With training camp wrapping up and preseason underway, rosters are mostly solidified across the league. That means it’s time for my 2022-23 NBA preseason power rankings. My rankings are based on a combination of predicted regular season and postseason success (with playoffs holding more weight) and take into account roster talent, fit, and past success and/or failure. Here we go!
1: Milwaukee Bucks (3 Seed in East)
Key Players: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton, Jrue Holiday, Brook Lopez, Bobby Portis Jr.
The Bucks were a healthy Khris Middleton away from a potential repeat last season. While their offseason wasn’t flashy (their main addition was Joe Ingles), it got the job done. Major contributors Bobby Portis and Wesley Matthews are back in the Cream City and starting big man Brook Lopez will be healthy for a full season, putting the 2021 champs back at full strength and in position to return to the promised land with the best player in basketball at the helm.
2: Los Angeles Clippers (4 Seed in West)
Key Players: Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, John Wall, Norman Powell, Reggie Jackson
With superstar Kawhi Leonard returning to the court after missing the 2021-22 season, the Clippers are looking scary. The elite tandem of Kawhi and Paul George headlines a squad with at least twelve rotation-caliber players that offer a combination of knockdown shooting (Norman Powell, Luke Kennard, Marcus Morris Sr.) and rock-solid defense (Robert Covington, Nicolas Batum, Ivica Zubac). While I don’t expect them to dominate the regular season, the Clippers will make a deep playoff run and are my pick to make it out of the West in 2023.
3: Golden State Warriors (1 Seed in West)
Key Players: Stephen Curry, Draymond Green, Andrew Wiggins, Jordan Poole, Klay Thompson
It seems like the sun will never set on the Golden State dynasty. The iconic trio of Steph, Klay, and Draymond are still leading their team to rings while the next generation of Dubs grows around them. Andrew Wiggins and Jordan Poole both blossomed last season for the reigning champs, and with similar growth expected from James Wiseman, Jonathan Kuminga, and others the Warriors will continue to contend for the next decade.
4: Boston Celtics (1 Seed in East)
Key Players: Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart, Robert Williams III, Malcolm Brogdon, Al Horford, Derrick White
Ime Udoka’s suspension is a big problem for a Boston squad coming off a Finals loss, but it’s hard to count out the team with perhaps the best top seven in the association. The menacing defensive unit that brought them to the Finals is still intact and they will once again stifle opposing offenses in 2023. On the other end, Malcolm Brogdon answers Boston’s need for a true point guard and will help elevate them to another level. The Celtics will compete for their 18th banner with or without Ime Udoka.
5: Denver Nuggets (3 Seed in West)
Key Players: Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray, Michael Porter Jr.
The common theme of key players returning continues with the Nuggets. Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. are rejoining Nikola Jokic on the court to form a deadly offensive trio that could run the West. With a solid group of role players including Aaron Gordon and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope around them, the back-to-back MVP has a chance of winning his first championship.
6: Phoenix Suns (2 Seed in West)
Key Players: Devin Booker, Chris Paul, Deandre Ayton, Mikal Bridges
After falling short against the Mavericks in embarrassing fashion, the Suns have a lot to prove this season. They’ve been a great regular-season team since Chris Paul arrived, but can they take it to the next level? Jae Crowder not showing up for training camp and Monty Williams supposedly not talking to Deandre Ayton all summer are not good signs for a roster seemingly already on the brink of falling apart. This is a make-or-break year for the Valley Boys.
7: Philadelphia 76ers (2 Seed in East)
Key Players: Joel Embiid, James Harden, Tyrese Maxey, Tobias Harris
The 76ers have been on the cusp of true contention for a few years now and they might finally reach that status in 2023. Joel Embiid is one of the most dominant forces in the game and he forms a top-of-the-line trio with former MVP James Harden and young star Tyrese Maxey. Philly also bolstered their depth with defensive-minded role players P.J. Tucker and De’Anthony Melton. This might be the best roster Embiid has had around him in his career and they have their sights firmly set on the Larry O’Brien.
