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!

The NBA Time Machine: 1968

Published March 11, 2023

The NBA Time Machine:

Working West

Twelve, YoU Say?

After the expansion Chicago Bulls team proved to be an initial success, the league continued to entertain growth in club size. This time around, the west coast got a couple more representatives – the Californian San Diego Rockets, and northwestern Seattle SuperSonics.

The choice for San Diego was inspired by a motivating love for sports in the area, particularly for hockey. With the San Diego International Sports Center considered, the potential for a franchise was high – profit presented itself at every corner.

Regarding other matters, a pair of Los Angeles businessmen – who happened to own the AFL’s San Diego Chargers – were awarded with an NBA franchise, inspiring the move to Seattle. The name “SuperSonics” was largely based on the city’s ties to the aviation industry.

With two new teams in the Western Division, the Detroit Pistons were moved to the East.

Rising Waters

After the American Basketball Association (ABA)’s development in the past year, it finally begun play this season with bold goals of challenging the NBA. The opportunity to start anew excited many established talents, most notably Rick Barry of the San Francisco Warriors.

Due to a mouth-watering contract deal that involved profits exceeding over half a million dollars, Barry was convinced to join the ABA’s Oakland Oaks. This was an easy decision for the talented forward – not only did he have tension with Warriors owner Franklin Mieuli, but he could also play for his former coach and father-in-law Bruce Hale in the rival league.

Barry was ultimately held back from playing due to a one-year contract option exercised by the Warriors, but they had already lost his loyalty. That marked the second superstar in four years they gave up to stingy ownership, with the other being Wilt Chamberlain three years prior.

More and More Games!

The league made a decision to increase the game total from eighty-one to eighty-two games.

Playoff series were also expanded in size. Prior to this season, teams in the first round only needed three wins to advance – the total was increased to four to remain consistent with the Division Finals and Finals.


While the league pace hardly decreased, players were generally less productive. This can be attributed to the sixties’ favorite superstars aging, which influenced the reduction in ludicrous stat-lines. Nobody scored over thirty points per game for the first time since 1959, and nobody reached over ten assists per game for the first time since 1961.

As far as exciting statistical news went, though, Wilt Chamberlain became the first center of all-time to lead the league in total assists.

Standout Players

Wilt Chamberlain

Chamberlain continued his reign as a newly refined player, continuing to raise his assist totals – this year, he led the NBA in total assists. This, in tandem with another great 76ers campaign, earned Chamberlain his third straight M.V.P.

Elgin Baylor

With Jerry West missing over twenty games to injury, Baylor was forced to step up. He had silently accepted the “second option” role in the past few seasons, but this year proved he was still a superstar that could lead a successful team.

Oscar Robertson

While the Royals continued trending downwards, Robertson was still phenomenal. The point guard became the first player in NBA history to lead the league in both scoring and assists averages, and he was the best free throw shooter as well. His status as a generational offensive talent was well beyond solidified.

Dave Bing

Bing’s sophomore season was a much-embraced success by Pistons fans. He increased his points average by seven per game, while also greatly improving as a playmaker. His focus led Detroit to their first playoff appearance in five years.

Lenny Wilkens

Wilkens had always been a quality star, but his development into the Hawks’ commander was remarkable. He led St. Louis to an unprecedented fifty-six wins, which was a seventeen-game improvement and good for first in the West. His exceptional passing abilities elevated the play of everybody on the roster.

Bill Russell

Russell continued to tread through the regular season silently, now putting up his worst numbers to date. He saw career low averages in scoring and rebounding, finishing with under twenty boards per game for the first time. Despite these struggles, the Celtics finished with the second seed in the East under his guidance as a player-coach.

Around the League

Team Standings

An asterisk (*) indicates that the team qualified for the playoffs.

