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The student news site of Woodbridge High School

Golden Arrow

The student news site of Woodbridge High School

Golden Arrow

Swishful Thinking: The Golden Arrow’s Power Rankings For the Upcoming NBA Season

Will the Nuggets repeat as champions or will a contender arise to take their place?
The+Larry+O%E2%80%99Brien+Championship+Trophy+is+the+ultimate+prize+for+teams+in+the+National+Basketball+Association+to+obtain.
Ruby Yang
The Larry O’Brien Championship Trophy is the ultimate prize for teams in the National Basketball Association to obtain.

2022-23 was a wild season for the National Basketball Association (NBA). The league found itself with a new leader in all-time scoring, an 8th-seeded team ran all the way to the Finals, and in the end, the Denver Nuggets won their first championship in franchise history. The question now is: what does this upcoming year have to offer? From one of the most highly-touted rookies in recent memory making his debut to a blockbuster trade set to shake things up, the storylines are endless. Here, The Golden Arrow presents to you our preseason power rankings for the 2023-24 season, ranking each team from best to worst according to how we think they’ll do. Read on to find out where we think your favorite team lands in the ever-changing leaderboard of the NBA.

 

#1: Denver Nuggets

Projected Starting Lineup: Jamal Murray, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Michael Porter Jr., Aaron Gordon, Nikola Jokic

It may seem like a boring pick for number one, but as of now, everything points to the Nuggets being just as explosive as last year when they made an incredible playoff run to win their franchise’s first championship, defeating the Heat in five games. For the most part, the entire championship-winning team remains intact, with the exception of crucial bench contributor Bruce Brown. Even without him though, Denver is still stacked. Nikola Jokic has been playing at an MVP-caliber level for the past few years now and is coming off a dominant 2022-23 season in which he almost averaged a triple-double (24.5 points, 11.8 rebounds, and 9.8 assists per game) and took home NBA Finals Most Valuable Player (MVP) honors. Jamal Murray is an excellent number two option at point guard (20 points and 6.2 assists per game last season) and Michael Porter Jr. was a lights-out 41.4% from 3-point range. Add in the defensive prowess of Aaron Gordon (0.8 blocks and 6.6 rebounds per game) and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (1.5 steals per game), alongside solid bench options such as Reggie Jackson and Christian Braun and the Nuggets look primed for a solid run at a repeat title. 

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#2: Boston Celtics

Projected Starting Lineup: Jrue Holiday, Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, Al Horford, Kristaps Porzingis 

The Celtics came up just short of a second straight Finals appearance last season, falling to Miami in the Eastern Conference Finals. However, this team comes into 2023-24 with some new faces ready to push them to the next level. The team lost longtime point guard Marcus Smart and power forward Grant Williams this offseason, but Boston seems to have only upgraded. The trade that sent Smart to Washington brought in 7 ‘3” center Kristaps Porzingis, who’s coming off of 23.2 points 8.4 rebounds and 1.8 blocks per game season. The team shipped off his predecessor at the position, Robert Williams III, alongside guard Malcolm Brogdon to Portland to pick up Smart’s replacement in all-star Jrue Holiday (19.3 points and 7.4 assists per game). Not only that, but the Celtics already have an all-star duo to pair them with. Jayson Tatum looked like an MVP candidate at times last season (30.1 points per game, All-Star game MVP) and they just made Jaylen Brown (26.6 points per game) the highest-paid player in the league after a massive 5-year contract extension worth about $303.7 million. Boston is looking very scary for the rest of the league to deal with. 

 

#3: Milwaukee Bucks

Projected Starting Lineup: Damian Lillard, Malik Beasley, Khris Middleton, Giannis Antetokoumnpo, Brook Lopez

Milwaukee ended last season reeling from a stunning round-one upset by Miami that abruptly knocked them out of the playoffs. Head coach Mike Budenholzer is out, replaced by Adrian Griffin, and the Bucks look to move forward with some exciting new faces at the helm. Milwaukee shook up the league this September, swapping one all-star point guard in Jrue Holiday for another in Portland legend Damian Lillard. The seven-time All-NBA selection averaged 32.2 points and 7.3 assists per game last season while shooting 37.1% from three-point range. The move brings back excitement to southeastern Wisconsin, as Bucks fans are eager to see how Lillard fits in with their own resident All-Stars. Giannis Antetokoumnpo was an MVP finalist last season averaging 31.1 points and 11.8 rebounds per game. The team gave contract extensions to Brook Lopez (16.9 points) and Khris Middleton to bring them back this year. Middleton lost over half of last season to injury so he should be eager to get back out there and resume playing at an All-Star level. The team had to get rid of shooting guard Grayson Allen in the Lillard deal however, so it will be up to either Pat Connaughton or newcomer Malik Beasley to step up and take his place. The Bucks are only three seasons removed from a championship and chances are they’ll be among the favorites for another one this year.