8: Cleveland Cavaliers (4 Seed in East)
Key Players: Donovan Mitchell, Darius Garland, Jarrett Allen, Evan Mobley, Caris LeVert
Adding Donovan Mitchell to one of the league’s top young cores and League Pass teams is not only a recipe for fun but also for success. Mitchell and Darius Garland will torch opposing defenses every night and Jarrett Allen and Evan Mobley will cover up for their defensive deficiencies. This up-and-coming Cavs squad will win a lot of games and be a tough out in the playoffs
#9: Miami Heat (6 Seed in East)
Key Players: Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo, Tyler Herro, Kyle Lowry
Miami was a Jimmy Butler miss away from the Finals last season. Fueled by that defeat they are likely “stupidly locked in” for 2022-23, looking to return to the big stage. However, other top Eastern Conference teams improved around them while they added nobody besides rookies. It will be a tough road through the playoffs for Miami and they will need bigger contributions from Bam Adebayo and Tyler Herro (and someone to step up and fill the gaping hole at the four) to fulfill their championship aspirations.
#10: Atlanta Hawks (5 Seed in East)
Key Players: Trae Young, Dejounte Murray, John Collins, Clint Capela, De’Andre Hunter, Onyeka Okongwu
The Hawks needed to get better after a disappointing round-one loss to Miami where Trae Young struggled mightily, and they did just that by acquiring All-Star guard Dejounte Murray from the Spurs. Dejounte will take pressure off Trae offensively and make up for the offensive phenom’s defensive struggles, making the duo one of the top backcourts in the NBA. Around them is an awesome young roster including two potential breakout players in De’Andre Hunter and Onyeka Okongwu. If everything clicks for this squad they will compete for a ‘chip.
#11: Memphis Grizzlies (5 Seed in West)
Key Players: Ja Morant, Desmond Bane, Jaren Jackson Jr., Dillon Brooks, Tyus Jones
The Grizzlies exploded onto the scene in 2021-22 behind Ja Morant’s meteoric rise. They finished with the second-best record in the league and lost competitively to the eventual champs in the second round. While it will be tough for them to recreate that same magic in the ultra-competitive West, the Grizz will still be one of the most exciting shows in basketball.
#12: Brooklyn Nets (7 Seed in East)
Key Players: Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, Ben Simmons
Brooklyn’s offseason was a roller coaster with Kevin Durant requesting a trade and ultimately deciding to stay. With their all-time great committed to the team (for now), they now have a roster that is a championship contender on paper. So much has gone wrong for them in the KD-Kyrie era that I am not comfortable putting them in that tier, but there is a world where the Nets raise a banner at the end of the 2022-23 season.
#13: Minnesota Timberwolves (6 Seed in West)
Key Players: Karl-Anthony Towns, Rudy Gobert, Anthony Edwards, D’Angelo Russell, Jaden McDaniels
2021-22 was a successful campaign for the Wolves as they made the playoffs for the second time since Karl-Anthony Towns was drafted and lost in six games to Memphis. After that, they decided to go all in and trade for three-time DPOY Rudy Gobert. Next to KAT and budding superstar Anthony Edwards, Gobert will help cement Minnesota as a playoff squad. To be more than a tough early exit, Ant will have to take another massive leap and put himself in top twenty conversations.
#14: Dallas Mavericks (7 Seed in West)
Key Players: Luka Doncic, Christian Wood, Spencer Dinwiddie
Super-duper star Luka Doncic led the Mavs to the Conference Finals last season, embarrassing the top-seeded Suns in the process. Losing Jalen Brunson hurts them but with star big man Christian Wood and a plethora of rock-solid role players they could replicate their 2022 postseason because Luka magic can never be counted out.
#15: New Orleans Pelicans (8 Seed in West)
Key Players: Zion Williamson, Brandon Ingram, C.J. McCollum, Jonas Valanciunas, Herb Jones
This New Orleans squad opened a lot of eyes in the 2022 playoffs, pushing the Suns to six games behind a fantastic series from Brandon Ingram. With Zion Williamson rejoining this young and deep group on the hardwood, don’t sleep on the Pelicans this season because there’s a world where they’re a homecourt team come April.
