c/o Yahoo Sports

c/o Yahoo Sports

Everyone has strong opinions on the upcoming NBA season, and we are no different here at The Argus. Here are takes from Sports Editors Sam Weitzman-Kurker ’26 and Ethan Lee ’26, as well as Staff Writers Teddy Benchley ’26 and Max Forstein ’27, on who will sink and who will swim during the 2023–24 NBA season.

Which team will surprise?

SW: A year ago this time, I was telling anyone who would listen that the Atlanta Hawks would be a top-four team in the Eastern Conference. Needless to say, I was wrong. But I will not be wrong again. Scoring was not the issue for Atlanta, who finished third in points per game: It was their defense that consistently let them down. The Hawks made a midseason coaching change, firing Nate McMillan and picking up Quin Snyder. Snyder is renowned for his expertise in defensive strategies; during his nine-year tenure with the Utah Jazz, they ranked in the top five in opponents’ points per game in six of those seasons. The Hawks have elite defensive players such as Dejounte Murray, De’Andre Hunter, and Onyeka Okongwu, and with Snyder’s schemes, I expect their defense to finally complement their offense. 

TB: The Minnesota Timberwolves barely snuck into the playoffs last year after struggling with the Karl-Anthony Towns–Rudy Gobert pairing throughout the regular season. But I think things are different this year as Minnesota starts to gel more and embrace a stifling defensive identity. Their growth starts with rising superstar Anthony Edwards, who will probably make an All-NBA leap this year, along with an impressive supporting cast of Mike Conley Jr., Jaden McDaniels, Kyle Anderson, and Naz Reid. The T-Wolves are long, athletic, and capable of absolutely locking down teams with Gobert protecting the rim. I do think Towns ultimately ends up being traded—his defensive struggles just don’t fit with this team—but regardless of what happens there, look for Minnesota to be in contention for a top-four seed in the West.

EL: The Portland Trail Blazers are in the same situation that the Utah Jazz were in last year. Both teams have traded their franchise players and were left with talented young rosters that will surprise a lot of people, but I think unlike the Jazz, the Trail Blazers will actually make the play-in tournament or better. Rookie guard Scoot Henderson will be the big story of the year, but he is surrounded by a deep roster including near-all-star Anfernee Simons; forward Jerami Grant, who can give you 20 points a game; and Deandre Ayton, who is looking for a fresh start after coming to Portland in the Damian Lillard trade. The Blazers might decide to go full rebuild and trade assets like Grant and Ayton, but if they can perform well this year (which I believe they will), and players like second-year guard Shaedon Sharpe continue to develop, there’s every reason to keep this exciting team together and on the path to playoff success in years to come.

MF: The Oklahoma City Thunder impressively made it to the play-in tournament last year led by an incredible 2023 campaign for Shai Gilgeous-Alexander; one that earned him a spot on the All-NBA 1st team. Now that they have a slight taste of postseason basketball, it feels like the chakras are aligning in OKC. Gilgeous-Alexander will continue to lead the front, while Lu Dort and Josh Giddey provide wing support. With help from both Jalen Green and Jaylin Williams, who will continue to develop in their sophomore seasons, this team looks poised to return to the postseason. However, it’s the addition of now-healthy Chet Holmgren, who will make his much-anticipated debut in the frontcourt for the Thunder this season, that will put them over the edge and make them a much stronger force in the Western Conference than people may predict. 

Which team will disappoint?

SW: While my colleagues may be inclined to select highly touted teams that are likely to underperform, I’m taking a different perspective. Let’s consider the Toronto Raptors, who had a disappointing season last year, landing them in ninth place in the Eastern Conference. Despite the departure of Fred VanVleet this off-season, there’s still optimism that the Raptors’ core, consisting of Pascal Siakam, OG Anunoby, and Scottie Barnes, can lead the team to the playoffs. I, however, expect Toronto to struggle out of the gate, with Barnes not making the leap many expect. With Anunoby and Siakam both in the last year of their contracts, I expect Toronto’s front office to get out of this purgatory before it is too late. They will embrace a rebuilding phase and trade one or even both Anunoby and Siakam before the trade deadline.

TB: The Sacramento Kings are unfortunately my pick for this section; they’re an incredibly likable team and I’m happy for their fans after last season’s success, but I just don’t think we’re going to see a similar situation this year. For starters, the Kings were one of the luckiest teams health-wise last regular season—barely any of their players missed games, a rarity that I don’t expect to continue this year. They also didn’t make any significant offseason acquisitions, while other Western contenders got better and addressed their weaknesses. De’Aaron Fox is incredible, and perhaps we see his leap into superstardom this year, but I’m skeptical about Domantas Sabonis’s ability to replicate last season’s All-NBA performance. Almost everything went right for Sacramento last year, and instead of reclaiming the third seed in the West, I see them as more of a play-in team this season. 

EL: I know it sounds strange to say that the defending champions will disappoint, but with the lackluster offseason they had, I believe the Denver Nuggets will not live up to expectations. The biggest blow to the team was losing Bruce Brown Jr. to the Pacers. Brown was an integral player on the championship team and with two superteams forming in the Eastern Conference, I don’t think the Nuggets have what it takes to repeat as champions.

