The official 'Who Actually Got Better?' NBA power rankings

By now you have read my Yahoo Sports NBA colleague Dan Devine's winners and losers of the 2023 NBA offseason, or you have been in a coma since the Denver Nuggets won the championship in June. Either way, our power rankings of who got worse to who got better, in that order, are a nice reminder of what has happened so far this summer. Before you decide to enter the comments section, remember — this is only an evaluation of how much your team has improved on the floor from last season to next, not a reflection of how well your general manager managed the salary cap, restocked his draft capital and created flexibility.

How much better is your team right now than it was weeks ago? That is the basis for your ranking.

30. Washington Wizards

The Wizards got much worse, trading their two best players for what amounts to Jordan Poole's $128 million contract, Tyus Jones and a bunch of (likely) non-premium draft capital, but that was the point. They have operated from the NBA's middle for decades, and they have neither a 50-win season nor a conference finals appearance to show for it. It is time to tank. Whether this is the best time to embrace that strategy is a separate question, since there are doubts about the high-end talent in the next couple of drafts.

29. Miami Heat

The Heat will skyrocket up these rankings if they succeed in their quest to acquire Damian Lillard from the Blazers. For now, though, losing two starters — Strus and Vincent — from a team that reached the NBA Finals seems less than ideal, even if a reunion with Richardson is a decent enough addition on the wing.

28. Toronto Raptors

The Raptors avoided the very bottom of this barrel by retaining Jakob Poeltl on an $80 million contract, but to what end? They finished .500, missed the playoffs and lost VanVleet — their second-best player — for nothing in return. Unresolved is the future of All-Star forward Pascal Siakam, who is due a massive contract extension and making it known that he will not re-sign with any team that might trade for him. Toronto is running the risk of losing another top-flight piece for little to nothing in return, and that seems like a tenuous situation for first-year head coach Darko Rajaković to navigate on a team with diminishing expectations.

27. Atlanta Hawks

The Hawks handed Dejounte Murray a $114 million contract extension, locking in long term an All-Star backcourt that failed to win a round in the playoffs. After years of trade rumors, they turned John Collins — a talented player they never really maximized — into 34-year-old Mills in a series of cost-cutting moves. So much for team owner Tony Ressler's insistence that "going into the [luxury] tax doesn't scare us."

26. Philadelphia Sixers

Sixers executive Daryl Morey may insist on a star-level return for Harden, but nobody is offering that right now, and bringing the aging and unhappy superstar back will not solve the problem. Do not let that distract you from what has been a net loss on the depth front. At least they gave Joel Embiid's backups a raise.

Impending trades of Damian Lillard and James Harden will ultimately determine the success of the offseason for the Portland Trail Blazers, Philadelphia 76ers, Miami Heat and Los Angeles Clippers. (Eric Hartline/USA Today Sports)

25. Denver Nuggets

  • Incoming free agents: Justin Holiday, Jay Huff (two-way) and Braxton Key (two-way)

  • Outgoing free agents: Bruce Brown Jr., Jeff Green, Thomas Bryant and Jack White

  • Draft picks: Julian Strawther (29th), Jalen Pickett (32nd) and Hunter Tyson (37th)

  • Incoming trade acquisitions: None

  • Outgoing trade casualties: None

The Nuggets have second-year wing Christian Braun and this year's three draft picks — all selected by general manager Calvin Booth, an ace scout — to assume many of the minutes lost to the free-agency departures of Brown and Green, but are they ready to fill the leadership roles necessary in the playoffs? Denver should still be the favorite to repeat as NBA champion, but it is hard to argue they got any better.

24. Milwaukee Bucks

This is as bland an offseason checklist as you will find for a team two years removed from winning a title. Maybe Beasley can get buckets with all the attention paid to Giannis Antetokounmpo, but he could not crack the Lakers' playoff rotation this past season. The Bucks did re-sign Khris Middleton, Brook Lopez and Jae Crowder, but this season could be a reality check on the age of the roster around Antetokounmpo. At the very least, a reunion of the Lopez twins should increase the vibe levels around the locker room.