 

#4: Miami Heat

Projected Starting Lineup: Kyle Lowry, Tyler Herro, Jimmy Butler, Kevin Love, Bam Adebayo

Miami was the Cinderella story of last year’s playoffs, entering the postseason as an 8th-seeded team and making an incredible run all the way to the NBA Finals. While they came up short of beating Denver, all signs point toward them being able to translate their playoff magic of a season ago to regular season success. The face of the team, Jimmy Butler, put the team on his back last year in their playoff run, averaging 26.9 points per game in the postseason, and is expected to continue dominating this season. Center Bam Adebayo was their kingpin in the paint last season (20.4 points and 9.2 rebounds per game) and veteran point guard Kyle Lowry returns as a key facilitator (5 assists per game last season). Not only that, the team made their entire playoff run last year without the help of shooting guard Tyler Herro, who averaged 20.1 points in the regular season before succumbing to injury. Miami should be even more explosive offensively now that he’s healthy. Likely the biggest wild card for the Heat will be how much contribution they receive from their bench. Crucial performances from some unexpected names off the bench were a big part of their playoff success and they come into this season without key pieces Gabe Vincent, Max Strus and Victor Oladipo. However, names such as Caleb Martin, Kevin Love and Duncan Robinson remain and it would seem foolish to count out the Heat after what we saw last year. 

 

#5: Phoenix Suns

Projected Starting Lineup: Devin Booker, Bradley Beal, TJ Warren, Kevin Durant, Jusuf Nurkic

While most are often hesitant to put much faith in supposed “super teams,” and often rightfully so due to the history of such, a team with this much talent just simply can’t be ignored. The trade deadline acquisition of future hall of famer Kevin Durant was the first exciting move made by Phoenix this past year, and while he only played in eight regular season games, Suns fans are looking forward to a full season of him playing next to fellow All-Star Devin Booker, whose 27.8 points per game last season led the team. The team shipped off veteran point guard Chris Paul this offseason, who led the team with 8.9 assists per game, but in return acquired another great scoring option in Bradley Beal. A former All-NBA selection, Beal averaged 23.2 points per game on a struggling Washington team, and his positive production should increase being surrounded by other stars such as Booker and Durant. While the Suns did make a bit of a head-scratching move by essentially downgrading at center in swapping Deandre Ayton (18 points and 10 rebounds per game) for Portland’s Jusuf Nurkic (13.3 points and 9.1 rebounds as well as a troubling history with injuries), Phoenix should still be playing with a chip on their shoulder after an embarrassing second round defeat last year to Denver. With a new head coach Frank Vogel at the helm and coming off of a very active offseason, this new Suns team should be well on their way to competing for another Finals appearance like the one they had three years prior.

 

#6: Philadelphia 76ers

Projected Starting Lineup: Tyrese Maxey, James Harden, Tobias Harris, PJ Tucker, Joel Embiid

Philly certainly has some question marks surrounding them due to the apparent unhappiness of star guard James Harden, but as they are this team is looking very good on paper. If Harden does play, he should be expected to continue performing at an All-NBA level: he averaged 21 points and an NBA-best 10.7 assists per game last season despite only playing in 58 out of 82 games. Controversially or not, Joel Embiid was indeed the MVP last season, averaging a league-leading 33.1 points per game as well as 10.2 rebounds and 1.7 blocks. The team found consistent production out of third-year guard Tyrese Maxey (20.3 points per game and 43% shooting from three), as well as veterans like Tobias Harris (14.7 points and 5.7 rebounds). With former championship-winning coach Nick Nurse coming to town to take the reins, Philly has a good shot to avenge their second-round exit from a year ago if they can resolve the Harden dispute and take advantage of new additions such as Patrick Beverly and Kelly Oubre.

 

#7: Golden State Warriors

Projected Starting Lineup: Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Andrew Wiggins, Draymond Green, Kevon Looney 

It’s usually unsurprising to find the Warriors in playoff and championship discussions pre-season, and this year is no different. Despite their second-round upset by the Lakers last season, Golden State brings back almost all of their key contributors from a year ago in the hopes of winning a second ring in three years. As it’s been for almost the past decade now, Stephen Curry remains the face of this team. Coming off of another stellar year averaging 29.4 points and 6.3 assists per game while shooting 42% from three, Curry is going for his fourth straight All-NBA selection. The second half of their iconic duo known as The Splash Brothers, Klay Thompson, is also expected to continue dominating from range after a season where he shot 41% from beyond the arc while averaging 21.9 points per game. Two more familiar faces, Andrew Wiggins (17.1 points) and Draymond Green (team leading with 6.8 assists per game), also return, and center Kevon Looney should continue to be dominant in the painted area after leading the team with 9.3 rebounds per game. The Warriors also added another veteran presence with future Hall of Fame point guard Chris Paul (13.3 points and 8.9 assists). In doing so they also found an opportunity to ship off young guard Jordan Poole in exchange, who averaged 20.4 points per game but struggled in clutch moments down the line, and reportedly had issues with teammates (see Draymond Green’s punch to his face last offseason practice) as well. The Warriors certainly have a history of winning and they show no signs of slowing down this year.   

