NBA Playoffs: Ranking the teams most likely to return to the playoffs in 2024

Kyrie Irving, Dallas Mavericks - Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
Kyrie Irving, Dallas Mavericks - Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports /
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After one of the most wide-open NBA regular seasons of all time, the playoffs are finally here. Well, at least the play-in tournament is. However, for the ten teams that didn’t even make that, the attention and focus now turn towards the draft and making the moves necessary to return to the playoffs in 2024.

A handful of teams, like the Houston Rockets, San Antonio Spurs, and Charlotte Hornets geared their roster towards tanking with an eye on Victor Wembanyama. Others, like the Washington Wizards, Utah Jazz, and Detroit Pistons all had at least some semblance of hope for the playoffs, only to find injuries and uneven play derail their season.

Even more jarring is that Luka Doncic and Damian Lillard are already out of the title hunt, especially after the Dallas Mavericks made a surprise run to the western conference finals last year. Both teams expected to at minimum make the play-in, if not contend for an NBA title, but find themselves undermanned and out of luck.

Of the teams that missed the playoffs this year, there is a handful who profile as staying in the basement of the NBA, while a host of others want to break their playoff ceiling and return to the bright lights. With that in mind, here’s an early ranking of teams that have already missed the playoffs and how likely they are to crash the party next year.

Potential 2024 Playoff Team #10: San Antonio Spurs

The Spurs slotting in as the least likely playoff team may come as a shock to fans of the team, but this team is built to lose this year and in the next few coming seasons. Not only is this an organizational goal, but it is one that one day could bear fruit in the way that the Oklahoma City Thunder’s rebuild has this year.

San Antonio ranks 29th in offensive rating and 30th in defensive rating, dismal marks on both ends resulting from roster youth, inexperienced players in their schemes, and a complete lack of winning. They’ve cycled players in and out of their lineup to get players developmental minutes, which is a great long-term play but has resulted in the third-worst record in the NBA this year.

That’s not to say there isn’t hope for the team: Devin Vassell is an up-and-coming wing with great defensive chops, Tre Jones has shown some quality passing touch at starting guard, and Malaki Branham’s scoring pop has translated from college quickly. Their most enticing prospect, however, is Jeremy Sochan, whose aggressive blend of rebounding, defense, and energy on both ends makes him a potential cornerstone Spur:

Even if the Spurs win the lottery and grab Wembanyama, it’s hard to imagine this team coalescing into a playoff squad next year. They’re still too young and undisciplined to win enough games against the lower runs of the NBA, much less the top teams, and will likely need to wait a few years for another marquee draft pick, alongside player development jumps, to return to the playoffs.