23. Los Angeles Clippers

  • Incoming free agents: None

  • Outgoing free agents: Eric Gordon

  • Draft picks: Kobe Brown (30th) and Jordan Miller (48th)

  • Incoming trade acquisitions: K.J. Martin

  • Outgoing trade casualties: None

The Clippers are waiting on James Harden, just as the Heat are banking on Lillard. There are no guarantees on either. The 34-year-old Gordon was somewhat redundant on the Clippers' log-jammed roster, but the addition of Martin, who averaged 13 points on 57% shooting last season, provides an injection of youthful athleticism that they have sorely lacked in an era marked by injuries to Kawhi Leonard and Paul George.

22. Brooklyn Nets

The Nets got younger and re-signed Cameron Johnson to a massive contract extension, as they should have. This has been a good summer for Brooklyn. Smith, Walker and Bazley all still carry upside, and they will be competing with a pair of first-round picks for playing time. The losses of Curry, Mills and Harris — all useful veterans — will make the Nets a worse team now, but they have turned the page on contending. This will be a season for development in Brooklyn, back to the roots that made the team fun in the first place.

21. Minnesota Timberwolves

  • Incoming free agents: Shake Milton and Troy Brown Jr.

  • Outgoing free agents: Taurean Prince

  • Draft picks: Leonard Miller (33rd) and Jaylen Clark (53rd)

  • Incoming trade acquisitions: None

  • Outgoing trade casualties: None

Could the Timberwolves have done any less? If the goal was to not generate any interest in Minnesota the season after they won a single playoff game, consider it accomplished. Maybe it was best to sit out the summer a year removed from mortgaging the future for Rudy Gobert and somehow managing to get worse.

20. New Orleans Pelicans

  • Incoming free agents: Cody Zeller

  • Outgoing free agents: Josh Richardson, Jaxson Hayes and Garrett Temple

  • Draft picks: Jordan Hawkins (14th)

  • Incoming trade acquisitions: None

  • Outgoing trade casualties: None

The Pelicans did not lose much, and they gained a lottery pick. The contract extension for Herb Jones was a necessary move, and the franchise is just waiting on Zion Williamson to figure out a way to stay healthy.

19. New York Knicks

I'm not sure I understand the eagerness to shed a 25-year-old Obi Toppin for a pair of second-round draft picks, but reuniting DiVincenzo with fellow Villanova products Jalen Brunson and Josh Hart is a chemistry upgrade. If only the Knicks could recruit Mikal Bridges, too. Get the whole Wildcats gang back together.

18. Chicago Bulls

  • Incoming free agents: Jevon Carter, Torrey Craig and Adama Sanogo (two-way)

  • Outgoing free agents: Patrick Beverley

  • Draft picks: Julian Phillips (35th)

  • Incoming trade acquisitions: None

  • Outgoing trade casualties: None

I like Carter and Craig, especially on a team that fancies itself a playoff threat. That should not have been the Bulls' mindset the summer after they failed to make the playoffs, but if they must embrace their veteran core, do so fully. Just do not tell me the trade for Nikola Vučević, which has gifted the Magic Wendell Carter Jr., Franz Wagner and Jett Howard, "worked out well for us," while you give Vucevic another $60 million.

17. Sacramento Kings

  • Incoming free agents: Sasha Vezenkov and Nerlens Noel

  • Outgoing free agents: Chimezie Metu and P.J. Dozier

  • Draft picks: Colby Jones (34th) and Jalen Slawson (54th)

  • Incoming trade acquisitions: Chris Duarte

  • Outgoing trade casualties: Richaun Holmes

I still don't get why the Kings traded their first-round draft pick for cash when it does not appear they had a major signing planned this summer. Still, Duarte, a third-year wing, and Vezenkov, the reigning EuroLeague MVP, are quality additions around the fringes of a playoff rotation the Kings hope can win a series in 2024.

16. Orlando Magic

  • Incoming free agents: Joe Ingles

  • Outgoing free agents: Bol Bol

  • Draft picks: Anthony Black (6th) and Jett Howard (11th)

  • Incoming trade acquisitions: None

  • Outgoing trade casualties: None

The Magic felt the need to release Bol and make roster room for Ingles' $11 million salary this season, adding a veteran to a young team that has designs on chasing a playoff berth this season, but that is hardly a free-agent splash for one of the few teams that could create salary cap space. The real test of whether the Magic improved this summer will be whether either lottery pick can give them anything this season.

