuzma, are liable for major scoring nightly. Health will be a major factor in how well the Wizards are able to perform. Wes Unseld Jr. will have to manage these play styles in order to maximize success.
22. New York Knicks
The vicissitudes of NBA fortunes had the Knicks fall from the fourth overall seed in the east in 2020-21, to 11th last go-round, leaving them as an odd team out. If anything’s been holding them back, it’s Julius Randle and RJ Barrett’s refusal to go right. They now welcome Jalen Brunson – a third left handed player – to make defenses key in on that side of the ball.
Tier 4 - The Rest of the Pack
The Hornets have had some bad luck this offseason. Miles Bridges – their second best player – was released in wake of a domestic violence incident. Gordon Hayward hasn’t been able to string together a full season of health while in Charlotte. Buzz City has a ton of offensive weapons, but their thin lineup at center, mixed with their losses, spell misfortune for the team.
24. Utah Jazz
Despite losing most of their starting five, the Jazz hauled back in some real talent. Utah has a bevy of one-on-one bucket getters, in Collin Sexton, Jordan Clarkson, Talen Horton Tucker, and Malik Beasley. But that brand of basketball won’t cut it for even a play-in spot.
25. Indiana Pacers
Whether they keep Myles Turner and Buddy Hield or not, Indiana fares to be a team too high in the standings to contend for Victor Wembanyama, but too low to make the play-in tournament. A win for the season is Tyrese Haliburton taking another step toward stardom.
26. Orlando Magic
The Magic get back Jonathan Isaac this year, a promising two-way gem of a prospect. Absolutely loaded at the point-guard and combo-forward positions, Orlando fixes to start winning some games with their young core. “Some” barely usurps 30 wins though.
27. Detroit Pistons
The league’s third worst team last season added Jaden Ivy in the draft, and traded for Kemba walker – two moves that make them stout at the point guard position. But losing their star Jerami Grant counteracts all their offseason moves, and any hopes at relevancy this season.
Before the season could even tip-off, OKC suffered a big blow, losing number two overall pick Chet Holmgren for the season. With him, the Thunder would probably be vying for the 10th seed in their conference. Without him, another tanking season looms.
29. Houston Rockets
The Rockets led the league in turnovers last year. They’ve had little turnover in their roster construction this offseason. All the while, they look to develop their young talent, behind one Jabari Smith, whilst contending – for the number one overall pick in the 2023 NBA Draft.
Victor Wembanyama should be getting accustomed to black and silver by now. The Spurs are devoid of playoff-level talent in comparison to the rest of the league, With no player that could be a 1, 2, or 3 on a championship level team, San Antonio will be tanking – with good reason.
Minny’s Ceiling and Floor
Albeit ranked among the teams that will be quarreling for the play-in tournament seeds, Minnesota has great upside. Their core offensive stars are still with the team, so it’s rather safe to say they’ll finish in the top 10, or even top 5 in points per game once more.
The difference is, now they have an elite rim protector in Gobert, and very good wing defenders to pair alongside Anthony Edwards in Kyle Anderson and Jaden McDaniels, that can contain longer, more athletic opponents on the perimeter.
Stout defenders like this will help Minnesota stay out of foul trouble – an eyesore of a problem they dealt with all of last year – which saw them finish 29th in the league at almost 22 a game. Knowing that you have a three-time defensive player of the year behind you to clean up mistakes should do well to keep Minny’s front line more disciplined. It’ll also make head coach Chris Finch’s job much easier in coaching the defense.
Surprisingly enough, Minnesota finished top three in blocks and steals last year as well, proving they’ve already got great hands to disrupt plays. Now it’s about focusing on the cohesion of the team defense, absent of numbers.
Minnesota can realistically strive to be as high as the fourth seed out west. The Phoenix Suns and Golden State Warriors are practical shoo-ins as top three seeds, and vying for that next spot are teams like the Denver Nuggets, Memphis Grizzlies, and Dallas Mavericks. From a talent perspective, Minnesota is right there with those teams.
As for their floor, it would be an absolute shocker if they didn’t make the play-in tournament.