NBA Tier 3: Playoff teams
16) Atlanta Hawks
15) Minnesota Timberwolves
14) Philadelphia 76ers
13) Dallas Mavericks
12) LA Clippers
11) Cleveland Cavaliers
10) New York Knicks
The above eight teams seem to be locked in to make the playoffs this season. Leading the group are the Knicks and Cavs. The Knicks had a resurgent 2022–23 season, and despite a relatively quiet offseason, they got better by bringing back most of their roster and adding Donte DiVincenzo.
It’s not flashy, but they should easily make the playoffs. The Cavaliers took a similar approach, opting to address roster needs like starting small forward while largely bringing back the same team. More time together could do wonders for one of the best cores in the NBA, and they could make it further than the first round as a result.
The Clippers are likely the most talented team in this group, but they come with health concerns. Kawhi Leonard and Paul George are expected to play more this season, and if that’s the case, the Clippers could move up a tier, but it’s hard to bet on that. The Sixers had an underwhelming offseason, especially when compared to the Bucks and Celtics. Worse yet, they alienated their second-best player, James Harden, and he demanded a trade as a result.
While Harden will play through his trade request, Philly probably won’t be more than a playoff team this season as they look to retool their roster around MVP Joel Embiid. Lastly, we have Minnesota and Atlanta. Minnesota initially struggled with fit issues but was better after a mid-season trade to acquire Mike Conley. A better playmaker, an ascendant Anthony Edwards, a healthy Karl-Anthony Towns, and Rudy Gobert bouncing back from a down season all bode well for Minnesota.
Meanwhile, the Hawks had a turbulent year last season with the internal drama surrounding star Trae Young and them replacing their coach. They should be more stable this season, and hopefully better for it. After making the playoffs as a 7th seed last season, they should be at least as good this season. Next, we’ll take a look at borderline title contenders.