2023-24 NBA Season Primer

Cam Whitmore
Summer League MVP Cam Whitmore is one of many exciting new players joining the NBA this season. (Photo courtesy of NBA.com)

Admit it — you have been watching football and baseball, and you aren’t ready for the NBA season to start.  You’ve lost track of who went where and forgot who drafted whom.  “Damian Lillard is now in Miami, right?”  

Well, not exactly, but don’t worry, the Hoops Prospects crew follows basketball year round, and we got you covered.  

Beginning in July and up to now, the Hoops Prospects staff has been evaluating all 30 NBA teams in terms of draft performance and offseason/preseason moves.  This began on the Hoops Prospects Podcast (HPP) with our back-to-back NBA Draft Grades shows.  We followed that up with our NBA Offseason Grades show.  We recently previewed both the Eastern Conference and Western Conference, and then we released the results of our 2023-24 NBA Fearless Forecast.  

My name is Naz Noyim, I am here now to tie everything together, with the help of three other HP staff members.  Rich Harris, Jackson Inagi, and Cam Riehl originally summed up and graded each team’s draft and offseason moves, and the four of us have been updating those grades as developments have required.  And now, with the season upon us, I have ordered the teams from best to worst for expected finish in each conference and given my thoughts on each team’s outlook for this season.   

Below is a summary of my predicted order of finish for both conferences, each team’s draft grade and overall offseason grade plus Cam’s, Rich’s, and my picks for the over/under for total wins for each team.  Following the chart is our analysis for each team, and to see each club’s complete roster go to our depth charts page.  

~ Naz Noyim

TeamEast FinishDraft GradeOverall Offseason GradeOv/UnNaz’s PicksCam’s PicksRich’s Picks
Boston Celtics1BA54.5O
Milwaukee Bucks2B-A54.5
New York Knicks3FD45.5OOU
Philadelphia 76ers4DD48.5UUU
Cleveland Cavaliers5C-C+50.5U
Indiana Pacers6B+A-38.5
Atlanta Hawks7C-D+42.5U
Miami Heat8B-C45.5UU
Orlando Magic9CC-36.5OU
Brooklyn Nets10B+B-37.5U
Detroit Pistons11BB27.5O
Charlotte Hornets12A-B-31.5
Chicago Bulls13D+D+37.5UU
Toronto Raptors14BC+36.5U
Washington Wizards15B-B24.5
TeamWest FinishDraft GradeOverall Offseason GradeOv/UnNaz’s PicksCam’s PicksRich’s Picks
Los Angeles Lakers1C+A+47.5UU
Denver Nuggets2C+C-52.5
Phoenix Suns3D-B-51.5O
Sacramento Kings4CB44.5O
Oklahoma City Thunder5C+B-44.5OOU
Los Angeles Clippers6CC46.5
Golden State Warriors7C+B-48.5
Memphis Grizzlies8B-C+44.5OU
Dallas Mavericks9B+A-48.5
Minnesota Timberwolves10CC-44.5U
New Orleans Pelicans11B-C+44.5
Utah Jazz12A+A35.5OO
Houston Rockets13AA-31.5
San Antonio Spurs14AA-29.5UO
Portland Trail Blazers15AA28.5UUO

Eastern Conference

Boston Celtics

Draft Picks:  Jordan Walsh (36)

Free Agents Signed:  Dalano Banton, Oshae Brissett, Svi Mykhailiuk, Lamar Stevens 

Players Re-signed: none


  • As part of a 3-team trade, the Mavs will receive Grant Williams (sign & trade) from Boston plus a 2025 second-round pick (via San Antonio) and a 2028 second-round pick (from San Antonio); the Spurs will receive Reggie Bullock and an unprotected 2030 pick swap from the Mavs, while the Celtics will receive a 2024 second-round pick (via San Antonio), a 2025 second-round pick swap (via Mavs) and a 2030 second-round pick (via Mavs).
  • In a 3-team trade, the Celtics acquire Kristaps Porzingis, the draft rights to Marcus Sasser (No. 25 pick from Memphis), and the Warriors’ 2024 first-round pick (top-four protected from Memphis); Grizzlies acquire Marcus Smart; Wizards receive Danilo Gallinari, Mike Muscala, and the draft rights to Julian Phillips (No. 35 pick).
  • Celtics acquire James Nnaji (No. 31 pick), the most favorable of the Pistons’, Warriors’, and Wizards’ 2025 second-round picks, and the most favorable of the Timberwolves’, Pelicans’, Knicks’, and Trail Blazers’ 2026 second-round picks; Pistons acquire Marcus Sasser (No. 25 pick).
  • Celtics to acquire Colby Jones (No. 34 pick) and Mouhamed Gueye (No. 39 pick); Hornets acquire James Nnaji (No. 31 pick)
  • Celtics to acquire the Hawks’ 2027 second-round pick; Hawks acquire the rights to Mouhamed Gueye (No. 39 pick).
  • Celtics acquire Jordan Walsh (No. 38 pick) and the Mavericks’ 2024 second-round pick; Kings acquire Colby Jones (No. 34 pick).
  • The Celtics acquired Jrue Holiday from the Trail Blazers in exchange for Robert Williams, Malcolm Brogdon and two draft picks: Golden State’s first-rounder in 2024 (top-4 protected) and Boston’s unprotected first-rounder in 2029.

Draft Grade (B)

The Celtics entered the draft with pick 35 and left with pick 38, but in between, a lot of moves transpired.  By trading Marcus Smart to Memphis and pick 35 to Washington, the Celtics not only received Kristaps Porzingis but also two first-rounders.  Using one of those first-rounders (pick 25), they made a series of moves to gain future picks (a total of six second-rounders) plus pick 38.  In hindsight, perhaps Boston should have held onto pick 39, and drafted one of the players that were selected between 40-45, such as Amari Bailey. Jordan Walsh, selected for Boston with the 36th pick, is a versatile defender who could help offset the losses of Smart and restricted free agent Grant Williams, and the Arkansas rookie has more upside than Williams in the long run. Walsh was better than expected offensively in Summer League, but he cooled off significantly in the preseason. Ultimately, the Celtics may have snagged a rookie who can contribute as a backup to Jason Tatum, but it remains to be seen what Walsh can contribute as an offensive player. 

Overall Offseason Grade (A)

The 2022 Celtics are no more – do not be fooled by the headlining duo of Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown – this is a completely new team in Beantown. This offseason has been a changing of the guard in Boston, as longtime Celtics such as Smart, Grant Williams, Robert “Time Lord” Williams, and Malcolm Brogdon will suit up for rival franchises this season. Now their watch has ended. In their stead, the Celtics have assembled what will shortly become the highest paid roster in the NBA once the aforementioned Brown’s supermax begins. Two-time All-Star Jrue Holiday alongside Colorado’s own Derrick White stand poised to continue Boston’s run of dominant wing defensive specialists. Kristaps Porzingis will also join the storied franchise, fresh off the healthiest and most efficient season of his injury-riddled career. The eternal Al Horford will help shore up the frontcourt alongside Porzingis as well. For all of the talent moving out the door, you have to admit, this team has simply underachieved dating back to Tatum’s rookie season. You have to give Brad Stevens and the rest of the front office in Boston massive credit — to make such major changes to this team’s roster takes balls, massive balls. 

To come out on the other side of an offseason with this many roster moves and still be considered favorites if not “the favorite” to make the NBA finals is quite an achievement. We won’t see the full force of this roster until the All-Star break; there is going to be a learning curve, and there are still depth questions that need to be answered, especially in the frontcourt. On paper, this is the most talented starting five in the NBA, but one could argue that has been true of the Celtics for years now, and they do not have a championship to show for it. A parade in Boston is always the expectation of this fanbase — this year, it is a necessity.

Season Projection — 1st in the East

After the blockbuster trade in which the Milwaukee Bucks shipped out Jrue Holiday, Grayson Allen, and some draft picks to acquire superstar Daimen Lillard, it looked like the Bucks were going to run away with the East and possibly hoist the Larry O’Brien Trophy in June. But everything changed when Holiday was traded again, this time to Milwaukee’s Eastern Conference foe, the Boston Celtics. The Celtics now arguably have the best starting lineup in the NBA, both offensively and defensively. They will be led by their All-Stars, Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, and every player in the starting lineup can defend and knock down threes, which is a recipe for success in today’s league. 

The main concern with this team is the lost depth.  At a minimum, the team appears to be in good shape at guard, as both Payton Pritchard (15.6 PPG, FG% 44.4) and Svi Mykhailiuk (12.0 PPG, FG% 52.2) played well in the preseason.  Even so, the key to the Celtics’ success will be the health of their stars.  If Tatum, Brown, Holiday, and Kristaps Porzingis are healthy come playoff time, Boston should win the title.

Milwaukee Bucks

Draft Picks:  #36 Andre Jackson Jr., #58 Chris Livingston

Free Agents Added:  Malik Beasley, Robin Lopez, Cameron Payne, TyTy Washington (2-Way)

Re-signed Players:  Khris Middleton, Brook Lopez, Jae Crowder, A.J. Green


  • In a three-team deal, Portland traded Damian Lillard to Milwaukee for Jrue Holiday and an unprotected 2029 first-round pick from the Bucks, along with the right to swap first-round picks with Milwaukee in 2028 and 2030. The Blazers also received center Deandre Ayton and rookie forward Toumani Camara from the Suns in the deal, while Phoenix received center Jusuf Nurkic, forward Nassir Little, and guard Keon Johnson from Portland, as well as wing Grayson Allen from Milwaukee.
  • Bucks acquire Andre Jackson Jr. (No. 36 pick); the Magic acquire the Bucks’ 2030 second-round pick and cash.

Draft Grade (B-)

The Bucks made the best of a bad situation in this year’s draft, perhaps the best example of a team using all the tricks to find value in the draft without a ton of capital. They picked up a really interesting prospect in Andre Jackson Jr. with the 36th pick. Jackson has all of the tools to be an excellent defender, including top-notch athleticism, and could be the team’s future point guard if he can develop a consistent outside shot.  The Bucks also locked down wing Chris Livingston with the 58th pick. The Kentucky product has a solid frame and a nice jump shot — 3-and-D potential.

Overall Offseason Grade (A)

Before the Damian Lillard trade was announced, we were prepared to give the Milwaukee Bucks a flat B for their offseason roster moves. The Bucks had checked off every item on their to do list. Bringing back Brook Lopez and Kris Middleton were necessary moves to both maintain continuity and talent for the team to remain a contender in the East. However, we felt it was difficult to project another championship for a team that seemed to regress in the 2023 playoffs. It seems that team star Giannis Antetankounmpo shared in our sentiments as the NBA media began to buzz about the possibility of Giannis asking for a trade after the season if he felt that the team was no longer competitive. Then, out of the blue, the Bucks front office quietly wiggled into the Damian Lillard sweepstakes and managed to add the seven-time All-Star in a deal centered around Jrue Holiday, Grayson Allen, and draft compensation. It was a steep price to pay, not just in terms of the Bucks’ future assets, but in terms of immediate depth. 

This refurbished roster is very thin at guard and wing positions, but the recent signing of free agent Cameron Payne will help alleviate concerns about the backup point guard position. Outside of Middleton, the wings remain a major question mark; Pat Conaughton, Jae Crowder, Marjon Beauchamp, and Malik Beasley will need to produce at a high level, especially defensively. The injection of Lillard into the starting line up will certainly elevate the Bucks offense to new heights — the image of a Lillard-Giannis pick-and-roll is horrifying in its own right, but the luxury of Middleton reverting to tertiary scorer is just the cherry on top. If the Bucks coaching staff is able to balance a top-five scoring attack while maintaining a top-15 defense and depth concerns, this team may be on the path to yet another championship in the 2023-24 NBA season. 

Season Projection — 2nd in the East

Coming off the disappointing first-round upset in last year’s playoffs, the Bucks knew they had to make a move, especially after Giannis publicly expressed that he wants to compete for more titles. And they made the biggest splash in the offseason by trading for “Dame Time.” The Bucks are all in this year, but are they deep enough to win the East? First and most importantly, can a rookie head coach get the job done in the big moments? Will Middleton stay healthy? Will their defense suffer after losing one of the best perimeter defenders in the league? Lillard and the Bucks are not a lock for a championship this year, unlike when Kevin Durant went to the Warriors.  However, Milwaukee has one of the most talented duos in the league and enough supporting talent to make them the clear 1B in the Eastern Conference. 

New York Knicks

Draft Picks:  none 

Free Agents Added: Donte DiVincenzo, Dylan Windler, Jacob Toppin (two-way), Charlie Brown Jr. (two-way)

Re-signed Players: Ryan Arcidiacono, Duane Washington (two-way)


  • Knicks send Obi Toppin to the Pacers for either the Suns’ or Pacers’ 2028 second-round pick (whichever is least favorable) and either the Pacers’ or Wizards’ 2029 second-round pick (whichever is least favorable).

Draft Grade (F)

Without a selection in the draft, the Knicks picked up one undrafted free agent that made the roster on a two-way contract, forward Jacob Toppin, the brother of Obi Toppin. The younger Toppin is an athletic prospect who played better in the second half of last season for Kentucky. However, he only shot 30% from three on 1.8 attempts per game and 66 percent from the free-throw line. Overall, he’s 23 and doesn’t possess any elite translatable skills as an NBA player. 

Overall Offseason Grade (D)

New York’s Summer League team was highlighted by the relatively unknown Charlie Brown Jr., a 26-year-old player who has played for Team USA’s 3-on-3 team under Fran Fraschilla. Brown Jr. has had a few stints in the league but impressed in Vegas, averaging 19.8 points per game while shooting 37.5 percent from three.  Brown barely played during the preseason, but his Summer League stint was enough to earn him a two-way contract.  

The rest of New York’s quiet offseason was highlighted by the signing of guard Donte DiVincenzo. While he will be able to bring defense, shooting, and playmaking to the rotation, the Knicks already had a logjam at the guard spots, and he will take away reps from Quentin Grimes and Immanuel Quickley, barring a trade in the future.  At the same time, the team is thin in the frontcourt after trading away Obi Toppin for two second-rounders, recouping some value for the former lottery pick and yet disappointing to sell low on a guy who was picked eighth overall in 2020 and was never given a chance to play significant minutes. With Toppin gone, Julius Randle is the only true four on the roster.  The plan is to use a combination of wing Josh Hart and center Jericho Sims as Randle’s backups. Hopefully for New York fans, the team is able to recapture some magic from the 2016 Villanova championship roster and the chemistry of DiVincenzo, Hart, and Jalen Brunson.  That trio plus Ranlde, RJ Barrett and sixth man Immanuel Quickley is a solid six, but is it really enough to improve upon the team’s second-round playoff appearance from last season?

Season Projection — 3rd in the East

The Knicks have a good young team led by Jalen Brunson and Julius Randle, and they have a tough coach that will get the best out of the players. They are still one All-Star caliber player away from making some real noise in the East. However, should a perennial All-Star become available before the trade deadline, such as Karl-Anthony Towns or Joel Embiid, this franchise will enter the bidding war with everything they have. Sixers beat writer Keith Pompey was recently told by his sources that the Knicks are looking to trade for Joel Embid. And they are willing to trade Julius Randle, RJ Barett, Mitchell Robinson, and two or three first-round picks.