Eastern DivisionWLWestern DivisionWL
Philadelphia 76ers*6220St. Louis Hawks*5626
Boston Celtics*5428Los Angeles Lakers*5230
New York Knicks*4339San Francisco Warriors*4339
Detroit Pistons*4042Chicago Bulls*2953
Cincinnati Royals3943Seattle SuperSonics2359
Baltimore Bullets3646San Diego Rockets1567

Fun Facts

  • After losing their last match of the season to the New York Knicks, the Cincinnati Royals missed the playoffs by one game.
    • This was the first time the franchise had failed to see the post-season since 1961, which was Oscar Robertson’s rookie year.
  • There was a subtle “brag” moment for the St. Louis Hawks – this was the first season since their first (1950) that they finished with a better record than their fierce rival, the Boston Celtics.
  • The Boston Celtics finished below first in defensive rating for the first time since signing Bill Russell – this honor was now held by rival Wilt Chamberlain’s Philadelphia 76ers.
  • The Western Division’s diluted competition was on full display.
    • The Chicago Bulls – who were fourth in the West, and therefore eligible for the playoffs – would have finished seventh if they were in the Eastern Division.
  • The New York Knicks continued to slowly trend upwards, finishing with a winning record for the first time since 1959.
  • The Los Angeles Lakers’ turn-around was smooth and substantial, improving by a steep sixteen games.
    • This was the second biggest improvement in franchise history, trailing behind the record of an eighteen-game upgrade in 1962.

Notable Movement


The player stats listed are based on their last tenure, whether it be with their former team or the previous season.
Name(s) under the “Top Draft Picks” section with a plus (+) opted to play in another league instead of the NBA this season.

p – points
r – rebounds
a – assists

Top Draft Picks

Detroit Pistons
Baltimore Bullets
Chicago Bulls
Detroit Pistons
New York Knicks
Seattle SuperSonics
San Diego Rockets
St. Louis Hawks
Cincinnati Royals
San Francisco Warriors
Jimmy Walker
Earl Monroe
Clem Haskins
Sonny Dove
Walt Frazier
Al Tucker
Pat Riley
Tom Workman
Mel Daniels+
Craig Raymond


August 31, 1967Rudy LaRussoDetroit PistonsRights soldSan Francisco Warriors(12.8p/7.8r/1.7a)
October 20, 1967Guy RodgersChicago BullsTradedCincinnati Royals(10.3p/3.5r/7a)
January 21, 1968Don OhlBaltimore BulletsTradedSt. Louis Hawks(14.8p/2.9r/2.2a)

Other Personnel

March 29, 1967Coach Jack McMahonCincinnati RoyalsResignedRecord: 39-42
March 29, 1967Coach Jack McMahonSan Diego RocketsHiredRecord: n/a
April 26, 1967Coach Fred SchausLos Angeles LakersRe-assignedRecord: 36-45
April 26, 1967Coach Butch Van Breda KolffLos Angeles LakersHiredRecord: n/a
May 2, 1967Coach Ed JuckerCincinnati RoyalsHiredRecord: n/a
December 27, 1967Coach Dick McGuireNew York KnicksFiredRecord: 15-23
December 27, 1967Coach Red HolzmanNew York KnicksHiredRecord: 28-16


PlayerTeam(s)Notable Accomplishments
Rick Barry
(jumped to ABA)
San Francisco Warriors2x All-NBA
2x All-Star
1x All-Star Game MVP
1966 Rookie of the Year
1966 All-Rookie Team
1x Scoring Leader
Richie GuerinNew York Knicks
St. Louis Hawks
3x All-NBA
6x All-Star

League Leaders

If a stat is not listed, it was not recorded at the time. As time goes on, this section will begin to include steals per game, blocks per game, etc.


PPG – points per game
RPG – rebounds per game
APG – assists per game
FG% – field goal percentage (percentage of shots that hit)
FT% – free throw percentage (percentage of foul shots that hit)

PPGOscar Robertson (29.2)
Dave Bing (27.1)
Elgin Baylor (26)
Wilt Chamberlain (24.3)
Earl Monroe (24.3)
RPGWilt Chamberlain (23.8)
Jerry Lucas (19)
Bill Russell (18.6)
Clyde Lee (13.9)
Ray Scott (13.7)
APGOscar Robertson (9.7)
Wilt Chamberlain (8.6)
Lenny Wilkens (8.3)
Dave Bing (6.4)
Walt Hazzard (6.2)
FG%Wilt Chamberlain (59%)
Walt Bellamy (54%)
Jerry Lucas (51%)
Jerry West (51%)
Len Chappell (51%)
FT%Oscar Robertson (87%)
Larry Siegfried (86%)
Dave Gambee (84%)
Fred Hetzel (83%)
Adrian Smith (82%)



East / Boston Celtics beat Detroit Pistons, 4-2
The Pistons’ post-season return was much like what the New York Knicks had to endure a season prior – a match-up against the Boston Celtics, which was not exactly a friendly welcome.

