NBA Season Tip-Off: Week One Power Rankings

After a long awaited 133 day wait, the NBA is back and the action has already begun. The Denver Nuggets opened the season defeating the Los Angeles Lakers 119-107 in their first game as league champions. Ceremonies were also held prior to tip off presenting each player with their rings and the team’s championship banner. 

That game was followed by an equally exciting matchup in the west between the Phoenix Suns and the Golden State Warriors. The Suns just narrowly topped their opponents earning a 108-104 victory. Four star studded teams competed on the NBA’s first night, all amongst the best in the league.

 As the remainder of teams get set to return throughout the league’s first week of play, it’s important to know who holds a slight advantage over the others. This season, some teams are more prepared than others, as there are many competitors chasing a title. The tide is expected to shift throughout but as the season tips off, some teams stand out more than others.

Here are the top 10 NBA teams heading into its first week back in action:

  1. Denver Nuggets

It’s safe to say that anyone can win the league this season, as it is too early to make a prediction. With that in mind, it would come to the surprise of no one if Nikola Jokic and the Denver Nuggets go back to back. They had an unstoppable playoff run last season, losing just four games in the process.

The team enters this season with practically the same roster as last year minus the addition of small forward Bruce Brown. Basketball has never looked better in Denver and with an average age of only 27, this team could express championship caliber for plenty of years.

Point guard Jamal Murray and power forward Aaron Gordon will look to continue their dominance surrounding their big man in the middle. Supporting players like small forward Michael Porter Jr. and shooting guard Kentavious Caldwell Pope add to the team’s depth and versatility. Finally, shooting guard Christian Braun enters his second year in the league, and has won a championship between college and the NBA two years in a row.

The Nuggets are already 1-0 as they claimed victory during their season opener. An undefeated season in the NBA has never happened before, but with the form this team presents it may not be out of the picture.

   2. Milwaukee Bucks

Right behind Denver is another team who recently experienced championship glory, and will be hungry to get back there. The Bucks lost point guard Jrue Holiday in a three way trade just weeks before the season, but benefited in their own way. With the addition of point guard Damian Lillard, the all star presence amongst the team has matured greatly.

An elite surrounding squad will help power forward Giannis Antetokounmpo, who has carried the Bucks to greatness in the past. On top of Lillard remains three time all star Khris Middleton, and supporting members like power forwards Bobby Portis and Jae Crowder. An early playoff exit last season may also add some fuel to the team’s work ethic. 

Milwaukee has continued to establish itself as a top team as of late and they remain a sure contender come championship time in June. They will open their season against another top team in the Eastern Conference playing the Philadelphia 76ers.

   3. Boston Celtics

The Celtics have made the playoffs nine years in a row and have no gold to show for it. Every year starts by looking like a championship season and ends in disappointment. However, they enter this season with one of the best all around rosters once again.

Small forward Jayson Tatum still heads the team, as he remains one of the top players in the league. With the help of players like small forward Jaylen Brown and newly acquired point guard Jrue Holiday, their offense continues to boom. Newly acquired players like Holiday, as well as power forward Kristaps Porzingis will help bring champion and veteran experience to the team.

A team that holds so much historic prestige has yet to win a title in 15 years and will be on the hunt more than ever. A young coach in Joe Mazzulla will attempt to create a new generation of Celtics greatness in style. They defeated the Knicks by four points in their opening matchup, and started their season on a positive note.

   4. Phoenix Suns

After picking up their first win of the season on opening night, the Suns have made certain yet again they are amongst the top five teams in the league. The team sent center Deandre Ayton to Portland, but is far from lacking the star power it needs to succeed. It is based around three all stars, all of which have had different experiences throughout their time in the league.

Newly acquired shooting guard Bradley Beal will offer a new sense of excitement and have the chance to reach his full potential. Power forward Kevin Durant offers the most veteran and championship experience to the team, allowing a mentor for an already skilled set of offense. Finally, the team’s main man appears to remain shooting guard Devin Booker who will look to help his team return to the finals.

Playoff blunders as of recent will also drive this team to go further than it has before. The Suns will remain a dominant figure in the west throughout this season and are likely contenders to hoist the O’Brien trophy next.

   5. Golden State Warriors

The Golden State Warriors will be a threat as always this season, despite a loss in their opening matchup. This team has already made their legacy but they will look to add more pride to their names entering this season. The Warriors are a changing team but carry many of the same attributes which brought them titles.

Returning stars include names like power forward Draymond Green, small forward Klay Thompson, and of course nine time all star Steph Curry. This trio has carried the team to greatness in the past, however, their roles on the team have changed. As much as they still plan to be the team’s top players, they will have to act as solid mentors for the next generation of Golden State Warriors.

