2022-23 NBA Power Rankings: Are Warriors Favorites Entering New Season?

Andy Bailey@@AndrewDBaileyFeatured Columnist IVOctober 17, 2022

2022-23 NBA Power Rankings: Are Warriors Favorites Entering New Season?

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    SAN FRANCISCO, CA - OCTOBER 9: Stephen Curry #30 of the Golden State Warriors looks on during the game against the Los Angeles Lakers  on October 9, 2022 at Chase Center in San Francisco, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2022 NBAE (Photo by Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images)
    Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images

    With the NBA officially back for the 2022-23 campaign, it's time to dig into the power rankings.

    And with no regular-season action to analyze, there's really only one criterion for this edition: each team's chance to win the championship.

    After all, despite all the attention the league has managed to generate with offseason drama, the ultimate goal should always be the title.

    The defending champion Golden State Warriors will surely be in the mix, but who else will join them in today's parity-packed league?

    We'll consult title odds and over-unders for regular-season win totals from FanDuel to help answer those questions, but as always, prognostication requires a healthy dose of subjectivity.

30. San Antonio Spurs

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    SAN ANTONIO, TX - OCTOBER 6: Jeremy Sochan #10 of the San Antonio Spurs talks with Keldon Johnson #3 of the San Antonio Spurs during a preseason game on October 6, 2022 at the AT&T Center in San Antonio, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2022 NBAE (Photos by Michael Gonzales/NBAE via Getty Images)
    Photos by Michael Gonzales/NBAE via Getty Images

    FanDuel Sportsbook Championship Odds: +50000 (bet $100 to win $50,000)

    Over/Under: 22.5 wins

    The San Antonio Spurs seemed to be first to embrace the "Loserama for Victor Wembanyama" (bear with us as we workshop the name for this race).

    Early in the offseason, they traded their best player, Dejounte Murray, for multiple first-round draft picks and a player they almost immediately bought out (Danilo Gallinari).

    That means the bulk of the team's shots and minutes will go to players under age 25, none of whom appear to have superstar upside.

    With Gregg Popovich at the helm, this team will almost certainly play hard and share the ball, but there probably isn't enough talent to even push for a play-in berth.

29. Utah Jazz

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    ALBERTA, CANADA - OCTOBER 2: Collin Sexton #2 of the Utah Jazz shoots the ball against the Toronto Raptors during a preseason game on October 2, 2022 at the Rogers Place in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2022 NBAE (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/NBAE via Getty Images)
    Vaughn Ridley/NBAE via Getty Images

    Championship Odds: +50000

    Over/Under: 23.5 wins

    The Utah Jazz and CEO Danny Ainge aren't far ahead of the Spurs, as they spent their summer unloading their two best players (Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell).

    It feels like there are at least a few more moves to make (Mike Conley, Jordan Clarkson and Rudy Gay don't make any sense for this team), but even if those don't happen, Utah will lose a lot of games.

    The Jazz have plenty of third or fourth options, such as Lauri Markkanen, Collin Sexton and the aforementioned vets, but you typically don't string wins together in the NBA without stars.

28. Indiana Pacers

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    CHARLOTTE, NC - OCTOBER 5: Tyrese Haliburton #0 of the Indiana Pacers dribbles the ball during the game against the Charlotte Hornets on October 5, 2022 at Spectrum Center in Charlotte, North Carolina. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2022 NBAE (Photo by Kent Smith/NBAE via Getty Images)
    Kent Smith/NBAE via Getty Images

    Championship Odds: +50000

    Over/Under: 23.5 wins

    All summer, it felt like the Indiana Pacers would find some organization to take on Myles Turner and/or Buddy Hield. The "Hield and Turner for Russell Westbrook and picks" rumor seemed to reenter the mill at least once per week.

    Of course, it didn't happen, and Indiana is in a position that feels a little like Utah's.

    The team appears ready to fully embrace a loss-loaded rebuilding season, but those remaining veterans may help it stumble into a few more wins than it wants.

    At some point, they'll get moved, but in the meantime, the Pacers could be frisky at times.

    The veterans aren't the only reason for that. Unlike the Jazz, Indiana has a young player who appears poised to become a star.

    After he was traded to the Pacers last season, 22-year-old Tyrese Haliburton averaged 17.5 points, 9.6 assists and 2.2 threes in 26 games while shooting 41.6 percent from three.

