2024 NBA Power Rankings, Pt. 1

Published October 15, 2023

2024 NBA Power Rankings, Pt. 1

30 Teams Ranked – #30 to #26

Fans may not have realized, but the NBA is amidst a transitional period that will be remembered fondly for years to come. We are seeing the last generation of superstars age, often bogged down by injury or playing below their former standards. Many of them are fixated on concluding their careers as champions, hence LeBron James’ front office pressure or Chris Paul’s excitement to join an ongoing dynasty.

Conversely, however, we are being gifted a slew of young talent expected to uphold the league’s marketability and entertainment value. Players such as Luka Dončić, Jayson Tatum, and Anthony Edwards are young with immense upside and collectively expected to lead their franchises through stretches of prosperity.

Going into the 2023-24 season, there are many narratives to consider when assessing the thirty teams looking to compete. How much will the recent trend of parity affect their win totals? Is the presence of disgruntled stars such as James Harden going to spoil the success of otherwise talented squads? Will rookie sensations such as Victor Wembanyama and Scoot Henderson be enough to make their franchises competitive?

Addressing these questions is the intention of this newfound series. In the few weeks leading up to tip-off, continue to tune in to understand the potential of your favorite team – and if their rivals pose a threat to it.

Click on the Table of Contents bar below for easy navigation.

No. 30 – Washington Wizards

For the franchise’s entire existence under the “Wizards” moniker, nothing has defined their culture more than losing. They own the worst winning percentage of the 21st century among NBA teams, at .424 – in that time frame, they’ve only experienced seven winning records, nine playoff berths, and four post-season series wins.

Washington finally decided to crack down on the mediocrity with the firing of general manager Tommy Steppard, who the Wizards had been perennial laughing stocks under. They also shocked the basketball community by trading franchise great Bradley Beal – as well as the recently-acquired Kristaps Porziņģis – to the Phoenix Suns and Boston Celtics, respectively. Further trades with other organizations – most notably the Golden State Warriors – put them in a position to hoard young talent and draft capital, officially rendering them as a “rebuilding” team.

But what will it take for the tank to see it through?

Expand to See Team Stats and Rotation!

A Broken Roster

The answer is…not much.

An already unmistakable defect in D.C. is the lack of continuity in the roster. There is no clear-cut identity for the squad – players of varying ages, timelines, and play styles are forcibly jammed into the responsibility of representing a franchise. It deals coach Wes Unseld Jr. a broken hand devoid of goals or future expectations. It is entirely up to the franchise legend’s heir to fit these blocks into a strategically viable space.

First order of operations involves pinpointing the roles of their best players. The trade for Jordan Poole renders him as the presumed first option on the roster, given his ball-handling and volume scoring abilities. This slots Kyle Kuzma into a narrow secondary role comprised of more play finishing.

Curious to know who Washington’s true breakout guy is, though? Look no further than Tyus Jones.

Throne of Jones

The former Memphis Grizzlies veteran is expected to have a starting role for the first time in his career – a major potential development given his success with it in previous stretches. For proof, compare Jones’ typical averages with those of his performances in a starting lineup, dating pack to the ’21 to ’22 season…

Tyus Jones’ Bench Statistics (’22-’23, 108 games): 7.4 PPG, 2 RPG, 3.8 APG, 42/36/81 shooting splits
Tyus Jones’ Starting Statistics (’22-’23, 45 games): 14.5 PPG, 3.6 RPG, 7.3 APG, 47/40/80 shooting splits

In a decent half-a-season sample size, it is clear that a Jones blessed with leadership opportunities and significant playing time transforms into an uber-efficient point guard with some of the best shooting and assist-to-turnover ratios in the NBA. If these trends follow him to Washington, it is very well possible we could see the birth of a reliable, disciplined chief of offense that will tie together an otherwise fragmented collection of talent.

Not Sold on Unseld?

It is also worth mentioning the unsung offensive breakthroughs Unseld Jr. has made in the shadows of the media. Last year, Washington was not remarkable by the numbers – their offense ranking of twenty-second was generic to the eye and just about accurate for a mediocre seed. However, context reveals the over-achieving nature of their roster, largely thanks to creative coaching.