MF: If you look at the most recent NBA champions, you will see teams whose core is filled with homegrown players. The Nuggets had Nikola Jokić and Jamal Murray, the Golden State Warriors had Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green, and the Milwaukee Bucks had Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton. If this trend continues,  the Phoenix Suns are bound for another disappointing season. While I like the additions of Bradley Beal, Bol Bol, and Jusuf Nurkić, there seems to be something about the league recently where teams who build themselves with blockbuster trades (like the ones that got Kevin Durant and Beal to Phoenix) have less success in later stages of the season. It might be a chemistry issue, but it nevertheless has been a recent phenomenon. I simply cannot believe in another one of Durant’s super-team concoctions to have any championship aspirations for Phoenix this season.

One hot take for the 2023–24 season:

SW: The Miami Heat will finish as a bottom 10 team in the league. The Heat made the finals, so it’s easy to forget that they were three minutes away from losing to the Chicago Bulls and missing the playoffs entirely. The Heat dismantled the New York Knicks, Bucks, and Boston Celtics in the playoffs, but this was largely due to Caleb Martin playing like prime Tracy McGrady. The Heat was also boosted by playoff Jimmy Butler, a version of Butler that has become common during the postseason but does not exist in the regular season. This offseason, the Heat lost Gabe Vincent and Max Strus, two of its top seven guys, and missed out on the Lillard sweepstakes. Butler hasn’t played more than 65 games since 2016–2017, and Kyle Lowry and Kevin Love are both aging, Tyler Herro will be the second option on offense but he spent the entire postseason watching from the bench and this offseason expecting to get traded. While the Heat took a step backwards, many of the Eastern Conference teams upgraded their lineups. Expect a couple of the young teams like Orlando, Indiana, Charlotte, Brooklyn, and Detroit to make a serious jump, make the playoffs, and knock Miami into the lottery.

TB: Jordan Poole will be an all-star. After functioning as one of the key pieces in the Warriors’ 2022 championship run, Poole took a step back last year on both sides of the ball; his shot simply wasn’t falling like it was the season before, and his effort on the defensive end was minimal. A preseason…um…“disagreement” with Draymond Green certainly didn’t help him or the Warriors’ chemistry, and Poole was subsequently shipped to the Washington Wizards this past offseason for Chris Paul. But Washington is the perfect place for him to shine; they’re a rebuilding team with nothing to lose and will give Poole every opportunity to prove he’s still one of the most exciting young players in the league. Will you see Poole shoot some of the worst shots you’ve ever witnessed? Probably. But I also think he gets 20–25 attempts a game and averages around 22–25 points per game, which will certainly put him in the all-star conversation. Voters also love a narrative (as we all do), and Poole’s definitely got that on his side—who’s not gonna root for the disgraced young star rediscovering his magic in Washington, D.C.?

EL: Wildly biased opinion here, but Ben Simmons might be back. After Simmons sat out his entire 2021–22 season with the Philadelphia 76ers because of a combination of back injury, unsatisfied trade request, and beef with the front office, his stock was as low as ever. Believing that Simmons could get back to his All-NBA form (or maybe just that they needed a change), the Brooklyn Nets brought him in with the trade that also sent James Harden from the Nets to Philly. While Simmons was limited in his season, he showed flashes of his former self, and now, after a full successful offseason, I think Simmons can get back to his old ways: All-Defensive-caliber player who can’t shoot (that’s been established) but will give you a triple double on any given night and make everyone else on the floor look better. He looked like his old self in the Nets’ preseason game against the LA Lakers on Monday, Oct. 9, as he scored 10 points on 4–6 shooting from the field and dished out three assists in only 14 minutes of playtime. Simmons seems committed to the Nets franchise, and his future on the team seems bright as of right now. I think he’ll make the most of this second chance and make an All-Defensive team as well as maybe helping the Nets to a top eight or nine seed in the East.

MF: The Houston Rockets will find their young star to build around for the future, but it is not who you think. For the last couple seasons, the Rockets have built around their electrifying young guard Jalen Green, who averaged 22.3 points per game last season. However, the Rockets continue to live at the bottom of the Western Conference. Offseason free agent signings like VanVleet and Dillon Brooks will provide veteran leadership and talent that will improve the young pieces in Houston. However, it is number four overall pick Amen Thompson, who I believe will emerge as the best of the Rockets’ young pieces this season. While he will likely start on the bench, Thompson will contribute right away, proving his worth early. As the season continues, the Rockets will see the insurmountable potential Thompson holds, and he will take the spotlight away from an underperforming Green. Thompson will be the young star Houston has been looking for, and he will gain serious traction as a Rookie of the Year Award candidate.

Ethan Lee can be reached at ejlee@wesleyan.edu.

Sam Weitzman-Kurker can be reached at sweitzmankur@wesleyan.edu.

Teddy Benchley can be reached at tbenchley@wesleyan.edu.

Max Forstein can be reached at mforstein@wesleyan.edu.

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