Surprisingly enough, the two clubs split the first four games, each winning once at home and on the road. Dave Bing was about the only consistent scorer throughout all four, but the Celtics managed to win behind their veteran experience. Game 4 was a statement victory for them, including a thirty-five-point bomb from John Havlicek and double-doubles from both Bill Russell and Don Nelson.

The Celtics eventually pulled away, largely thanks to Havlicek – he managed a triple-double in both efforts. Not even forty-four points from Bing in the decisive Game 6 was enough.
East / Philadelphia 76ers beat New York Knicks, 4-2
The first two matches were a battle between titans Wilt Chamberlain and Willis Reed, with each clinching one for their team. The 76ers managed a home win in a double-overtime brawl, denying the Knicks despite a double-double from Walt Bellamy and forty points from the sophomore Cazzie Russell.

The opposite was true three nights later – the Knicks surprisingly pulled through, staving off a 3-1 deficit. Philadelphia wrapped up business quite quickly afterwards, grabbing Game 5 thanks to having five players hitting double digits in rebounds. The closing match was a blowout, with Chamberlain and Hal Greer combining for sixty points in the road win.
West / Los Angeles Lakers beat Chicago Bulls, 4-1
Chicago’s chances going into this series were slim to say the least, considering Elgin Baylor and Jerry West were finally together – and healthy – in the playoffs for the first time in a few years.

They reminded the basketball world what they were made of, comfortably taking their first two games at home. Chicago managed an upset in Game 3 thanks to the young and promising point guard Flynn Robinson, who amassed forty-one points, seven rebounds, and four assists. Matters regressed to the mean moving forward, with Robinson quieting down offensively and the Lakers closing the series behind two big Baylor performances.
West / San Francisco Warriors beat St. Louis Hawks, 4-2
San Francisco was expected to be absolutely torn apart by the Hawks, who were coming off a phenomenal season and had the advantage of the Warriors missing Nate Thurmond.

They instead upset St. Louis in six games, an absolutely shocking outcome. The Warriors front office made a smart decision acquiring former All-Star Rudy LaRusso from the Pistons, who was instrumental in this matchup. Him and Jeff Mullins were the leading scorers for the team in the first four games, three of which they won. St. Louis took Game 5 to circumvent elimination, with seven of their players scoring in double digits – however, their ambitions were burned to the ground. LaRusso led San Francisco to a series victory, dropping thirty points and thirteen rebounds.

Considering the Warriors had lost a whopping seven out of eight regular season duels with the Hawks, this was a phenomenal achievement.

Division Finals

East / Boston Celtics beat Philadelphia 76ers, 4-3
An anticipated rematch between the long-term rivals was now Philadelphia’s to lose. They were the reigning champions, finished the season eight wins above Boston, and boasted a four-time M.V.P. winner in the front court.

Such variables are why the Celtics taking Game 1 on the 76ers’ home court was an immediate shock. There was good effort on both ends, too – the Philly “big three” of Wilt Chamberlain, Hal Greer, and Chet Walker combined for ninety-one points. John Havlicek just happened to be unstoppable that night, with thirty-five of his own and eleven assists influencing his squad’s victory.

It is often believed that the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. – which happened a day prior – largely interfered with the mindset and focus of the two teams, who both sported primarily African-American starting lineups. The game was described as “devoid of emotion”, perhaps explaining why Philadelphia’s home court advantage wasn’t as game-changing as usual.

