Now that the NBA has returned, The Sportsletter team has gotten together to give our full rankings and predictions for how the 2023 NBA season will unfold. Here are our power rankings, MVP predictions, and season superlatives for what should be another exciting year of basketball.
Teams in the Victor Wembanyama Sweepstakes
30. Utah Jazz
29. Oklahoma City Thunder
28. San Antonio Spurs
27. Orlando Magic
26. Houston Rockets
25. Indiana Pacers
Teams That Should be in the Victor Wembanyama Sweepstakes, but Won’t Tank
24. Charlotte Hornets
23. Detroit Pistons
22. Portland Trail Blazers
21. Sacramento Kings
Fringe Playoff Teams
20. Washington Wizards
19. New York Knicks
18. Los Angeles Lakers
17. Chicago Bulls
16. Toronto Raptors
Teams With a Puncher’s Chance of a Finals Run
15. New Orleans Pelicans
14. Dallas Mavericks
13. Minnesota Timberwolves
12. Atlanta Hawks
11. Miami Heat
10. Brooklyn Nets
9. Cleveland Cavaliers
8. Phoenix Suns
7. Memphis Grizzlies
The True Championship Contenders
6. Philadelphia 76ers
5. Denver Nuggets
4. Los Angeles Clippers
3. Milwaukee Bucks
2. Golden State Warriors
1. Boston Celtics
The MVP Ladder
With the amount of talent in the league at the moment, it’s almost impossible trying to predict how the MVP ladder will look when the season ends in April. Here are our top picks for this upcoming season.
We have to include Jokic because he won the award in both 2021 and 2022, but we all know there are plenty of politics involved in picking the MVP. Voter fatigue is real, and the odds of them choosing the Joker to be just the fourth player in NBA history to win it three years in a row are slim to none. While his numbers will undoubtedly be incredible in 2023, don’t expect Nikola Jokic to win MVP this season unless the Nuggets snag the top seed in the Western Conference.
Many felt that Joel Embiid was robbed of the MVP this past season after winning the scoring title and leading the 76ers to a better record than the Nuggets despite playing in a tumultuous locker room. While he certainly is capable of finally winning it this season, we think that a healthy James Harden will likely take some of the load off of Embiid and will result in slightly more modest numbers than we saw last year.
Despite getting off to a terrible start, Jayson Tatum was arguably the best two-way player in the NBA from January onwards. In the last 40 games of the 2022 season, Tatum put up 28 points a night while spearheading a historically good Boston defense. If he can just put together a full campaign of elite scoring without any major shooting slumps in addition to being one of the toughest wings in the league to score on, he will certainly find his name at the top of voters’ lists.
At the start of each of the last two seasons, Luka Doncic was the betting favorite to win MVP, and that is the case again this year. While we think that Luka is a generational talent and maybe the best offensive player in the NBA, the Mavericks losing Jalen Brunson and doing little to replace him is a recipe for the Mavericks to once again be one of the lower seeds in the Western Conference playoff picture. With plenty of candidates playing on teams that will finish with a better team record, Dallas is going to have to figure out a way to finish with a top-three seed if Luka wants any chance at the award.
It seems that people have forgotten how incredible Zion Williamson is. During his last healthy season in 2021, he average 27 PPG on a record-breaking 61% from the field despite playing on a team with poor spacing. Since then, the Pelicans have added CJ McCollum, swapped Steven Adams out for the better-shooting Jonas Valanciunas, and developed Brandon Ingram into one of the best shot-creators in the league. With him coming into this season in what looks like incredible physical shape, there’s no reason not to expect Zion in the MVP conversation if his team has any sort of success.
Giannis is reaching the point in his career that very few have gotten to in NBA history where he could deservingly win this award every single season. There is quite literally nothing you can do to stop the man, as he is the most physically dominant player we have seen since Shaq. On top of his brute force on the offensive end, he might be the best defensive player in the league as well. With another season with averages of 30 points, 10 rebounds, 5 assists, and 1 steal & block per game along with his Bucks certainly finishing as a top 3 seed in the East, it will be hard not to give him the award since he’s missed out on it the last two years.
Biggest Disappointment: The Phoenix Suns
Ever since the Suns were thrashed by the Dallas Mavericks on their home court in game 7 of the second round, the vibes have been terrible in Phoenix. On top of the controversy surrounding their owner Robert Sarver, they surprisingly matched DeAndre Ayton’s offer sheet with the Indiana Pacers and brought him back despite there being clear friction between both him and the organization. On top of that, Jae Crowder is holding out and publicly said that he wants out immediately. This team won 64 games last season, but the organizational friction from top to bottom in addition to Chris Paul getting another year older is going to lead to Phoenix taking a visible step backward in 2023.
Biggest Breakout season: Tyrese Maxey
While we know that guys like Anthony Edwards and Cade Cunningham are going to take a leap, Tyrese Maxey is going to catch a lot of people off guard this upcoming season. He put up a respectable 17 points a night last game, and his numbers spiked when it mattered the most, averaging almost 21 points per game on great efficiency against top defenses like Toronto and Miami. If given enough touches, expect Maxey to put up well over 20 points a game and be a potential all-star selection this season.
The Most Exciting Player to Watch: Ja Morant
No matter where the Grizzlies end up in the standings this season, you can guarantee Ja Morant is going to put on a show every night. Just in the preseason alone, he threw down this 360 dunk and embarrassed Cory Joseph with this lightning-quick behind-the-back dribble in transition. Whether it’s contested layups, posterizing dunks, or ankle-breaking crossovers, Morant is quite simply the most electrifying player in the association.
Biggest Question Mark: The Brooklyn Nets
This should come as a surprise to no one. While most people are writing off Brooklyn as an impending dumpster fire, many forget that this team was the top seed in the East until Kevin Durant sprained his MCL in January. Despite the madness of the offseason trade requests from KD and the question marks surrounding Kyrie Irving’s commitment to the team, this is the healthiest we have seen the Nets in quite a while. If head coach Steve Nash can properly integrate Ben Simmons into the lineup and get him on the same page with Durant and Irving, this Brooklyn team can have legitimate championship aspirations. But on the other hand, the injury history of both of Brooklyn’s top stars in addition to Nash ultimately being unproven as a coach, it also wouldn’t be surprising if they limp into the playoffs again and lose in the first round. We will just have to wait and see.
Photo: Ezra Shaw / Getty Images