Philadelphia 76ers

Draft Picks: none

Free Agents Added:  Kelly Oubre, Patrick Beverley, Mohamed Bamba, Filip Petrusev, Danny Green, Terquavion Smith (two-way), Azuolas Tubelis (two-way), Javonte Smart (two-way)

Re-signed Players:  Paul Reed

Trades:  none

Draft Grade (D)

How does a team with no picks get a passing grade (barely)?  Well, the Sixers made some nice signings after the draft, signing three undrafted players, Terquavion Smith, Ricky Council, and Azuolas Tubelis, who were considered by most to be second-rounders. The team is especially excited about Smith, who is an excellent athlete and a dynamic scorer with the potential to develop into a point guard.

Overall Offseason Grade (D)

The beginning free-agency period was not especially exciting for Sixers fans, who saw Shake Milton, Jalen McDaniels, and Georges Niang slip away to other teams. At the same time, the team signed Patrick Beverley, Mohamed Bamba, and former draft-and-stash big man Filip Petrusev to replenish the bench. The Sixers also called Danny Ainge’s bluff and matched an offer on restricted free agent Paul Reed, and that move could cost the team dearly in luxury taxes down the road. The biggest move came much later in the process — the signing of wing Kelly Oubre, who should replace the aging P.J. Tucker in the starting lineup and add some needed shooting.  

Considering the above moves, it definitely could be argued that the Sixers improved over last year, but the James Harden situation changes everything.  The front office created this mess in the first place by acquiring Harden, who is currently teetering on a holdout, at least virtually.  Also, both the player and the team appear to overestimate Harden’s market value.  Trade talks with the Clippers, the lone team that is seemingly interested in the mercurial All-Star, are at an impasse because neither side is willing to move off their original demands — the Clippers won’t part ways with Terance Mann, and the Sixers won’t take Norman Powell and the remaining three years on his contract worth roughly $58 million.  At this point, it would make sense for Philadelphia to reach out to teams such as the Bulls, the Heat, the Timberwolves, the Pelicans, and the Raptors, all of whom may offer a more agreeable deal than the Clippers.  Of course, Harden might make any deal extremely difficult by saying that he will refuse to play for any team other than the Clippers.   

Season Projection — 4th in the East

The biggest question for Philadelphia is: how long will James Harden be on the team? It’s safe to say at this point that the Sixers will not get 100 percent from the disgruntled guard. If the Sixers can trade Harden and get some good value back for him, they can certainly compete in the East because Tyreese Maxey can play Harden’s role just as well, and maybe even better. Ideally, the trade return would include a pair of solid wings, such as Terance Mann and Norman Powell or OG Anunoby and Gary Trent Jr. If the 76ers are stuck with Harden for the entire season, the ceiling is not so high for them because Joel Embid has shown year after year that he cannot get the job done in the playoffs. Unless they make some changes, the second round is their ceiling, again!

Cleveland Cavaliers

Cleveland Cavaliers

Draft Picks:  Emoni Bates (49)

Free Agents Added:  Georges Niang, Ty Jerome, Tristan Thompson, Craig Porter (two-way)

Re-signed Players:  Caris LeVert, Isaiah Mobley (two-way)


  • Cavaliers acquire Damian Jones from the Jazz for cash.
  • As part of a 3-team trade, the Cavaliers acquire Max Strus (sign —and-trade), and send Cedi Osman, Lamar Stevens, their 2030 second-round pick, and cash to the Spurs.  The Cavs also send the Lakers’ 2026 2nd-round pick to the Heat.  

Draft Grade (C-)

The Cleveland Cavaliers used their only pick to select Emoni Bates at No. 49. A polarizing prospect since he was dubbed the next big thing as a 15-year-old, Bates gives the team a flamethrowing wing when he is on, but historically, a player who offers little else when he is off. There is potential for Bates to emerge as a scoring specialist off the bench, but the Cavs are looking to win now around Donovan Mitchell and did little to eliminate their depth concerns in the draft. 

Bates showcased his shotmaking ability in Summer League, shooting 40 percent from three and averaging 17 points per game. He also hustled, producing nearly one steal and one block per game while averaging  six rebounds.  He continued his hot play in the preseason, shooting 50 percent from the field and 46 percent from deep. Bates needs to consistently play with energy on both ends of the court and not force unnecessary shots from the outside. If so, he will eventually be upgraded to a standard contract and be a very effective microwave scorer off the bench. 

Overall Offseason Grade (C+)

NBA Summer League ended with the Cleveland Cavaliers as the champions and Isaiah Mobley as the championship game MVP. Mobley looked sharp, displaying his offensive versatility and defensive anticipation in the paint. It would not be surprising to see his contract upgraded from a two-way deal, allowing the second-year pro to compete for backup minutes at the four and five spots, especially since the Cavs lack talented depth in the frontcourt. Similarly, undrafted rookie Craig Porter (two-way contract) impressed at Summer League with his abilities at the point guard position. He is only 6’2” but averaged 7.3 rebounds and led the team in assists at 5.3 per game. He, too, could conceivably be upgraded to a standard contract with Ricky Rubio’s NBA future in doubt

Cleveland was active this offseason, adding wing Max Strus, forward George Niang, guard Ty Jerome plus centers Tristan Thompson and Damian Jones to solidify their depth. They also re-signed Caris LeVert to continue as their sixth man off the bench. The Strus acquisition addresses a need for shooting after the Cavs’ struggles in the postseason. However, one can’t help but wonder if there will be buyer’s remorse with his four-year, $63M contract if he regresses from his playoff form during Miami’s run to the Finals. Cleveland may also regret not addressing the point guard position more aggressively. Even if Rubio returns to the team, his play is quickly regressing, and while Jerome gives them depth, he shouldn’t be the primary backup point guard on a contending team. Another position of need is backup center — the current options are Dean Wade, Thompson, and Jones. Based on his Summer League play, Isaiah Mobely might be the best option behind Jarrett Allen, and as noted above, the second-year pro may see his contract upgraded to a standard deal. 

Season Projection — 5th in the East

Last season, the Cavaliers really took off with Mitchell leading the way. But, surprisingly, they were easily defeated by the New York Knicks in the first round. Although the Cavs didn’t make huge changes to the roster, they are still good enough to be near the top of the East, but they are not good enough to battle with the two powerhouses in the conference. 

The best case scenario is: 1) Evan Mobley will improve over last year and win Defensive Player of the Year, 2) either Strus, Bates, or former lottery pick Isaac Okoro emerges as a solid and consistent two-way starter at the three spot, and 3) all of the team’s core players stay healthy so that backups such as Jerome, Wade, and Jones don’t have to play heavy minutes.  And even if that happens, getting past Milwaukee and/or Boston in the playoffs will still be very difficult if both of those proven clubs are relatively healthy. 

Indiana Pacers

Indiana Pacers

Draft Picks:  Jarace Walker (8), Ben Sheppard (26), Mojave King (47), Isaiah Wong (55)

Free Agents Added:  Bruce Brown, Oscar Tshiebwe (two-way)

Re-signed Players:


  • The Pacers sent Chris Duarte to the Kings for Dallas’ 2028 second-round pick and Sacramento’s own 2030 second-rounder.
  • Pacers acquire Obi Toppin from the Knicks for either the Suns’ or Pacers’ 2028 second-round pick (whichever is least favorable) and either the Pacers’ or Wizards’ 2029 second-round pick (whichever is least favorable).
  • Indiana received pick 40 and the Nuggets’ 2024 first-rounder from OKC (least favorable of four); Denver received picks 29 and 32.
  • The Pacers receive the draft rights to Mojave King (No. 47 pick) and cash ($4,363,000); the Lakers acquire the draft rights to Maxwell Lewis (No. 40 pick).
  • Pacers acquire the draft rights to Jarace Walker (No. 8 pick), the Suns’ 2028 second-round pick, and the Wizards’ 2029 second-round pick; Wizards acquire Bilal Coulibaly (No. 7 pick).

Draft Grade (B+)

The Pacers came into the draft with five picks, including three first-rounders; they left with five players, including the signing of undrafted forward/center Oscar Tshiebwe, plus a future first-rounder, two future second-rounders, and $4.4 million in cash.  However, of the five players added, only one definitely has first-round value in my opinion (Jarace Walker). 

The Pacers made a nice move to get Walker, the man they likely wanted in the first place plus two additional future second-rounders. The Houston freshman should solve Indiana’s long-term issues at power forward, but the rest of newcomers may never be big contributors. In fact, Mojave King will be a draft-and-stash, as he is planning to play overseas this season. Selecting wing Ben Sheppard in the first round was a bit of a risk, given that he had just one outstanding college season and played four years at Belmont. An alternative was selecting Brice Sensabaugh at 26, and picking up a shooter with one of the team’s second-rounders, such as Emoni Bates.

Only Walker and Sheppard played significant minutes during the preseason, and both made less than 39 percent from the field.  

Overall Offseason Grade (A-)

After the draft, in the simplest of terms, the Pacers acquired forward Obi Toppin from New York and sent wing Chris Duarte to the Kings.  It’s certainly debatable whether Toppin is any better than Duarte, but the former did fill a need while the latter was part of a depth-chart logjam. The Pacers’ big free-agent signing was guard Bruce Brown, a versatile and tenacious defender and a proven winner, who would be a welcome addition to any club. You also cannot understate the importance of extending star point guard Tyrese Haliburton to a five-year max-rookie extension. It seems rather obvious that Indiana is looking to be competitive this season, and the Pacers may have added just enough to their young core to mix it up in the playoffs.

Season Projection — 6th in the East

The Pacers are a good young team led by a legit All-Star caliber player, Tyreese Halliburten.  The roster also features a MIP candidate in second-year pro Benedict Mathurin, a 6MOY candidate in Bruce Brown, and a DPOY candidate in Myles Turner plus a bunch of solid role players. Last season, the Pacers competed every single game, and this year, they will take the next step in their progress.

Atlanta Hawks

Draft Picks:  Kobe Bufkin (15), Mouhamed Gueye (39), Seth Lundy (46)

Free Agents Added:  Wesley Matthews, Miles Norris (two-way)

Re-signed Players: Trent Forrest (two-way)


  • The Thunder sent Patty Mills to the Hawks in exchange for guard TyTy Washington, forward Rudy Gay, big man Usman Garuba, and a second-round pick (TBA).
  • As part of a 5-team trade, the Hawks to acquire Usman Garuba, TyTy Washington, the Timberwolves’ 2025 second-round pick (from Rockets), the Rockets’ 2028 second-round pick, and $1.1 million in cash (from Thunder); the Rockets receive the draft rights to Alpha Kaba from Hawks.
  • Hawks to acquire Rudy Gay and Memphis’ 2026 2nd-round pick, which will only convey if it lands between 31 and 42, to the Jazz for John Collins.
  • Hawks to acquire rights to Mouhamed Gueye (No. 39 pick); Celtics to acquire the Hawks’ 2027 second-round pick.

Draft Grade (C-)

The Hawks didn’t get much value with their picks, selecting two long-term projects in Kobe Bufkin and Mouhamed Gueye, and an older 3-and-D prospect in Seth Lundy. Bufkin, a combo guard out of Michigan, was the Hawks’ highest pick at 15. He was a late riser in the draft process and has the potential to develop into a potent secondary playmaker. Unfortunately, Bufkin has struggled in both Summer League and the preseason, shooting less than 34 percent from the field, combined. Atlanta likely plans to play Gueye at power forward, which is good because they don’t need another center and he is not a rim protector.  Gueye has looked the best of the Hawks’ three draft picks, posting a PER of 15.1 in the preseason and even blocking shots in Summer League action.  However, the 20-year-old is unlikely to get much run this season unless there are a couple of injuries in the frontcourt.  

Overall Offseason Grade (D+)

Atlanta basically gave away John Collins, and you have to think the club could have done better. The Hawks were not overly active in the market outside of draft night; they didn’t have many open roster spots to fill. Getting two second-rounders as well as TyTy Washington and Usman Garuba for nothing (the draft rights to Alpha Kaba) was a great move, which would seemingly push the team’s offseason grade up a notch or two.  Both former first-round picks are still very young and might have surprised by working their way into the rotation.  However, both players were flipped to OKC along with Rudy Gay and a second-rounder for Patty Mills.  Go figure?  Mills gives the Hawks a backup combo guard, but he hardly seems equal compensation for the loss of Collins.  

The Hawks still have a ton of talent in house, but in order to make waves in the Eastern Conference, one of their young prospects must make a major leap forward. Jalen Johnson seems primed to step in as  Collins’ replacement at the four; both Johnson and Saddiq Bey were stellar in the preseason and should push the oft-injured DeAndre Hunter to the bench. Third-year center Onyeka Okongwu was also impressive in preseason action and could be ready to step into a larger role should the team move on from Clint Capela

Regardless of a puzzling offseason that netted very little for the immediate future, it does seem like this team is on the upward trajectory due to in-house growth.  All in all, the roster looks pretty solid, but the team’s success will depend a lot on the development of youngsters such as Johnson, Bey, Okongwu, and AJ Griffin.

Season Projection — 7th in the East

Head Coach Quin Snyder will have this Hawks offense purring in the regular season — more than enough to carry a bottom-10 defense to the playoffs. Some of the key young players looked good in preseason. Jalen Johnson shot better than 50% from three, and Onyeka Okongwu looks like he is expanding his game; he took 13 three pointers in pre-season, knocking down 38% of them. However, this team does not have the talent to support a deep playoff run, especially as the game slows down in the postseason. The Murray-Young backcourt may not last past this season after a disappointing first-round exit. 

Miami Heat

Draft Picks:  Jaime Jaquez (18)

Free Agents Added:  Josh Richardson, Thomas Bryant, RJ Hampton (two-way), Cole Swider (two-way)

Re-signed Players:  Kevin Love, Haywood Highsmith, Orlando Robinson, Dru Smith, Jamal Cain (two-way)


  • As part of a 3-team trade, the Heat sent Max Strus (sign —and-trade) to Cleveland for the Lakers’ 2026 second-round pick.  As part of the deal, Miami will also swap second-round picks with the Spurs, with Miami receiving a 2027 selection and San Antonio receiving a 2026 pick.
  • Heat sent Victor Oladipo and second-round picks in 2029 and 2030 to OKC for cash.

Draft Grade (B-)

The Heat continue to prove that Heat Culture is palpable in South Beach. Jaime Jaquez is as much a “Heat” player as one could possibly be. I’m sure a lot of draft analysts might say this was too early for the UCLA senior, and might have wanted to see the team swing for a more upside or project type of player at pick 18 — BUT Jaquez had all the qualities Miami was looking for.  He’s a two-way team player who hustles and can contribute in a variety of ways. The rookie had respectable showings at Summer League and in the preseason, but both appearances were cut short by injuries. Jaquez was durable at UCLA, so the team doesn’t seem overly concerned, but with just 62 pro minutes under his belt so far, he cannot be considered ready to contribute significantly.  

