While the 2022-23 NBA season feels like it only ended recently, so much has changed since the final game between the Nuggets and Heat. With the offseason in full swing, NBA fans are already looking ahead to the start of next year. Wagering for the 2023-24 season has opened on NBA betting sites, youngsters are competing in the Summer League, and most of the big moves of free agency have already been made.
While there are still a few dominoes left to fall, we can begin to look ahead to the next season and think of what it will bring. Let’s look at some of the teams, players, and storylines that will define the upcoming 2023-24 NBA season.
Denver Nuggets Run It Back
The Denver Nuggets won their first-ever NBA Championship in June, led by Nikola Jokic, Michael Porter Jr., and Jamal Murray. They return these three stars in their prime and much of the team around them, although some key players like Jeff Green and Bruce Brown have moved on. However, much of the core is intact of an incredibly talented team, with Jokic being arguably the best player on the planet. Most sportsbooks have them as the presumptive favorites to win the championship once again, as they have the star power and depth.
The Rookie Class Arrives
The 2023 NBA rookie class has been incredibly hyped up by fans and pundits. Led by Spurs’ new superstar Victor Wembanyama, the 7’4 Frenchman who combines shooting, shot-blocking, and fluid athleticism, the class has a generational prospect the likes of which the league hasn’t seen before. Brandon Miller, the sweet-shooting forward, could put up points in a hurry for the Hornets. Scoot Henderson is one of the best guard prospects we’ve seen and the new face of the Trail Blazers. The Thompson twins have elite athleticism and passing. It is a class that could take the league by storm.
Phoenix Suns Go All-In
Sometimes, NBA teams push all their chips into the middle and show that they are devoted to winning a championship in the short term. This is the case with the Phoenix Suns, who have traded for Bradley Beal and signed a bunch of veterans in free agency. With Beal, Kevin Durant, and Devin Booker, they have one of the most dangerous rosters in the league and one that will cost well into the luxury tax. If this team doesn’t make a deep playoff run, it can only be looked at as a disappointment. With new ownership clearly willing to pay, Phoenix needs to put together an impressive season that lives up to the hype.
Boston Celtics Try Something New
The Celtics have had a similar team for several years now and experienced some deep playoff runs because of it. But after losing in the Eastern Conference Finals this season, management decided they needed to try something new to finally get over the championship hump. They traded longstanding player and franchise favorite Marcus Smart to acquire Kristaps Porzingis, the talented but oft-injured Latvian big man. Porzingis will bring interior defense and three-point shooting and give the team a new look. Whether it will be enough to get a Celtics roster to the promised land remains to be seen.
Lillard Likely Plays Elsewhere
Picturing Damian Lillard on any team but the Trail Blazers is difficult, as he has been the picture of loyalty for the franchise. He has played for the Blazers since 2012 and experienced plenty of individual success in that time. But as the Blazers have focused on adding young talent, Lillard now wants the team success that has eluded him. He has demanded a trade. All signs point to Lillard playing in Miami with the Heat, who are fresh off a Finals appearance. If this is the case, they would immediately become the likely favorite in the Eastern Conference, as Lillard, Jimmy Butler, and Bam Adebayo would make for a fearsome trio.
Golden State Aims for Five
Last season was a disappointing follow-up to a championship season for the Warriors. The young players never took a step forward, in-fighting was present, and the team lost in the second round of the playoffs. However, their quest for five championships remains possible, as they still have Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green. They will need considerable steps forward from disappointing young players, but the addition of Chris Paul to the team is fascinating. He will likely serve as an overqualified sixth man, and he is noted for his ability to get young players to step up.
Potential Contenders in the East
The Western Conference appears to be the more talented of the two conferences, but there are still plenty of high-quality teams in the East. We’ve mentioned the new-look Celtics and the Heat, who could add Damian Lillard. But these aren’t the only teams that could make a run. The Bucks brought back Khris Middleton and Brooks Lopez, who are ideal compliments to Giannis Antetokounmpo. The 76ers have reigning MVP Joel Embiid, and James Harden could still return despite a trade request. While these are the teams that appear most likely headed for a Finals run, other squads like the New York Knicks, Cleveland Cavaliers, or Atlanta Hawks could surprise fans by rising up the conference.