The Wizards experimented with a plethora of innovative sets and play calls throughout their run that incentivized off-ball movement. It was a system primed for gifted shooters and slithery cutters, something the team blatantly lacked. However, it had its moments in spite of a depleted talent level, as highlighted by the following clips:

Backdoor Switching Action

Big Man Sideline Action

Off-Ball Decoy Action

It’s clear that if Unseld Jr. had been blessed with the presence of a legitimate playmaker and more consistent shooting, Washington could have produced even better results. Will that be reflected in the play of this new-look Wizards team? Not likely, given their scoring downgrades and decline in efficiency. Regardless, Wizards fans should be looking forward to the developments of their pieces under his lead.


With player improvement and offensive capabilities addressed, there are still two glaring flaws with the Wizards – their raw talent and defense. They simply lack the power to compete at an NBA level currently, very much likely to win less than twenty-five-percent of their games.

Their defensive ceiling is entirely dependent on how Gafford handles the inevitable funneling of players to his rim presence, which is rarely ever an effective approach. There are other impact players scattered throughout their roster, but they are often met with equally damaging flaws – for example, Avdija’s net negative shot creation.

Considering both Gafford and Landry Shamet have been ruled out to start the season, do not be surprised if Washington’s pitiful depth catapults them into a historically terrible start. It will only be the beginning of a conquest for future prospects – that is the vision commanded by newly-appointed general manager Will Dawkins, whose off-season bravery could usher in a legitimate direction for the franchise.

CeilingMissing playoffs
FloorMissing playoffs

No. 29 – San Antonio Spurs

In stark contrast to the depressive losses that defined the modern era of Washington, San Antonio is the 21st century’s winningest team. However, a stretch of dynastic rule has since shriveled into a period of bare mediocrity, play-in losses, and lukewarm impact from fringe All-Stars such as DeMar DeRozan or Dejounte Murray.

With the ’22-’23 season, the Spurs finally committed to being terrible. It was to the dismay of Hall of Fame coach Gregg Popovich, but ultimately for the best – their months of fielding one of the NBA’s worst teams resulted in the number-one overall draft pick and the selection of basketball’s greatest prospect in decades – Victor Wembanyama.

If Wembanyama pans out as projected, his impact should be immense and reupholster San Antonio into another period of prosperity. However, can that dream be fulfilled in his rookie year? Contrary to optimism, it may not be the most realistic outcome…

Expand to See Team Stats and Rotation!

What’s Up With Wemby?

The number-one goal of the Spurs organization this season is to develop their budding star into an NBA-caliber player. Wembanyama is a project, something outsiders need to understand when looking in – he will not enter the league contending for the M.V.P. award, nor will the Spurs suddenly improve by over twenty wins through his presence alone.

This league has been met with a never-before-seen level of talent. It is difficult to compete with versatile, well-oiled teams off the breakthroughs of a great rookie, and it is even more difficult to ensure he’ll be dominant from day one.

Wembanyama’s impact, if anywhere, will be felt immediately on the defensive end. San Antonio employed an atrocious ball-stopping system last season that showed a complete inability to defend at any level on the court. Their lineups lacked switch-ability and Popovich was hellbent on favoring drop coverage, which disguised the rim as free food to every opposing offense.

With the rookie present, two things will change about the Spurs defensively – Popovich will no longer tolerate defensive lapses, and the roster will possess a quality rim protector to clean up messes. A steep improvement on that end cannot be promised, but anticipate a level of urgency and focus that was once missing.

Scoring Deficit

On the contrary, the Texas squad will likely post some of the ugliest offensive metrics in the NBA. Why? Their entire team is smothered in inefficiency.

Keldon Johnson and Devin Vassell are both notable bulk scorers, but have glaring flaws that will be inevitable gut-punches to a roster looking to compete. The former is perhaps incapable of shouldering a major offensive load – despite a five-point increase in scoring from his third to fourth season, a wild uptick in usage correlated with his significantly worse shooting splits, especially from the three-point line. He also leaned into a turnover-prone level of play in the process.

However, the inclusion of Wembanyama should relieve Johnson of his larger-than-life responsibilities. He can perhaps return to the dead-eye shooter and tertiary shot creator he was a couple years ago, which will restore his effectiveness on the court.