 

#8: Los Angeles Clippers

Projected Starting Lineup: Russell Westbrook, Paul George, Kawhi Leonard, Marcus Morris Sr., Ivica Zubac

For the past few seasons, the Clippers have struggled to find their potential despite having one of the more intimidating lineups in the league on paper. However, it can only be so long before this team translates regular season promise into playoff success such as they saw in their run to the Western Conference Finals three years ago. The success of this team, as usual, will rely on the health of their star duo of Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. Since joining LA for the 2019-20 season, both have struggled to remain injury-free and on the court. Despite that, they have shown just how dangerous they can be when healthy: They both averaged 23.8 points per game last season despite Leonard only playing in 52 games and George in only 56. George also has shown his value in playmaking and defense, as he led the team in assists (5.1) and steals (1.5) per game last year. Their supporting cast needs to also step up and contribute if the Clippers want to see success. Russell Westbrook was solid after being acquired at the trade deadline (15.8 points), and Norman Powell (17 points), John Wall (11.4 points) and Ivica Zubac (team best of 9.9 rebounds) were other key contributors to their playoff appearance. The Clippers fell in the first round last season, but a healthy duo of Leonard and George may be enough to push them to the next level. 

 

#9: New York Knicks

Projected Starting Lineup: Jalen Brunson, Josh Hart, RJ Barrett, Julius Randle, Mitchell Robinson

The Knicks made an impressive transformation last year from mediocrity to one of the higher-end teams in the league. While their playoff run ended in the second round at the hands of Jimmy Butler and the Heat, there seems to be nowhere to go but up for the Knicks. A good part of last season’s success can be attributed to the play of former Dallas guard Jalen Brunson, who averaged 24 points and 6.2 assists during his first year playing in the Big Apple. Julius Randle was their most consistent scorer and rebounder, leading the team with his 25.1 points and 10 boards per game, and former number three overall pick R.J. Barrett is only getting better after averaging 19.6 points last season. Midseason trade acquisition Josh Hart became a valuable commodity down the line, Mitchell Robinson was a reliable option at center with his 9.4 rebounds and 1.8 blocks per game while hitting an efficient 67% of his attempts, and the Knicks have found increasingly more potential in young guards Immanuel Quickley and Quentin Grimes. Throw in the offseason acquisition of Donte DiVincenzo (39% from three-point range last season with Golden State) and New York is looking poised for another strong season and perhaps an even deeper playoff run.  

 

#10: Los Angeles Lakers

Projected Starting Lineup: D’Angelo Russell, Austin Reaves, LeBron James, Christian Wood, Anthony Davis

The Lakers finished last season very strong, winning eight of their last 10 games, and that momentum carried over to the playoffs where they ran all the way to the Western Conference Finals, despite being only a 7th seed. While Denver swept them, ending their championship hopes, this team comes into 2023-24 looking just as dangerous as last year. LeBron James made history last year by surpassing Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as the all-time leading scorer of the NBA, and even as the oldest player in the league at age 38 he shows no signs of regression after averaging 28.9 points and 8.6 rebounds a game. Anthony Davis also returns on a contract extension after 25.9 points and 12.5 rebounds a game season, though he did only play in 56 games and struggled with injuries at times in the playoffs. The midseason trade for point guard D’Angelo Russell is shaping up to be a great move after he averaged 17.4 points and 6.1 assists last season and was a key contributor in the playoffs. Austin Reaves was one of the biggest surprises of last season after his 16.9 points per game in the playoffs earned him a huge new contract, and LA added Christian Wood (16.6 points) and playoff standout for the Heat Gabe Vincent to shore up their depth. Lakers fans have a good reason for the hope that their team can have another strong season, this time perhaps not for just the second half.

 

#11: Cleveland Cavaliers

Projected Starting Lineup: Darius Garland, Donovan Mitchell, Isaac Okoro, Evan Mobley, Jarrett Allen

The Cavs have slowly been working their way back into being competitive after the exit of LeBron James following the 2018 season, and last year was certainly the first sign of a truly intriguing team. While the big news was of course their acquisition of All-Star Donovan Mitchell from Utah prior to last season’s start, Cleveland’s success has also hinged on the production of young stars such as Darius Garland and Evan Mobley, who have gradually developed into legitimate pro players. Mitchell was excellent as expected, averaging 28.3 points and 1.5 steals per game en route to his fourth straight All-Star selection, Garland is shaping up to be one of the top point guards in the league (21.6 points and 7.8 assists), and Mobley made a noticeable leap in his second year (16.2 points, 1.5 blocks). Jarrett Allen remains a nightly double-double threat (14.3 points and 9.8 rebounds per game) and the team tends to find consistent bench production from Caris LeVert as well (12.1 points per game). The team from last year remains intact for the most part, plus the addition of Max Strus, who had a breakout year in Miami last season, and possible rookie sleepers such as second-round pick Emoni Bates. The Cavs couldn’t make it past the first round last season, and the Eastern Conference is only getting better, but they have enough pieces in place to certainly make some noise.

