Power Rankings

Offseason Power Rankings: Bucks return to the top of the East

See where all 15 teams in the East rank after a busy offseason.

Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks posted the best record in the NBA last season.

The Eastern Conference has been the stronger conference in each of the last two regular seasons and its 2022-23 record in interconference games (236-214, .524) was its best mark in the last 24 years. For the first time in 42 years, the league’s three best records belonged to teams that resided in the East.

But the West won another championship (its 17th in the last 25 years) and those top three teams in the East were all dealing with some frustration as they hit the 2023 offseason. The Boston Celtics have the most wins (including playoffs) of any team in the last seven years but have reached the Finals just once in that stretch, losing a 2-1 series lead to the Golden State Warriors 13 months ago. The Milwaukee Bucks won a championship in 2021, but have dealt with critical injuries in the two years since. The Philadelphia 76ers haven’t been able to make it out of the second round despite being the only team that’s been better than average on both ends of the floor in each of the last six seasons.

So the Celtics traded the heart of their team and the Bucks parted ways with the league’s most successful coach of the last five years. And the Sixers might be the team with the most turmoil, dealing with an unhappy point guard who might just tear the whole thing down.

Behind the top three are some teams on the come-up. And oh yeah, the defending Eastern Conference champs are the preferred destination of a guy who’s averaged 27.9 points (second to only Giannis Antetokounmpo) over the last seven years.

Maybe that trade comes soon. Maybe it comes later (Donovan Mitchell was traded on Sept. 3 last year). Maybe it doesn’t come at all. Either way, it’s time for some mid-summer Power Rankings.

For these offseason rankings, we’re looking at each conference separately and we’ll have Western Conference rankings next Monday. All stats refer to the 2022-23 regular season unless otherwise noted.

Previous Power Rankings

  • This time last year: Offseason Power Rankings: Celtics, Bucks keep top spots in Eastern Conference — Kevin Durant requested a trade, but the Nets hadn’t traded him. The Cavs had yet to acquire Donovan Mitchell, but the Celtics had added Malcolm Brogdon, the Knicks signed Jalen Brunson, and the Hawks traded three first-round picks for Dejounte Murray. James Harden’s new contract allowed the Sixers to add depth, the Magic selected Paolo Banchero with the No. 1 pick, and the Hornets brought Steve Clifford back.

OffRtg: Points scored per 100 possessions (League Rank)
DefRtg: Points allowed per 100 possessions (League Rank)
NetRtg: Point differential per 100 possessions (League Rank)
Pace: Possessions per 48 minutes (League Rank)

The league averaged 114.1 points scored per 100 possessions and 99.8 possessions (per team) per 48 minutes last season.

NBA.com’s Power Rankings, released every Monday during the season, are just one man’s opinion. If you have an issue with the rankings, or have a question or comment for John Schuhmann, send him an e-mail or contact him via Twitter.

Last Week:6

2022-23 record: 58-24

OffRtg: 114.3 (15) DefRtg: 110.9 (4) NetRtg: +3.4 (5) Pace: 101.5 (10)

Key addition(s): Malik Beasley

Key departure(s): Joe Ingles, Jevon Carter

Coaching change: Mike Budenholzer out, Adrian Griffin in

Three numbers to know:

  • The Bucks had 25 more wins (including playoffs) than any other team over Mike Budenholzer’s five-year tenure as head coach, going 310-146 (.680). Over the last five regular seasons, they’ve had the league’s second-best offense (114.1 points scored per 100 possessions) and its best defense (108.0 allowed per 100).
  • Last season, they were 58-24 with the point differential (plus-3.6 per game, fifth) of a team that was 51-31. That was the biggest such differential in the league. They were a league-best 27-8 in games that were within five points in the last five minutes.
  • They ranked last with just 9.7 pass-ahead passes per game, according to Second Spectrum tracking.

Key question: What does Griffin change?