27. Oklahoma City Thunder

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    DENVER, CO - OCTOBER 3: Josh Giddey #3 of the Oklahoma City Thunder dribbles the ball during the game against the Denver Nuggets on October 3, 2022 at the Ball Arena in Denver, Colorado. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2022 NBAE (Photo by Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images)
    Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images

    Championship Odds: +50000

    Over/Under: 22.5 wins

    With Chet Holmgren set to miss all of the 2022-23 season because of a foot injury, the Oklahoma City Thunder are likely angling toward another high lottery pick.

    The idea of a frontcourt populated by Aleksej Pokusevski (7'0"), Holmgren (7'0") and Victor Wembanyama (7'4") is equal parts hilarious and terrifying. Add a 6'8" point guard in Josh Giddey and a 6'6" combo guard in Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, and this would almost certainly be the league's most interesting lineup.

    Of course, that's looking forward to 2023-24, which actually informs OKC's prospects for this season fairly well.

    Players such as Giddey, Poku and SGA (whenever he returns from an MCL sprain) will provide some entertaining stretches, but the Thunder are still in an asset-accumulation phase that lends itself to far-flung prognostication.

26. Charlotte Hornets

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    CHARLOTTE, NC - OCTOBER 10: LaMelo Ball #1 of the Charlotte Hornets dribbles the ball during the game against the Washington Wizards on October 10, 2022 at Spectrum Center in Charlotte, North Carolina. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2022 NBAE (Photo by Kent Smith/NBAE via Getty Images)
    Kent Smith/NBAE via Getty Images

    Championship Odds: +24000

    Over/Under: 34.5 wins

    The Charlotte Hornets' offseason ranged from the serious: Miles Bridges was charged with felony domestic violence and child abuse.

    To the not-so-serious: They didn't add anyone of note and lost LaMelo Ball for what could be the start of the regular season with an ankle injury,

    It's hard to imagine the team resisting the Loserama for long.

    They haven't gotten as much buzz as Conley, Clarkson, Hield and Turner, but Terry Rozier and Gordon Hayward should be available for trades. The recovery timeline for LaMelo should be very conservative. The organization shouldn't be afraid of G League call-ups.

    The short-term pain that could come from all those losses would feel worth it after the first Ball-to-Wembanyama alley-oop.

25. Houston Rockets

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    HOUSTON, TX - OCTOBER 7: Jalen Green #4 of the Houston Rockets shoots the ball during the game against the Toronto Raptors  on October 7, 2022 at the Toyota Center in Houston, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2022 NBAE (Photo by Logan Riely/NBAE via Getty Images)
    Logan Riely/NBAE via Getty Images

    Championship Odds: +50000

    Over/Under: 23.5 wins

    The Houston Rockets remain one of the league's youngest teams. There isn't a single star on the roster. Unlike some of the others previously detailed, though, there is star potential.

    Don't misunderstand this comparison to be a suggestion that they'll be as good as Jamal Murray, Michael Porter Jr. and Nikola Jokić, but you can at least see the parallels between that trio and Jalen Green, Jabari Smith Jr. and Alperen Şengün.

    There's an explosive combo guard, a big, high-end shooter (who probably has a little more defensive upside) and a playmaking 5. To varying degrees, all three have All-Star upside, and we'll at least see flashes of it in 2022-23.

24. Detroit Pistons

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    NEW ORLEANS, LA - OCTOBER 7: Cade Cunningham #2 of the Detroit Pistons handles the ball during the game against the New Orleans Pelicans on October 7, 2022 at the Smoothie King Center in New Orleans, Louisiana. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2022 NBAE (Photo by Layne Murdoch Jr./NBAE via Getty Images)
    Layne Murdoch Jr./NBAE via Getty Images

    Championship Odds: +50000

    Over/Under: 29.5 wins

    The Detroit Pistons made a win-now move when they acquired Bojan Bogdanović from the Jazz's fire sale in September. He's exactly the kind of forward the team should put alongside rising potential star Cade Cunningham.

    Bogdanović is a career 39.2 percent three-point shooter, and he may be the most reliable catch-and-shoot target Cunningham's had in his short career.

    Having Saddiq Bey (who shot 38.0 percent from three during his rookie season in 2020-21) and Isaiah Stewart (a career 33.0 percent three-point shooter on limited volume) in those lineups as well should make life easier for Cade and widen driving lanes for Jaden Ivey.