Overall Offseason Grade (C)

The Miami Heat attempted to do their best impression of the New England Patriots this offseason by allowing multiple role players from their Finals run to walk in free agency rather than overpay role players. Gabe Vincent leaving South Beach for a large contract with the Lakers is a major loss for this team. Not to mention Max Strus moving on as well. Unfortunately, the Heat didn’t do much in free agency to mitigate these losses. Josh Richardson, who was a star for the Heat in the down years before Jimmy Butler came to town, will return to Miami this season after serving as a journeyman for the past few seasons. The Heat also moved on from Victor Oladipo, which freed some much-needed cap space. 

Much of the architecture of the Miami offseason was shaped around the hope of bringing in perennial All-Star point guard Damian Lillard, who made waves throughout the NBA by not only asking for a trade, but also openly broadcasting that the only destination that caught his eye was Miami. To much of the outside world, it seemed all but assured that Lillard would suit up for Miami this season, as many teams around the league were initially hesitant to trade major assets for a player that may not be happy with his new home. Unfortunately for the Heat, Lillard was finally traded to the Milwaukee Bucks while the Heat were cut out of negotiations. It seems that, for once, the great Pat Riley was left holding the bag while a small market franchise raked in a big-name asset. 

The Heat will continue to be a dark horse contender in the Eastern Conference with their current roster, banking on internal development. However, you have to think that this team’s championship ceiling has begun to cave in on itself after a demoralizing offseason. 

Season Projection — 8th in the East

The Heat went from possibly being the favorites to win it all if they acquired Daimen Lillard to not being able to make the playoffs. Last season, they were 12 minutes away from missing the playoffs but they came back to win the play-in game against the Bulls, and ended up being the first play-in team to win a conference title. This season, the Heat will find themselves in the same situation, but this time, they will burn out. They have lost two starters, Kyle Lowry is getting older and was sent to the bench, and Bam Adebayo may have reached his ceiling, yet to expand his offensive game. To compound matters, Miami begins the season with three players either out or slowed by injuries:  Caleb Martin, Josh Richerdson and Hayword Highsmith.  Playoff Jimmy can only be activated if his team is in the playoffs. And they won’t be! Pat Riley’s arrogance in the Dame trade might cost them.

Orlando Magic

Orlando Magic

Draft Picks:  Anthony Black (6), Jett Howard (11)

Free Agents Added:  Joe Ingles, Trevelin Queen (two-way)

Re-signed Players:  Moritz Wagner


  • The Magic acquire the Bucks’ 2030 second-round pick and cash; Bucks acquire Andre Jackson Jr. (No. 36 pick).

Draft Grade (C)

The Magic had the draft capital to earn one of the higher grades; however, they reached with both of their picks, changing the way that we felt about their draft night. Taking Jett Howard as high as pick 11 could turn into a major roster building failure for this team. Howard’s positional fit with a team built around Paolo Banchero and Franz Wagner is questionable; his only NBA ready skill is shooting, and he has lower upside in our perception than many of the other players left on the board at pick 11. In both Summer league and preseason play, he shot better from deep than he did the field.  You can even quibble with the Anthony Black pick at No. 6; he was almost universally mocked at 8th to the Wizards, so it’s not much of a reach. However, Black is a plus-sized point guard who lacks an outside shot – there is real risk taking a swing on a project like Black so early in the lottery. The Magic could have easily explored trading up for a higher ceiling prospect; there certainly would have been teams in the top five willing to explore a swap with the Magic. 

Overall Offseason Grade (C-)

The Magic did not have an offseason that would blow you away. They made some gambles in the draft and only time will tell how effective those players will be. Since then, Orlando has been quiet on both the trade and free agent market. The Magic’s primary new addition going into the 2023 season has been veteran wing Joe Ingles, who had an underwhelming season last year for the Bucks after returning from injury.  The veteran point forward was not particularly twitchy and athletic to begin with, but Ingles looks shaky at this stage of his career. Orlando made sure to re-sign Franz Wagner’s brother Moritz to a deal, and in doing so, waived a productive young player in Bol Bol. It is a real shame to let a talented prospect like Bol walk for nothing. The Magic continue to play the waiting game while their young core grows, but surely they could have sought a sign-and-trade that would have accelerated their roster’s growth curve over the offseason. 

Season Projection —9th in the East

I expect that the Orlando Magic will finish ninth in the Eastern Conference, will win two games in the play-in tournament to earn a spot in the playoffs but will lose in the first round. Franz Wagner, who played great in both FIBA World Cup and preseason action, will be in serious contention for the NBA Most Improved Player Award. Also, as a unit, the Magic will have one of the highest-rated defenses in the Eastern Conference.  They began the 2022 season ranked below average (18th) in defensive rating, but exploded in the second half of the season on that end of the court. The Magic were the league’s 7th highest rated defense from December on last season

Brooklyn Nets

Draft Picks:  Noah Clowney (#20), Dariq Whitehead (#21), Jalen Wilson (#51)

Free Agents Signed:  Lonnie Walker, Dennis Smith, Trendon Watford, Harry Giles

Players Re-signed:  Cam Johnson


  • Nets send Patty Mills and the Bucks’ 2028 second-round pick to Houston for Brooklyn’s 2024 second-rounder, acquired in a prior trade by the Rockets, protected between 31-54.  
  • Nets receive $110K in cash; Pistons acquire Joe Harris, the Mavericks’ 2027 second-round pick, and the Bucks’ 2029 second-round pick.

Draft Grade (B+)

The Nets made some quality pickups on draft night. They used their back-to-back first-round picks to select Noah Clowney and Dariq Whitehead. Both have high upside but will need some time to develop into rotation players. After selecting a pair of potential steals in the early 20’s, the Nets also selected a college hoops veteran with pick 59, Jalen Wilson, who has been a part of winning at every level. Wilson looked the part in Summer League, averaging 17.6 PPG and 7.8 REB for the Nets. Signed to a two-way deal, however, Wilson saw very limited action in the preseason and doesn’t figure to be a factor this season.  The lanky Clowney had a particularly rocky start to his NBA career in Summer League play. As expected, he looked physically unprepared for NBA minutes.  Possessing many of the same traits as undersized starting center Nic Claxton, Clowney will need time to build up his body, but he did show some positive signs in the preseason, posting a PER of 17.7. Whitehead, who was once considered a top-5 prospect but struggled with an injury at Duke, was forced to undergo a second corrective surgery to his foot, and he will not be ready to play for quite some time. Regardless, this is a quality crop of young talent to bring into a rebuilding franchise. 

Overall Offseason Grade (B-)

In the early days of free agency, the Nets popped up in the Damian Lillard trade bonanza. However, their free agency activity was relatively tame outside of that trade speculation. The Brooklyn front office is moving on from some of the big veteran contracts signed during the Kevin Durant & Kyrie Irving era, sending away a few future second-round picks to salary dump Patty Mills and Joe Harris. The Nets then looked to the free agent market to fill those outgoing role players – taking one-year fliers on younger veterans like Lonnie Walker, Dennis Smith Jr., and Harry Giles

This team struggled to score in the last year’s playoffs, and although they may not be bringing a ton in, re-signing Cameron Johnson was a must, and they got it done. Johnson averaged 16.5 points per game in 25 games for Brooklyn last season after being acquired from Phoenix in the Durant trade, and he has shown flashes of higher scoring upside in both stops. Look for Johnson to continue his upward trajectory as a part of the Nets’ starting five this season. If he is capable of taking on a larger offensive role as expected, the Nets could pose more of a threat in the playoffs than many believe. Brooklyn is moving in the right direction with a fun, defensive-minded core.

Season Projection — 10th in the East

Ben Simmons has looked fully healthy and played well in preseason, and he will help the Brooklyn Nets get off to a frisky start to the NBA season.  The team will flirt with a playoff spot for the first few months; however, as the season begins to drag on, the front office will begin to consolidate assets for a rebuild. Dorian Finney-Smith and Royce O’Neale will be auctioned off to more competitive franchises for draft capital. The Nets’ record will fall off a cliff, and they will find themselves on the outside looking in come playoff time. 

Detroit Pistons

Detroit Pistons

Draft Picks:  Ausar Thompson (5), Marcus Sasser (25)

Free Agents Signed: Malcolm Cazalon (two-way), Stanley Umude (two-way)

Players Re-signed: Jared Rhoden (two-way)


  • Pistons acquire Monte Morris from the Wizards for either the Nets’ or Mavericks’ 2027 second-round pick, whichever is more favorable.
  • Pistons acquire Joe Harris, the Mavericks’ 2027 second-round pick, and the Bucks’ 2029 second-round pick; Nets receive $110K in cash.
  • Pistons acquire Marcus Sasser (No. 25 pick); Celtics acquire James Nnaji (No. 31 pick), the most favorable of the Pistons’, Warriors’, and Wizards’ 2025 second-round picks, and the most favorable of the Timberwolves’, Pelicans’, Knicks’, and Trail Blazers’ 2026 second-round picks.

Draft Grade (B)

The Pistons went upside with one pick and stability with another as they selected Ausar Thompson from Overtime Elite and Marcus Sasser from Houston in the NBA Draft. With most of their young nucleus assembled, it seemed like Detroit would lean toward Cam Whitmore as their final piece, but with Whitmore’s draft stock falling for unclear reasons, the Pistons went with Thompson instead. He gives the team an intriguing talent with tremendous athletic ability and energy, but there are question marks about his shooting ability. Regardless, the Overtime Elite product is a promising option at the wing, who can grow alongside Cade Cunningham, Jaden Ivey, and Jalen Duren. Sasser gives the team immediate poise at the guard position and should compete for backup minutes immediately, though, one may question the value of giving up multiple picks to trade back into the first round for Sasser — guard was not an immediate need position for Detroit, and the team could have gotten similar value by staying put at 31. 

Thompson was a standout for Detroit in Summer League. He highlighted his all-around ability as a defender and rebounder along with impressive passing skills. The OTE product averaged 13.5 points, 10 rebounds, 3.5 assists, and 1.8 blocks per game, stuffing the stat sheet in Sin City. In preseason action, he was not nearly as effective on the offensive end, but the rookie still made a big impact with his rebounding and defense. His jump shot is still the biggest question mark in his game, but if he can become even an average shooter, the Pistons have found a gem who affects the game in a number of ways. It will be interesting to see how he will fit next to Cunningham at the point, Ivey on the wing, and Duran and Isaiah Stewart in the interior. None of the five is a knockdown shooter from deep. 

Sasser had a rough Summer League, particularly with his outside shooting (26.5% from three), but he did play tough defense and finished strong with a 40-point performance in the final game. He carried that momentum into the preseason, producing solid offensive numbers across the board, including a 3-point percentage of 40.  He is in the mix with Monte Morris and Killian Hayes for the backup minutes at guard. 

Overall Offseason Grade (B)

Detroit failed to sign anyone significant in free agency but did acquire Morris and Joe Harris through trades. Morris provides a veteran presence at the point guard position and should add shooting and leadership for their second unit. However, with Hayes still on the roster and Sasser added via the draft, the former Wizard does feel like an unnecessary addition, barring a future trade to unclog their backcourt. Harris, on the other hand, who was acquired in a salary dump from the Nets along with two second-round picks, fills an immediate need for outside shooting on the wing to clear up floor space for the Pistons’ young rim attackers. Detroit is counting on internal development this season as their core will continue to grow together under new head coach Monty Williams. It will be interesting to see if Ivey will take a sophomore leap and how Cunningham will look coming off his season-ending shin injury.  By all accounts, Cunningham was fantastic this summer for the USA Select Team vs. Team USA prior to the 2023 FIBA World Cup, but his preseason had its ups and downs.     

Detroit has a promising group of talent that is still in the early stages of its development but will need to show progress as the team hopes to compete in the playoffs in the near future. The development of Detroit’s young bigs will be interesting to see. The team has already displayed a willingness to commit to multiple “traditional bigs” by starting Stewart and Duren together. Those two alongside Marvin Bagley III and James Wiseman make up a jumbo-sized frontcourt rotation with none of them possessing a reliable outside shot. With multiple non-shooting bigs clogging space in the paint and getting rotational minutes, the development of the team’s young guards and wings could be hindered to an extent. Having said that, it would not be surprising if a combination of Hayes and either Bagley or Wiseman were part of a package for a player who can help stretch the floor.  As it is, all three players are expected to see limited minutes behind the Pistons’ new additions.  

Season Projection – 11th in the East

The Detroit Pistons will not make the playoffs this season; however, they should finish ahead of the Chicago Bulls in the division. Cade Cunningham will remind the NBA fanbase why he was the number-one pick just two years ago and will lead a high-pace offense and improved defensive team behind the leadership of Head Coach Monty Williams. Ausar Thompson is an all-around talent with solid passing, rebounding, and defensive skills. He is versatile enough to play at spots one through four, and will likely begin the season as a starter in place of the injured Bojan Bogdanovic (calf). Thompson will sneak into 3rd place in Rookie of the Year voting after a glowing first season in the NBA. 

Charlotte Hornets

Charlotte Hornets

Draft Picks:  Brandon Miller (2), Nick Smith Jr. (27), James Nnaji (31), Amari Bailey (41)

Free Agents Added:  Frank Ntilikina, Ish Smith, Leaky Black (two-way)

Re-signed Players:  Miles Bridges, PJ Washington


  • Hornets acquire James Nnaji (No. 31 pick); Celtics to acquire Colby Jones (No. 34 pick) and Mouhamed Gueye (No. 39 pick).

Draft Grade (A-)

The Hornets added four players in the NBA draft, getting fantastic value from their later selections and adding to a nucleus of talent that includes LaMelo Ball and last year’s first-round pick, Mark Williams. Charlotte selected players with high potential relative to their draft position in the late first round and early second round. Nick Smith Jr. was a projected top-five pick at the start of last season, James Nnaji has a strong build, a 7’7” wingspan and shot-blocking ability, and Amari Bailey showed great promise as an emerging playmaker and shotmaker at the tail-end of last season for UCLA. A lot of people disagreed with the Brandon Miller selection at number two overall, as the athletic ability and playmaking skill of Scoot Henderson was tantalizing. I do think Miller is the better fit in Charlotte, considering Ball’s playmaking and the Hornets’ lack of shooting last season, as they ranked 29th in three-point shooting percentage. However, in my opinion, Henderson is the better overall prospect, so the Hornets’ draft grade suffers slightly. Miller will still bring immediate shooting ability and talent at a position of need for the team and should see a lot of open looks from LaMelo. While Charlotte is not expected to compete right away, their draft haul looks tremendous and will add to a young team that will be interesting to watch as they develop and gel together. 