As noted above, the Budenholzer system worked really well. Since Jrue Holiday arrived three years ago, the Bucks have outscored their opponents by 11.5 points per 100 possessions in 2,600 total minutes with him, Khris Middleton and Giannis Antetokounmpo on the floor together. In any system, the Bucks will be really good as long as those three guys are healthy.

But it will be fascinating to see how things change, especially offensively, under Griffin. And it would be nice to have somebody other than Antetokounmpo who can get to the basket. Though their star led the league in total points in the paint, the Bucks ranked 28th in the percentage of their total shots (28%) that came inside.

Defensively, the Bucks made adjustments to defend the 3-point line better, but still got torched (Miami shot 45%) from deep in the first round of the playoffs. So, while there may be no improving on the overall numbers, there are potential tweaks to be made on both ends of the floor.

Last Week:2

2022-23 record: 57-25

OffRtg: 117.3 (2) DefRtg: 110.6 (2) NetRtg: +6.7 (1) Pace: 99.2 (19)

Key addition(s): Kristaps Porzingis

Key departure(s): Marcus Smart, Grant Williams

Three numbers to know:

  • The 2022-23 Celtics were just the third team in the 27 seasons for which we have play-by-play data to rank in the top three on both ends of the floor. The other two – the 2014-15 and ’16-17 Warriors – each won the championship.
  • They outscored their opponents by 13.2 points per game from 3-point range. That was the league’s biggest differential last season and tied for the sixth biggest differential in the 44 seasons of the 3-point line. They saw the league’s biggest jump in 3-point rate from 2021-22 (42.5%, eighth) to ’22-23 (48.0%, second).
  • The Celtics shot 30.3% from 3-point range in the conference finals. That was their worst seven-game stretch since Christmas.

Key question: How important was Smart in the locker room?

Smart for Porzingis is about as fascinating a trade (that doesn’t involve a top-20 player) as you’re going to see in this league. (Jordan Poole for Chris Paul is also pretty wild.) Smart has plenty of skill, but his value is largely about the stuff you can’t measure. And while the Celtics still have enough capable guards, his departure surely leaves a void in the locker room. With Williams also leaving, this team lost a large percentage of whatever toughness it had.

It still has a chance of being the best team in the Eastern Conference. The Celtics have the most total wins in the league over the last seven years (including playoffs), and maybe they needed a change to get them over the hump. Porzingis (who turns 28 this week) remains a unicorn, the only player in the 44 years of the 3-point line to twice average at least two 3-pointers and at least 1.5 blocks per game. He’s coming off the best year of his career, where he was one of only four players – Nikola Jokic, Joel Embiid and Lauri Markkanen were the others – to average at least 23 points on a true shooting percentage of 62% or better in 60 games or more.

Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown are still just 25 and 26 years old, respectively. And with Brown now under contract for the next six seasons, the Celtics still have a big window in regard to contending for a championship with that duo. But the pressure to finally break through is obviously pretty high given how close they’ve come the last two years.

Last Week:3

2022-23 record: 54-28

OffRtg: 117.0 (3) DefRtg: 112.7 (8) NetRtg: +4.4 (3) Pace: 97.4 (27)

Key addition(s): Patrick Beverley

Key departure(s): Shake Milton, Georges Niang

Coaching change: Doc Rivers out, Nick Nurse in

Three numbers to know:

  • The Sixers are the only team that’s been better than the league average on both ends of the floor in each of the last six seasons, though last season was the first time in the 27 years for which we have play-by-play data that they ranked in the top 10 in both offensive and defensive efficiency.
  • They took 24.4% of their shots, the league’s highest rate, in the last seven seconds of the shot clock, according to Second Spectrum tracking.
  • The Sixers got just 130 total minutes, fewest in the league, from rookies or second-year players.

Key question: How do they fix this?

The Sixers are right there. They had the third-best record in the league last season, they ranked in the top 10 on both ends of the floor, and they had a 3-2 series lead on the Celtics in the conference semis. They have the reigning MVP, he’s 29 years old, and he has a strong supporting cast, including a point guard who has set him up better than any teammate he’s ever had. James Harden’s 244 assists to Joel Embiid last season were the most for any player to a single teammate in the last six seasons* and 89 more than any other player had to a single teammate in 2022-23.