Vassell’s ceiling is a lot higher in contrast, but he has aspects of his game to polish. The young guard lacks in some areas that will never truly “improve” (i.e., great athleticism), but he can still make advances as a ball-handler, off-the-dribble shooter from three, and finisher at the rim. His over-reliance on the midrange is a novelty quality, but not sustainable in this era of the NBA. He also needs to rehabilitate defensively and return to the hard-nosed play that defined him in college.

For reference, here are Johnson (left) and Vassell’s (right) shot charts from last season:

And the Others?

Zach Collins is another name to take note of, as his offensive versatility may be key to integrating Wembanyama seamlessly. Both are sustainable as post presences and pick-and-pop threats, which enables them to play off of one another without getting tangled.

The rest of the rotation leaves more to be desired – you do have upside in qualities such as Tre Jones’ playmaking and Julian Champagnie’s promising efficiency, but the streaky floor spacing and lack of a floor general besides Jones may force the Spurs into a habit of hanging on more than refining.


This group’s key word for the year should be “discipline”. Their culture is already quite mature for a young core, but reinstating good habits on the basketball court and learning how to play as a unit will be important – people will be watching this time around, given twenty-three-percent of their matches are on national television.

Refusing to make everything about Wembanyama will unlock their premature ceiling, given the path to victory as a collective is clear if they develop in unison. It’s foolish to predict San Antonio will return to a playoff environment any time soon, but their days as a bottom feeder are numbered now.

CeilingMissing playoffs
FloorMissing playoffs

No. 28 – Detroit Pistons

2022 was a living nightmare for the Pistons fanbase. Just about every factor that could go wrong did such – their number-one draft pick got injured twelve games into the year, only seventeen wins were grabbed by their squad, and they only received the fifth overall draft pick despite having the worst record in the league.

Such a catastrophe was arguably necessary to incite change in the organization, who chose to prioritize youth development through giving rookies Jaden Ivey and Jalen Duren the green light. Detroit leaned further into tightening their core with the hire of former Coach of the Year Monty Williams, who was just at the forefront of a Finals team a couple years prior.

With Cade Cunningham expected to return and the team making a couple veteran acquisitions, the Pistons are no longer viewed as a bottom feeder with aspirations of retooling. The rebuild is over, and it’s time to compete – but are they truly prepared?

Expand to See Team Stats and Rotation!

Figuring Out Fit

The good ending for this Detroit team is only achievable with a healthy backcourt fit. Cunningham and Ivey are both immensely talented and some of Detroit’s best prospects in decades, but their play styles overlap to an unhealthy degree. Both like the ball in their hands, aren’t efficient, and struggle from beyond the arc. Ivey is a good bit better off-ball and as a floor spacer, but is worse defensively and a tad more turnover-prone.

If managing this team was a video game task, it would be effective enough to hand shooting guard duties to Ivey and let Cunningham ball-handle and play-make. That is an inevitable stunt to the former’s development, though, and will consequently form road bumps if he is the only guard expected to adapt.

The key to unlocking this tandem is ultimately through floor spacing. Cunningham will struggle to contribute offensively if paired with murky shooting, as his drives will become ineffective – this is a one-way street to encourage his jumper, which is spotty at best. The likes of Bojan Bogdanovic, Joe Harris, and Alec Burks will need to spend time on the floor with their point guard to ease the strain of his job.

What does this spell for Ivey, though? History shows that he’s at his best when running the show, attacking poor defenses, and getting into a rhythm with his jumper. Off-ball play may limit his impact – should he attempt to avoid minutes with Cade as much as possible?

It works in theory, but will greatly hurt Detroit in the long run when determining rotations and closing lineups. It’s why questions have to be raised about their forecast for the season – they’ll look promising if this issue proves irrelevant, but there is no proof – nor favorable odds – that it will.

“D” in Detroit

Regardless of concerns on offense, the Pistons’ ceiling may actually lay in their defensive identity. Coach Williams will be vital to this department – he has a track record of reshaping cores into proud defenses, most notably showcased with the Phoenix Suns over the past few years. A 2019 Suns team ranked second-to-last in defense jumped to 17th and 9th in the next two seasons under Williams’ lead.