    That may not translate to a ton of wins, but it'll probably get them more than the teams behind them.

23. Orlando Magic

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    DALLAS, TX - OCTOBER 7: Paolo Banchero #5 of the Orlando Magic dribbles the ball against the Dallas Mavericks during a preseason game on October 7, 2022 at the American Airlines Center in Dallas, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2022 NBAE (Photo by Glenn James/NBAE via Getty Images)
    Glenn James/NBAE via Getty Images

    Championship Odds: +50000

    Over/Under: 27.5 wins

    There's a temptation to bump up the Orlando Magic even further, but we'll pump the brakes for now.

    The reasons for the optimism are all over the roster. No. 1 pick Paolo Banchero has shown intriguing point forward chops. Franz Wagner just had a EuroBasket run in which he looked like Germany's best player. Wendell Carter Jr. started to live up the Al Horford comparisons last season.

    And after those three, they have depth from Markelle Fultz, Jalen Suggs, Cole Anthony, Jonathan Isaac, Chuma Okeke and Mo Bamba.

    This team will be feisty, and it'll surprise some opponents throughout the season.

22. New York Knicks

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    NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 4: Jalen Brunson #11 of the New York Knicks drives to the basket during a preseason game on October 4, 2022 at Madison Square Garden in New York City, New York.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2022 NBAE  (Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)
    Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

    Championship Odds: +12000

    Over-Under: 38.5 wins

    The addition of Jalen Brunson got a ton of attention this summer, but that may have had as much to do with the media obsession with the New York Knicks as it did with Brunson.

    He's a solid point guard, but he came in at No. 61 on Bleacher Report's preseason player rankings. And that feels like about the right range for him, RJ Barrett (No. 59) and Julius Randle (No. 73), ostensibly the team's top three scoring options.

    There's a lot of interesting young talent around that trio, including Obi Toppin (who should probably play over Randle), Immanuel Quickley and Quentin Grimes, but none of them is a star either.

    Altogether, the Knicks look like a team that will be just good enough to stay in the play-in mix.

21. Washington Wizards

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    CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA - OCTOBER 10:  Kristaps Porzingis #6 of the Washington Wizards reacts following a play during the second quarter of the game against the Charlotte Hornets at Spectrum Center on October 10, 2022 in Charlotte, North Carolina. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)
    Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

    Championship Odds: +21000

    Over/Under: 35.5 wins

    The Washington Wizards are in a similar position to the Knicks.

    There's decent depth (Monte Morris, Kyle Kuzma and Will Barton) and intriguing young talent (Deni Avdija and Rui Hachimura).

    What separates them, though, is Bradley Beal and Kristaps Porzingis. Neither is guaranteed an All-Star or All-NBA spot, but it's not hard to envision them reaching higher individual ceilings than anyone on the Knicks.

20. Portland Trail Blazers

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    SACRAMENTO, CA - OCTOBER 9: Damian Lillard #0 of the Portland Trail Blazers shoots a three point basket against the Sacramento Kings during a preseason game on October 9, 2022 at Golden 1 Center in Sacramento, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2022 NBAE (Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images)
    Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images

    Championship Odds: +18000

    Over/Under: 39.5 wins

    Getting Damian Lillard back will obviously help, but the Portland Trail Blazers were just 12-17 when he was in the lineup last season.

    He appeared compromised by the abdominal injury that eventually ended his season in those games, and the rest of the roster underwent plenty of turnover, but the point is that Lillard may not be the playoff guarantee he once was.

    Even modest expectations for Lillard and the Blazers should have them in the play-in mix, though.

    During their five-plus seasons together, Portland is plus-6.6 points per 100 possessions when Lillard and Jusuf Nurkić are both on the floor. Josh Hart and Jerami Grant can provide defense and a little scoring on the wings. And Anfernee Simons showed explosive scoring upside with 23.4 points in 27 games after Lillard was shut down in 2021-22.

19. Sacramento Kings

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    LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 3: Keegan Murray #13 of the Sacramento Kings dribbles the ball against the Los Angeles Lakers during a preseason game on October 3, 2022 at Crypto.com Arena in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2022 NBAE (Photo by Adam Pantozzi/NBAE via Getty Images)
    Adam Pantozzi/NBAE via Getty Images

    Championship Odds: +49000

    Over/Under: 33.5

    Sacramento Kings fans who've suffered through the 16-year playoff drought are surely cautious, but there's an awful lot of optimism floating around the internet for this team.