* Since John Wall had 245 to Bradley Beal in 2016-17.

The Sixers have cycled through a handful of supporting casts for Embiid and have managed to remain competitive with each one. But it seems like they really can’t let this one fall apart. Harden, for some reason, wants out of what may be his best remaining chance to win a championship. And it’s not clear how the Sixers grant his wish and remain a title contender. Heck, it’s not clear how they come back as strong if they don’t trade Harden and just hope that he’ll give them all he’s got while he’s still here.

It should be fun to see how Nick Nurse shakes things up, and Tyrese Maxey can certainly pick up some of the slack. But even if those things are positives, how exactly do the Sixers move forward in a way that has elite talent all pulling in the same direction?

Last Week:4

2022-23 record: 47-35

OffRtg: 117.0 (4) DefRtg: 114.2 (19) NetRtg: +2.8 (7) Pace: 97.8 (26)

Key addition(s): Donte DiVincenzo

Key departure(s): Obi Toppin

Three numbers to know:

  • The Knicks had the league’s fourth-ranked offense, despite ranking 20th in effective field goal percentage. They were the only team that ranked in the top 10 in each of the other four factors on offense, finishing eighth in free throw rate, fifth in turnover rate, and second in offensive rebounding percentage.
  • The Knicks ranked last with just 11.3 deflections per game. DiVincenzo’s 3.4 deflections per 36 minutes ranked 19th among 263 players who played at least 1,000 minutes.
  • There were two playoff series in 2023 where a team shot less than 30% from 3-point range: the Knicks (28.2%) against the Cavs and the Knicks (28.9%) against the Heat.

Key question: Does RJ Barrett become more of an attacker?

The Knicks lead the league in continuity, with 90% of their 2022-23 regular-season minutes coming from players who are still on the roster for ’23-24. They added Jalen Brunson a year ago, he pushed them into the top five offensively, and it’s clear now that he’s the guy. But despite Brunson’s brilliance, the overall offense wasn’t great in the playoffs, ranking 13th in the first round and seventh in the conference semis. So the focus turns back to the core that was already here pre-Brunson.

In his fourth season in the league, Barrett ranked last in pull-up 2-point percentage (27.4%) among 142 players with at least 75 attempts and last in pull-up 3-point percentage (19.6%) among 131 players with at least 50 attempts. He also wasn’t a very good finisher inside, with his 51.2% shooting in the paint ranking 179th among 204 players with at least 200 attempts. But an attacking Barrett is better than a settling Barrett and there were playoff games (Game 4 vs. Cleveland especially) when Barrett made big plays by aggressively attacking the paint. It would be good if he can have that mentality more consistently as he plays off of Brunson going forward.

Last Week:7

2022-23 record: 51-31

OffRtg: 115.5 (8) DefRtg: 109.9 (1) NetRtg: +5.6 (2) Pace: 96.3 (30)

Key addition(s): Max Strus, Georges Niang

Key departure(s): Cedi Osman

Three numbers to know:

  • The Cavs ranked second in the league in point differential, both per game (plus-5.4) and per 100 possessions (plus-5.6). They were 51-31 with the point differential of a team that was 57-25.
  • They were one of two teams – Dallas was the other – that ranked in the bottom five in both ball movement (297 passes per 24 minutes of possession, 26th) and player movement (10.3 miles traveled per 24 minutes of possession, 30th), according to Second Spectrum tracking.
  • The Cavs scored just 101.9 points per 100 possessions in their first round series against the Knicks. That was the lowest mark for any team in any round of the 2023 playoffs.

Key question: Can they rebound?

