With the Phoenix Suns now trading for Bradley Beal, giving up Chris Paul, Landry Shamet, 2024 & 2026 pick swaps, and six second-round draft picks, it questions which will be the 2023-24 NBA championship contenders. Assuming health, here are my top five contenders for next season.
1. Denver Nuggets
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The reigning NBA champions Denver Nuggets should be the favorite to win the title next season. After their stellar season this year, most, if not all, of their players should be returning. Jamal Murray and Nikola Jokic are in their prime and continue to put up MVP-type numbers. I expect a jump in players like Micheal Porter Jr and Christian Bruan. Having this playoff experience will only allow those young guys to get better. The Nuggets also have one of the best benches in the league and who must now consider the best player in the league, Nikola Jokic.
2. Milwaukee Bucks
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The Milwaukee Bucks had a disappointing end to last season. But they should still be considered a top championship contender. Giannis Antetokounmpo is one of the best players in the league. I fully expect him to be on a mission next year. Newly hired head coach Adrian Griffin is out to prove that he can become one of the better coaches in the entire league. He has been an assistant coach for the Toronto Raptors for the past few years and was on Nick Nurse’s staff when they won the championship in 2019. The only question mark for the Bucks is free agents Brook Lopez and Kris Middleton. Most analysts believe the Bucks want to bring both, increasing their chances of winning another championship. Assuming the core of Antetokounmpo, Middleton, Holiday, and Lopez are healthy, I have the Bucks as my number two championship contender for next season.
3. Golden State Warriors
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The Golden State Warriors should be a team in the championship mix next season. Future hall of famers Steph Curry and Klay Thompson will be back, along with Andrew Wiggins and newly acquired guard Chris Paul. The only question mark for the Warriors is unrestricted free agent Draymond Green. I would bring him back if I were the Warriors. We all know how well he meshes with Curry and Thompson, but where his impact is on the defensive side.
If I were running the show for the Warriors, I would bring Green back on a long-term deal. The core of Green, Thompson, and Curry has proven to be one of the greatest dynasties in recent NBA memory; thus, with a healthy squad, the Warriors will be right back at the top of the West. We all know Poole and Green’s relationship hasn’t been the same since Draymond punched Poole at the start of last season; now that Poole is gone, I fully expect Green to be 100% himself next season and free of any locker room distractions. Draymond will start to find his voice again, which was a large part of them winning those championships.
4. Boston Celtics
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The Boston Celtics almost became the first NBA team ever to come back from a 3-0 deficit in these past playoffs; however, they fell short, losing game seven at home to the Miami Heat. Even though this isn’t the finish Celtics fans were hoping for, they will still be in the mix to win it all next season. Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown are still two of the most dynamic players in the game and one of the best one-two punches in the NBA.
I love the pickup of Kristaps Porzingis. He will be a stretch big and shot blocker that will impact both sides of the floor. Tatum will be an MVP candidate. Joe Mazzula will feel more comfortable as a head coach. The Celtics will have one of the deepest benches in the entire league. I look for them to play with a sense of urgency and something to prove next season.
5. Phoenix Suns
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The Phoenix Suns just made a blockbuster trade, acquiring all-star guard Bradley Beal from the Washington Wizards. The new owner of the Suns, Matt Isbia, has not been shy of making moves since he took over in the middle of last season. He has now traded for Kevin Durant and Bradley Beal while giving up assets such as Mikal Bridges and Cam Johnson and no control of their draft picks until 2030.
I expect the Suns to trade center Deandre Ayton and get 2-3 solid role players in return to fill out their roster. Ayton isn’t known for his defense, he is better on the offensive side of the ball. With the acquisition of Beal the Suns should have no problem putting the ball in the basket. The challenge the Sun’s face now is signing players that can impact the defensive side. Thus, trading Ayton for a few players makes the most sense. Even if they don’t move Ayton, along with some of their defensive question marks. I fully expect a healthy Sun team to be a force to reckon with in the West next year.