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NBA 2023–24 Early Power Rankings, Part 2: The Below Average

Jan 23, 2023; Salt Lake City, Utah, USA; The Charlotte Hornets bench looks on against the Utah Jazz in the second quarter at Vivint Arena. Mandatory Credit: Rob Gray-USA TODAY Sports

In today’s NBA, it is important to remember that teams seldom actually fall between a straightforward “good” or “bad”.

The vast majority of franchises find themselves stuck in the middle, where odds of a championship are just as unexciting as ones for a high draft pick. Basically, the teams in this tier are as average as can get.

Average is a large spectrum though, ranging from below all the way to above. Thus, it’s pivotal for us to differentiate each section accordingly. Now that we’ve finished up on the NBA’s purgatory, here are the predicted most below-average teams in the NBA right now:

#25. Toronto Raptors

This one may come as a surprise for some, seeing that the Raptors have been rather consistent for a while now. Unfortunately though, that’s all they’ve been. Consistent, and consistently average.

The Raptors also bid farewell to NBA All-Star Fred VanVleet recently, subtracting valuable production from their already depleted roster. A roster that couldn’t even get a game in last year’s play-in.

Of course, Pascal Siakam and OG Anuoby are still on board. Siakam expressing a desire to stay in Canada is definitely a positive for Raptors fans, guaranteeing them at least one All-Star for the re-tooling process. As for Anuoby, only time will tell. The trade market for the defensive specialist has been plentiful, just not enough so for the Raptors’ liking. If Toronto lowers their asking price, they could certainly receive assets that put them well above where they stand now. Until then though, this roster is simply too thin to complete the task of a 50+ win season. Thus, they find themselves at the bottom of the league’s most subpar section.

24. Brooklyn Nets

A tough go for a team that was just the 5th seed in the playoffs, but reality does hurt sometimes.

Brooklyn’s success last year was likely due to the stars they dealt away, not their current crew. Their team as of now, didn’t win a single post-season contest this past April. Barring any unforeseen changes, there’s no reason to believe that this downward spiral will cease anytime soon.

Sure, Mikal Bridges is a talented player with All-NBA potential, as is Nic Claxton. The problem is, it all ends right there. The Nets don’t even have 3 more nameable players to round out the starting lineup (sorry, Ben Simmons). Any other production Brooklyn receives will have to do with the emergence of a younger prospect. Without that, this roster is undoubtedly one of the worst there is. Bridges and Claxton being the only ones salvaging this dumpster fire, and keeping Brooklyn away from the bottom-feeders.

23. Houston Rockets

The Rockets won 22 games last year, and were one of the most horrific teams in the NBA. However, it’s their approach to this off-season that ups their ranking above everyone mentioned so far.

Houston kicked off the summer by firing Paul Silas, who the players clearly weren’t in favor for anymore. Ime Udoka was hired as a replacement, in hopes that his defensive expertise and playoff experience would be a crucial factor in the team’s turnaround. Fred VanVleet and Dillon Brooks were added to the mix as well, for the purpose of providing veteran leadership. These acquisitions will prove essential in the development of Jalen Green and Jabari Smith Jr., both of whom could be stars if they can just stop shooting below 30% from the field. Alperen Sengun is no different, and only emphasizes the fact that the future might indeed be bright in Houston. The Rockets are not going to be a playoff team now, but at least they made solid steps towards it. That alone leaves Houston significantly better off than many.

22. Charlotte Hornets

The Hornets have been bad for some time now, with injuries only further complicating the process. Maybe a healthy squad, and a change in ownership is just what’s necessary to flip the team’s bad luck?

Michael Jordan selling his stake in the team already guaranteed the ownership part, now it’s just the injuries that’s left. The equation here for Charlotte is simple.

When Lamelo Ball misses extensive time, the Hornets become an awful team.

Just keeping the All-Star healthy alone would do wonders for Charlotte. That’s not all either.

Swingman Miles Bridges is set to make a comeback shortly, and Terry Rozier is still a viable scorer. No. 2 pick Brandon Miller was one of the best shooters in the 2023 NBA draft. Big man Mark Williams will look to pick up where he left off last season in the front court. Gordon Hayward is also still around, and can act as a veteran presence. Add in the likes of Amari Bailey, Theo Maledon, and more, and the Hornets have a serviceable team on paper. One that could potentially make the play-in if the injury report is generous enough. The likelihood of this actually happening is admittedly shaky though, which is what prevents Charlotte from scoring higher here.

21. Utah Jazz

The Jazz are a team who despite their lack of national attention, are better than one might think. They have a star by the name of Lauri Markkanen, with contributors such as Walker Kessler, Jordan Clarkson, Kelly Olynyk, and Collin Sexton all around. Utah acquired forward John Collins for chump change as well, who shall bolster their already efficient frontcourt. This is another team who could be a playoff contender, if everything goes smooth.

What prevents Utah from ranking higher here though is the overall lack of depth. The aforementioned 6 players can contribute, but what about everyone else?

Also, how consistent can players like Olynyk, Sexton, and Clarkson really be over the course of the season?

These key questions are the bulk of the reason as to why Utah fails to crack the next stage of these rankings. The Jazz are a decent team on paper, but not a great one. There is much room for improvement as the roster is currently constructed. The frontcourt is solid, but the backcourt needs some work. Right now it’s rather incomplete, and it’s why Utah ranks where they do.


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