NBA Power Rankings: Lakers, Celtics Land in Surprising Spots

LeBron James, leader of the NBA power-ranking No. 1 Lakers

Getty LeBron James, leader of the NBA power-ranking No. 1 Lakers

That did not take long, did it? The 2023-24 season is upon us already so, already, we’ve got NBA power rankings.

We are opening the season with something of a surprise in the top spot — the Lakers, who had an excellent offseason. They solidified their trade-deadline revamp this summer by re-signing new guys Rui Hachimura, D’Angelo Russell and Jarred Vanderbilt, and giving a new deal to Austin Reaves.

Adding versatile point guard Gabe Vincent, plus center Jaxson Hayes, and forwards Taurean Prince (who will start), Cam Reddish and Christian Wood, made this a knockout summer for the Lakers, who have the deepest roster in the league.

It all comes down to whether injury-prone center Anthony Davis and 38-year-old LeBron James can stay healthy. But if so, look out–the Lakers should be the league’s best team.

(And, fittingly, the Celtics should be the best in the East.)

To put together these NBA power rankings, we chatted with an assistant coach for a Western Conference team as well as a scout for an Eastern Conference team, who told us what they’d be looking for in the upcoming season.

Let’s get to those NBA power rankings, then.

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  1. Los Angeles Lakers. Western Conference assistant coach: “You can argue this is the best supporting cast LeBron has ever had. He had Hall of Famers in Miami but in terms of, 1-through-12, a roster that fills its roles and makes sense? This is the best, I would say. Just gotta stay healthy.”
  2. Boston Celtics. Eastern Conference scout: “It’s all about chemistry and culture for them this year. No matter what you say about Marcus Smart, he made that team play harder when he was there. Can Jayson Tatum do that? Or Jaylen Brown? Jrue Holiday can but is he comfortable doing that as the new guy?”
  3. Phoenix Suns. WC coach: “They have six guys you might trust in the playoffs. So, I am looking for, who is going to be the surprise role player? Maybe (Yuta) Watanabe, maybe Keita (Bates-Diop). They’re too thin unless they get a breakthrough kind of guy.”
  4. Denver Nuggets. WC coach: “All the credit to them for last season but it is going to be tougher this year, with Phoenix and the Lakers and if the Warriors are healthy. So, who gets better? I think it has got to be Michael Porter Jr. They can’t spend $250 million on a 3-point specialist.”
  5. Milwaukee Bucks. EC scout: “What do they do with Damian Lillard’s defense? That’s Adrian Griffin’s No. 1 priority. He needs him to not be a liability in the playoffs.”
  6. Golden State Warriors. WC coach: “(Jonathan) Kuminga. I think they are a good team that can get to the second round of the playoffs as is. But, Chris Paul is not the real wild card there. It’s Kuminga. He’s got to put it together this year, and if he does, they’re a contender.”
  7. Cleveland Cavaliers. EC scout: “They’re making an effort to speed up their offense, to take more 3s, to be up tempo. That suits them–the D is good, but they’ve got good weapons. A lot of coaches say (they want to play fast) in October and they’re back to playing crawl-ball by Thanksgiving. They need to stick with that.”
  8. New York Knicks. EC scout: “Space. It is always space with them. They’ve got to be able to create enough space for (Julius) Randle to be successful. They have 1,000 guards on the roster, so they should eb able to do that.”
  9. Miami Heat. EC scout: “They needed a Plan B for the Damian Lillard stuff. You let (Gabe) Vincent walk and maybe you were never going to pay him $10 million (per year). But Plan B is Kyle Lowry? They will survive but point guard is going to be their downfall.”
  10. Sacramento Kings. WC coach: “Da’Aaron Fox put it together last year. It took longer than they wanted but he got it. Now, can he be more consistent? Can he be a leader? Can he defend consistently? Just getting to the playoffs is not going to be enough.”