The NBA Summer League had a number of interesting developments for the young group of prospects in Charlotte. After a rough start in the California Classic, Miller picked it up in Las Vegas and showcased his abilities against the Portland Trail Blazers with a 26-point outing. He did struggle with his shot, though, shooting only 31.3 percent from three throughout Summer League, which may be a concern considering that was his biggest strength coming out of Alabama. Miller’s shooting struggles continued in the preseason (1 of 13 from deep, 8%), so he may come off the bench to start the regular season.

Smith Jr., on the other hand, had a solid Summer League, averaging 14.3 points per game, and he actually outplayed 2021 first-round pick James Bouknight. Though Smith cooled off a bit in the preseason, he won the battle for the backup shooting guard position by default because Bouknight is out due to injury

Finally, Bailey will start the season on a two-way contract, while Nnaji is still unsigned and will play for Barca in Spain this season. 

Overall Offseason Grade (B-)

The Hornets’ most notable moves in free agency were bringing back Miles Bridges and PJ WashingtonMiles was signed to a qualifying offer after he did not play last season due to his ongoing legal issues. Washington signed a modest three-year deal to solidify the forward position. Charlotte also extended Ball to a five-year, $260 million max extension. From a pure basketball standpoint, being able to re-sign Bridges for less than $8 million is a steal, and if he can recapture his form from when he last played, the Hornets may be a sneaky pick for the play-in tournament. Ball’s extension was also a must for the small-market franchise, as he is an All-Star level talent despite his struggles with injuries. The main concern for the team is the guard position.  Ball and Cody Martin have durability issues, and Terry Rozier is the only other proven starting-level guard on the roster. Injuries are already a concern at the position, with backup Frank Ntilikina expected to miss at least a month due to a fractured tibia. This team also lacks a lot of size, especially after releasing Kia Jones.  Overall, Charlotte had a solid offseason by adding multiple promising young talents and bringing back a very talented but potentially problematic player who is entering the prime of his career in Bridges. 

Season Projection – 12th in the East

The Charlotte Hornets will be among the worst teams in the NBA this season. Once again, Miles Bridges finds himself in a mess. He is suspended for at least the first 10 games of the season, and a longer suspension may be on the horizon for Bridges, who has been incapable of following his court mandated restraining order during his hiatus from professional basketball. The Hornets’ win projections have been heavily weighted upon his return to the lineup. With Bridges, the Hornets are capable of a 40-win season; without him, they will certainly remain one of the bottom three lottery teams in the East. Brandon Miller will have a quiet but enticing rookie season, with the sporadic 30-point game to keep Hornets fans in the building. LaMelo Ball will continue to produce All-Star numbers on a night-to-night basis but will miss the All-Star team due to a lack of team success. Mark Williams will emerge as one of the most promising young centers in the league.  

Chicago Bulls

Draft Picks:  Julian Phillips (35)

Free Agents Added:  Jevon Carter, Torrey Craig, Adama Sanogo (two-way), Onuralp Bitim (two-way)

Re-signed Players:  Nikola Vucevic, Coby White, Ayo Dosunmu


  • Bulls acquire Julian Phillips (No. 35 pick); Wizards to acquire two future second-round picks.

Draft Grade (D+)

The Chicago Bulls had only one pick in the NBA Draft and selected a potentially high-upside but very raw player in forward Julian Phillips with the 35th pick. Chicago also picked up forward/center Adam Sanogo as an undrafted free agent. Neither player projects to be a rotational piece for Chicago this season. Phillips is a former McDonald’s All-American with great athleticism and tested well at the NBA Combine, highlighted by a 43” max vertical. He also is tough on the defensive end but struggled on the offensive end at Tennessee. Sanogo, who recently won the NCAA championship with UConn, has nice touch on the inside, but he will need to adjust to the pro game by developing in the G League. Chicago went in a strange direction for a veteran team that is built to win now. They opted to go with a young prospect with high levels of athleticism but also did not address their needs at point guard and backup power forward. Their draft strategy is incongruent with their older core of players, as the team should either be trying to compete for the playoffs now or tear it all down and rebuild. 

In Summer League, Phillips displayed his potential with his jumping ability and burst on offense. However, he still possesses a relatively thin frame and will most likely spend a lot of time in the G League this season. Sanogo, too, showed his solid touch inside (65.7 FG%) but will also look to season his game in the G League as an undersized big with subpar length and athletic ability.  In the preseason, both players saw limited action, with Phillips definitely displaying more NBA potential than his undrafted counterpart.

Overall Offseason Grade (D+)

Jevon Carter and Torrey Craig were the notable signings from the free agency period for Chicago. Both will provide depth, defense, and some shooting. The team also re-signed Nikola Vucevic, Ayo Dosunmu, and Coby White to extensions. The White extension was somewhat confusing due to its length and amount (3 yrs/$33 million); he did not appear to be a large part of the Bulls’ future plans, especially in light of the signing of Carter. However, White was a pleasant preseason surprise and appears to have locked down the starting point guard job. Of all the guards on the team, he is the top offensive weapon behind Zach LaVine, and the Bulls can mix and match with the defensive-oriented duo of Carter or Alex Caruso. Even so, Lonzo Ball’s season-ending injury has changed the dynamic for the Bulls, who now lack a legitimate starting point guard.  

Another question mark is forward Patrick Williams, who is entering his fourth season and has yet to live up to his draft pedigree as the fourth overall pick in the 2020 NBA Draft. He will need to continue to develop his offensive game, but if the preseason is any indication, that’s not going to happen.  Similar things could be said of second-year wing Dalen Terry, who struggled in both Summer League and preseason action. Overall, Chicago feels like a team that will again be stuck in mediocrity and needs to cut its losses with a full rebuild sooner rather than later. Their offseason moves don’t inspire much confidence that the team will go in that direction, and it appears that the best that Bulls fans can hope for is an early playoff exit as a lower seed.  

Season Projection — 13th in the East

The Chicago Bulls are not doing anything with this roster. Patrick Williams has not panned out to be the type of player that he was projected to be. Lonzo Ball is once again out for the season. The bright spot for this team is that Coby White looks ready to take the next step, averaging over 13 points and shooting 54% from the field in preseason.

Toronto Raptors

Toronto Raptors

Draft Picks:  #13 Gradey Dick

Free Agents Added:  Dennis Schröder, Jalen McDaniels, Garrett Temple, Markquis Nowell (two-way), Javon Freeman-Liberty (two-way)

Re-signed Players:  Jakob Poeltl, Ron Harper Jr. (two-way)


Draft Grade (B)

Kansas star Gradey Dick slipped to pick 13 on draft night after being mocked higher in the lottery throughout the year leading up to the draft. Snagging a talented shooter with a 6’8” frame who could develop into a Gordon Hayward type of versatile wing makes for a solid draft night for a Raptors team at a crossroad between contending for the playoffs and a teardown. Toronto also was active in the undrafted free agent market, signing Kansas State’s pint-sized guard Markquis Nowell to a two-way deal. The Raptors made the best of a limited slate of draft equity.

Overall Offseason Grade (C+)

After a parting of ways, Fred Vanvleet is leaving Toronto, bound for the Texas coast and a massive multiyear deal. The departure of Vanvleet leaves a massive hole at the point guard position for the Raptors – who now seem prepared to leave mediocrity behind and explore a rebuild around Scottie Barnes and their most recent lottery pick, Dick. The Raptors did manage to re-sign Jakob Poeltl on a fair deal – he could become a nice trade chip once the restrictions are lifted on his shiny new contract. Toronto also brought in veteran point guard Dennis Schröder to help offset the loss of Vanvleet, and took a flier on Jalen McDaniels, whose skill set is too similar to many of the players already on the roster. This is likely just the beginning for the Raptors dealings, though; in all likelihood, either Pascal Siakam or OG Anunoby will be traded, perhaps both. Bringing in some future draft equity and young prospects seems like a good idea for a team with poor roster construction.

Season Projection — 14th in the East

The Toronto Raptors will miss the playoffs this season. The level of talent has never been a major question mark with this iteration of the Raptors roster, it is the fit. Without the stalwart presence of Fred VanVleet, the Raptors will struggle on the offensive end and will have one of the worst three-point shooting offenses in the NBA. The Raptors ranked 28th in the league for 3-point percentage last season, and rookie sharpshooter Gradey Dick will need more time to develop into a solid NBA player. As such, the Raptors will begin to consolidate assets for a rebuild, and Pascal Siakam will likely be on another team by the trade deadline. 

Washington Wizards

Washington Wizards

Draft Picks:  Bilal Coulibaly (7), Tristan Vukcevic (42)

Free Agents Added: Jared Butler (two-way), Eugene Omoruyi (two-way), John Butler (two-way) 

Re-signed Players:  Kyle Kuzma


  • Wizards send Monte Morris to Detroit for either the Nets’ or Mavericks’ 2027 second-round pick, whichever is more favorable.
  • Wizards acquire Chris Paul, Landry Shamet, six Suns second-round picks between 2024-2030, first-round pick swaps with Phoenix in 2024, 2026, 2028, and 2030; and cash (approximately $3.5 million); Suns acquire Bradley Beal, Jordan Goodwin, and Isaiah Todd.
  • Wizards acquire Jordan Poole, Patrick Baldwin, Ryan Rollins, the Warriors’ 2030 first-round pick (top-20 protected), and the Warriors’ 2027 second-round pick; Warriors acquire Chris Paul.
  • As part of a 3-team trade, the Wizards receive Tyus Jones, Danilo Gallinari, Mike Muscala, and the draft rights to Julian Phillips (No. 35 pick), and send Kristaps Porzingis to Boston.
  • Wizards acquire Bilal Coulibaly (No. 7 pick); Pacers acquire the draft rights to Jarace Walker (No. 8 pick), the Suns’ 2028 second-round pick, and the Wizards’ 2029 second-round pick.
  • Wizards acquire two future second-round picks; Bulls acquire Julian Phillips (No. 35 pick).
  • The Wizards receive cash from Golden State for Trayce Jackson —Davis (No. 57 pick).

Draft Grade (B-)

The Wizards are finally in rebuild mode as you can see. This is a tectonic shift in team strategy from a franchise that has chosen to muddle in mediocrity for years. It’s a huge leap in the right direction. However, the teardown does not feel like it has been executed very well. The Wizards have an absolute glut of second-round picks in their draft war chest, and with the amount of outbound talent from this team, they SHOULD have more first-rounders in the bag. 

This draft was just odd, too — they made this strange deal with Indiana to move up for a guy that I am not convinced Indiana wanted at all in wing Bilal Coulibaly. Indiana seemed to have had their heart set on power forward Jarace Walker for months. The Wizards traded away the rights to two players that were pretty high on our board as well in Julian Phillips and Trayce Jackson-Davis, netting them just two future seconds and cash.  Lastly, why go the draft-and-stash route with Tristan Vukcevic (signed with KK Partizan in the Adriatic League)?  That strategy is usually reserved for stacked teams, so why not either draft a player that can be developed in house or develop Vukcevic yourself?

Overall Offseason Grade (B)

Most of the Wizards’ offseason moves took place on draft night. Washington’s new front office opted to move toward a rebuild and has parted ways with face of the franchise Bradley Beal as well as Kristaps Porzingis. They doubled down in the trade market by flipping Chris Paul to Golden State for Jordan Poole and a slate of other assets. The Wizards didn’t exactly bring in a huge haul over the course of these trades, though, and it is hard to believe that the team could not have brought in more future firsts given the talent going out the door. Outside of draft night, Washington’s biggest move was re-signing Kyle Kuzma to a big contract. Washington needed to designate some of their now-free capsheet, and Kuzma did a little bit of everything for them last year. He could still be on an upward trajectory. The change in direction is everything for this team, but some of the moves around the edges leave something to be desired. A respectable grade of a B for the Washington Wizards’ offseason.

 Season Projection —  15th in the East

The Washington Wizards have appeared to be rebuilding for the last six years but have yet to build anything. There is no doubt about the direction the team is going in this season. They have a young talented player in Jordan Poole who will put up huge numbers along with Kyle Kuzma, but they will not be producing many wins. It will be interesting to see what other players emerge from this roster filled with former high draft picks. My money is on the latest lottery selection, Bilal Coulibaly, who is not only versatile and athletic but also comes in with pro experience.  The French rookie will be the best defender on this team, and he can also contribute in many other ways.  

Western Conference

Los Angeles Lakers

Draft Picks:  Jalen Hood-Schifino (17), Maxwell Lewis (40)

Free Agents Added:  Gabe Vincent, Christian Wood, Cam Reddish, Taurean Prince, Jaxson Hayes, Colin Castleton (two-way), D’Moi Hodge (two-way), Alex Fudge (two-way)

Re-signed Players:  Austin Reaves, Rui Hachimura, D’Angelo Russell


  • The Lakers acquire the draft rights to Maxwell Lewis (No. 40 pick); Pacers receive the draft rights to Mojave King (No. 47 pick) and cash ($4,363,000).

Draft Grade (C+)

The Lakers got pretty good value with their draft selections at 17 and 40. The Jalen Hood-Schifino pick is a fine choice but with the fall of Cam Whitmore, the Lakers could’ve gotten a top-10 talent in the latter half of the first round. However, it’s understandable not wanting to take a chance on a player who they did not interview and not see workout in their facility. Hood-Schifino was projected to be a mid-first round pick in the draft, and his physical attributes give hope that he can become a solid defender and playmaker, but his jump shot remains a work in progress.  Since joining the team, he has shown promise with his playmaking ability as a floor general, but he is likely to spend a lot of time this season in the G League until he improves scoring and shooting ability.  Hood-Schifino was dreadful in the preseason, shooting just 18 percent from the field.  

At No. 40, LA also got good value in Maxwell Lewis, who some thought could sneak into the lottery early in the draft process. Lewis is a solid shooter and may develop into a defensive force with his length (7 ft wingspan). For now, though, he is unlikely to see much floor time but could eventually flourish as a role player for Los Angeles where he does not have the burden of being the only offensive option for a sub-par Pepperdine team. Lewis bounced back from a poor Summer League, shooting 48 percent from the field and 46 percent from deep in preseason action, but he didn’t make much of an impact as a defender.  

The LakeShow also did a nice job acquiring talented undrafted rookies, signing three to two-way contracts: center Colin Castleton, guard D’Moi Hodge, and forward Alex Fudge. Castleton is an interior shot blocker with solid touch around the basket and underrated passing skills. In Summer League, Castleton looked solid, averaging 13.7 points, 9 rebounds, 4.3 assists, and 1.1 blocks per game. Hodge is a knockdown shooter who made 40 percent of his threes in Summer League. Both are somewhat old for prospects so their upside may be limited. Fudge, meanwhile, is a raw player, but has exceptional athleticism.  He boasts good size and measurements at 6’9” with a 7’1” wingspan, and he is only 20 years old. His greatest attribute is his finishing ability at the rim. However, he does need to improve his shooting, making just 58 percent on free throws and 23 percent from long distance last season at Florida.

Overall Offseason Grade (A+)

The Lakers had a tremendous offseason, signing their midseason acquisitions, Rui Hachimura, and D’Angelo Russell, and keeping Austin Reaves, who really started to look like their third star behind Lebron James and Anthony Davis. They also infused the roster with depth and young talent that gives Coach Darvin Ham multiple options at nearly every position.