The younger presence amongst the team is created by players like power forward Jonathan Kuminga, center Kevon Looney, and even the moderately experienced small forward Andrew Wiggins. Finally, even more of a veteran presence has been brought into the team with the addition of 12 time all star Chris Paul. He will serve not only as an all star presence, but a further mentor for the younger stars of the team.

A strong performance this season will ensure fans that the team’s future is in good shape. If they can secure another championship, names like Curry, Thompson, and Green, will become even more iconic than before.

   6. Los Angeles Lakers

If there’s one motto the Lakers have carried throughout their past few seasons, it’s determination. After making the conference finals last season, not only will they want to repeat their success but go further than before. It’s been three years since championship glory resided in Los Angeles, and it will be hungry to reclaim it.

At 38 years old, Lebron James continues to hold the reins of the NBA. Alongside a supporting cast with all star potential, he will be looking to cement his name in history further with a fifth ring.

That cast includes players like eight time all star Anthony Davis, power forward Rui Hachimura, and point guard Gabe Vincent. Los Angeles appears to be going for broke this season with a similar roster to last season and James closing in on the end of his career. At the same time, it continues to develop a young team that has playoff potential in the future. 

   7. Philadelphia 76ers  

Many may believe this is a team suffering from a common playoff curse, as they have failed to advance past the second round since 2001. However, they still maintain a strong offense and defense that is indisputably amongst the best in the league. Former Raptors coach Nick Nurse will also bring in modern championship experience the team may have been lacking.

Joel Embiid is all but used to heartbreak, and is coming off his first season as league MVP. With the additions of returning all star James Harden, and small forward Tobias Harris, the team carries a fantastic all around presence. The fans of Philadelphia are also tired of witnessing their team’s failures, and are all but ready for a championship.

The 76ers will undoubtedly continue their success as of late, but another failure to create a legacy could lead to the team’s slow downfall in the future. Their first game will offer a challenge in the form of the Milwaukee Bucks

   8. Sacramento Kings

After soaring into the playoffs last season for the first time in nearly 20 years, the Kings have finally seemed to find their rhythm. A first round elimination of last year may help them carry even more fire this season, as they will want to continue progressing deeper into the playoffs. With a team finally capable of doing so, they will not want to abandon that opportunity.

A dominant performance over Utah in their first game of the season could set the tone for the Kings offense throughout the year. Expect big numbers from its core players such as power forward Harrison Barnes, center Domantas Sabonis, and point guard De’Aaron Fox. Their man at the top of the key, Fox is the longest tenured player for the Kings entering his seventh season, and has seen the team’s ups and downs.

Coach Mike Brown returns for his second season with the team, after earning coach of the year in 2022-23. The Kings have arguably made one of the the best turnarounds as of recent and will continue to ride that wave of change even further this season. Plus, everyone loves a good underdog story.

   9. Los Angeles Clippers

It seemed like the Clippers were never truly able to be themselves last season. This may be in part due to the fact that its two top stars hardly got the chance to play together. Only 38 games were played together by small forwards Kawhi Leonard and Paul George last season, arguably the teams top two stars.

George was also absent for the playoffs, while Leonard only started two games. The pair looked happy to be back together, after putting up a combined 50 points in the team’s opening matchup this season against Portland. The Clippers not only have their two star players back, but another veteran all star in the form of point guard Russel Westbrook. After four different teams in four seasons, Westbrook  may have finally found a home in Los Angeles.

This team carries loads of veteran and all-star experience, while keeping a young supporting cast to go with it. Championship experience is furthered with the addition of coach Tyronn Lue, returning for his fourth season. Lue is currently on his second year of a recently signed five year contract, but he may be one step closer to the chopping block if the Clippers fail to make their mark this year.

   10. Miami Heat

The Heat may be higher ranked than they deserve simply for reaching the NBA finals last season. Albeit, they appear to show an unexpected drive that comes out of nowhere every year.

Led behind power forward Jimmy Butler, this team carries heart better than most and are determined to always find a way. The Heat are a team you can never count out, because they are not as easy as they look to beat. Along with Butler are stars like center Bam Adebayo and shooting guard Tyler Herro, who shared the experience of losing a finals. Talent continues to run deep with players like point guard Kyle Lowry and center Kevin Love who bring veteran and championship caliber to the team.

Butler seems determined to bring his team back to the finals and based on their night one performance, a narrow win over the Pistons, he makes a believable case. Led behind coach Erik Spoelstra for the 16th consecutive year, Heat fans can be sure another solid year is approaching.

The way things currently stand, the Denver Nuggets are the top prediction to win the league this season. They would become the fourth team of the century to complete back to back title victories if they do so. Although who knows what surprises are ahead in this exciting new season.

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