He will inevitably encourage Detroit’s players to avoid bad habits like the plague, emphasizing a reduction in fouls – where they ranked first over the last season – and improving defensive rebounding, which was a bottom-five statistic for the squad.

It’s questionable if he has the personnel to influence enhancement, though. The Pistons are among the NBA’s worst perimeter defenses – they are cursed by poor communication, issues with screen navigation, and streaky discipline. Their guards and wings can lock in for stretches, but it would be optimistic to expect game-long ball-hawking.

X-Factor Stew?

These dilemmas are only aggravated by an undersized big man situation – if Bogdanovic starts at the power forward, there is a significant loss in size. Opting for Isaiah Stewart at that position is enticing, though – what are the pros and cons of such an adjustment?

  • Pros: Improvements in size, better rim protection, higher motor
  • Cons: Creates offensive concerns, inserts a forward that tends to over-commit

The positives largely outweigh the opposite, but Stewart will have to employ a consistent long-range shot and practice discipline if slotted into the starting five. Sometimes, his presence as a shot-deterrer and help defender looks game-changing…

But at times, he outright struggles with displaying even basic defensive aptitude. A sheer lack of verticality and lateral quickness influence an embarrassing and-one – as well as a poorly officiated rim protection attempt – in the following clips:

While he has taken steps forward as a legitimate floor spacer in the past season, his efficiency is still unattractive by league standards. It’s clear that the 2020 first-rounder still has some unrealized flair, but this is yet another project for the Pistons to assess in what is supposed to be a confident year.


It’s safe to say that Detroit’s 2023-24 campaign could vary greatly depending on factors nobody is sure of. They’ll need to find a healthy fit, draw stellar production from three-point shooters, and observe defensive breakthroughs from a group inadequate for the job.

It would be unwise to write the Pistons off, as they are clearly hungry and primed for a culture shift. Extended convincing in multiple areas will be needed for a more optimistic outlook, though – until then, the showings of this young core will simply be observed from afar.

CeilingMissing playoffs
FloorMissing playoffs

No. 27 – Charlotte Hornets

Charlotte’s collapse into an afterthought has been shocking from an outsider’s point of view. It was only two seasons ago that they managed one of two franchise winning records in the past decade, even qualifying for the play-in tournament. The most logical assumption would be that they remain in the mix with other middling Eastern Conference peers – however, a dreadful ’22-’23 season and even worse summer have thrown them into a metaphorical dumpster fire.

Injuries tore the Hornets apart last season, with only one rotational piece – P.J. Washington – playing eighty-percent or more of their games. Every other name split time between threads and street clothes, and the loss of LaMelo Ball was a particular knife-to-the-heart moment. With their star guard missing forty-six games, a once-top-ten offense deflated into the league’s worst, entirely devoid of an on-court playmaker.

On paper, a healthy Hornets team should look to post a competitive season at the bare minimum. However, off-season woes haven’t done them any favors – an incompetent front office abandoned by long-term owner Michael Jordan has been drenched in uninspiring roster losses, questionable draft selections, and dramatic controversies from their players.

Charlotte sports optimists are very well within their right to clutch onto this team’s ceiling, given their successes not too long ago. But with the Eastern Conference only getting scrappier, is it reasonable to crown this hardly-improved team as a playoff hopeful?

Expand to See Team Stats and Rotation!

Burning Bridges

No need to let the elephant in the room breathe, as we can address it immediately – the status of Miles Bridges is the ultimate roadblock to this squad’s ambition.

The twenty-five-year-old forward had one of the better breakout seasons of the past few years in ’22, improving in every statistical category and resembling the efficient secondary scorer of the Hornets’ future. Their leap forward in offense that season can be heavily attributed to him – Ball’s developments were undeniably vital, but a complementary piece for a one-two punch only accelerated the winning process more.

However, his on-court progress has been unnervingly counteracted by his off-court antics. A domestic violence controversy haunted the forward heading into ’23, which resulted in a season-long absence and additional suspension to begin this year. Initially, the punishment was touted as a brief ten games – however, recent news of additional crimes place Bridges in an unappealing position, considering he even turned himself into law enforcement.