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  11. Philadelphia 76ers. EC scout: “You can win 47, 48 games with (Tyrese) Maxey and (Joel) Embiid. They’ll be fine in the first few months if (James Harden) is gone. But over time, they need depth, they’ve got to get rid of Harden and just get back some guys you can use even if they’re not stars.”
  12. L.A. Clippers. WC coach: “Sometimes, they played like they did not care much. Does Russ (Westbrook) change that? There’s a lot of dead weight there, but there is also a lot of talent.”
  13. Oklahoma City Thunder. WC coach: “It’s just putting it together at this point. Shai (Gilgeous-Alexander) is a Top 10 player now. Will those other young guys want to be role players around him? Because young guys don’t want to sacrifice, usually.”
  14. Minnesota Timberwolves. WC coach: “It’s like a collision course, how determined and driven Anthony Edwards is and how laid back and nonchalant Rudy Gobert and (Karl-Anthony Towns) is. Is Anthony enough to raise those guys up?”
  15. Atlanta Hawks. EC scout: “What is the dynamic between Quin Snyder and Trae Young? Because they brought in Quin to get through to Trae Young, and if he can’t, then you’ve got to think about moving on from Trae because he keeps wiping out coaches.”
  16. Indiana Pacers. EC scout: “Scary group when they’re healthy. Ben Mathurin is the key–he looked amazing but he wore out pretty fast. Hope he did some running in the offseason.”
  17. Chicago Bulls. EC scout: “They needed to spend some money to help fil in for Lonzo (Ball, out with a knee injury). But ownership is too cheap to go into the tax so, you get Jevon Carter, who is an excellent backup but not a starter.”
  18. Utah Jazz. WC coach: “Scary team. They still have some moves up their sleeves. Let’s see if Lauri stays healthy, he allows them to play to their roles. If he is not in there, things can get ugly fast.”
  19. Memphis Grizzlies. WC coach: “I do not know how they stay afloat. With Adams out, you don’t have Ja (Morant) for 25 games. They’re tough so they can hang around .500. But it’s not going to be easy.”
  20. New Orleans Pelicans. WC coach: “I think we have seen how Willie (Green) wants them to play but we have seen them healthy for, what, 10, 12 games? And it’s already happening again with the injuries.”

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  21. Houston Rockets. WC coach: “I get what they were trying to do, signing Fred VanVleet and (Dillon) Brooks. They want to turn the corner. But it’s not enough to get them to the playoffs.”
  22. Brooklyn Nets. EC scout: “I want to know who’s gonna score. If you’re counting on 25 per game from Mikal Bridges, then you’re asking too much from him.”
  23. Dallas Mavericks. WC coach: “We have them circled on the schedule because they’re fun to play against. Luka (Doncic) and Kyrie (Irving) are fun to watch and you know you’re gonna score, a lot. Says something about their defense.”
  24. Orlando Magic. EC scout: “They’ve just got to figure out their guards. Paolo (Banchero) and Franz Wagner, that is a nice combo. But they need a set-up man and some shooters, and those are not that hard to find.”
  25. Detroit Pistons. EC scout: “It is all about Cade Cunningham there. He’s got to shoot the ball. Plain and simple. He needs to show he is not John Wall II because there isn’t really a place for a guy like that anymore.”
  26. Toronto Raptors. EC scout: “They shuffled a lot around and that has kind of covered up the fact that Scottie Barnes really did not get better last year. The trade stuff is going to get the headlines but to me, is he going to improve? That’s the story of their season right there.”
  27. San Antonio Spurs. WC coach: “You hear players already talking about not wanting to get dunked on by him. He has not played but he has guys scared about showing up on social media looking silly.”
  28. Washington Wizards. EC scout: “They have some talent but man, they just are so far away. They have not done that well in the trades they made, they need to change that. Tyus Jones, (Kyle) Kuzma — they need to get real assets for these guys.”
  29. Charlotte Hornets. EC scout: “I love LaMelo (Ball) but there is so much dread in that whole organization. You can feel it. The (Miles) Bridges thing, Kai Jones, that was weird. Then they draft Brandon Miller, and he has legal stuff hanging over him. It is October but they already look tired.”
  30. Portland Trail Blazers. WC coach: “I root for Chauncey (Billups), I think most of us do. But he has not shown much that makes you think he is the guy to coach this team. Maybe now that it is all young guys, that will make him more comfortable. But last year was rough on him. As much as the players, I think I will be watching him and see how he gets better.”


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