    And it's not hard to see why.

    At the very least, De'Aaron Fox and Domantas Sabonis have the potential to be good to great relative to their positions.

    And surrounding those two in the middle of the floor with shooting from Keegan Murray, Harrison Barnes and Kevin Huerter (or Malik Monk) should make this team a tough cover.

    The defense needs work, but there's enough talent here to start the Kings in the play-in range of the power rankings.

18. Chicago Bulls

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    TORONTO, CANADA - OCTOBER 9: DeMar DeRozan #11 of the Chicago Bulls warms up before a preseason game on October 9, 2022 at the Scotiabank Arena in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2022 NBAE (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/NBAE via Getty Images)
    Vaughn Ridley/NBAE via Getty Images

    Championship Odds: +6500

    Over/Under: 41.5 wins

    There's still no timetable for Lonzo Ball's return from a knee injury that's plagued him since at least as far back as January, and that alone is enough to make us wary of the Chicago Bulls.

    Last season, the Bulls were plus-2.9 points per 100 possessions when Ball, his steady defense and unselfish offense were on the floor. They were minus-1.7 without him, which is a point differential around that of a typical 37-win team.

    DeMar DeRozan repeating the brilliance of his 2021-22 campaign, when he set a career high for points per game with 27.9, and Nikola Vučević bouncing back to his pre-2021-22 level could make up for the absence of Ball, but neither possibility feels like a lock.

17. Los Angeles Lakers

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    LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - OCTOBER 06: (L-R) LeBron James #6, Patrick Beverley #21, Anthony Davis #3 and Russell Westbrook #0 of the Los Angeles Lakers laugh on the bench in the fourth quarter of a preseason game against the Minnesota Timberwolves at T-Mobile Arena on October 06, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada. The Timberwolves defeated the Lakers 114-99. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
    Ethan Miller/Getty Images

    Championship Odds: +2700

    Over/Under: 44.5 wins

    The Los Angeles Lakers going 33-49 last season seems to have been mostly forgotten this summer. Expecting 12 more wins, which the over/under suggests is in play, feels like a dangerous bet.

    It's easy to explain away the disappointment of 2021-22 by noting extended absences from LeBron James and Anthony Davis, as well as the poor fit between those two and Russell Westbrook, but it's not like any of those issues are guaranteed to just fade.

    LeBron is closing in on his 38th birthday. AD has struggled to stay on the floor for much of his career (especially the last four seasons). And people have been waiting for Russ to change for a half-decade.

    Patrick Beverley and Dennis Schröder were both solid additions, but they're not good enough to erase or even paper over everything that doomed the 2021-22 squad.

16. Toronto Raptors

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    TORONTO, CANADA - OCTOBER 9: Scottie Barnes #4 of the Toronto Raptors dribbles the ball against the Chicago Bulls during a preseason game on October 9, 2022 at the Scotiabank Arena in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2022 NBAE (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/NBAE via Getty Images)
    Vaughn Ridley/NBAE via Getty Images

    Championship Odds: +4600

    Over/Under: 46.5 wins

    With big and mostly positionless forwards such as Scottie Barnes, OG Anunoby and Pascal Siakam in place, the Toronto Raptors were already one of the better equipped teams for modern, switch-heavy basketball.

    They can lean even further into that philosophy in 2022-23 if they entrust Barnes to function more often as the point guard (the position he largely played in college).

    Fred VanVleet is one of the league's better point guards, and this isn't a suggestion that his role should be minimized, but Toronto could cause some big problems for opponents with lineups that include Barnes, Gary Trent Jr., Anunoby, Otto Porter Jr. and Siakam.

15. Atlanta Hawks

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    Atlanta Hawks' guard Trae Young (R) and Atlanta Hawks' guard Dejounte Murray attend a press conference after the NBA pre-season basketball match between the Milwaukee Bucks and the Atlanta Hawks at the Etihad Arena on Yas Island in Abu Dhabi, on October 6, 2022. (Photo by Karim SAHIB / AFP) (Photo by KARIM SAHIB/AFP via Getty Images)
    KARIM SAHIB/AFP via Getty Images

    Championship Odds: +5000

    Over/Under: 45.5 wins

    The Atlanta Hawks pushed in a lot of chips this summer. And they didn't do it on a conventional hand.