The Cavs still have the same number of players (5) that shot the league average or better on at least 100 3-point attempts last season as they did at the end of the season, having lost Osman and added Niang. But with two primary ball-handlers, their shooters will often be spaced in the corners, and Niang (52.6% on 78 attempts) and Strus (45.1% on 162 attempts) shot better from the corners than Osman (44.4% on 81 attempts) and Isaac Okoro (37.1% on 151 attempts). As a team, Cleveland ranked 24th in corner 3-point percentage (37.2%) and they’ll now be better at making defenses pay for loading up against their guards. More polish in Evan Mobley’s offensive game will do the same.

But this team still needs to be stronger on the glass. In the regular season, the Cavs ranked 20th in both offensive and defensive rebounding percentage. In the first round of the playoffs, they allowed the Knicks to grab 39.4% of available offensive rebounds, the highest rate for any team in any series in the last nine years. That number was lower (32.1%) with Mobley and Jarrett Allen on the floor together, but their one-big minutes were bad, both on the glass and on offense (95.4 points scored per 100 possessions).

The Cavs have made two big leaps in the last two seasons, from minus-8.3 points per 100 possessions in 2020-21 to plus-2.1 in ’21-22 and plus-5.6 last season. And with the potential of Mobley, they can still get much better, even if there’s not another big jump to make statistically.

Last Week:1

2022-23 record: 44-38

OffRtg: 112.3 (25) DefRtg: 112.8 (9) NetRtg: -0.5 (21) Pace: 96.8 (29)

Key addition(s): Josh Richardson

Key departure(s): Max Strus, Gabe Vincent

Three numbers to know:

  • In the 27 seasons for which we have play-by-play data, the Heat have ranked in the top 10 defensively 20 times. That’s the most top-10 appearances (for either offense or defense) for any team in that time, one more than the Spurs’ 19 top-10 defenses in those 27 years.
  • They led the league with 15 wins (they were 15-32) in games they trailed after the third quarter last season. In the playoffs, they had three wins (they were 3-8) in games they trailed by double-digits in the fourth quarter, tied for the most for any team in the 27 postseasons for which we have play-by-play data.
  • In the regular season, they shot 34.4% from 3-point range (27th), down from 37.9% (first) in 2021-22. That was the league’s biggest drop, and only 39% of their 3-point attempts, the league’s lowest rate, were wide open, according to Second Spectrum tracking. In the playoffs, they shot 38.0% from 3-point range (best in the postseason), having seen the fifth biggest jump from the regular season among the 149 teams (in the 44 years of the 3-point line) with at least 250 3-point attempts in the playoffs.

Key question: Will Damian Lillard be on this team on Oct. 24?

The Heat took a couple of big hits when Vincent and Strus (fourth and fifth on the team in total playoff minutes) left in free agency. They’re surely building a couple of more undrafted rotation players in the Biscayne Bay laboratory, but they’re also seemingly waiting on a trade for one of the 10 highest-paid players in the league. The NBA sent a memo to teams on Friday saying Lillard would honor his contract in any potential trade, however, not just his reported preferred destination of Miami.

Nonetheless, we should never doubt this group’s ability to find ways to win. It’s worth noting that the Heat’s rotation is looking pretty shallow. They were outscored (they had the point differential of a 40-42 team) in the regular season last year, they’re built around two guys who don’t shoot particularly well from outside the paint, and one of them (Jimmy Butler) will be 34 in September, having missed 78 (regular-season) games over his four years in Miami.

Stay tuned.

Last Week:5

2022-23 record: 41-41

OffRtg: 115.5 (7) DefRtg: 115.4 (22) NetRtg: +0.1 (19) Pace: 101.6 (6)

Key addition(s): N/A

Key departure(s): John Collins

Three numbers to know:

  • The Hawks are the only team that’s had a better-than-average offense and a worse-than-average defense in each of the last three seasons. Over those three years, they’ve had the third most efficient offense (behind Utah and Denver) and the 24th-ranked defense.
  • They ranked last in 3-point rate last season, taking only 33.1% of their shots from beyond the arc.
  • The Hawks were within one game of .500 after 33 straight games (Games 47-79), the longest such streak in NBA history.