 

#12: Memphis Grizzlies

Projected Starting Lineup: Ja Morant, Desmond Bane, Ziarie Williams, Jaren Jackson Jr., Steven Adams

Memphis shined during the regular season last year, earning them the second seed in the Western Conference. However, their weaknesses as a team, namely their overreliance on star point guard Ja Morant, were exploited come the playoffs, as they found themselves upset in the first round by the upstart Lakers. Coming into 2023-24, there seem to be even more question marks surrounding the Grizzlies. Morant has been incredible while on the court, leading the team in points (26.2) assists (8.1) and steals (1.1) per game last season, but off the court issues have led to multiple suspensions and uncertainty as to his availability on a day to day basis. If he continues missing games, questions certainly arise regarding how Memphis can perform without him. They have great promise on paper: Desmond Bane is one of the best young breakout stars in the NBA right now (21.5 points per game and 40% shooting from three last year), and Jaren Jackson Jr. is turning into one of the most dominant defensive players in the league (6.8 rebounds and 3 blocks per game). Veterans like Steven Adams (11.5 rebounds) and newcomer Marcus Smart (11.5 points and 6.3 assists as well as some great defensive play) can keep them in games, but losing the ever-vocal Dillon Brooks, one of their better defensive players will hurt. The Grizzlies will still be good, but there’s too much uncertainty to call them legitimate title contenders at this stage.

 

#13: Sacramento Kings

Projected Starting Lineup: De’Aaron Fox, Kevin Huerter, Harrison Barnes, Keegan Murray, Domantas Sabonis

The Kings’ roster remains relatively unchanged from their breakout season last year where they made the postseason as a three seed to snap a 16-year playoff drought, the longest in NBA history. While they were upset in the first round, making the playoffs in the first place should be considered a big win for a team without many to speak of over the past decade. The question now: can they repeat? The play of All-Star point guard De’Aaron Fox will definitely be crucial. Fox shined last season, averaging 25 points, 6.1 assists and 1.1 steals per game, and Sacramento should be sure to put him in the best position possible every play to contribute. Domantas Sabonis had a great all around season at center (19.1 points, 12.3 rebounds and 7.3 assists), rookie Keegan Murray showed promise (12.2 points), and they snagged another young player in former all-rookie selection Chris Duarte this offseason to continue building for the future. Mixed with veterans like Harrison Barnes and Kevin Huerter, Sacramento’s young core should excite fans of the team eager for success. All eyes will certainly be on the Kings after their surge in 2022-23, and while the pressure will be on to not be a one-season wonder, chances are they’ll find ways to keep surprising us.

 

#14: Dallas Mavericks

Projected Starting Lineup: Kyrie Irving, Luka Doncic, Maxi Kleber, Grant Williams, Dwight Powell

Dallas’s attempt at pairing two-star guards for a championship run last year, to put it lightly, crashed and burned. After trading for eight time All-Star Kyrie Irving from Brooklyn at the deadline, the momentary excitement quickly evaporated. Irving simply just didn’t play well alongside resident perennial All-Star Luka Doncic, and the Mavs continued to slide all the way out of contention, to the point of essentially giving up by not playing Doncic or Irving in the crucial last two games of the year. However, with a full season of the duo ahead, fans can hope they’ve now had enough preparation to get it right. Statistically, Doncic and Irving are still at the top of their game, the former posting 32.4 points, 8.6 rebounds, 8 assists and 1.4 steals last year, and the latter averaging 27 points, 6 assists and 1.3 steals. Christian Wood is gone, but their supporting cast was given a huge boost with the acquisition of Grant Williams from Boston, who provides great defensive consistency, and the return of Seth Curry on his third separate stint in Dallas after shooting 40% from three last year on the Nets. Dallas was expected to impress last season, and their underwhelming performance is certainly a put-off, but with two proven stars on your team such as Irving and Doncic, it’s hard to count them out entirely.  

 

#15: Brooklyn Nets

Projected Starting Lineup: Ben Simmons, Spencer Dinwiddie, Cam Thomas, Mikal Bridges, Nic Claxton

The Nets’ recent attempt at creating a super team didn’t go quite as expected, with all three cornerstones of that team in Kevin Durant (Phoenix), Kyrie Irving (Dallas) and James Harden (Philadelphia) gone with no championships together to show for. Now with a fresh slate, it’s time for Brooklyn to pick up the pieces. They managed to slip into the playoffs last season, but they have to know there is still work to do. Their return investment for the Harden trade in Ben Simmons has been interesting to say the least, as Simmons didn’t play at all in 2021-22 and played in only about half of the games last year. He’s a wild card that needs to work out, as right now he seems a far cry from his past self in Philadelphia. Mikal Bridges came over in the Durant trade and ended up being a solid number-one option, averaging 26.1 points in his time with the Nets. Nic Claxton showed great all around potential (12.6 points, 9.2 rebounds and 2.5 blocks per game) and Spencer Dinwiddie returned for a second stint in Brooklyn as a part of the Irving trade to average 16.5 points. The Nets definitely have enough pieces to be talked about for the time being, but the long term remains murky.