Fresh off a Finals appearance, Gabe Vincent, who will provide solid shooting and playmaking, was probably the most important addition. Cam Reddish and Taurean Prince add depth on the wing, which they will surely need as James and Davis manage their minutes during the regular season. Reddish has yet to live up to his potential as a prospect but will get plenty of open shots playing alongside Lebron and AD. Finally, the Lakers added needed depth at the center position with Christian Wood and Jaxson Hayes.  Wood has averaged at least 17 points per game while shooting better than 50 percent from the floor and 37 percent from deep for three straight seasons.  The underachieving Hayes, a 2019 lottery pick who is still just 23 years old, offers athleticism, rim running, shot blocking and rebounding, and he could allow Davis to play at power forward, the position that he prefers,  

Second-year guard Max Christie was the star of the Summer League for Los Angeles. After struggling to find minutes as a rookie, he looked rotation ready in Vegas with confident shotmaking. He was the clear best player for LA, showcasing his scoring versatility with the ball in his hands and a great three-point stroke, shooting 55 percent across Sacramento and Las Vegas. Christie cooled off considerably in the preseason, and will have to fight with Reddish for the backup minutes at the shooting guard. 

Season Projection — 1st in the West 

The Los Angeles Lakers have the depth to withstand injury to AD and Lebron, and as such will comfortably finish at the top of the Western Conference standings and secure a playoff spot. Last season the Lakers were 24-31 just before Russell Westbrook was traded away. Then the new-look Lakers went 19-8 for the rest of the season, and went all the way to the Conference Finals. They had great chemistry and added players that fit. 

D’Angelo Russell will once again be traded by midseason as the Lakers look to add a more dependable postseason player or a physical big man that can try to contain Nikola Jokic. Do not be shocked if James Harden is a target for this team once Russell becomes available for trade. Ultimately, the Lakers will come up just short of a championship in the NBA Finals, as Lebron James contemplates retirement before signing up for one more run at the title. 

Denver Nuggets

Draft Picks:  Julian Strawther (29), Jalen Pickett (32), Hunter Tyson (37)

Free Agents Added:  Justin Holiday, Braxton Key (two-way), Jay Huff (two-way)

Re-signed Players:  Reggie Jackson, DeAndre Jordan, Collin Gillespie (two-way)


  • Denver receives pick 37, the least favorable of the Thunder’s 2024 first-round picks (OKC’s, Clippers’, Rockets’ — top-four protected, or Jazz’s — top-10 protected) and the least favorable of the Timberwolves’ and Hornets’ 2024 second-round picks (from Thunder); OKC receives Denver’s 2029 first-rounder (protected).
  • Denver receives the No. 29 and No. 32 picks; Indiana receives the No. 40 pick and the Nuggets’ 2024 first-rounder from OKC (least favorable of four).

Draft Grade: C+

The reigning NBA champs are looking to concoct a real dynasty in the “Mile High City.” Just as the finals were wrapping up, they made a really savvy trade to acquire some more draft capital in this year’s draft. They ended up with three picks after flipping picks around for positioning and future capital. Although we really love how they got into the draft – we are a bit skeptical on how they used these picks. The Nuggets opted to select Julian Strawther and Jalen Pickett far too early — at a position with some higher upside prospects still on the board, such as Kobe Brown, Andre Jackson, James Nnaji, Julian Philips, Jordan Walsh, Emoni Bates, among others. There is a lot to like about the Hunter Tyson selection; he is a very underrated basketball player with all the analytics on his side. Tyson proved worthy of his draft ranking in Summer League, finishing 7th among all players in points per game. He shot the leather off the ball from three-point range as well, making an absolutely steamy 50 percent from behind the arc on over 7 attempts per game. Strawther, who struggled in Summer League, was the rookie to really shine during the preseason. He averaged a team-best 17.9 PPG, while shooting 51.1 percent from the floor and 45.2 percent from deep.  Both players may be ready to contribute sooner than expected.  

Overall Offseason Grade: C-

Losing Bruce Brown, Jeff Green, Thomas Bryant in free agency represents the changing of the guard in some ways in Denver. Re-signing at least one of these free agents would have put Denver fans’ minds at ease. The Nuggets should have at least one immediate impact rookie in Tyson and/or Strawther, which will help temper the blow. However, we are seeing a team that thrived with veteran role players shoring up the defense become much younger around the edges of the roster. Denver’s only real addition of the offseason, journeyman wing Justin Holiday, is a fair role player, but does little to move the needle in a positive direction. Reggie Jackson and DeAndre Jordan have been re-signed, but each of them contributed next to nothing in Denver’s run to the title. The team also inked a contract extension with backup forward/center Zeke Nnaji to the tune of 32 million over 4 years, a sign of real confidence in a player that barely played in the team’s run to the NBA Finals last season. 

The Nuggets are betting heavily on some of their in-house prospects like Christian Braun and Peyton Watson to take a step forward, and any hope of repeating as NBA champs rests on their shoulders or rather on the shoulders of a more heavily burdened starting 5. The distance between the Nuggets and the pack in the Western Conference has closed. Denver enters the season as favorites in the West by a thread, not by a mile.

Season Projection — 2nd in the West 

The Denver Nuggets will once again cruise through the regular season and finish with the second best record in the Western Conference. Thanks to a healthy offseason and contributions from a young crop of role players, the Nuggets will be one of the favorites to win it all but will fall short of coming out of the West, due to losing Bruce Brown, a tough, edgy and fearless competitor who contributed in a big way in their championship run last season. Also, the Lakers and Suns both improved exponentially. 

Phoenix Suns

Draft Picks:  Toumani Camara (52 — traded to Portland)

Free Agents Added:  Eric Gordon, Keita Bates-Diop, Yuta Watanabe, Drew Eubanks, Chimezie Metu, Bol Bol, Saben Lee (two-way), Udoka Azubuike (two-way)

Re-signed Players:  Josh Okogie, Damion Lee


  • The Suns received three second-round picks from Memphis for Isaiah Todd (later released) and first-round pick swap rights in 2024 and 2030.
  • Suns acquire Bradley Beal, Jordan Goodwin, and Isaiah Todd; Wizards acquire Chris Paul, Landry Shamet, six Suns second-round picks between 2024-2030, first-round pick swaps with Phoenix in 2024, 2026, 2028, and 2030; and cash (approximately $3.5MM). 
  • Suns acquired Jusuf Nurkic, Grayson Allen, Nassir Little, Keon Johnson as part of a three-team deal.  Portland Trail Blazers receive Jrue Holiday (from Milwaukee), Deandre Ayton, Toumani Camara, Milwaukee’s 2029 unprotected draft pick, and unprotected Milwaukee pick swaps on 2028 and 2030. Milwaukee Bucks receive Daimen Lillard.

Draft Grade (D-)

The Suns are in win-now mode and sold their entire future to acquire Bradley Beal. On draft night, they were only able to make one selection, Toumani Camara at 52, and the Dayton product was later traded to the Portland Trail Blazers in a blockbuster three-team trade. It’s doubtful that Camara was much more than a throw-in piece, so we can’t give Phoenix a good grade for the 2023 draft.  

Offseason Grade (B-)

As the Suns entered the offseason with no cap room, they did an admirable job of trying to fill the huge gaps in their roster with veteran-minimum acquisitions. Eric Gordon and Yuta Watanabe bring great off-the-ball shooting for a team that badly needs floor-spacing. Gordon also brings veteran stability to the bench, while Watanabe was one of the best shooters in the league last season at 44.4 percent from three. Drew Eubanks and Chimezi Metu give Phoenix insurance at the center position; both can play spot minutes at the five. Keita Bates-Diop is a bit more intriguing as a versatile wing who may get a larger opportunity on a second unit that will need some offensive firepower and shooting behind their stars. Bol Bol carries the most intrigue out of their signings, as his name and highlights have more often than not outshined his actual value as a player. Still, he is only 23 years old, and the Suns may be able to harness his immense potential at 7’2” with guard-like skills and mobility. 

The Suns were able to improve their depth even more by being the third team in the “Dame” trade, adding Grayson Allen, who brings shooting and toughness, and a promising wing player in Nasir Little. Although they somewhat downgraded at the center position with Jusuf Nurkic, I believe it was a good idea for the Suns to move on from Deandre Ayton, who lacks consistency, has a low motor, and frankly, has been quite disappointing as a first-overall pick.

Overall, Phoenix did what it could after boxing itself in with the Beal acquisition. However, the point guard position still remains in question. Can they rely on Devin Booker to take all of the point guard duties? Sure, we saw him run the point in the playoffs against Denver when Chris Paul went down, but it’s not his natural position. Kevin Durant played with two dynamic individual players Kyrie Irving and James Harden in Brooklyn, both great playmakers. Now, Durant is playing with two elite scorers but unproven playmakers. Can the Suns just rely on isolation basketball? It may not work out so well in the playoffs when the game slows down. Even if Booker does a good job running the point, there is not a pure backup point guard on the bench. In the end, the Suns did the best they could to add depth, but they are lacking a floor general.

Season Projection — 3rd in the West

The Phoenix Suns will finish as the 3rd seed in the West, and will likely lose in the second round. The Suns arguably have the highest offensive ceiling in the NBA, and it will lead to winning a lot of regular-season games, but they lack defense and a true point guard that can set up their offense. Frank Vogel is a great defensive-minded coach, but the roster is simply devoid of defensive talent outside of Josh Okogie. This team is designed to play isolation basketball, and that rarely works out in the playoffs. 

Sacramento Kings

Sacramento Kings

Draft Picks:  Colby Jones (34), Jalen Slawson (54)

Free Agents Added:  Sasha Vezenkov, JaVale McGee, Jordan Ford (two-way)

Re-signed Players:  Harrison Barnes, Trey Lyles, Alex Len, Keon Ellis (two-way) 


  • The Kings acquire Chris Duarte from Indiana for Dallas’ 2028 second-round pick and Sacramento’s own 2030 second-rounder.
  • For an unknown amount of cash, the Kings send Richaun Holmes and the draft rights to Olivier-Maxence Prosper (No. 24 pick) to Dallas.
  • Kings acquire Colby Jones (No. 34 pick); Celtics acquire Jordan Walsh (No. 38 pick) and the Mavericks’ 2024 second-round pick.

Draft Grade (C)

Colby Jones is a solid addition to the Kings rotation as a three-and-D guy who adds depth to the Sacramento bench after its success last season. Jalen Slawson is also a versatile defender who shot 39 percent from three at Furman last season. The Kings picked two guys who can bring shooting and defense to their bench. Jones is the best bet to see action this season, and he had a solid preseason, shooting 41 percent from deep and posting a team-leading 1.2 steals per game (on just 15.5 MPG).  Sacramento gave away the 24th-overall pick to unload Richaun Holmes’ contract, so it’s difficult to tell how much was gained from that move.  

Overall Offseason Grade (B)

The Kings re-signed important rotational players Harrison Barnes and Trey Lyles, who both helped them record the third-best record in the West during the regular season last year. They also gained depth at the guard spot by buying low in Chris Duarte, who previously displayed chemistry with Domantas Sabonis in Indiana and gives them added shotmaking and on-ball defense on the bench. Sasha Vezenkov, the reigning Euroleague MVP in the prime of his career, is a stretch-big from the Greek powerhouse Olympiacos. He will add to the frontcourt and give them another option to pair with Sabonis for an inside-outside duo. Vezenkov brings plus shooting and versatility that helps to round out Sacramento’s depth.

After finishing third in the Western Conference in the regular season, the Kings had a tough matchup with the Golden State Warriors in the first round of the playoffs, losing in seven exciting games. While many speculated the Kings could make a big move following their draft night trade of Holmes, they ultimately chose continuity by re-signing key contributors such as Barnes and Lyles. The Kings may regret not trying to add more to their roster, as the Western Conference has only gotten deeper, with teams such as Golden State and Phoenix making splashy moves in the offseason in an attempt to catch the defending champion Denver Nuggets. Sacramento will rely on continued team chemistry to take them a step forward from last year’s success and another step closer toward championship contention.

Season Projection 4th in the West

Having more talent than last year, the Sacramento Kings will once again be one of the top four teams in the West. They have a formidable starting five, led by De’Aaron Fox and Sabonis, who played hurt (thumb) much of last season, and there is quality depth at every position with the exception of the five spot.  As good as Sabonis is, he’s not a great rim protector, and backups Alex Len and JaVale McGee are not the type of players that should be playing heavy minutes. Last year, the Kings were the biggest surprise of the NBA, finishing 3rd in the West. Then it took a 50-point game in Game 7 of the first round from Steph Curry to knock them out. This young team got a taste of playoff intensity, and they will continue on the path to success and possibly even win a playoff series. If Sabonis stays healthy and Keegan Murray makes a leap in his sophomore season, they could go even further.

Oklahoma City Thunder

Oklahoma City Thunder

Draft Picks:  Cason Wallace (10), Keyontae Johnson (50)

Free Agents Added:  Vasilije Micic

Re-signed Players:  Lindy Waters III (two-way), Olivier Sarr (two-way)


  • Thunder acquire Cason Wallace (No. 10 pick) and Davis Bertans; Mavericks acquire Dereck Lively II (No. 12 pick).
  • OKC receives Denver’s 2029 first-rounder (protected); Denver receives pick 37, the least favorable of the Thunder’s,2024 first-round picks (OKC’s, Clippers’, Rockets’ — top-four protected, or Jazz’s — top-10 protected) and the least favorable of the Timberwolves’ and Hornets’ 2024 second-round picks (from Thunder).
  • Thunder acquire Victor Oladipo and second-round picks, 2029 and 2030 from the Heat for cash.
  • As part of a 5-team trade, the Thunder acquire Patty Mills from Houston and a 2024 second-round pick from Rockets, the Rockets’ 2029 second-round pick, and the Rockets’ 2030 second-round pick; OKC sends $1.1 million to Atlanta.
  • The Thunder send Patty Mills to the Hawks in exchange for guard TyTy Washington, forward Rudy Gay, big man Usman Garuba, and a second-round pick (TBA).
  • Oklahoma City received guard Kevin Porter Jr. (released) and a pair of future second-round picks from Houston for guard Victor Oladipo (injured) and forward/center Jeremiah Robinson-Earl.

Draft Grade (C+)

Kentucky guard Cason Wallace gives OKC a solid prospect with a high floor and room for growth. He is already a very good defender and can become a complete player with a reliable jump shot. Forward Keyontae Johnson is more than just a comeback story after he collapsed on the court in 2020 as a member of the Florida men’s basketball team. He is an energetic and versatile player who can be a capable contributor to the Thunder’s second unit. Signed to a two-way deal, Johnson has the strength and athleticism to be a small-ball four or a big shooting guard, and if he rounds off the edges of his offensive repertoire, he can stick on an NBA roster. 