Regardless of outside events, the 76ers quickly shifted the tide. Winning three straight en route to a 3-1 lead, they showcased a generational mixture of offense and defense that defined their season. That could not overpower the resilience of Boston, however – led by Havlicek, they managed to win two straight to tie the series. There was potential for a comeback from being down 3-1, something the league had never seen in over twenty years of existence.

Game 7 was baffling, to say the least. Philadelphia imploded, shooting thirty-five-percent from the field and having only Greer score above twenty points. Chamberlain was nowhere to be found offensively, only taking a measly nine field goal attempts and making four. The Celtics were just far more efficient and willing to move the ball, earning them another trip to the Finals.

It was not unreasonable to name this the most legendary playoff series of the decade.
West / Los Angeles Lakers beat San Francisco Warriors, 4-0
Even with the Warriors’ excitement following an upset, it was unlikely that they could top a Lakers team clicking on all levels. A sweep was the predictable result, with Jerry West and Elgin Baylor scoring just about anything with little resistance. West in particular was nuclear, shooting over sixty-percent while averaging thirty-three points.

The post-Barry Warriors were clearly overachievers, but the great play of Fred Hetzel and Jeff Mullins was something for fans in The Bay to cherish. With a healthy Nate Thurmond, their potential was sky-high.


Boston Celtics beat Los Angeles Lakers, 4-2
Five matchups. Five Celtics championships. Los Angeles’ track record against their greatest nemesis was abysmal – if there was any chance to switch things up, it was now. Boston was getting older and losing a bit of their identity, while the Lakers had two superstars playing at an excellent level.

The first two games were split in Beantown. Jerry West and Elgin Baylor looked terrible at first, but quickly turned things around to even the series – the opposite happened in their arena, with four Celtics scoring over twenty points in Game 3 to win. West and Baylor responded with a crushing sixty-eight combined in Game 4, leaving the series tied back up north.

Game 5 was a duel between West and John Havlicek, who both scored over thirty points. West had efficiency on his side, but Havlicek nearly got a triple-double – they were both stars that won in different ways. Ultimately, the Celtics got the last laugh after a tense overtime period, waving off an L.A. comeback.

If there was any moment for the Lakers to prove themselves, it was in the decisive sixth match. They got off to a sluggish start and trailed behind for the remainder of regulation – Havlicek outplayed both of L.A.’s superstars, sporting a 40/10/7 stat-line in the blowout win. Teammate Bailey Howell also got thirty points, while Bill Russell made an impact on the glass as always.

Despite being written off, the Celtics silenced critics once again – this was their era, and they had now won ten championships in twelve years.
The Boston Celtics win the 1968 NBA championship!


Name(s) under the “All-Stars” section with an asterisk (*) were listed as the MVP of the All-Star Game that year. Those with “(IR)” next to their name were chosen to replace an injured star.

Major Awards

Rookie of the YearMVPCoach of the Year
Earl MonroeWilt ChamberlainRichie Guerin


All-NBA First TeamAll-NBA Second Team
Oscar Robertson
Dave Bing
Elgin Baylor
Jerry Lucas
Wilt Chamberlain
Jerry West
Hal Greer
John Havlicek
Willis Reed
Bill Russell


Eastern All-StarsWestern All-Stars
Dick Barnett
Dave Bing
Wilt Chamberlain
Dave DeBusschere
Hal Greer*
John Havlicek
Gus Johnson
Sam Jones
Jerry Lucas
Willis Reed
Oscar Robertson
Bill Russell
Walt Hazzard
Elgin Baylor

Zelmo Beaty
Bob Boozer
Bill Bridges
Archie Clark
Jim King
Don Kojis
Rudy LaRusso
Clyde Lee (IR)
Nate Thurmond
Jerry West
Lenny Wilkens
East beats West, 144-124


All-Rookie Team
Walt Frazier
Phil Jackson

Earl Monroe
Bob Rule
Al Tucker

All-Time Championship Leaderboard

The Baltimore Bullets (1947-1954) won the championship in 1948, but are defunct. As a result, they are not listed.

Celtics101957, 1959
1960, 1961
1962, 1963
1964, 1965
1966, 1968
Lakers51949, 1950
1952, 1953
Warriors21947, 1956
76ers21955, 1967