A list of contenders and just interesting projects.
As a new NBA season tips off in late October, familiar contenders like the Lakers and Nuggets retake the floor while revamped rosters across the league hold intrigue. The offseason saw a flurry of moves, as some teams stayed the course while others sought transformation. Savvy GMs swung big for missing pieces to title puzzles. Which new-look squads will click and which will fizzle? Several retooled teams brim with potential as the 2023-24 odyssey begins. Just as falling leaves signal change, these clubs have ushered in a new era amid renewed ambition.
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The Milwaukee Bucks have emerged as the most intriguing team to watch as the new NBA season tips off. Their blockbuster September trade for superstar Damian Lillard was a landscape-shifting surprise that instantly rocketed them up the championship contender ladder.
Questions abound regarding how Lillard will mesh with reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo. The Greek Freak welcomes Damian’s ball-dominant style and seems willing to embrace more of a 1B offensive role. But will the absence of departed defensive ace Jrue Holiday erode the staunch defense that fueled their 2020-21 title run?
Mike Budenholzer’s departure after last season thrusts new head coach Adrian Griffin into the spotlight for his first ever NBA top job. How will he manage the blend of mega-talent at his disposal? On paper, the retooled Bucks boast a jaw-dropping one-two punch and are consensus championship favorites. But integrating Lillard and adjusting roles is easier said than done.
Milwaukee’s rapid transformation promises no shortage of intrigue and pitfalls amid sky-high expectations. Giannis and Lillard combine to form arguably the league’s most potent inside-outside duo. Their nascent partnership and the new-look Bucks’ championship aspirations make them the most fascinating squad to monitor as the season dawns. While a smooth path is far from guaranteed, their star power ensures a thrill ride for the ages.
The Boston Celtics have rapidly reshaped their roster and cemented themselves as a fascinating team to track entering the new season. After back-to-back Eastern Conference Finals appearances, questions lingered about Boston’s makeup. But a flurry of bold offseason moves has reinvigorated the Celtics and put the conference crown squarely in their sights.
An offensive boost headlined Boston’s aggressive approach, as they dealt defensive ace Marcus Smart to acquire scoring big man Kristaps Porzingis. The C’s further reinforced their stout defense by signing veteran two-way force Jrue Holiday, who became available after Milwaukee’s blockbuster Damian Lillard trade. Malcolm Brogdon’s health issues made him expendable, allowing Boston to flip the Sixth Man of the Year for a proven playoff performer in Holiday.
Now armed with star power, balance and championship pedigree in Holiday, the retooled Celtics look to challenge the East’s elite. Their assertive counterpunch to Milwaukee’s Lillard deal suggests a team urgently pursuing banner 18 with renewed vigor. While not yet a flawless juggernaut, Boston appears far better positioned under coach Joe Mazzulla than just months ago.
With a bolstered roster and clear win-now mindset, the Celtics are an intriguing contender amid a wide-open Eastern Conference landscape. If their myriad new pieces gel quickly, they could make a spirited run at the Finals. Their dramatic makeover warrants watching as they strive to convert talent into team success.
The Phoenix Suns enter the new season as one of the most intriguing teams to watch after an eventful offseason of roster reshaping. Gone are the headaches and drama of last year’s ill-fitting personnel, replaced by several bold moves to reposition themselves among the West’s elite.
The addition of Jusuf Nurkic to fill the center spot smooths over years of discontent with Deandre Ayton. Swapping the overpaid and underperforming Ayton for the gritty and dynamic Nurkic looks a shrewd upgrade early on. But the eye-raising trade sending seasoned floor general Chris Paul and Bradley Beal to Washington for draft picks has left Phoenix devoid of a true point guard.
With 80% of the starting lineup set – Booker, new arrival Beal, Durant and Nurkic – the Suns astonishingly lack a conductor to bring harmony. The imbalance between seasoned starters and budget bench depth remains glaring as well.
Yet for all the remaining gaps, Phoenix’s firepower-laden first unit stacks up with the NBA’s best. New coach Frank Vogel boasts the chops to mold a contender after piloting the Lakers to a title. With ample questions left to solve, the reimagined Suns are sure to be a fascinating watch as Vogel tries to guide his stars to the promised land. Their revamped roster has yielded a curious blend of intrigue and uncertainty heading into the season.