 

#16: Chicago Bulls

Projected Starting Lineup: Coby White, Zach LaVine, DeMar DeRozan, Patrick Williams, Nikola Vucevic

Chicago enters 2023-24 as a bit of a frustrating team, as they have struggled to find playoff success despite having a really strong core of players. The headlining duo of Zach LaVine and DeMar DeRozan played well last season as usual, averaging 24.8 and 24.5 points per game respectively, with DeRozan also leading the team with 5.1 assists. Nikola Vucevic provides a great presence in the paint with his 17.6 points and 11 rebounds per game, and young prospects Coby White, Patrick Williams and Ayo Dosumnu have shown great potential. And yet, Chicago failed to make it out of the play-in tournament last year, leaving them with just one playoff appearance in the past six seasons and more questions than answers. Patrick Beverley and Derrick Jones Jr. departed this offseason, taking the bench depth they provided for Chicago with them, but the team did bring in an underrated role player in Jevon Carter, who averaged 8 points per game and shot 40% from three in 2022-23 with the Bucks. You also can’t forget about the defensive consistency provided by bench contributors Alex Caruso (1.5 steals per game) and Andre Drummond (6.6 rebounds). The Bulls have all the potential in the world, but execution will be the question yet again as they compete in a loaded Eastern Conference. 

 

#17: Atlanta Hawks

Projected Starting Lineup: Trae Young, Dejounte Murray, De’Andre Hunter, Onyeka Okongwu, Clint Capela

It still seems weird to think that the Hawks were just two wins away from an NBA Finals appearance only three seasons ago in 2020-21. After seemingly positioning themselves to be a dangerous young juggernaut for years to come, Atlanta just as quickly fell back into mediocrity. The pieces are definitely here. The star of the team is clearly Trae Young, but he alone wasn’t enough to carry this team despite averaging 26.2 points and 10.2 assists per game. The Hawks added guard Dejounte Murray before the start of last season to pair with Young, and he was certainly a productive scorer (20.5 points) and added some defensive ability to the mix too (1.5 steals). Former first-round pick De’Andre Hunter kept steadily improving with 15.4 points per game, and veteran Clint Capela (12 points and 11 rebounds per game) continues to be a walking double-double threat. The team had a relatively quiet offseason, though they did let go of a struggling forward in John Collins. It’s back to the drawing board for 2023-24, as experienced head coach Quin Snyder needs to figure out how to put those pieces together to solve the puzzle of this team’s fall-off.

 

#18: Oklahoma City Thunder

Projected Starting Lineup: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Josh Giddey, Luguentz Dort, Jalen Williams, Chet Holmgren

While Oklahoma City (OKC) has proven very little, they come into 2023-24 with maybe the most breakout potential of any team in the West, or maybe even the entire NBA. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander has been quietly ascending to his current place as one of the best guards in the league, finishing top five last season in points per game (31.4) while also posting averages of 5.5 assists, 1.6 steals and 1 block. He still hasn’t reached his ceiling. Josh Giddey is one of the best young talents in the league entering just his third season, after 2022-23 where he averaged 16.6 points and 7.9 assists. Perhaps most exciting to Thunder fans is the upcoming debut of former number two overall pick Chet Holmgren, who lost his entire rookie year to injury. His production will go a long way towards determining whether OKC can be competitive. The defining trait of the Thunder now seems to be promise, with Gilgeous-Alexander, Giddey, Holmgren, second-year player Jalen Williams and rookie Cason Wallace all being 25 or younger. In fact, only six players currently on the active roster are any older. OKC got their first taste of the postseason last year with an appearance in the play-in tournament, and they come into 2023-24 hungry for more and eager to prove themselves. 

 

#19: New Orleans Pelicans

Projected Starting Lineup: CJ McCollum, Trey Murphy III, Herbert Jones, Zion Williamson, Jonas Valanciunas

The Pelicans are another example of a promising young team in the Western Conference, albeit one that has been young and promising for a few years now. After a play-in tournament exit last year, New Orleans looks to generate more hype and momentum going into what feels like a pivotal year for their future. Going into his fifth season, former number one draft pick Zion Williamson isn’t quite panning out into the future hall of famer he was projected to be. He’s battled injuries his entire career, and just a year after missing the entire season to injury, he succumbed again last year after just 29 games. In fact, Williamson has only played in over half of his team’s games for one of his four professional seasons. When he’s on the court though, he’s shown potential, averaging 26 points in his short window of availability last season. With intended number two option Brandon Ingram just barely playing in over half of the Pelicans’ games (though he did average 24.7 points in those games), the bulk of their scoring was provided by veteran point guard C.J. McCollum (20.9 points as well as 5.7 assists per game). Jonas Valanciunas also provided a seasoned presence (10.2 rebounds led the team) and Trey Murphy III and Herbert Jones were the young spark New Orleans needed to see (14.5 and 9.8 points per game, respectively). If the Pelicans can stay healthy and on the court, they could be dangerous. But right now that seems like a big if. 