    If you combine usage and assist percentage from 2021-22, Trae Young and Dejounte Murray finished second and fourth, respectively. Combining two players so used to controlling possessions is fraught with potential complications, but these two can make it work.

    Their assist averages suggest unselfishness, but their scoring arsenals also seem complementary. Young can punish a team from the outside, which should widen driving lanes for Murray. His slashing, in turn, should draw defenses away from Young and others outside.

    Perhaps most importantly, Murray's arrival means the Hawks have a high-end perimeter defender too. Trae's issues out there have long been an issue.

    There may be some growing pains for these two, but it's not too difficult to see the Hawks outperforming this rank.

14. Cleveland Cavaliers

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    PHILADELPHIA, PA - OCTOBER 5: Donovan Mitchell #45 of the Cleveland Cavaliers looks on on October 5, 2022 at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2022 NBAE (Photo by David Dow/NBAE via Getty Images)
    David Dow/NBAE via Getty Images

    Championship Odds: +3300

    Over/Under: 47.5 wins

    Like the Hawks, the Cleveland Cavaliers went all-in on a guard this offseason, only they opted for the offensive-minded player.

    Donovan Mitchell heads to the Cleveland Cavaliers with an all-time top-10 career playoff scoring average, and his nose for big moments should take a lot of pressure off Darius Garland.

    Those two will present the team with some defensive challenges, but a frontcourt that includes Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen is uniquely equipped to cover them.

    Depth could be an underrated strength of this team too. After the stars, Cleveland has Ricky Rubio (whenever he's back from a torn ACL recovery), Kevin Love (who had an underrated Sixth Man of the Year case in 2021-22), Caris LeVert, Isaac Okoro and Cedi Osman.

13. New Orleans Pelicans

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    SAN ANTONIO, TX - OCTOBER 9: Zion Williamson #1 of the New Orleans Pelicans dribbles the ball against the San Antonio Spurs during a preseason game on October 9, 2022 at the AT&T Center in San Antonio, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2022 NBAE (Photos by Michael Gonzales/NBAE via Getty Images)
    Photos by Michael Gonzales/NBAE via Getty Images

    Championship Odds: +5500

    Over/Under: 45.5 wins

    Assuming Zion Williamson stays mostly healthy, this ranking will feel conservative.

    The New Orleans Pelicans have one of the game's most complete, dynamic and well-balanced starting fives in CJ McCollum, Herbert Jones, Brandon Ingram, Zion and Jonas Valančiūnas.

    The bench has several potential difference makers too. Jose Alvarado is one of the peskiest defenders in the league. Devonte' Graham is a solid heat-check guy. Trey Murphy III showed a lot of three-and-D upside as a rookie. Larry Nance Jr. is one of the game's more versatile backup bigs. And even Willy Hernangómez can tally points and rebounds in a hurry when he gets the opportunity.

    Ultimately, though, the Pelicans' ceiling will mostly be determined by the health and scoring ability of Zion, who put up Shaquille O'Neal-like offensive numbers when we last saw him.

12. Minnesota Timberwolves

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    LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - OCTOBER 06: Rudy Gobert #27 and D'Angelo Russell #0 of the Minnesota Timberwolves talk on the bench in the first quarter of their preseason game against the Los Angeles Lakers at T-Mobile Arena on October 06, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada. The Timberwolves defeated the Lakers 114-99. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
    Ethan Miller/Getty Images

    Championship Odds: +3300

    Over/Under: 48.5

    Like Stephen Curry on the offensive end, Rudy Gobert is pretty much a defense unto himself.

    Since he became Utah's full-time starting 5 ahead of the 2015-16 season, the Jazz have given up 106.7 points per 100 possessions, a mark that ranks first in the league.

    With the deterrence that he brings to the paint and the developing perimeter defense of Anthony Edwards and Jaden McDaniels, the Minnesota Timberwolves have a real shot at a top-10 D.

    Then, with the alpha scoring Edwards showed in the 2022 playoffs, Karl-Anthony Towns' generational shooting ability and D'Angelo Russell setting up Gobert for lobs, the T-Wolves could be top-10 on the other end too.

    If they pull that off, they will probably escape the play-in tournament.