The Thunder’s trades were somewhat puzzling, as they were seemingly on the losing end of the sum of the exchanges. OKC absorbed Davis Bertans’ contract to move up only two spots in the draft and gave up a first-rounder this year and a 2024 second-rounder for a distant first-rounder in the future from Denver. I suppose those trades are inconsequential to a team that has a treasure trove of future picks and an already promising young core to build around. 

Overall Offseason Grade (B-) 

Oklahoma City didn’t do a ton this offseason as they look towards internal growth from their young nucleus and the continued stardom of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. Getting TyTy Washington and Usman Garbua for Patty Mills appeared to be a shrewd move that gave the team two more young guys with upside, but both were cut and promptly signed by other teams. However, taking Victor Oladipo off the Heat’s hands for two second-rounders and later flipping him and Jeremiah Robinson-Earl to Houston for Kevin Porter (later release) and two more second-rounders were most certainly clever moves. The team made only one significant signing, Vasilije Micic, an accomplished EuroLeague player and a former MVP, who will give the Thunder a veteran point guard behind SGA and Josh Giddy. Of course, the Thunder have been building to this moment when they are comfortable with their core and counting on internal development to take them to the next level.  

The internal development was on display at Summer League, and pretty much all of their young players delivered. The return of Chet Holmgren was the headliner, and he performed very well, averaging 16.5 points, 9.8 rebounds, and 3.5 blocks in four games in Salt Lake City and Las Vegas. The Gonzaga product was a force defensively with great defensive rotations and anticipation, blocking everything in sight. He did struggle with his outside shot, but overall, he looked the part of last year’s second-overall pick with a little added muscle. Wallace had an up-and-down Summer League, as he shot the ball well from three (38.7%) but struggled from the field (34.6%) and averaged more turnovers (2.8) than assists (2.6). Despite that, he showed great promise as a versatile weapon for the Thunder, showcasing his calling card in his defense with 1.4 steals per game and good off-ball ability on offense. 

A few other standouts from Summer League were Ousmane Dieng, Tre Mann, and Johnson. Dieng showed improved confidence and ability after rarely receiving minutes last season. He was seen as a very raw prospect last year but has the physical tools to be a star. Summer League showcased his progression, as he averaged 14.1 points, 6.1 rebounds, and 4 assists per game while shooting 35.1% from three. Mann dominated offensively, looking like a third-year pro competing for consistent playing time at the backup point guard position. He averaged 20.5 points per game and shot 43.3% from three during Summer League. He has the talent to be a solid scorer off the bench but will have a tough time seeing the floor with the added guard depth the Thunder possess. Finally, Johnson played relatively well in Vegas, averaging 12.8 points on 57.8% shooting from the field. While his outside shot is still a work in progress (27.3% from three), he plays with a toughness and energy that every team needs. He’ll probably be in the G League rounding out his offensive game this season with the plethora of young talent OKC has on its roster. 

In the preseason, most of the aforementioned players cooled off considerably, with the main exception being Holmgren.  He continued his dominance on the inside while greatly improving from the outside (50% from deep on 3.0 attempts per game).  Other players who played especially well and looked ready for the regular season were Jalen Williams, Jaylin Williams (injured), Isaiah Joe, Gilgeous-Alexander, and Bertans.

Season Projection — 5th in the West

OKC is one of the best organizations in the league, and the team battled hard in the play-in last year. The roster is loaded with young talent, and the team should be much better than last season due to the addition of Holmgren and a couple of sneaky veteran additions in Micic and Bertans. Gilgeous-Alexander continues to display his superstar level of play, and the combination of Giddey, Lu Dort and himself is a tremendous backcourt trio. The Thunder will secure a playoff spot this season but will lose in the first round against one of the top teams in the West. Holmgren will have an immediate impact and be in the running for Rookie of the Year, while Shai will be in the MVP conversation and will lead this team to plenty of wins.

LA Clippers

Draft Picks:  Kobe Brown (30), Jordan Miller (48)

Free Agents Added: Joshua Primo (two-way)

Re-signed Players:  Russell Westbrook, Mason Plumlee


  • As a part of a five-team trade, the Clippers acquire Kenyon Martin Jr. from the Rockets for the Clippers’ 2026 second-round pick and the Grizzlies’ 2027 second-round pick (from Clippers). 

Draft Grade (C)

How you perceive the Clippers draft night comes down to how you evaluate the Kobe Brown selection. Here at Hoops Prospects, we hotly debated Brown’s value on the podcast prior to and after the draft. Brown is a versatile forward/wing hybrid — a late bloomer in college never posting greater than a 20 percent mark from three until his senior campaign at Missouri. The Clippers passed on some other prospects that were higher on the HP Draft Board to say the least. However, Brown all but shut down Summer League with a breakout performance against the Summer 6ers when he erupted for 35 points on 68 percent from the floor and drilled 7 of 10 three-point attempts. Though Brown may prove to be a worthy pick, it would have been nice to see the Clippers more active in the trade market on draft night. Regardless of Brown’s possible impact, this is a team that desperately needs an injection of youth to its roster, and the Clippers failed to acquire any future draft assets that could help them remedy that.

The Clippers’ second-round pick, Jordan Miller, signed to a two-way, is a do-everything wing and a team player.  He won’t see action this season with this veteran squad, but he’s a solid investment.

Overall Offseason Grade (C)

The Clippers are among the most cash-strapped teams in the NBA, and it was difficult to expect a lot from a team with this kind of roster building constraints. The Clippers did well resigning some of their own free agents, though. Russel Westbrook signed an incredibly cap friendly two-year deal; in fact, the former MVP may be one of the lowest paid rotation players in the league next season. Mason Plumlee also signed a budget friendly deal to remain in LA this season. Brown has looked good thus far, but It is difficult to imagine that the Clippers ownership and front office are satisfied to run it back with this roster. It is time for this team to start making some waves in the trade market. James Harden has requested a trade to the Clippers, though it’s hard to say if adding Harden would be enough to propel the Clippers out of the middle of the pack and into real contender status. This team needs to capitalize on the Kawhi and PG era, and they have not done enough to ensure success in the West this year.

Season Projection — 6th in the West

The biggest factor for the Clippers’ success is their health. They have been quite disappointing ever since they added Khawai Leonard and Paul George, mainly because the All-Star duo is always injured. Aside from injuries, this team is old and has not made any significant additions.  Conceivably, the Clippers could be very dangerous at playoff time, but that’s assuming all of their 30-plus year old players (Leonard, George, Westbrook, Norman Powell, …) are healthy and playing at a high level.  Look for this team to be sent packing after the first round of the playoffs.  

Golden State Warriors

Golden State Warriors

Draft Picks:  Brandin Podziemski (19), Trayce Jackson-Davis (57)

Free Agents Added:  Dario Saric, Cory Joseph, Usman Garuba (two-way), Jerome Robinson (two-way)

Re-signed Players:  Draymond Green, Lester Quinones (two-way)


  • Warriors acquire Chris Paul; Wizards acquire Jordan Poole, Patrick Baldwin, Ryan Rollins, the Warriors’ 2030 first-round pick (top-20 protected), and the Warriors’ 2027 second-round pick.
  • Warriors acquire the draft rights to Trayce Jackson-Davis (No. 57 pick) from the Wizards for cash.

Draft Grade (C+)

The Brandin Podziemski pick was somewhat of a head-scratcher, especially after the Chris Paul trade. Golden State invested its one first-round pick to acquire their third or fourth point guard over a potential rotational difference-maker. While Podziemski is talented and may earn some backup minutes as a combo guard this season, there were other prospects left on the board, including Kris Murray, Noah Clowney, Brice Sensabaugh and Cam Whitmore, that filled a more pressing need and have potentially higher ceilings. I really like Podziemski’s all-around game and playmaking ability, but there are concerns about his defense and athleticism at the next level. However, after trading their way back into the draft for the 57th pick, the Warriors got a steal in Trayce Jackson-Davis, who Hoops Prospects graded as a potential first-round pick. TJD should immediately compete for backup minutes at the four and five spots, and will add depth to a team that was lacking many frontcourt options. The Warriors got one of the best steals of the draft and a plug-in rotation player with the second-to-last pick.

Summer League was a mixed bag for the Warriors’ prospects. Podziemski showed his playmaking skills and awareness with the ball in his hands, leading the team in assists with 5.2 per game across Sacramento and Vegas. However, he also struggled with efficiency, shooting only 32.5 percent from the field and 25 percent from three. Podziemski looked more comfortable in preseason action, but he made only 20 percent of his 3-point attempts.  He mainly struggles to create for himself, and he will be even more limited against the athleticism of the NBA regulars.  At Santa Clara, he could get anything he wanted in terms of space, and he was the main offensive cog for his team. The Warriors’ motion offense, predicated on passing and movement, should be a good fit for the reigning WCC Player of the Year, and I expect him to eventually integrate as the season progresses as an unselfish player with tremendous playmaking and better shooting than his current numbers indicate. 

Jackson-Davis only saw limited action in Vegas due to a hamstring injury sustained in practice. When he did get an opportunity, though, he impressed with averages of 16 points, 8.5 rebounds, 1.5 steals, and 1.5 blocks per game in two games of action. In the preseason, TJD was similarly productive, and it wouldn’t be a surprise if he immediately received some backup minutes at the center position.  Eventually, he will be an excellent fit in Golden State’s offense with his passing ability, basketball IQ, and his inside scoring prowess. 

Overall Offseason Grade (B-)

Re-signing Draymond Green to a four-year, $100 million contract may seem like an overpay as he nears the back-end of his career, but it is a necessary number to give the Warriors a chance to compete for titles while Steph Curry is still able to conduct offensive masterclasses. Green is the leader of the Warriors’ defense and also an essential part of their offense, so losing him would’ve been a massive blow to their championship aspirations. The Chris Paul trade also displays Golden State’s all-in mentality after attempting to balance two timelines in the past couple of seasons. Paul should immediately upgrade the second unit, giving them veteran stability and leadership that may be the key to unlocking the young talent that hasn’t been able to quite blossom yet in Jonathan Kuminga and Moses Moody. A bench role would also keep Paul’s minutes lower and his legs fresher come playoff time. Finally, the Warriors solidified their rotation with veteran signings of Dario Saric and Cory Joseph. Saric gives them a stretch big that will add size and shooting for different lineups, and Joseph gives them a veteran point guard to fill in for Paul and Curry during the regular season.

While the Warriors checked the most important box off their list by re-signing Green, I don’t think they addressed their depth concerns nearly enough. The frontcourt is still lacking even with the additions of Jackson-Davis and Saric. Saric’s stretch-big ability and point-forward skills are pluses for the offense, but he is not a rim protector. Signed to a two-way deal, Usman Garuba can defend inside and out, and perhaps he will eventually be upgraded to a standard contract. However, as of now, one has to be apprehensive about the depth behind center Kevon Looney.   

It will again be on Kuminga and Moody to display their growth to justify the Warriors’ lack of added wing depth, and hopefully, they can continue to develop and take more of the offensive reins with the second unit. I have warmed up a bit more to the idea of the Paul trade, especially if he is utilized as a second unit leader who can stabilize the team’s minutes without their Big 3 on the floor. His usage and slower, methodical play style contrasting with Golden State’s free-flowing and fast-paced offense will be fascinating to watch as the season progresses. 

Season Projection — 7th in the West

Jordan Poole was a key contributor to the Golden State Warriors’ last championship run, and they are replacing his production with a future, albeit aging, Hall of Famer in Chris Paul. Experience is the strength of this Warriors team, but it is also their weakness. This team has some major red flags in terms of injury history, and unlike previous Golden State squads, this team does not have the same kind of proven depth that has made it a juggernaut in the regular season. The Dubs could still emerge as title contenders late in the year, but we could witness the end of an era this season if this new-look roster fails to take shape. 

Memphis Grizzlies

Memphis Grizzlies

Draft Picks:  #45 GG Jackson, #56 Tarik Biberovic

Free Agents Added:  Derrick Rose

Re-signed Players:


  • The Grizzlies send three second-round picks to the Suns for Isaiah Todd and first-round pick swap rights in 2024 and 2030.
  • As part of a 5-team trade, Memphis sends Dillon Brooks (sign-and-trade) to Houston for Josh Christopher.
  • As part of a 3-team trade, the Grizzlies acquire Marcus Smart from the Celtics, sending pick 25 and the Warriors’ 2024 first-round pick (top-four protected) to Boston and Tyus Jones to Washington.

Draft Grade (B-)

Memphis was active on draft night, headlined by the three-team trade with Boston and Washington in which the Grizzlies sent out pick No. 25 and a future first-rounder along with longtime backup point guard Tyus Jones to acquire former Defensive Player of the Year Marcus Smart. It may have been a little bit of an overpayment for a player that seemed to regress a tad last season. 

The Grizzlies may have mitigated the loss of future draft assets with a pair of high-upside flyers in the second round of the draft. The Grizzlies grabbed the youngest player in the NBA, GG Jackson, at pick 45 and an intriguing European prospect in Tarik Biberovic at pick 56. Jackson showed flashes of his upside both at South Carolina, in Summer League, and during the preseason, but he will need a lot of time to develop into an efficient enough option to garner rotational minutes. Biberovic is a bit of a mystery to the American audience, but at one time, he was among the highest ranked European prospects. He missed significant time during 2022 due to injury and wasn’t 100 percent last season for the Turkish powerhouse Fenerbahce.  The team has opted for Biberovic to stay in Turkey for at least one more year, so he will not help Memphis this season.  

Overall Offseason Grade (C+)

Addition by subtraction is the theme of the Memphis Grizzlies’ offseason. Memphis waved bye bye to one of the best backup point guards in the league as well as two future firsts to bring in Smart. Memphis also gave up on their resident defensive specialist and part-time loudmouth Dillon Brooks. Brooks was shipped off to Houston via a sign-and-trade. Look for one or more of the team’s young prospects, such as David Roddy, Jake Laravia, or Zaire Williams, to make a leap this season in place of Brooks. 

Maybe the real theme is “Full Circle,” as the Memphis NBA club brings in the most famous basketball player in the city’s college basketball history — Derrick Rose. Memphis gets a playoff experienced point guard to help shoulder the burden of Ja Morant’s 25-game suspension. Not an overwhelming change to the roster, but it is a positive change for a team that is looking to compete for an NBA title this season. Unfortunately, it looks like the Grizzlies will be starting the season behind the 8 ball in more ways than one; not only will the team be without Morant for nearly a third of the season, but they will be without their starting center Steven Adams, who had season-ending knee surgery last week. 

It’s difficult to grade the Grizzlies’ offseason because some things have not been in their control — Morant’s suspension, Adams’ injury, and Brandon Clarke’s injury that will likely sideline him for the majority of the season.  However, the front office did give Brooks away for nothing and drafted two prospects that will not contribute this season.  On the plus side, the team did add Smart and Rose, and that pair will be counted upon to hold things together while Morant is out.  