 

#20: Toronto Raptors

Projected Starting Lineup: Dennis Schroder, Gary Trent Jr., OG Anunoby, Scottie Barnes, Pascal Siakam

Ever since winning their first championship in 2019 and the subsequent departure of star Kawhi Leonard, the Raptors have never quite gotten back to that level of play. The last few years have consisted of uninspired performances leading them to fizzle out by the play-in tournament or first round. With a new head coach in Darko Rajakovic now at the helm, the Raptors are hoping to start a new chapter in their quest for another title. Pascal Siakam has played well (24.2 points and 7.8 rebounds per game last season) but he’s struggled at times to step into the role of a true number one option. OG Anunoby looked to be surely traded at the deadline, but instead was held on to and averaged 16.8 points and 1.9 steals. The Raptors actually did some buying instead and traded for center Jakob Poeltl who turned out to be a consistent rebounder for the remainder of the year (9.1 per game). Gary Trent Jr. has come out of the woodworks the past few years to be a much needed scoring option (17.4 points last season) and former rookie of the year Scottie Barnes is only getting better (15.3 points). However, losing point guard Fred VanVleet to free agency was a tough blow, and Toronto can only hope that the acquisitions of veteran Dennis Schroder and promising rookie draft pick Gradey Dick can make up for the loss. The Raptors seem to be at an odd crossroad, and with the future uncertain, they can only hope that they’ll get things together well enough in the coming years to maybe have a legitimate shot at bringing another championship north of the border. 

 

#21: Houston Rockets

Projected Starting Lineup: Fred VanVleet, Jalen Green, Dillon Brooks, Jabari Smith Jr., Alperen Sengun

Houston has been in the cellar of the NBA for the past few seasons now, but at least for the first time in a while there is cause for optimism. After an eventful free agency and draft, the Rockets seem like a potential breakout candidate this season if they can put the pieces together under new head coach Ime Udoka. Houston’s top five draft picks from the past two seasons in Jalen Green (2nd overall in 2021) and Jabari Smith Jr (3rd overall in 2022) are on their way to being legitimate top players in the league. Green has shown to be a dangerous scoring threat (22.1 points per game last season) and Smith showed great promise in his rookie campaign (12.8 points and 7.8 rebounds per game). Alperen Sengun is another young talent who has shown to be especially reliable in the paint (14.8 points and 9 rebounds) and Kevin Porter Jr. was possibly their best all-around performer last season (19.2 points, 5.7 assists and 1.4 steals). However, most of the intrigue in Houston comes from their notable offseason acquisitions. The team picked up Fred VanVleet to start at point guard after he averaged 19.3 points and 7.2 assists last year in Toronto, and added former Grizzlies forward Dillon Brooks, along with his unapologetic trash talk to the mix (14.3 points). While VanVleet provides a consistent scoring option and Brooks brings a notable defensive advantage, Houston went the extra mile in the draft by capitalizing well on both of their first-round picks, snagging the entertaining Amen Thompson fourth overall and Villanova’s Cam Whitmore at pick 20, which has been widely regarded as a steal. There’s more excitement in Houston than ever, but you can never be too certain when discussing a team hinging on the production of less proven young players. 

 

#22: Minnesota Timberwolves

Projected Starting Lineup: Mike Conley, Anthony Edwards, Kyle Anderson, Karl-Anthony Towns, Rudy Gobert

The Timberwolves managed to sneak into the playoffs last season despite falling behind in the very tight Western Conference near the end of the year. With teams previously below them such as the Rockets and Thunder starting to look on the come up, however, Minnesota may be hard-pressed to repeat that performance. There was high anticipation in Minneapolis before last season following the T Wolves’ blockbuster trade for multiple time defensive player of the year Rudy Gobert from the Jazz. However, he just didn’t quite seem up to his usual standard for most of last season, especially on the scoring end, though he did average a team-best 11.6 rebounds and 1.4 blocks per game. His chemistry with their resident star big man Karl-Anthony Towns just wasn’t really there, and injuries ended up limiting Towns to just 29 games anyway (though he did average 20.8 points and 8.1 rebounds through those games). The biggest cause for optimism for Minnesota should be the emergence of former number one overall pick Anthony Edwards into stardom. Edwards made a huge leap this past season (24.6 points and 1.6 steals) , and should now be confidently considered a legitimate leader for this team to rely upon. With D’Angelo Russell leaving for Los Angeles at midseason, starting point guard duties will likely now rest on the shoulders of veteran Mike Conley, who averaged 14 points and 5 assists after coming over from Utah and has shown to be a reliable option for his whole career. Apart from that, there hasn’t been much intrigue surrounding this team since the Gobert trade and the Western Conference is only getting better. Minnesota would require extraordinary production from Edwards on a consistent basis, Towns to stay healthy the whole season, and Gobert to revert back to his old self to really be considered contenders. And even then, their competition may be too tough.   

 

#23: Indiana Pacers

Projected Starting Lineup: Tyrese Haliburton, Buddy Hield, Benedict Mathurin, Bruce Brown, Myles Turner

Indiana has been mulling around the middle of the pack for the past few years now, and they now turn to their young core to try and push them to the next level. The most promising face on the Pacers is likely Tyrese Haliburton, who has developed himself into a reliable all-around player with the capability to lead this team forward (20.7 points, 10.4 rebounds and 1.6 steals per game last season). He’ll be pivotal to their success. Longtime Pacer Myles Turner is still here and continues to be an excellent two-way player who can compete in the post with the best of them (18 points, 7.5 rebounds and 2.3 blocks per game). He’s their best defensive cornerstone to turn to. Buddy Hield is another veteran who has proven to be a valuable scoring option from deep, shooting 42% from three and averaging 16.8 points last year, and Benedict Mathurin showed promise in his rookie season averaging 16.7 points. The team made some notable moves in the offseason such as signing Bruce Brown, who was a key contributor to Denver’s championship run, and picking up rookie Jarace Walker out of the University of Houston in the draft. The Pacers don’t have too much excitement going for them at the moment, but they seem to be at least taking steps in the right direction. 