11. Brooklyn Nets

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    NEW YORK, NEW YORK - OCTOBER 06: Ben Simmons #10 and Kevin Durant #7 of the Brooklyn Nets look on during the second half against the Miami Heat at Barclays Center on October 06, 2022 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images)
    Sarah Stier/Getty Images

    Championship Odds: +900

    Over/Under: 51.5

    If everything goes right for the Brooklyn Nets, they can win the championship. The upside of this team is 60-plus wins and a relatively comfortable cruise through the playoffs.

    Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving are two of the best offensive players of all time. Ben Simmons is a low-usage complement who'll feed both and can bother the opposition's best player.

    And surrounding those three with the kind of shooting that Seth Curry, Joe Harris, Patty Mills or Royce O'Neale can provide gives Brooklyn terrifying potential.

    Of course, "if everything goes right" feels like less of a given for the Nets than it does for most other teams.

    Between the three of them, Kyrie, KD and Simmons made just 84 appearances in 2021-22. Neither Durant nor Irving was Mr. Availability for a couple of years before then.

    Extended absences from two or three of the above and a bubbling over of the drama that led to a KD trade request and ultimatum this summer could have this whole thing unraveling pretty quickly.

10. Miami Heat

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    NEW YORK, NEW YORK - OCTOBER 06: Jimmy Butler #22 of the Miami Heat dribbles during the first half against the Brooklyn Nets at Barclays Center on October 06, 2022 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images)
    Sarah Stier/Getty Images

    Championship Odds: +1600

    Over/Under: 49.5

    Plenty of people were already worried about the ages of Jimmy Butler and Kyle Lowry ahead of 2021-22. Now, they're 33 and 36, respectively. The Miami Heat never really replaced P.J. Tucker, either.

    At a certain point, though, we probably just have to trust the infrastructure.

    Miami exceeded expectations when it made it to the NBA Finals in 2020. It exceeded them again by finishing first in the East last season and pushing the Boston Celtics to seven games in the 2022 conference finals.

    With Tyler Herro, 22, and Bam Adebayo, 25, both pre-prime, and the Heat always seeming to find at least one or two diamonds from the free-agency rough, there should be enough here for Butler and Lowry to make one more push.

9. Dallas Mavericks

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    DALLAS, TX - OCTOBER 7: Luka Doncic #77 of the Dallas Mavericks dribbles the ball against the Orlando Magic during a preseason game on October 7, 2022 at the American Airlines Center in Dallas, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2022 NBAE (Photo by Glenn James/NBAE via Getty Images)
    Glenn James/NBAE via Getty Images

    Championship Odds: +2700

    Over/Under: 48.5

    There was an awful lot of handwringing over the Dallas Mavericks' offseason, particularly the loss of Jalen Brunson.

    But Christian Wood should be able to replace the raw scoring, and if Spencer Dinwiddie can rediscover the 2019-20 version of himself, the secondary playmaking should be covered too.

    And really, as Luka Dončić ages into his mid-20s, Dallas may not need much more than him and a bunch of three-point shooters (like Dorian Finney-Smith, Reggie Bullock, Tim Hardaway Jr. and Maxi Kleber) to get back to the level it reached last season.

8. Memphis Grizzlies

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    MEMPHIS, TN - OCTOBER 7: Ja Morant #12 of the Memphis Grizzlies dribbles the ball during a preseason game against the Miami Heat on October 7, 2022 at FedExForum in Memphis, Tennessee. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2022 NBAE (Photo by David Dow/NBAE via Getty Images)
    David Dow/NBAE via Getty Images

    Championship Odds: +2400

    Over/Under: 48.5

    Kyle Anderson and De'Anthony Melton were important role players for the 56-win Memphis Grizzlies last season. Losing them and not having the injured Jaren Jackson Jr. (foot surgery) for the start of the 2022-23 campaign could hurt, but Memphis' front office and developmental staff has a higher hit rate than most.

    If the Grizzlies can get David Roddy and Jake LaRavia to rotation-level, they should be one of the best teams in the league again.

    Ja Morant (who finished top-10 in MVP voting in 2021-22) and Desmond Bane (who averaged 18.2 points and 3.0 threes per game while shooting 43.6 percent from three) are both 24 or younger and could be one of the game's best backcourts for the foreseeable future. And a supporting cast that includes Brandon Clarke, Tyus Jones, Steven Adams and Dillon Brooks is now playoff-hardened.