Season Projection — 8th in the West

The Memphis Grizzlies will reach the playoffs in spite of a nightmarish season of injury, offensive struggle, and suspension. Ja Morant will return to All-NBA form, but will fail to make an All-NBA team. However, it will become obvious that something is missing from this team, especially after a gentleman’s sweep leaves them with a first-round exit from the playoffs for a second season in a row. 

Dallas Mavericks

Draft Picks: Dereck Lively (12), Olivier-Maxence Prosper (24)

Free Agents Added: Seth Curry, Dante Exum, Derrick Jones Jr., Dexter Dennis (two-way), Greg Brown (two-way)

Re-signed Players:  Kyrie Irving, Dwight Powell, A.J. Lawson (two-way)


  • As part of a 3-team trade, the Mavs will receive Grant Williams (sign & trade) from Boston plus a 2025 second-round pick (via San Antonio) and a 2028 second-round pick (from San Antonio); the Spurs will receive Reggie Bullock and an unprotected 2030 pick swap from the Mavs, while the Celtics will receive a 2024 second-round pick (via San Antonio), a 2025 second-round pick swap (via Mavs) and a 2030 second-round pick (via Mavs).
  • Mavericks acquire Dereck Lively II (No. 12 pick); Thunder acquire Cason Wallace (No. 10 pick) and Davis Bertans.
  • Mavericks acquire Richaun Holmes and the draft rights to Olivier-Maxence Prosper (No. 24 pick) from the Kings for cash.

Draft Grade (B+)

Dallas tanked at the end of last season for a shot at keeping their lightly protected first-round pick. The balls of fate rolled in their favor. The Mavericks managed to flip that 10th pick while also getting off of the Davis Bertans contract — a great move for their cap situation. The Mavs then turned around and immediately used that massive trade exception to acquire Richaun Holmes and the 24th pick from the Kings. Holmes will provide added depth to the Dallas frontline.

Personally, I don’t love how Dallas used their 12th pick – they selected the highly touted center prospect Dereck Lively out of Duke.  The Mavs should have been looking at drafting a wing to replace some of the talent that they sent out in the Kyrie Irving trade, and it’s questionable how Lively will immediately fit in on a team with a crowded frontline. However, Lively is the type of defensive force and rim runner that the Mavericks have been searching for. He might not make an immediate impact outside of spot minutes, but the selection of Lively bodes well for the future of this team. At No. 24, the Mavs picked up Olivier Maxence-Prosper — a lengthy 6-foot-7 wing from Marquette. O-Max clearly impressed in the pre-draft process to move up into the 1st round after being mocked in the mid-second for much of the year. Prosper has the potential to grow into a starting caliber 3-and-D wing with time; however, if the preseason is any indication (26% from the field), O-Max may take longer to break into the rotation than hoped.

Overall Offseason Grade: (A-)

You can quibble with the Kyrie Irving signing all you want, but the Mavericks desperately needed to re-sign him and secure him for multiple years — if not as a player but as an asset. They did that, and the crisis was averted. Regardless, Dallas is still in retooling mode after missing out on re-signing Jalen Brunson last year and dealing away several important role players. 

The Mavs were active in the market, and worked out a promising sign-and-trade deal for forward Grant Williams of the Boston Celtics. Williams, a versatile defender, should nicely fill a 3-and-D role that Dallas has sorely missed since trading away Dorian Finney-Smith. Smart with their cap space this offseason, Dallas signed veteran guards Seth Curry and Dante Exum and re-signed center Dwight Powell. Exum, in particular, seems poised to make a splash in his return to the NBA after a short stint of playing in Europe. He never managed better than 35 percent shooting from three-point range in his seven-year NBA career, but in Europe, he has shot better than 45 percent. Assuming Lively isn’t ready for big-time minutes, the Mavs are still very weak at the center position, especially since Christian Wood signed with the Lakers. 

Season Projection — 9th in the West

The Dallas Mavericks were a top team in the West last season before trading for Kyrie Irving, and fell out of the play-in with him. The Kyrie and Luka Doncic experiment did not have time to fully develop last season, and in spite of some damning analytics behind their time together thus far, Irving has been re-signed. They were a poor defensive team last season (24th in defensive efficiency), and though Grant Williams (and possibly Dereck Lively) should help, you can’t hide both Irving and Doncic at the same time. The Mavs will find themselves in the play-in tournament. Realistically, how far can this team go with Tim Hardaway Jr. and Dwight Powell playing significant minutes?  At least one of their youngsters (Jaden Hardy, Josh Green, and/or Lively) must step up in a big way for the Mavs to be competitive with the top teams in the West.  

Minnesota Timberwolves

Draft Picks:  Leonard Miller (33), Jaylen Clark (53)

Free Agents Added:  Shake Milton, Troy Brown, Daishen Nix (two-way)

Re-signed Players:  Nickeil Alexander-Walker, Naz Reid, Luka Garza (two-way) 


  • Timberwolves acquire Leonard Miller (No. 33 pick); Spurs acquire the Jazz’s 2026 second-round pick and the Timberwolves’ 2028 second-round pick.

Draft Grade (C)

The Leonard Miller selection was a polarizing one for the HPP crew as there is upside for Miller to be a good NBA player but he may not be ready to contribute to a T-Wolves team that is looking to compete in the playoffs now. While a small steal — he was projected in the lottery by some — Miller will still be behind three centers on long-term deals as well as forwards Kyle Anderson, Jaden McDaniels, and Josh Minott in a crowded frontcourt. Before his Achilles injury, Jaylen Clark looked to be one of the top defensive prospects in this draft class. His injury is no joke and will seriously hinder the start of his pro career. While the athleticism was there pre-injury, his lack of a reliable jump shot (30.2% from three on 1.3 attempts per game at UCLA) make his future prospects that much murkier if he loses anything on defense. Overall, Minnesota opted for two guys that are unlikely to contribute this year, which is disappointing for a team that sees themselves as a playoff contender (but may be better off pulling the plug and rebuilding).

Miller had a strong Summer League performance, showcasing his versatility on defense and strong rebounding ability. He averaged 15.4 points, 8 rebounds, and 1.4 steals per game. Additionally, despite a less-than-ideal form, he actually shot the ball fairly well too, going 36.8% from three and 85.7% from the free-throw line. In the preseason, he was also efficient (.548/.444/.500), though his minutes were limited.  If he can continue to have a consistent outside shot, he will eventually find his way onto the court with his activity on defense and on the glass. 

Overall Offseason Grade (C-)

The Timberwolves acquired a nice piece on the wing in Shake Milton at only five million per year with a team option. That is a good value given his shooting (career 36.5% shooting from three) and playmaking. He also has good size at 6’5” and is a willing defender on the perimeter. The team also added wing Troy Brown, and he can soak up backup minutes as a low-end three-and-D player. The Naz Reid re-signing would be a great move for nearly any other team, but the Wolves are already paying two centers max money in Karl-Anthony Towns and Rudy Gobert. While I like Reid a lot for his tenacity and rebounding, his value to this team does not live up to the money. Minnesota having three centers on large deals makes little sense. The best move the Timberwolves made was bringing back combo guard Nickeil Alexander-Walker, who was a valuable contributor in last season’s playoffs. This team really didn’t see a lot of improvement with its offseason moves and will, at best, vie for a low playoff seed or the play-in game.  After this season, Minnesota will need to take a serious look at tearing down its roster and building around its rising star, Anthony Edwards.

Season Projection — 10th in the West

The Timberwolves were competitive last season in the Western Conference, but they fell to the eventual NBA Champion Denver Nuggets in five games. They gave up everything AND the kitchen sink to get Rudy Gobert, which did not make sense in terms of fit and didn’t pay off. Gobert chipped in only 13 points in 30 minutes per game in the 2022-23 season, and he will continue to clog the paint this season. This team would be much better with Karl Anthony Towns at center so he could space the floor with his 37% three-point shooting. Mike Conley is now 36 years old, and should not be relied upon to run the offense, as he averaged only points per game last season. Anthony Edwards is ready to make an All-NBA leap this season, but this team’s ceiling is capped. Minnesota will continue to struggle offensively until the team addresses its front-court logjam and acquires a point guard capable of producing reliable complementary scoring. This team is still capable of scrapping out a playoff appearance in the play-in round, but they could easily fall out of the playoffs entirely if one of the teams behind them makes a run. 

New Orleans Pelicans

Draft Picks:  Jordan Hawkins (14)

Free Agents Added:  Cody Zeller, Kaiser Gates (two-way), Matt Ryan (two-way)

Re-signed Players:  Herb Jones, E.J. Liddell, Dereon Seabron (two-way)

Trades:  none

Draft Grade (B-)

With their lone draft selection, the Pelicans picked one of the top shooters in the draft at the end of the lottery. With a plug-and-play type of game, Jordan Hawkins would seemingly have an immediate impact on the team. Smart and experienced with a NCAA Championship in his back pocket, the UConn product could provide spacing and off-the-bench scoring for a team talented enough to make noise in the playoffs, assuming the star player can ever stay on the court. Unfortunately, Hawkins, who thrives off the ball, has yet to hit his stride as a pro, shooting 32 percent from the field and 25 percent from three in Summer League and 31 percent and 33 percent in the same categories during the preseason. His forte is shooting off screens, so the coaching staff may have to make some adjustments to get the most from the 21-year-old wing, who may see significant minutes out of the gate due to the recent injury suffered by Trey Murphy.

Overall Offseason Grade (C+)

Cody Zeller provides nice frontcourt depth for the veteran minimum after losing Jaxson Hayes in free agency. Zeller and Jonas Valanciunas are currently the only true centers on the roster with standard contracts. However, the team is expected to use a healthy Zion Williamson as a small-ball center much of the time.  

Bringing Herb Jones back on a four-year, $54 million deal is superb value for a quintessential three-and-D wing that provides great defense and is able to hit a spot-up three. Jones’ deal is one of the best re-signings of this offseason. E.J. Liddell is also a solid re-signing after being able to get him in the second round last year. Now recovered from last year’s ACL tear, he could be a versatile spot reserve, featuring two-way ability, three-level scoring, great energy, and a good feel for the game, traits that he displayed at Ohio State. 

The Pelicans’ most obvious concern is health combined with a lackluster bench. Murphy, forward Naji Marshall, and backup point guard Jose Alvarado are all currently sidelined with injuries. CJ McCollum, who led the team in minutes per game (35.3), had offseason surgery to repair his right hand, an injury that hampered him at the end of last season. Additionally, forward Brandon Ingram was hampered by illness during World Cup play and was one the worst performers on Team USA, who finished fourth in the competition.  And then there is Williamson, the Pelicans’ franchise player, who has the talent to be a perennial superstar but has only played in 114 out of 328 games in his four years with New Orleans. His health and conditioning are the only things holding this team back from a high seed in the playoffs, but many have begun to question the No. 1 pick’s competitive drive. If Williamson can finally put together a complete season, expect the Pelicans to be a playoff team and a tough first-round out. However, if Zion, once again, can’t stay on the court, the team will wish it had cut bait and sent his $193 million contract to a team such as Portland prior to the draft.  

Given the team’s injury situation, a player to keep an eye on is second-year combo guard/wing, Dyson Daniels, who excelled in Summer League and also played well in the preseason on both ends of the floor.  In Summer League action, he averaged 14.6 points, 7.2 rebounds, 6.4 assists, 1.8 steals, and 1.2 blocks per game. Shooting has been his biggest question mark, but in the preseason, he made a very encouraging 42 percent of his shots from deep. This is a good start to his sophomore campaign after a rookie season where he struggled with injuries. Daniels is very versatile and could play anywhere between point guard and small forward.  

Season Projection — 11th in the West

The New Orleans Pelicans will be the team everyone is talking about for the first three months of the NBA season before injuries begin to take their toll, again. Only this time, Zion Williamson will not be the apple of the injury reaper’s eye; Williamson will reach the 50-game mark this season and will return to an All-Star level. Unfortunately, a lack of cohesion and consistency will land the Pelicans short of their playoff hopes — at best a first-round exit and at worst another trip to the lottery. 

Utah Jazz      

Draft Picks:  Taylor Hendricks (9), Keyonte George (16), Brice Sensabaugh (28)

Free Agents Added:  Omer Yurtseven, Josh Christopher (two-way)

Re-signed Players: Johnny Juzang (two-way)


  • The Jazz sent Damian Jones to Cleveland for cash.
  • Jazz acquire John Collins; Hawks to acquire Rudy Gay and Memphis’ 2026 2nd-round pick that will only convey if it lands between 31 and 42.

Draft Grade (A+)

The Jazz had a tremendous draft, adding three potential lottery talents with each of their first-round selections. Taylor Hendricks is a versatile forward who is capable of having a strong impact without needing the ball in his hands as a stretch big who can protect the rim and also knock down threes on the offensive end. Keyonte George was a highly touted prospect out of high school but struggled with injuries at Baylor. If he can recapture his previous form, he is a tremendous offensive talent who can score from all three levels. He is definitely capable of outperforming his draft spot and being one of the top players from this class. Brice Sensabaugh is also a solid scorer and a potential steal with his ability to score from anywhere on the court and is a very good value at 28, despite knee injury concerns. It is quite a haul for a Jazz team that went on a tear to open last season and may force the organization to consider accelerating their rebuild sooner rather than later. 

George led Utah in scoring in Summer League and looked the part of an all-around scorer who can get hot in a hurry and hit shots from all three levels. He averaged 18.6 points and 5.3 assists per game while shooting 45.7% from the field and 38.6% from three across Salt Lake City and Las Vegas. Although it’s unfortunate Hendricks (hamstring) and Sensabaugh (knee) could not suit up for the team due to injuries, George gave Jazz fans a great showing. In the preseason, George came back to Earth, shooting less than 33 percent from the field, but he continued to display good playmaking instincts, averaging 3.6 assists per game while playing less than 23 minutes per game. As of now, the Baylor rookie looks to be in line for significant playing time, and he has an outside shot at winning Rookie of the Year.  

Both Hendricks and Sensabaugh made their pro debuts in the preseason.  Neither was particularly impressive so expect them to be brought along slowly.

Overall Grade (A)

While the Jazz didn’t make any considerable additions in free agency, they did poach John Collins from the Hawks for only a second-round pick. This is excellent value for a starting-caliber player who is still only 25 years old and has averaged 16 points per game over his career. Utah nailed the offseason by adding promising prospects in the draft and making a great trade for a guy who was sold low by the Hawks. The team will hope for internal growth from All-Star Lauri Markkanen, center Walker Kessler, and second-year guard Ochai Agbaji while bringing along their promising rookies this season. While still lacking a high-level point guard, this team is on the right path to playoff contention in the near future. 

Season Projection — 12th in the West

The Utah Jazz are a great organization, and they have a promising future, but they will not make the play-in this year. Lauri Markenen is an All-Star, John Collins and Walker Kessler are potential All-Stars, and Jordan Clarkson and Kelly Olynyk are quality backups, but the rest of the roster is a bit unsettled.  At guard, Kris Dunn, Collin Sexton, Keyonte George, Ochai Agbaji, and Talen Horton-Tucker are all in the mix, but as of now, there is no combination that will lead to many wins.  George looks like a keeper, but Danny Ainge is still searching for his running mate.