It is difficult to narrow down the estimated availability for Bridges. On one hand, he may receive an extended suspension from the league – however, he has also been present in Hornets training facilities for practice and regularly around the organization. The safest bet is to base things on his current ten-match suspension, and adjust for further decisions accordingly.

Yay For Youth?

Drawbacks aside, the Hornets should be grateful for a gifted young core blossoming with energy. The roster is still bright and exciting when healthy, and no signs of tanking should be associated with it. Be on the lookout for continued growth from Ball and Mark Williams, discovered continuity for Washington, and first-year standout moments from Brandon Miller.

Even the likes of Théo Maledon – and, depending on Bridges’ presence, JT Thor – are projected to handle meaningful roles for the first time in their careers, meaning this Hornets team is an experiment at heart. In-house scouts for Charlotte should determine the potential of this team regarding both fit and talent, which will clear up the fog surrounding their long-term outlook.

Coach Steve Clifford is a human-sized question mark in regards to his effectiveness leading such an inexperienced group. The Charlotte affiliate has produced some promising results with the franchise – including a seven-game playoff series in the ’15-’16 season – but his inability to maximize inferior talent is unflattering. His success rate has always correlated directly with the quality of the Hornets’ rosters, which is unsurprising given his reputation as a player’s coach. His craftiness – or lack thereof – will get them nowhere this year, which requires a reliance on defensive intensity that these players do not naturally possess.

Is it perhaps better that they look to a certain somebody to lead the other side of the ball instead?

Big Baller, Broken Baller

The improvement of LaMelo Ball will make-or-break their aptness – a lineup featuring such a gifted guard will thrive, but minutes without him are going to be tough. Ball’s attitude towards his health has been promising (i.e., opting to wear ankle braces for the season), so it is vital that his environment is conducive to succeeding as much as possible.

With such buoyancy considered, there are still some serious worries about the former All-Star’s play. His frame is still less than favorable for his role – the lack of bulk makes him a defensive liability prone to shoulder checks, and also leaves him in a comfort zone that avoids contact when scoring at the rim.

Ball’s interior percentages are simply horrible, no way around it. He shoots twelve-percent below the league average at the rim, which is an absurd metric for a six-foot-seven athletic guard. His anti-physical drives cause him to shift in ways that awkwardly avoid defenders, not only influencing worse shots but preventing him from getting to the line. He only averaged a lousy 3.4 free throw attempts per game last year.

This is not a call to undermine the great talent leading Charlotte, but with the potential absence of Bridges, Ball must make great strides as a scorer. He is at his best when working in tandem with another offensive leader – as opposed to overt ball dominance, similarly to a Luka Dončić or Russell Westbrook – but this will require upgrades in versatility.

Can he make it work? We can hope, but only time will tell.


The Hornets should truly be better than what the world sees on the horizon, but there are too many internal complications to put a great deal of faith in this operation. Until the locker room heals and the young core polishes up, anything more than a lottery appearance is far-fetched. They have plenty of gifted pieces circulating their rotation, but this just isn’t the year to see them bear the fruits of their labor.

CeilingMissing playoffs
FloorMissing playoffs

No. 26 – Portland Trail Blazers

Now marks the end of a long-standing era of Trail Blazers basketball headlined by future Hall of Famer Damian Lillard. Outside fans have been calling for his leave from Portland for years, convinced that their poor management has held back the pace of his career – repeated claims from the guard implied his never-ending loyalty to the organization, but his patience finally ran thin as he requested a trade.

The Lillard sweepstakes dominated the off-season’s news, with most expecting him to land in Miami. In shocking fashion, Portland sent their cornerstone to the Milwaukee Bucks in a blockbuster three-team trade. Among the assets received were a haul of picks, All-Star Jrue Holiday, and disgruntled number-one draft pick Deandre Ayton.

Portland acted quickly on their return, shipping Holiday off to the Boston Celtics in return for Sixth Man of the Year Malcolm Brogdon and 2022 All-Defensive Team member Robert Williams. The ensuing roster – which remains constant as of now – is largely comprised of young talent, with only one thirty-year-old in their projected 10-man rotation.