7. Phoenix Suns

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    DENVER, CO - OCTOBER 10: Devin Booker #1 of the Phoenix Suns arrives to the arena before a preseason game against the Denver Nuggets on October 10, 2022 at the Ball Arena in Denver, Colorado. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2022 NBAE (Photo by Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images)
    Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images

    Championship Odds: +1000

    Over/Under: 52.5

    After back-to-back blowouts at the hands of the Dallas Mavericks ended the Phoenix Suns' 2022 postseason, they went through an offseason that included a rocky restricted free agency for Deandre Ayton and a trade request from Jae Crowder.

    And though all the "it's just the preseason" caveats apply, Phoenix followed that summer with losses to the Adelaide 36ers and a Denver Nuggets team sitting Nikola Jokić, Jamal Murray and Aaron Gordon.

    The vibes aren't great.

    Still, this team won 64 games last season. Ayton, Devin Booker and Chris Paul are all back. Mikal Bridges and Cameron Johnson are ideal combo forwards to fill out the rest of that starting five.

    And though the bench feels a little thin, the Suns' title window isn't shut yet.

6. Los Angeles Clippers

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    LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 9: Kawhi Leonard #2 of the LA Clippers looks on during a preseason game against the Minnesota Timberwolves on October 9, 2022 at Crypto.com Arena in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2022 NBAE (Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)
    Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images

    Championship Odds: +700

    Over/Under: 52.5

    It's a mighty big "if," but if Kawhi Leonard and Paul George are healthy in April, May and June, the Los Angeles Clippers will absolutely be title contenders.

    Leonard is a two-time Finals MVP with the fifth-best career playoff box plus-minus in NBA history. No one in league history matches or exceeds both PG's career marks for threes per game (2.5) and defensive box plus/minus (1.3).

    And surrounding that top two with all the positionless options the Clippers have and two playmakers in John Wall and Reggie Jackson could make this team a juggernaut.

5. Philadelphia 76ers

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    PHILADELPHIA, PA - OCTOBER 5: Tyrese Maxey #0 and James Harden #1 of the Philadelphia 76ers before a preseason game against the Cleveland Cavaliers on October 5, 2022 at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2022 NBAE (Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images)
    Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images

    Championship Odds: +1300

    Over/Under: 50.5

    Joel Embiid and James Harden make up one of the NBA's best duos. When both were on the floor in 2021-22, the Philadelphia 76ers were plus-15.8 points per 100 possessions (99th percentile).

    Competing for a championship will depend on everyone else, though, and 21-year-old Tyrese Maxey's 20.8 points in the playoffs suggest he's ready to be a championship-level No. 3.

    His ascension makes Tobias Harris one of the league's best fourth options. And the additions of De'Anthony Melton and P.J. Tucker should help too.

    With the possible exception of the partial year Jimmy Butler was in Philly, this is probably the best team Embiid's ever had.

4. Denver Nuggets

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    DENVER, CO - OCTOBER 3: Nikola Jokic #15 of the Denver Nuggets arrives to the arena before the game against the Oklahoma City Thunder on October 3, 2022 at the Ball Arena in Denver, Colorado. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2022 NBAE (Photo by Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images)
    Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images

    Championship Odds: +2000

    Over/Under: 51.5

    The Denver Nuggets were plus-9.0 points per 100 possessions (a point differential around that of a 62-win team) when two-time reigning MVP Nikola Jokić was on the floor last season. And they pulled that off without Jamal Murray (torn ACL) for the entire campaign and Michael Porter Jr. (back surgery) for all but nine games.

    Now, those two are back, and they're joined by a pair of offseason additions that should help on both ends of the floor.

    Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Bruce Brown can both challenge the opposition's best perimeter options while offering solid shooting and timely cutting on the other end.

    Holdovers Aaron Gordon and Bones Hyland should find life a little easier with all the returns and acquisitions too.

    If everyone's mostly healthy, Denver should be in the title contenders tier.

3. Boston Celtics

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    Boston, MA - October 5: Boston Celtics SF Jayson Tatum fires off a 1st quarter shot. The Celtics lost to the Toronto Raptors, 125-119. (Photo by John Tlumacki/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
    John Tlumacki/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

    Championship Odds: +600

    Over/Under: 53.5

    Ime Udoka's season-long suspension and injuries to Danilo Gallinari (torn ACL) and Robert Williams III (knee surgery) put a pretty heavy damper on an offseason that once felt like one of the better ones in the NBA.