Key question: Will one of the young guys make a leap?

The Hawks’ backcourt could certainly be better and more cohesive. Atlanta outscored its opponents by just 0.3 points per 100 possessions (with decent-but-not-great offensive numbers) when Trae Young and Dejounte Murray were on the floor together last season. We should remember that head coach Quin Snyder (who had the league’s No. 1 offense in his final season in Utah) arrived on the day between Games 61 and 62. So there should be some changes in his first full season on the Atlanta bench.

But maybe there’s more room for improvement with three players – AJ Griffin, Jalen Johnson and Onyeka Okongwu – who are all still under the age of 23. The departure of Collins could lead to more time for Okongwu, but the 22-year-old attempted just 13 3-pointers and, not coincidentally, played just five minutes alongside Clint Capela last season. Johnson was disruptive defensively, but also needs to be better from beyond the arc (29% last season) to complement the Hawks’ starting guards. Griffin, meanwhile, just may need more minutes. As a rookie, he shot 39% on more than 250 3-point attempts, was one of 15 players who shot 50% or better on at least 100 pull-up 2s, and finished pretty well in the paint (56.6%) for a rookie guard.

Of course, this is already a good offensive team, and the other end of the floor is where player development, along with Snyder’s game planning, really needs to make an impact.

Last Week:9

2022-23 record: 40-42

OffRtg: 112.8 (24) DefRtg: 111.5 (5) NetRtg: +1.3 (13) Pace: 99.2 (18)

Key addition(s): Torrey Craig, Jevon Carter

Key departure(s): Patrick Beverley

Three numbers to know:

  • The Bulls were the fourth team in the last 10 years to rank in the top five on either end of the floor and miss the playoffs. The league’s fifth-ranked defense – Golden State in 2020-21, Cleveland in ’21-22 and Chicago last season – has missed the playoffs in each of the last three seasons.
  • The Bulls were 6.0 points per 100 possessions better after the All-Star break (plus-5.7, third) than they were before the break (minus-0.3, 22nd). That was the league’s biggest post-break jump.
  • They were 15-23 (fourth worst) in games that were within five points in the last five minutes after going 25-16 (fourth best) in 2021-22.

Key question: Is this group still together beyond the trade deadline?

Craig and Carter are solid additions, and this team was better than its record last season. The Bulls (as noted above) struggled in close games, but had the point differential (seventh best in the East) of a team that was 45-37. The defense was strong all season and the offense got better (though it still ranked just 15th after the break) over time. Patrick Williams (one of 20 players who shot better than 41% on at least 250 3-point attempts) turns 22 in August and should keep getting better.

But (other than Lonzo Ball), the Bulls were pretty healthy last season, with their top five guys in minutes per game (not including Beverley) missing a total of just 15 games. DeMar DeRozan is a free agent next summer, Zach LaVine will always be a trade possibility, and Nikola Vucevic’s new contract ($60 million over three years) isn’t totally unreasonable or untradeable. The Bulls have been outscored by 20 points (0.7 per 100 possessions) in 2,848 total minutes with that trio on the floor over the last two regular seasons, and unless something changes, the expiration date could be in February of 2024.

Last Week:8

2022-23 record: 45-37

OffRtg: 114.6 (12) DefRtg: 113.5 (16) NetRtg: +1.1 (14) Pace: 98.8 (23)

Key addition(s): N/A

Key departure(s): Their best shooters

Three numbers to know:

  • The Nets are one of three teams – the Knicks and Wizards are the others – that have never ranked in the top 10 on both ends of the floor (in the same season) over the 27 years for which we have play-by-play data.
  • The Nets were the first team in the last nine seasons to rank in the bottom two in both offensive rebounding percentage (23.4%, 29th) and defensive rebounding percentage (68.9%, 29th).
  • According to Second Spectrum tracking, they switched 46% of ball-screens, the league’s highest rate. Nic Claxton defended 202 isolations, most in the league, according to Synergy tracking. The 0.79 points per possession he allowed on isolations ranked seventh among 52 players who defended at least 75.