#16: Los Angeles Lakers (9 Seed in West)
Key Players: LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Russell Westbrook
I have no idea what to expect from the Lakers this year. Will LeBron continue his inhuman longevity? Will AD stay healthy and play like the top-ten player he once was? Will Russell Westbrook turn things around after a shocking 2021-22 season? Are the role players around the big three good enough? The Lakers could either bottom out or play like a legitimate contender in 2023, so I’ve settled on somewhere in the middle.
#17: Chicago Bulls (8 Seed in East)
Key Players: DeMar DeRozan, Zach LaVine, Nikola Vucevic, Lonzo Ball, Patrick Williams
Chicago returned to relevance behind DeMar DeRozan’s All-NBA campaign in 2022 and has their sights set on something more for this year. A lot will have to go right for them to make it out of the first round, though. DeMar needs to replicate last year, Lonzo needs to stay healthy, Vucevic needs to return to All-Star form, and Patrick Williams needs to make a big jump if the Bulls are to make any real noise.
#18: Portland Trail Blazers (10 Seed in West)
Key Players: Damian Lillard, Anfernee Simons, Jerami Grant, Jusuf Nurkic, Josh Hart
The greatest Blazer ever is back healthy and ready to compete again. He has a solid, well-rounded group around him including Simons, Grant, and Nurkic. The 10 seed seems low for Portland but the West is stacked and it’s tough to put them above the nine teams ahead of them. Never count out Damian Lillard, though, because if he’s playing like the top ten player he was in 2021 they will make the playoffs.
#19: Toronto Raptors (9 Seed in East)
Key Players: Pascal Siakam, Fred VanVleet, Scottie Barnes, OG Anunoby, Gary Trent Jr.
Toronto has one of the deepest and most well-rounded rosters in the association, and their starting five is as good as anybody’s. The only thing holding them back is they lack “the guy” who can elevate them to the next level. Pascal Siakam is an All-NBA forward but isn’t good enough to be the best player on a championship team. Fans of the team are convinced Rookie of the Year Scottie Barnes will be that guy, but he isn’t right now and that’s why the Raptors will finish in the play-in.
#20: Sacramento Kings (11 Seed in West)
Key Players: De’Aaron Fox, Domantas Sabonis, Harrison Barnes, Keegan Murray
The Kings are finally on the path back to relevancy. Acquiring two-time All-Star Domantas Sabonis, drafting Keegan Murray, and adding role players like Kevin Huerter and Malik Monk have put Sacramento in a position to compete after missing the playoffs for a ridiculous 16 seasons straight. With De’Aaron Fox leading the charge this team will be fun to watch as they try to end the drought.
#21: Washington Wizards (10 Seed in East)
Key Players: Bradley Beal, Kristaps Porzingis, Kyle Kuzma, Rui Hachimura
The Wizards have been stuck in mediocracy for the last few seasons, and that’s not going to change this year. With Bradley Beal locked up on the supermax they are looking to compete but the roster around him is not good enough to get any further than the play-in. Young players such as Rui Hachimura, Deni Avdija, and Daniel Gafford are bright spots for Washington, and Beal’s scoring is always fun, but this team is nothing too special.
#22: New York Knicks (11 Seed in East)
Key Players: R.J. Barrett, Jalen Brunson, Julius Randle, Mitchell Robinson, Immanuel Quickley, Quentin Grimes
I’ve said this before but I’ll say it again: New York needs to commit to the youth movement. R.J. Barrett is a star and they have a group of long-term contributors around him. Mitchell Robinson, Immanuel Quickley, Quentin Grimes, Obi Toppin, Cam Reddish, and Miles McBride are all going to be good NBA players, not to mention new signee Jalen Brunson who is just entering his prime and is still getting better. The Knicks are not good enough to compete and it’s time to let the young guys take over.