 

#24: Orlando Magic

Projected Starting Lineup: Markelle Fultz, Jalen Suggs, Franz Wagner, Paolo Banchero, Wendell Carter Jr.

The Magic still have a long way to go towards being competitive, but they’ll certainly be trending upward fast if their young anchors can take the next step. Paolo Banchero was the number one overall pick of the draft last season and impressed with 20 points and 6.9 rebounds per game en route to receiving the rookie of the year award. Franz Wagner improved as a scorer (18.6 points) and Wendell Carter Jr. continues to be a pretty reliable player in the paint (15.2 points and 8.6 rebounds). Maybe most impressive has been former number one overall pick Markelle Fultz reviving his career to become a solid playmaker, as he averaged 5.7 assists and 1.5 steals last season along with 14 points. The key for Orlando will be making sure they hit on their draft picks and continue to build up their young core. Their two first round picks in this draft got them Arkansas’s Anthony Black and Michigan’s Jett Howard, both of whom showed great scoring consistency in college. The Magic are a team built for the future and if Banchero can take the next step this season alongside their rookies, their time to compete may come sooner than expected. 

 

#25: Portland Trail Blazers

Projected Starting Lineup: Scoot Henderson, Anfernee Simons, Jerami Grant, Robert Williams III, Deandre Ayton 

Portland was much lower on this list just a few weeks ago, with the fate of their star point guard Damian Lillard and his long-standing trade request uncertain. Now that Lillard has been shipped off to Milwaukee, and the Blazers were handed over a slew of quality players in return, things are a lot more clear. With Lillard gone and their compensation from the Bucks in Jrue Holiday traded away in a separate deal, the stage is set for number three overall pick Scoot Henderson to claim this team as his own. He’ll play alongside fellow promising young guards Anfernee Simons (21.1 points per game) and former top-ten pick Shaedon Sharpe in what could be a scary backcourt in the coming years. Deandre Ayton steps into the starting center role to replace Jusuf Nurkic after the two were swapped in a trade with Phoenix, and he’s likely the closest thing they have to a proven star on the roster. The former number-one pick averaged 18 points and 10 rebounds last season and should continue bringing consistency to the court. Robert Williams III was sent over from Boston in the Holiday trade and should be eager to get back to form as a quality big man after playing in only 35 games last season. And one can’t forget about Jerami Grant, who was an underrated scorer on this team last season 20.5 points. Saying the Blazers will be competitive this season is a bit ambitious, but they at least now have a road map for how to approach the future. 

 

#26: Utah Jazz

Projected Starting Lineup: Jordan Clarkson, Collin Sexton, John Collins, Lauri Markkanen, Walker Kessler

While the Jazz were lackluster last season, they still exceeded expectations by putting up a solid first half effort despite being predicted by most to be near dead last following their trading of stars Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert (moves usually only made by a team clearly tanking). That at least is a little promise, even if Utah is still in a place where their future appears murky. By far the most pleasant surprise for the Jazz last season was the performance of Lauri Markkanen, who transformed himself from an average starter into an All-Star in the span of one year. Markkanen increased his scoring average from 14.8 to 25.6 points per game, and averaged 8.6 rebounds to boot. He will have to keep that up if the Jazz hope to improve. Utah found Jordan Clarkson to be a consistent all-around contributor (20.8 points and 4.4 assists per game), and the acquisition of former Cavs guard Collin Sexton (14.3 points last season) proved fruitful. The offseason only added more weapons, as Utah traded for Atlanta’s John Collins and signed former Heat center Omer Yurtseven. Collins has underperformed in recent seasons, so the Jazz hope he can return to full form for 2023-24. They also pair a duo of up-and-coming rookies in Keyonte George and Taylor Hendricks with promising second-year big man Walker Kessler to further grow their young core. Utah may not be there yet, but they might be interesting enough to keep the spotlight on them for at least a little while.  

 

#27: San Antonio Spurs

Projected Starting Lineup: Devonte’ Graham, Devin Vassell, Keldon Johnson, Zach Collins, Victor Wembanyama

The Spurs of the past few seasons have been a far cry from their glory days of the 2000’s and early 2010’s. But that may all change soon with the arrival of  rookie Victor Wembanyama, the number one overall pick in this past draft. The 7 ‘4” Frenchman has been one of the most highly touted prospects in recent NBA history, comparable maybe even to the buzz surrounding rookie LeBron James way back in 2003. While the hype certainly brings excitement to San Antonio, Wembanyama needs to be sure to not crumble under the weight of expectations, especially when those expectations are essentially saying that anything less than a hall of fame career would be a disappointment. Furthermore, the Spurs need to recognize that Wembanyama alone probably won’t be enough to single handedly carry this team. They still have lots of work to do. Their top scorer last season was Keldon Johnson (22 points per game), but otherwise they’ve struggled to find a consistent number one option. Devin Vassell has shown potential, and trading for Cedi Osman this offseason from Cleveland will help as well, but San Antonio nevertheless needs to be prepared for the unlikely possibility that Wembanyama isn’t for real. This team is very young, which is usually a blessing, but the uncertainty that comes with it can be unsettling. For now though, let’s sit back and see what Wembanyama can do. 

