Young NBA teams surprise the league each year and take huge jumps in the standings. These jumps can range from sneaking into the playoffs to becoming a top-three team in their conference.
Regardless, these young teams are often some of the best regular-season stories and are a lot of fun to predict. These are three young teams that could make a big jump in the 2023-24 NBA season.
3 Young NBA Teams Ready to Make a Jump This Season
1. Oklahoma City Thunder
2022-23 record: 40-42
The Oklahoma City Thunder are the most obvious young team to take a leap this year. OKC is coming off a surprising season where they made the play-in tournament and were one game away from earning a playoff spot. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander established himself as a consensus top-15 player in the league last season.
Alexander is surrounded by one of the most loaded young rosters in the league. This cast is highlighted by a group of versatile wings like Josh Giddey, Jalen Williams, and Luguentz Dort. OKC is also adding the second overall pick from last year’s draft, Chet Holmgren, and the tenth pick from this draft, Cason Wallace, to their already impressive core. Holmgren is an intriguing modern big man who will immediately give the Thunder much-needed rim protection, while Wallace gives OKC another ball handler and perimeter player next to Alexander.
With a loaded core that will only continue to develop, OKC could surge up the standings, becoming a legit playoff squad. The Thunder checks every box for a young team that could take the league by storm.
2. Indiana Pacers
2022-23 record: 35-47
Going into last season, most people projected the Indiana Pacers to be one of the worst teams in the league. However, they surprised a lot of people and were somewhat competitive. In January, the Pacers were sixth in the conference before star point guard Tyrese Haliburton went down with an injury for a month, and they ultimately finished 11th. But the season’s opening stretch proved Indiana could be a competitive team and that Haliburton is a legit young star.
The Pacers improved their roster this off-season by adding Bruce Brown, Obi Toppin, and eighth-overall pick Jarace Walker. Brown is another ball-handler and perimeter defender. Toppin is a versatile lob threat with a lot of upside. And Walker fits perfectly next to Myles Turner as an interior scorer, defender, and rebounder. Both Toppin and Walker address Indiana’s need for versatile forwards. This gives the Pacers a roster that makes a lot of sense together and fits perfectly with Haliburton’s skill set.
At 23, Hailburton could take yet another jump which could help propel the Pacers in the standings. With roster improvements and such a well-constructed team around their star, everything is aligned for the team to make the next big jump. A top-six seed is within reach for this team.
3. Orlando Magic
2022-23 record: 34-48
The Orlando Magic are a team to watch for a surprising jump this year. They have a young core loaded with size and versatility. Orlando was the 14th-ranked defense last year, but another season of development, along with the core’s physical tools, sets them up to be a top-ten defense this year and gives them an identity.
Paolo Banchero is the reigning Rookie of the Year, and Franz Wagner is coming off an impressive sophomore campaign. Banchero and Wagner are a high-upside duo that will continue to improve. Markelle Fultz and Wendell Carter Jr. round out Orlando’s core nicely. The Magic drafted Anthony Black with the sixth pick and Jett Howard with the 11th pick. Black will give the Magic another ball handler next to Fultz, and Howard fills the void of three-point shooting. The two rookies can make an immediate impact on Orlando.
Internal improvements will key in the Magic making a jump. Banchero and Wagner are poised to make star-level jumps that could catapult the team in the standings. Orlando could compete for a playoff spot and be one of the league’s more exciting stories next year.
The Last Word on 3 Young NBA Teams Ready to Make a Jump This Season
All three of these teams have the chance to take the league by storm and shock the NBA world. Well, all three teams could make jumps; the immediate upside of the teams varies. A jump for the Thunder could be hosting a playoff series. A jump for the Magic could be sneaking into the playoffs. And the Pacers fall somewhere in between. Regardless, these three teams have a ton of potential and could provide us with some of the most entertaining basketball this year.