NBA Team Tiers: Ranking all 30 teams’ chances of winning a title in 23–24

Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo (34) and Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum, NBA David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports
Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo (34) and Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum, NBA David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports /
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NBA Tier 2: Borderline title contenders

9) Sacramento Kings
8) Memphis Grizzlies
7) Los Angeles Lakers
6) Golden State Warriors
5) Miami Heat

“If everything goes right…” that should be the motto for the five teams in Tier 2. These teams are better than most but not quite contenders unless everything goes right. The Sacramento Kings broke a 16-year playoff drought in a big way last season by finishing third in the West and having the greatest offense in NBA history.

That run came to an early end, but they should definitely be better this season thanks to internal development and a couple of smart additions. The question is, can their defense improve enough to get stops in the playoffs?

It wasn’t that long ago that the Grizzlies were considered to be a major threat in the West. But with Ja Morant’s off-court issues, losing in the first round last season, and the Nuggets ascension, the Grizzlies no longer seem like the best in the West.

With Morant out the first 25 games of this season, Memphis will start in a hole. They did add point guards Marcus Smart and Derrick Rose to see if they can weather the storm, but if they struggle, they might not be able to make the playoffs. On the other hand, if they thrive, then they could reestablish themselves as a major threat.

After remaking their team ahead of last season’s trade deadline, the Los Angeles Lakers continue to upgrade this offseason. They added more shooting with Gabe Vincent, Taurean Prince, and Christian Wood, and brought back D’Angelo Russell and Austin Reeves. Reaves could have a breakout season and emerge as the team’s third-best player, though how LeBron James and Anthony Davis play matters more.

If LeBron is LeBron and Davis stays healthy, then the Lakers could be a terrific regular-season team that earns a high playoff seed. That should give them an easier path back to the Western Conference Finals, though they may have trouble beating the Denver Nuggets again if they get there.

Golden State largely underachieved during last season before pulling out a playoff upset against the Sacramento Kings. They made it within a couple of games of the Western Conference Finals, and they should technically be better this season. They replaced a negative player in Jordan Poole with Chris Paul and added two ready-to-play rookies in Brandin Podziemski and Trayce Jackson-Davis.

Also, Andrew Wiggins shouldn’t miss most of the season, and they’ll have Gary Payton II for the full year. That might make them a few wins better than last season, but it’s hard to say whether they’ll make the Western Conference Finals this season.

It’s hard to gauge the Miami Heat. They underperformed last regular season only to make it to the NBA Finals. Then they tried and failed to get a star this summer, and they look worse as a result. But they may be able to play more consistently throughout this season, making their path back to the Finals potentially easier. Still, barring injuries or them adding a star mid-season, Miami may not be able to replicate their success. Next up are the contenders!