 

#28: Charlotte Hornets

Projected Starting Lineup: LaMelo Ball, Terry Rozier, Brandon Miller, Miles Bridges, Nick Richards

Anything that could’ve gone wrong for a Hornets team without much optimism surrounding them to begin with, did go wrong last season. Their star point guard LaMelo Ball only played in 36 games and the season was pretty much scrapped before the all-star break. Going into 2023-24, Charlotte’s future certainly seems bright, but the amount of question marks is worrying. Ball averaged 23.3 points 6.4 rebounds and 8.4 assists when healthy but the Hornets need a reliable playmaker to step up if injuries force him to miss more time. Terry Rozier was their leading scorer in his absence and averaged 21.1 points alongside 5.1 assists, but needs to prove his consistency. Kelly Oubre provided 20.3 points per game, but his minutes may be limited long term due to the impending return of Miles Bridges, whose off-the-court issues kept him inactive all of last season and led to a 30 game suspension to start this season. How he performs upon return will be crucial to their play; he has shown himself to be talented when on the court. The most excitement surrounding Charlotte should probably be attributed to number two overall pick Brandon Miller’s impending debut. Miller averaged 18.8 points last year at the University of Alabama, and the Hornets hope he can fill the role of a consistent frontcourt scoring option that they currently lack. If Charlotte can stay healthy, they can play, but players like Rozier, Miller and Oubre will have to step up if they want to actually have a chance. 

 

#29: Detroit Pistons

Projected Starting Lineup: Cade Cunningham, Jaden Ivey, Ausar Thompson, Jalen Duren, Isaiah Stewart

The Pistons have been building up a strong young core for the past few seasons now. However, they’ve struggled to translate that into success due to the lack of time that this young core has had together on the floor. Their number one overall pick from 2021, Cade Cunningham, is supposed to be the face of this team and yet he missed almost all of last season to injury after only appearing in 12 games. With their young team struggling to find cohesion and without their main attraction, the Pistons sputtered to a miserable 17 win season, handily the worst record in the league. There are certainly things to be optimistic about, especially concerning their youth. Cunningham has shown so much potential when healthy, and rookie Jaden Ivey showed promise last year to the tune of 16.3 points per game. The team picked up Ausar Thompson with the number five overall pick, an exciting prospect with a high ceiling, and the likes of Jalen Duren, Killian Hayes, Isaiah Stewart and James Wisemen are just a few of the young talents Detroit seeks to develop to their full potential. A veteran presence such as that of Bojan Bogdanovic should also be helpful: the proven role player led the team in points per game last season with 21.6 and shot 41% from three point range. The Pistons have a new face at head coach in Monty Williams, who has shown his winning experience via his NBA Finals appearance with the Suns just three seasons ago. In accordance, the best strategy Detroit could employ this season would be to wipe the slate clean and hope for the best going forward with their still developing team core. 

 

#30: Washington Wizards

Projected Starting Lineup: Tyus Jones, Jordan Poole, Deni Avdija, Kyle Kuzma, Daniel Gafford

Any shred of excitement or intrigue surrounding basketball in our nation’s capital took its leave upon the seemingly inevitable exit of guard Bradley Beal, the closest thing they’ve had to a star for a long while. What they’re left with is an infuriatingly uninteresting lineup presenting more uncertainty than ever before. With Beal and Kristaps Porzingis now gone, it’s up to Kyle Kuzma to be the number one scorer in town. He did average 21.2 points last year, but don’t get your hopes up considering that no one on the team around him even got close to touching that. Jordan Poole has potential to be a new Beal for them, but the promise he’s shown the past few seasons was distinctly marred by his inconsistency down the line and lack of clutch performances that led the Warriors to trade him away. Washington seems to clearly be starting over, a necessary move one would argue. But that doesn’t make the impending season seem any less kind for fans, and some rebuilds can take a bit longer than anticipated. It seems doubtful that any magic could save the Wizards now– except maybe that in Orlando that’s probably going to beat them a couple times to at least give them a better shot at the number one pick in the draft.

But who knows? We have certainly seen crazier things happen and likely will see crazier things happen in an NBA season that, by all accounts, is set to be full of crazy things to see.

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About the Contributors
Jackson Gillies, Sports Editor
Hi everyone, I’m Jackson, and this year I’ll be Sports Editor for the Golden Arrow! I’m so excited for what will be my third year in the journalism program, and will continue to be a writer alongside my editor responsibilities. I look forward to using my articles to spotlight communities from all around campus and give everyone an opportunity to share their talents and stories with us all. Can’t wait to get started!
Ruby Yang, Co-Editor-in-Chief
Hey Warriors! My name is Ruby Yang and I am so excited to serve as a Co-Editor-in-Chief. This is my fourth year in Golden Arrow and my second year as Co-EIC. I can’t wait to deliver print issues and high quality web stories. Our main goal is to help represent the diversity of our school and get your voices heard. I can’t wait to make this school year a good one!