    Even with the late-summer chaos, though, the Boston Celtics should be one of the best teams in the league.

    The versatility of a lineup with Marcus Smart, Malcolm Brogdon, Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum and Al Horford will make Boston a nightmare to defend. Playmaking and shooting can come from just about anywhere, and the switchability on the other end should give the Celtics one of the game's best defenses again.

    The return of Williams will certainly help, but in the meantime, depth from Derrick White and Boston's other Williams (Grant) will help too.

2. Milwaukee Bucks

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    Milwaukee Bucks' forward Giannis Antetokounmpo (L) takes part in a training session ahead of the NBA pre-season basketball match between Milwaukee Bucks and Atlanta Hawks at Etihad Arena on Yas Island in Abu Dhabi, on October 5, 2022. (Photo by Giuseppe CACACE / AFP) / The erroneous mention[s] appearing in the metadata of this photo by Giuseppe CACACE has been modified in AFP systems in the following manner: [Giannis Antetokounmpo] instead of [Thanasis Antetokounmpo]. Please immediately remove the erroneous mention[s] from all your online services and delete it (them) from your servers. If you have been authorized by AFP to distribute it (them) to third parties, please ensure that the same actions are carried out by them. Failure to promptly comply with these instructions will entail liability on your part for any continued or post notification usage. Therefore we thank you very much for all your attention and prompt action. We are sorry for the inconvenience this notification may cause and remain at your disposal for any further information you may require. (Photo by GIUSEPPE CACACE/AFP via Getty Images)
    GIUSEPPE CACACE/AFP via Getty Images

    Championship Odds: +550

    Over/Under: 52.5

    Despite the absence of Khris Middleton for the second round of the postseason, the Milwaukee Bucks pushed the Boston Celtics to seven games (Giannis Antetokounmpo averaged 33.9 points, 14.7 rebounds, 7.1 assists, 1.1 blocks and 1.0 steals per contest in that series).

    Had Middleton been healthy, the Bucks repeating as champs would have been in play. And he, Giannis and Jrue Holiday are all still in their primes (or at least close to it, in the 32-year-old Holiday's case).

    In the two seasons those three have been together (including the playoffs), Milwaukee is plus-12.2 points per 100 possessions when the entire trio is on the floor.

    Having all of them available in the playoffs should be enough to make the Bucks contenders, and backing them up with Brook Lopez, Bobby Portis, Pat Connaughton, Grayson Allen and Joe Ingles could make them the favorites.

1. Golden State Warriors

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    SAITAMA, JAPAN - OCTOBER 02: Stephen Curry #30 of the Golden State Warriors dribbles the ball during the Washington Wizards v Golden State Warriors - NBA Japan Games at Saitama Super Arena on October 02, 2022 in Saitama, Japan.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.    (Photo by Takashi Aoyama/Getty Images)
    Takashi Aoyama/Getty Images

    Championship Odds: +700

    Over/Under: 52.5

    Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Andre Iguodala and Draymond Green have a chance to pass LeBron James and Shaquille O'Neal and tie Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan, Magic Johnson and their coach, Steve Kerr, this year.

    Five championships would put the legacies of that group in truly rarified air. Only 13 players in league history have more.

    And with that accomplishment on the line, it feels like the Golden State Warriors will power through (or at least try to power through) whatever drama pops up along the way.

    That includes the infamous punch Draymond threw at up-and-coming guard Jordan Poole. After a feverish reaction that included speculation about multi-game suspensions and Draymond trades, it was recently reported that Green would return to the team after paying a fine. No suspension was handed down.

    For years, Draymond has played with an intensity that often bordered on being detrimental. It's occasionally crossed that border, but it's also been a key ingredient for the four titles.

    The Warriors surely know that.

    They've also been cultivating a young core behind Draymond and the other four-timers.

    Poole has already proved himself. Based on flashes from James Wiseman, Jonathan Kuminga and Moses Moody, they could be ready for more too.

    If they can provide the depth the stars need, Curry, Green, Thompson and Iguodala could fill up an entire hand with NBA championship rings.


    Stats via PBP Stats, Cleaning the Glass, Basketball Reference and NBA.com unless otherwise noted.


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