Key question: Can Mikal Bridges become a playmaker?

Bridges was a terrific (and pretty efficient) scorer after arriving from Phoenix, averaging 26.1 points on a true shooting percentage of 60.7% in his 27 regular-season games with the Nets. But if he’s going to be the leading man in Brooklyn and draw the attention of opposing defenses, he’ll need to pass the ball once in a while. His assist rate (10.3 per 100 possessions) was the sixth lowest among 57 players with a usage rate of 25% or higher after the trade deadline. And with their new star unable to lift his teammates, the Nets ranked 23rd offensively after the deadline and had the second-worst offense in the first round of the playoffs.

The continued development of Claxton (still just 24 years old and a free agent next summer) will be key, though his drop in efficiency (true shooting percentage of 70.6% before the deadline, 65.9% after it) is more evidence that the Nets need playmaking. They do have a 27-year-old playmaker getting paid $78 million over the next two years, but at this point, they can’t count on Ben Simmons until he’s on the floor and proving that he can contribute consistently … and confidently.

Last Week:10

2022-23 record: 41-41

OffRtg: 114.6 (13) DefRtg: 113.1 (11) NetRtg: +1.5 (12) Pace: 97.9 (25)

Key addition(s): Dennis Schroder

Key departure(s): Fred VanVleet

Coaching change: Nick Nurse out, Darko Rajakovic in

Three numbers to know:

  • The Raptors averaged 9.1 more shooting opportunities (field goal attempts or trips to the free throw line) than their opponents. That was the biggest differential, by a wide margin, for any team in the last 50 years. They led the league in both turnover differential (minus-5.0 per game) and offensive-rebound differential (plus-3.5 per game).
  • They were one of two teams – the Rockets were the other – that ranked in the bottom three in both effective field goal percentage (51.7%, 28th) and opponent effective field goal percentage (56.5%, 29th).
  • 30.3% of their points, the league’s highest rate, were fast break points or second-chance points.

Key question: What kind of player is Scottie Barnes?

The departure of VanVleet could certainly lead to the departure (via trade) of the 29-year-old Pascal Siakam and more of a long-term plan in Toronto. If the Raptors, under a rookie head coach and in a pretty competitive Eastern Conference, don’t get off to a strong start, trade talk will certainly escalate. Siakam is a free agent next summer and the Raps (who were 16-23 and in 12th place in early January last season) probably don’t want to lose another All-Star for nothing.

But what if Scottie Barnes makes the leap? The 2021-22 Rookie of the Year had a disappointing second season, seeing a big drop in efficiency and registering an effective field goal percentage of 38.5% on shots from outside the paint (second worst among 212 players with at least 200 attempts). But he made strides as a playmaker, and will likely need to make more with VanVleet in Houston. In addition to not knowing what Barnes’ ceiling is, we also don’t know exactly what kind of player he’ll be when he hits that ceiling. With a new coach and more opportunities to handle the ball, this could be the year when he really finds himself.

Last Week:11

2022-23 record: 35-47

OffRtg: 113.8 (21) DefRtg: 117.1 (26) NetRtg: -3.3 (25) Pace: 101.7 (5)

Key addition(s): Bruce Brown, Obi Toppin, Jarace Walker

Key departure(s): Chris Duarte

Three numbers to know:

  • The Pacers are one of three teams – the Rockets and Blazers are the others – that have ranked in the bottom five defensively in each of the last two seasons.
  • They were one of two teams – the Kings were the other – that ranked in the top five in both ball movement (354 passes per 24 minutes of possession, third) and player movement (11.7 miles traveled per 24 minutes of possession, fourth).
  • Bennedict Mathurin was just the fourth rookie in the 44 years of the 3-point line – joining Allen Iverson, Luka Doncic and Trae Young – to make at least 100 3-pointers and 300 free throws. He was also the first player in the last four years to make at least 75 3s and 250 free throws off the bench.

Key question: How valuable are the fifth and sixth spots in the rotation?