#23: Orlando Magic (12 Seed in East)
Key Players: Wendell Carter Jr., Paolo Banchero, Franz Wagner, Markelle Fultz, Cole Anthony
The Magic have quietly built one of the best young cores in the NBA. First overall Paolo Banchero projects to be a number one option and will complete this squad of guys that have flown under the radar. They will surprise a lot of people this year while still finishing in the lottery.
#24: Charlotte Hornets (13 Seed in East)
Key Players: LaMelo Ball, Terry Rozier, Gordon Hayward, P.J. Washington
With Miles Bridges likely gone, this Hornets roster is looking very bleak. LaMelo Ball is one of the most exciting young guards in the league and Terry Rozier is a bucket but they don’t have much else going for them at this point. Charlotte still has playoff aspirations but won’t be able to reach them and it’s possible they are the worst team in the East come April. However, they will still be fun to watch as long as LaMelo and Terry are hooping and Eric Collins is calling games.
#25: Detroit Pistons (14 Seed in East)
Key Players: Cade Cunningham, Saddiq Bey, Jaden Ivey, Bojan Bogdanovic, Isaiah Stewart
Motor City added their engine and franchise player in Cade Cunningham last year. With a big leap from Cade coming this season, the Pistons will competitively tank with improvement from Saddiq Bey, Isaiah Stewart, Marvin Bagley, and others as well. Bojan Bogdanovic might also have a sneaky good season with Cade serving him easy looks nightly.
#26: Oklahoma City Thunder (12 Seed in West)
Key Players: Shai Gilgeous-Alexader, Josh Giddey, Luguentz Dort, Jalen Williams, Tre Mann
Second-overall pick Chet Holmgren going down with injury is a tough blow for the Thunder, but it means they can commit to the tank for another year. Josh Giddey, Jalen (JDub) Williams, Tre Mann, and others will be able to spread their wings fully while Shai Gilgeous-Alexander puts himself firmly in both All-Star and top-twenty player conversations.
#27: Indiana Pacers (15 Seed in East)
Key Players: Tyrese Haliburton, Myles Turner, Bennedict Mathurin, Buddy Hield, Chris Duarte
With Domantas Sabonis, Malcolm Brogdon, and T.J. Warren off the roster, the Pacers are entering their first full season of a long overdue rebuild after being a perennial first-round exit. Tyrese Haliburton is a fantastic offensive player and will cement himself as their lead guard for the future this year. Bottoming out will give them a shot at getting Victor Wembanyama which would give much-needed attention to the team that finished last in attendance in 2021-22.
#28: Houston Rockets (13 Seed in West)
Key Players: Jalen Green, Kevin Porter Jr., Jabari Smith Jr., Alperen Sengun, Tari Eason, Boban Marjanovic
Who needs James Harden? After losing the 2018 MVP two years ago the Rockets have rebuilt quickly and now have a very promising backcourt in his place. Both Jalen Green and Kevin Porter Jr. are star talents and will prove that to those doubting them this season. Next to them are third-overall pick Jabari Smith Jr., fellow first-round pick Tari Eason, and others. This team will be a lot of fun in 2023 as they continue to grow.
#29: San Antonio Spurs (14 Seed in West)
Key Players: Keldon Johnson, Devin Vassell, Jakob Poeltl, Josh Primo, Jeremy Sochan
Trading homegrown All-Star Dejounte Murray officially marked the end of San Antonio’s incredible competitive streak. They are tanking to add a franchise player from the 2023 draft and will develop a slept-on squad headlined by the wing duo of Keldon Johnson and Devin Vassell, two Most Improved Player candidates, in the meantime.
#30: Utah Jazz (15 Seed in West)
Key Players: Collin Sexton, Mike Conley, Jarred Vanderbilt, Lauri Markkanen
Welcome to the Collin Sexton show is something I never thought I would write, but here we are. Sexton is about to go nuclear for a Jazz squad lacking a top option after trading Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert, shushing those clamoring “he’s a sixth man”. They have some other fun players, such as Jarred Vanderbilt, but will be awful in 2023 with the end goal of winning the Wembenyama sweepstakes.