Youth can be shocking in the NBA, as they often have the energy and chemistry to overachieve. The Trail Blazers undeniably have promising pieces scattered about, but is Rip City truly prepared to strive at the highest level?

Expand to See Team Stats and Rotation!

Rebuild Done Proper

On paper, this team falls on the intriguing side. There are four starters that could average anywhere between the late-teens to low-twenties in scoring – not many rosters are constructed this way, which automatically renders Portland as one of the, if not the best offensive young core.

The inclusion of Scoot Henderson is an immediately exhilarating dynamic, subtly replacing the point guard-shaped hole left behind by Lillard. If all goes to plan, fans should feel less empty about the departure of their franchise great – getting to watch the top three pick operate in a stress-free environment will make for some of the most entertaining basketball of the season.

That’s not without acknowledging the upside of other Blazers players, though – Shaedon Sharpe in particular is a name to look out for. The now-sophomore averaged 18.5 points, 4.9 rebounds and 3.1 assists in starts last season, and is now expected to compile a similar level of impact in a bigger role.

Players such as Ayton, Williams, and Matisse Thybulle should be monitored for signals of a higher ceiling – as players already reaching their late-twenties, it is very much possible that they have established who they are for the foreseeable future. Ayton, however, is now being fit into a position that may trigger growth for him – it is entirely motor-dependent at this point, which is a questionable characteristic of his.

Claustrophic Crew?

This fiery collective is flowing with promise, but their offense is met with one concern – three-point proficiency.

Rotational Three-Point Shooting (league average is 36%)
Percentage RangePlayers
Elite (2%+ above the league average)Brogdon, Grant, Thybulle
Good (0-1% above the league average)Sharpe, Simons
Subpar (below the league-average)Ayton, Henderson*, Murray*, Walker, Williams
*based on G-League / college output

As illustrated above, the shooting situation is less than delightful. The starting five should have a decent flow of space to it – only hindered by Scoot’s preference for drives and Ayton’s need to be in the mid-to-post area – but mid-game lineups sent out by Chauncey Billups will struggle more.

The Blazers’ biggest snipers are accompanied by glaring flaws, whether it be Thybulle’s lack of individual shot creation or Brogdon’s streaky defense. The entire backing front court is also devoid of spacing, with the undersized Jerami Grant holding the only “stretch big” title on the roster.

Such issues are unlikely to be mitigated by coaching, either – Billups is not serviceable in the X’s-and-O’s department, often failing to maximize the off-ball abilities of his players. This will be disastrous during certain stretches and especially the clutch. Over-abundant isolation plays and the inevitable force-feeding of Ayton in the post will bog down an otherwise gifted offense.

Area of Ascension

Defense will comparatively be a pleasant surprise for the Portland fanbase. What was once a bottom four defensive unit last year should see a metamorphic, seldom-acknowledged spike on that end. The Trail Blazers have quietly built one of the most athletic squads in the NBA – they haven’t quite beaten the “undersized” allegations, but now combat that with a roster far more accustomed to verticality and tenacity.

The starting five should be collectively fierce, morally led by the grit of Scoot Henderson. The frontcourt will manage to fit effectively – Ayton is a solid rim protector, Sharpe has shown flashes of valuable wing defense, and Grant thrives in a cohesive unit with his versatility.

Anfernee Simons may just be the net negative on defense his career has shown – however, it can be easily masked by competent teammates. This is only further supported by the bench unit, which features two recent All-Defensive Team members in the form of Thybulle and Williams, with the latter being one of the NBA’s best rim protectors.

Billups may also be delighted by the change to defense-oriented personnel, given it fits his philosophy. This is one area where the Blazers’ leader may see improvement and brush off the impotent demeanor that has rendered him as a bottom-tier coach.


It’s not too dubious to expect this Portland core to rise up swiftly – they have the picture-perfect combination of potential, two-way play, and energy. It will only take some internal development and an improved coaching culture to receive the bearings of a decent team, and us as viewers have a first-row seat to see the process unfold.

CeilingMissing playoffs
FloorMissing playoffs


Enjoy Your Read? Subscribe and Never Miss a Post!

Leave a Reply