The Pacers outscored their opponents by 11.7 points per 100 possessions in 294 total minutes with Tyrese Haliburton, Buddy Hield, Mathurin and Myles Turner on the floor together last season. That’s not a lot of minutes, of course. Mathurin started only 17 games and only one of those starts came with all three of the other guys in the lineup. Seven of the 17 came (at the end of the season) with none of the other three available. And opponents shot just 32.9% from 3-point range in those minutes, so that plus-11.7 per 100 is certainly inflated to a degree.

But in 2023-24, we can expect significantly more minutes for that quartet, along with improvement from the 21-year-old, who shot just 32.3% from beyond the arc and recorded assists on less than 8% of his possessions as a rookie. (Only Kelly Oubre Jr. and six bigs – including Turner – passed less often on at least 100 drives.) Now add a couple of more competent rotation pieces in Brown and Toppin, and the Pacers could be a lot more competitive than they were last season.

Last Week:13

2022-23 record: 34-48

OffRtg: 111.3 (26) DefRtg: 113.7 (18) NetRtg: -2.3 (24) Pace: 99.7 (15)

Key addition(s): Anthony Black, Jett Howard, Joe Ingles

Key departure(s): Bol Bol

Three numbers to know:

  • The Magic have ranked in the bottom 10 offensively in each of the last 11 seasons. They’ve had the league’s worst offense (106.7 points scored per 100 possessions) over the last three years.
  • Last season, they had the biggest differential between their record with rest (33-36) and their record in the second games of back-to-backs (league-worst 1-12).
  • Paolo Banchero was just the fourth rookie in the last 20 years – joining Blake Griffin, Ben Simmons and Luka Doncic – to total at least 1,200 points, 400 rebounds and 200 assists.

Key question: Do any of the young guards break through?

After a 5-20 start to last season, the Magic were 29-28 with the league’s sixth-ranked defense. For the season, only 45% of their opponents’ shots, the league’s lowest opponent rate, came in the paint. They also ranked eighth in defensive rebounding percentage. The interior defense is there, and they obviously have two super-talented, 6-10 forwards. There were six players under the age of 22 who averaged at least 18 points last season, and the Magic have two of the six.

But there remains the question of whether they have a starting guard on the roster. Markelle Fultz had a career year, but isn’t the best complement to Banchero and Franz Wagner if he’s attempting just 1.5 3s per game. They can’t combine Cole Anthony’s offense and Jalen Suggs’ defense in one player, but maybe Suggs takes another step forward offensively in his third year. Their two new Lottery picks – Black and Howard – are two more guys who could, someday, be pieces that fill out a starting (or closing) lineup.

With Banchero having a full season under his belt, this team should, at worst, compete for a Play-In spot. And if there’s progress in the backcourt, the Magic just might end their three-year playoff drought.

Last Week:12

2022-23 record: 35-47

OffRtg: 113.7 (22) DefRtg: 114.9 (21) NetRtg: -1.2 (23) Pace: 99.2 (20)

Key addition(s): Jordan Poole, Tyus Jones, Landry Shamet, Bilal Coulibaly

Key departure(s): Bradley Beal, Kristaps Porzingis, Monte Morris

Three numbers to know:

  • The Wizards are one of three teams – the Pistons and Rockets are the others – that have ranked in the bottom 10 on both ends of the floor in each of the last two seasons.
  • The Wizards were one of three teams – the Mavs and Kings were the others – that ranked in the top 10 in both field goal percentage in the paint (59.2%, 10th) and mid-range field goal percentage (44.2%, sixth).
  • Jones has led the league in assist/turnover ratio in each of the last five seasons. His career assist/turnover ratio of 5.27 is the highest mark among the 2,012 players with at least 100 career assists over the 46 years for which turnovers have been tracked.

Key question: Can the whole be greater than the sum of the parts?