Houston Rockets   

Houston Rockets

Draft Picks:  Amen Thompson (4), Cam Whitmore (20)

Free Agents Added:  Fred VanVleet, Jock Landale, Jeff Green, Aaron Holiday, Victor Oladipo, Reggie Bullock, Nate Hinton (two-way), Jeenathan Williams (two-way), Jermaine Samuels (two-way)

Re-signed Players:  Boban Marjanović


  • Rockets acquire Patty Mills and the Bucks’ 2028 second-round pick from the Nets for a protected future second-rounder.
  • As part of a 5-team trade, the Rockets acquire Dillon Brooks (via a sign-and-trade from Memphis) and the draft rights to Alpha Kaba (from Hawks); the Hawks acquire Usman Garuba, TyTy Washington, the Timberwolves’ 2025 second-round pick (from Rockets), the Rockets’ 2028 second-round pick, and $1.1 million from OKC; the Grizzlies acquire Josh Christopher from Houston; the Thunder acquire Patty Mills from and three 2nd-rounders from Houston. The Rockets also sent Kenyon Martin Jr. to the Clippers for the Clippers’ 2026 second-round pick and the Grizzlies’ 2027 second-round pick.
  • Oklahoma City received guard Kevin Porter Jr. and a pair of future second-round picks from Houston for guard Victor Oladipo (injured) and forward/center Jeremiah Robinson-Earl.

Draft Grade (A)

The Rockets took a chance on Amen Thompson and his potential to be their franchise point guard with the fourth-overall pick. While he certainly has bust potential as a subpar shooter and a 20-year-old that lacked any college experience, he does have a tremendous feel for the game and plus-athleticism that should help him develop with previous top-five selections, Jabari Smith Jr. and Jalen Green. Houston’s second pick was the real shocker of the night, though, as they were able to select Cam Whitmore at number 20. There is no clear reason for the projected top-10 pick’s fall from grace — the rumors included injury concerns, worrisome reports from his college coaches, and poor pre-draft interviews and workouts. It is true that Whitmore did not always display the best body language and shot selection at Villanova, but then again, his coaches failed to utilize him properly, which ultimately contributed to the Wildcats having a very disappointing season. A more mature player may have just gone with the flow and played within himself, but it’s unlikely that would have helped Villanova win any more games.  Given that he was a freshman and only 18 years old, his sins seem forgivable, and he was very much worth the risk outside of the lottery. 

In Vegas, Houston’s talented Summer League squad made it all the way to the championship game before falling to the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Rockets did this with Smith Jr. and Tari Eason only playing in the first two games before being shut down. Smith Jr. appeared ready to make a sophomore leap this upcoming season; he dominated the competition, averaging 35.5 points per game and looking like the best player on the floor. Eason played very well, too, showcasing his defense and high-energy play; he averaged 23 points per game. Both of these guys looked too good for Las Vegas and will hopefully use these performances to springboard into this season.

The Rockets’ two picks this year also were very impressive in Summer League. Thompson, unfortunately, went down with a sprained ankle injury in his first game but was able to showcase his outstanding athleticism in limited action. Thompson, like his twin brother, Ausar, seems to be a student of the game and has the physical tools to be great on both ends of the floor. If he can fix his jump shot, Houston may have found its floor general for their promising young nucleus of talent. Additionally, we can’t forget about the performance of Whitmore, who won Summer League MVP. He averaged 19.3 points, 5.2 rebounds, and 2.5 steals per game, as he looked the part of a guy with a chip on his shoulder after falling in the NBA Draft. The Villanova alum played like a man possessed, wreaking havoc on defense and scoring from all over the court on offense. 

In the preseason, Whitmore, who has an NBA-ready physique, continued to showcase his skills and eye-popping athleticism, but he didn’t shoot the ball with the same efficiency (38% from the field).  Meanwhile, Thompson was able to play in all five games, and as expected, he performed well in most areas, but he struggled as a shooter (25% from deep).

Overall Grade (A-)

The Rockets were busy in terms of free agency and post-draft trades, but did they gain a lot compared to the amount they paid? Point guard Fred VanVleet, the team’s most significant signing (roughly $43 million per year for three years — the 14th highest paid NBA player for 2023-24), will add stability and veteran leadership to what is a very young club. But one has to wonder if his presence will stunt the development of Thompson, who they just selected as their point guard of the future. Also, the Rockets gave up a lot to acquire Brooks in a complicated multi-team trade; Houston essentially gave up four promising pieces in Usman Garuba, TyTy Washington, Josh Christopher, and Kenyon Martin Jr. plus two second-round picks. They also gave Brooks a four-year, $86 million deal when it seemed like his market value had dropped, though it was later reported that there were a few teams after his services. Still, I’m unsure about the amount and length for a player who is a great defender but can also shoot you out of a game (23.8% from three in the playoffs last season). Maybe Coach Udoka will be able to reign in his “chucker” tendencies, and his three-and-D ability will shine, as it did in FIBA World Cup play, but I am skeptical. 

The Rockets also had to spend two second-round picks to unload Kevin Porter Jr., who was recently arrested on felony charges of assault and strangulation. Porter has had behavioral issues going back to his college days at USC, and he is now a persona non grata in the league.  

In place of the shipped-out youngsters, the Rockets added some proven backup types in Jeff Green, Jock Landale, Aaron Holiday, and Reggie Bullock.  This shows that the team is actually in win-mode now, sacrificing future potential for needed experience on an otherwise young team.

Overall, Houston should be much more competitive this year and enjoyable to watch with so many young talents in the rotation. However, the team may have sacrificed some of its future in an attempt to be immediately competitive.  It’s fair to question the cost/value of adding VanVleet and Brooks because, even with these veterans, the team is still too young to compete for the West Conference Championship. The Rockets also bear some of the responsibility for what happened with Porter because they signed him to a four-year, $63.4 million contract in 2022, despite his troubled history. Hopefully, Udoka will bring a high level of respect and leadership into the locker room, which would be a big step in the right direction.  

Season Projection — 13th in the West

The Houston Rockets will be much better this year under their new head coach Ime Udoka, who should inject some much needed discipline and defensive emphasis into this young, yet extremely talented, Rockets core. Adding veterans like Fred VanVleet and Dillon Brooks should also help to knock out the AAU-like tendencies of previous years in Houston. Any number of the Rockets’ prospects could take a leap this season and further propel the upward trajectory of the ball club to the stratosphere, but it is hard to bet on a team that was just so bad last season to make a leap into the playoffs in such a crowded Western Conference. More than likely, the Rockets will find themselves in the lottery yet again in the offseason. 

San Antonio Spurs

Draft Picks:  Victor Wembanyama (1), Sidy Cissoko (44)

Free Agents Added:  Sir’Jabari Rice (two-way), Charles Bediako (two-way)

Re-signed Players:  Tre Jones, Sandro Mamukelashvili


  • As part of a three-team trade, the Spurs will receive Reggie Bullock and an unprotected 2030 pick swap from the Mavs, while the Celtics will receive multiple second-round picks to TBA, and the Mavs will receive Grant Williams (sign & trade) from Boston plus TBA draft compensation.
  • As part of a 3-team trade, the Spurs acquire Cedi Osman, Lamar Stevens, the Cavaliers’ 2030 second-round pick, and cash from Cleveland.  As part of the deal, Miami will also swap second-round picks with the Spurs, with Miami receiving a 2027 selection and San Antonio receiving a 2026 pick.
  • Spurs acquire the Jazz’s 2026 second-round pick and the Timberwolves’ 2028 second-round pick; Timberwolves acquire Leonard Miller (No. 33 pick).

Draft Grade (A)

The Spurs got the gem of the draft (Victor Wembanyama), a solid wing with upside in the second round (Sidy Cissoko), two future second-rounders by trading away pick 33, and two undrafted free agents with enough potential to eventually make the roster (Sir’Jabari Rice and Charles Bediako). However, they did fail to find a true starting point guard.  A two-man approach of incumbent Tre Jones and Andre Jackson would have been a good fall-back option, but trading away pick 33 made that impossible.

Plenty has been said about the No.1 overall pick Wembanyama, and he made a convincing argument for Rookie of the Year during the preseason, averaging 19.3 points, 4.8 boards, 1.5 assists, 1.0 steals, and 2.5 blocks per game while playing less than 21 minutes per game.  He also posted solid shooting splits (.509/.318/.857) and had an outstanding PER of 28.0.  The knock on Wembanyama is that he doesn’t make full use of his physical tools by being too perimeter oriented and a bit soft.  Even so, expect the French rookie to produce 15-20 points, 5-10 rebounds, and 2-4 blocks per night.  

Overall Offseason Grade (A-)

Having a good deal of available cap space, San Antonio was a destination for contract dumps and post-draft trades, which yielded future draft capital and some serviceable veterans, though wing Cedi Osman was the only acquired player to survive the final roster cuts.  This team is far too young and raw to be a playoff contender this season, especially without a star caliber point guard, but there is enough talent on the roster for the Spurs to be competitive on most nights. Obviously, bringing in a talent like Wembanyama is going to be enough to give the Spurs a good offseason grade even though the team added no notable players via free agency. After a tame Summer League, Wembanyama flashed his extraordinary versatility and skill in the preseason, prompting the following response from NBA Hall of Famer Kevin Garnett, “He looks like a combination of Giannis and KD.” 

Season Projection — 14th in the West

The Spurs will win more games than expected, though they will fall far short of the play-in game in a packed Western Conference. They should have top 5-6 odds in the lottery in next year’s draft. Victor Wembanyama will win a close two-man race with OKC’s Chet Holmgren for the Rookie of the Year honor. The Spurs will establish themselves as one of the better defensive teams in the West after finishing the 2022 season as one of the worst. However, San Antonio will struggle offensively for much of the season as they adjust to Wembanyama’s offensive strengths. Jeremy Sochan will continue his upward trajectory while transitioning to a more predominant ball-handling role for the Spurs. 

Portland Trail Blazers

Draft Picks:  Scoot Henderson (3), Kris Murray (23), Rayan Rupert (43), Toumani Camara (52)

Free Agents Added:  Ish Wainright, Skylar Mays (two-way), Justin Minaya (two-way), Duop Reath (two-way)

Re-signed Players:  Jerami Grant, Matisse Thybulle


  • In a three-team deal, Portland traded Damian Lillard to Milwaukee for Jrue Holiday and an unprotected 2029 first-round pick from the Bucks, along with the right to swap first-round picks with Milwaukee in 2028 and 2030. The Blazers also received center Deandre Ayton and rookie forward Toumani Camara from the Suns in the deal, while Phoenix received center Jusuf Nurkic, forward Nassir Little, and guard Keon Johnson from Portland, as well as wing Grayson Allen from Milwaukee.
  • The Celtics acquired Jrue Holiday from the Trail Blazers in exchange for Robert Williams, Malcolm Brogdon and two draft picks: Golden State’s first-rounder in 2024 (top-4 protected) and Boston’s unprotected first-rounder in 2029.

Draft Grade (A) 

While there are question marks about Scoot Henderson, he was generally viewed as the third-best player in the draft, at worst. This was the right pick for the Blazers in terms of talent and long-term potential. He is an explosive athlete with blow-by speed and innate playmaking skills at the point guard position but is slightly undersized and does not have a reliable outside shot (27.5 percent from three last season with GL Ignite). Picking Henderson with their first pick did not seem ideal when Damian Lillard was on the roster, but now with Dame gone, Portland can look to give the keys to the franchise to Scoot. 

Portland fans can rest assured that the team is in good hands in the post-Lillard era, and if Henderson can develop a reliable three-point shot, he has the traits to be their starting point guard for a decade-plus. However, current expectations should be tempered with a steep learning curve to the NBA game for a young point guard expected to lead his team in his first season. 

Kris Murray is a talented player who will be a good rotational guy with his versatility and polished game as an older prospect. He has a nice inside game but will need to improve the consistency of his outside shot to earn rotation minutes at the next level. Rayan Rupert was more of an upside pick at 19 years old with a 7 ‘2” wingspan.  He showed flashes with the New Zealand Breakers in the NBL but didn’t put up any notable stats. At No. 43, this was a good value pick, and with Portland in the midst of a full-on rebuild, Rupert will be given opportunities to develop his overall game.

Ironically, Toumani Camara, thought to be a throw-in as part of the Dame trade, was the top performing rookie on the team during the preseason.  He made 56 percent of his shots from both the floor and from deep.  He could be in line for minutes as the backup four.  

Overall Offseason Grade (A)

The long-awaited Lillard trade finally happened — the Trail Blazers essentially traded Lillard, Jusuf Nurkic, Nasir Little, and Keon Johnson for Deandre Ayton, Robert Smith, Malcolm Brogden, Toumani Camara, three first-rounders, and two first-round swaps. That’s a pretty good haul for a team that was going nowhere with Lillard.  Now, the Blazers can focus on developing the young guys. 

In other moves, the Blazers definitely overpaid Jerami Grant, but they have plenty of pieces they can move around to potentially to pair up Henderson with another star that fits his timeline. Bringing back Matisse Thybulle for three years and 11 million annually is also a fine deal, as he showcased a possibly improved jumper at the end of last season and always brings great defense. 

Overall, this team is in good shape at center with Ayton, who should thrive offensively as the go-to guy in Portland, and Smith, who excels on the opposite end of the court as a rim protector.  Grant is a solid four, Anfernee Simons is a proven microwave scorer at guard, Brogden is a steady all-around guard who can tutor the youngsters, and Thybulle brings lockdown defense as a wing.  The rest of the team is young and unproven, with Henderson and Shaedon Sharpe having the most upside.  That pair is really the future of the franchise, but neither looks ready to consistently play at a high level.

Season Projection — 15th in the West

The Portland Trail Blazers just took the first step into their rebuild, and they will definitely be the worst team in the West. They will be looking to grow their young players into solid NBA players, and that approach won’t result in many wins. One of the team’s main goals should be to determine whether Simmons or Sharpe is the best fit Scoot in the backcourt.


  • Naz Noyim
  • Cam Riehl
  • Jackson Inagi

    Jackson is a contributing writer and analyst at Hoops Prospects. He is currently a senior at California Polytechnic University, majoring in Interdisciplinary Studies, and plans on pursuing a master's degree in sports management. He is a former manager for the Cal Poly women's basketball team and has contributed to his university's student newspaper, Mustang News, as a sports writer.

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  • Richard C. Harris

    Richard has worked as a sports writer/editor/scout/analyst since 1998. He has been credentialed for a variety of special events and games by the NBA, the NFL, the G League, and numerous college athletic programs and conferences. He has contributed to various magazines, radio shows, and a number of other sites, including ESPN.com, SI.com, and USAToday.com. Richard is the former CEO of FantasyFootballExperts.com and a former member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA). An active member of the US Basketball Writers Association (USBWA), Rich is currently the Managing Director at Hoops Prospects, a site that specializes in evaluating potential pro basketball talent. Follow on Twitter @HoopsProspects.

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