NBA Power Rankings: Post-free agency and trade season edition

Chicago Bulls, NBA Power Rankings (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Chicago Bulls, NBA Power Rankings (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) /
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Luka Doncic, Jimmy Butler, NBA Power Rankings
Luka Doncic, Jimmy Butler, NBA Power Rankings (Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images) /

NBA Power Rankings: 5 optimistic contenders

10. Phoenix Suns

After going to the 2021 NBA Finals and posting the best record in the entire NBA in 2022, the Phoenix Suns looked on top of the world. Now, a year later, things couldn’t be worse for the team. The Suns were thoroughly embarrassed in the playoffs, losing a seven-game struggle against a thin Dallas Mavericks team. Chris Paul is now 37 years old and not getting any younger. Former No. 1 overall pick Deandre Ayton will begrudgingly return on a max deal despite tensions with head coach Monty Williams. Oh, and the Suns have still not managed to swing a trade for Kevin Durant. No team is freefalling down these rankings as fast as the Suns are right now.

9. Dallas Mavericks

Luka Doncic is so very clearly becoming a generation-defining player, as he helped propel the Dallas Mavericks to their most impressive playoff appearance since their historic 2011 championship run. The vibes are understandably immaculate in Dallas right now. But that doesn’t mean the Mavericks should stop trying to improve. Losing Jalen Brunson to the Knicks in free agency was a blow (even at that ridiculous price point) after he proved to be the team’s second-most reliable scoring threat in the playoffs. There’s hope that adding Christian Wood and JaVale McGee can help this team reach the next level, but right now it seems like Dallas is just treading water.

8. Miami Heat

After making the 2020 NBA Finals and taking the Boston Celtics to a seven-game war for the Eastern Conference Championship in 2022, the Miami Heat certainly have an impressive pedigree and the credentials of a true title contender. However, each of those runs required a herculean effort from Jimmy Butler and it’s impossible to know how much gas he still has in the tank. With nearly $50 million tied up in a rapidly declining Kyle Lowry and borderline unplayable Duncan Robinson, it’s hard to see how this team improves any further without swinging a trade for a star like Kevin Durant or Donovan Mitchell.

7. Philadelphia 76ers

There are few things more dangerous than an NBA superstar who’s willing to forego his own personal financial gain for the good of the team. Dirk Nowitzki did it and won a championship. LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh did it and won multiple championships. Now, James Harden is doing the same in hopes of finally earning a ring for himself. If Harden can return to form, I’m hard-pressed to name a more dangerous starting lineup in the NBA than the one the 76ers will trot out next season.

6. Denver Nuggets

Despite having two max contract players sidelined for the whole season and virtually no other help, Nikola Jokic somehow willed the Denver Nuggets to a 48-34 record and their fourth-consecutive trip to the postseason. The two-time reigning MVP has clearly ascended to become one of the most dominant players in the game today, it’s just a matter of whether or not Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. can return and provide the assistance Jokic needs to add NBA champion to his resume.