The Wizards feel a little like last season’s Jazz, a similarly motley crew that came together in the wake of two big trades and had a winning record through 53 games. Most of the starting lineup will be comprised of guys who (on a good team) would be best suited coming off the bench, but this team certainly isn’t devoid of talent. And how competitive it is will be determined by how much the group plays together and plays defense. (The Wiz have ranked no better than 20th defensively in the last five seasons.) This season could give us a good idea of how good of a coach Wes Unseld Jr. is.

Poole will certainly have the ball in his hands a lot, it will be interesting to see him outside the Warriors’ system, and we could have a fun battle between his turnovers and Jones’ lack thereof. There should be plenty of trade speculation regarding the veteran pieces that would be useful to a contender. Hopefully, both Coulibaly and Johnny Davis get a lot more playing time than Davis did as a rookie.

Last Week:14

2022-23 record: 27-55

OffRtg: 108.4 (30) DefRtg: 114.7 (20) NetRtg: -6.3 (27) Pace: 101.5 (9)

Key addition(s): Brandon Miller, Miles Bridges, new ownership

Key departure(s): N/A

Three numbers to know:

  • The Hornets have the league’s longest active playoff drought, having missed the playoffs in each of the last seven seasons. They’ve also never won a playoff series in the 19 seasons since the Bobcats were born in 2004.
  • They saw the league’s biggest drop, by a wide margin, in points scored per 100 possessions, scoring 5.2 fewer than they did in 2021-22 (113.6, eighth). No other team saw a drop of more than 2.3 per 100.

Key question: How good is Miller?

LaMelo Ball got a five-year, max extension, but is there another young cornerstone on this roster? Miller is the top candidate and, given how good No. 2 pick Scoot Henderson has looked, will have the spotlight on him from Day 1. Playing alongside a passer like Ball will certainly be beneficial.

Better health from Ball (who played just 36 games last season) and the return of Bridges should help what was the league’s worst offense last season. The post-break defensive improvement was mostly about opponent 3-point shooting – 36.8% (23rd) before the break, 32.5% (first) after it – so there’s no certainty that it will carry over. But Mark Williams should be a better anchor on that end of the floor in his second season.

The Hornets have yet to reach a deal with restricted free agent P.J. Washington and it remains kind of amazing that a 20-points-per-game scorer (Kelly Oubre Jr.) remains an unrestricted free agent on July 31.

Last Week:15

2022-23 record: 17-65

OffRtg: 109.9 (28) DefRtg: 117.8 (27) NetRtg: -7.9 (28) Pace: 99.3 (13)

Key addition(s): Ausur Thompson, Monte Morris, Joe Harris

Key departure(s): Cory Joseph

Coaching change: Dwane Casey out, Monty Williams in

Three numbers to know:

  • The Pistons had the league’s worst record last season, winning five fewer games than any other team. They’ve also had the worst record over the last two, four, five, six and seven seasons. They haven’t won a playoff game since 2008.
  • They were outscored by 6.3 points per game in the restricted area, the league’s worst restricted-area discrepancy.
  • Isaiah Stewart took 46.5% of his shots from 3-point range last season, up from 9.4% in 2021-22. That was the biggest jump (by a wide margin) among 257 players with at least 200 field goal attempts in each of the last two seasons.

Key question: How much do the kids improve?

The Pistons have (via a huge contract) brought in the coach who’s won the most games over the last two years. They’ve also added a couple of veterans who should raise the floor a bit. But the core of this team remains three guys – Cade Cunningham, Jaden Ivey and Jalen Duren – who’ve yet to play 82 games in the league. So this is a big summer in regard to development. Cunningham played just 283 minutes with Ivey (in which the Pistons were outscored by 8.5 points per 100 possessions) and just 79 with Duren last season.

Williams had some fun offensive sets in Phoenix, and he should get the two young guards working together. Both Cunningham and Ivey can attack the basket, but among the 195 players with at least 400 field goal attempts in the paint over the last two seasons they rank 188th and 192nd in field goal percentage there (48.2% and 46.3%). Detroit also ranked 28th in ball movement last season after ranking sixth in 2021-22.