15. Oklahoma City Thunder

  • Incoming free agents: Vasilije Micić and Jack White

  • Outgoing free agents: Dario Saric

  • Draft picks: Cason Wallace (10th) and Keyontae Johnson (50th)

  • Incoming trade acquisitions: Victor Oladipo, Davis Bertans, Usman Garuba and Ty Ty Washington

  • Outgoing trade casualties: None

Nothing mind-blowing here, but as usual the Thunder made marginal improvements when there were no big swings available to them. Micić is a former EuroLeague MVP and will keep the ball moving on time for a promising young roster that added Wallace's toughness to the mix. Hopefully, they will meet Chet Holmgren where he stands — healthy, tall and prepared to launch Oklahoma City back into playoff contention.

14. Charlotte Hornets

  • Incoming free agents: Miles Bridges and Leaky Black (two-way)

  • Outgoing free agents: Dennis Smith Jr.

  • Draft picks: Brandon Miller (2nd), Nick Smith Jr. (27th), James Nnaji (31st) and Amari Bailey (41st)

  • Incoming trade acquisitions: None

  • Outgoing trade casualties: None

Do I like that the Hornets drafted based on need at No. 2 overall instead of selecting the best player available? Not particularly. Do I like that they welcomed back a player who pleaded no contest to a violent crime against his wife? No. On basketball alone, Miller and Bridges make Charlotte more talented. How much more depends on whether the Hornets also lose P.J. Washington and Kelly Oubre Jr. to free agency.

Plenty of time has passed since Stephen Curry and Chris Paul were bitter rivals. (AP Photo/Danny Moloshok)
Plenty of time has passed since Stephen Curry and Chris Paul were bitter rivals. (AP Photo/Danny Moloshok)

13. Golden State Warriors

  • Incoming free agents: Cory Joseph and Dario Saric

  • Outgoing free agents: Donte DiVincenzo and Ty Jerome

  • Draft picks: Brandin Podziemski (19th) and Trayce Jackson-Davis (57th)

  • Incoming trade acquisitions: Chris Paul

  • Outgoing trade casualties: Jordan Poole, Patrick Baldwin Jr. and Ryan Rollins

In theory, Paul in place of Poole is an upgrade, even at 38 years old. In practice, Paul has been unable to remain healthy throughout a playoff run. Poole's departure at least allows the locker room to breathe, so long as Paul does not rekindle his rivalry with Stephen Curry. The loss of DiVincenzo further frays the edges of a team one year removed from its latest championship. Golden State did retain Draymond Green on a $100 million deal, but at 33 years old he may not be the summer's saving grace many seem to believe.

12. Memphis Grizzlies

  • Incoming free agents: Derrick Rose

  • Outgoing free agents: None

  • Draft picks: G.G. Jackson (45th) and Tarik Biberovic (56th)

  • Incoming trade acquisitions: Marcus Smart, Josh Christopher and Isaiah Todd

  • Outgoing trade casualties: Dillon Brooks and Tyus Jones

Smart, the recent Defensive Player of the Year, is a tremendous addition to a rough-and-tumble young team in need of tough love, even if it cost the Grizzlies two first-round draft picks and Jones. Memphis picked up a pair of first-round pick swaps for facilitating Phoenix to replenish the stash. I am not entirely convinced that Smart and Rose is as big an upgrade over Brooks and Jones as some think, but Smart is a winner, and he will find a way to extract every last bit of juice from a promising roster that has squeezed plenty already.

11. Portland Trail Blazers

  • Incoming free agents: None

  • Outgoing free agents: Drew Eubanks, Cam Reddish and Trendon Watford

  • Draft picks: Scoot Henderson (3rd), Kris Murray (23rd) and Rayan Rupert (43rd)

  • Incoming trade acquisitions: None

  • Outgoing trade casualties: None

Again, the Blazers' landing spot on this list will depend a lot on what they get back for Lillard, but the addition of Henderson alone is enough to make them better right now — if Lillard ever decided to stay.

10. Los Angeles Lakers

  • Incoming free agents: Gabe Vincent, Jaxson Hayes, Taurean Prince, Cam Reddish, Colin Castleton (two-way) and D'Moi Hodge (two-way)

  • Outgoing free agents: Malik Beasley, Mo Bamba, Lonnie Walker IV, Dennis Schroder and Troy Brown

  • Draft picks: Jalen Hood-Schifino (17th) and Maxwell Lewis (40th)

  • Incoming trade acquisitions: None

  • Outgoing trade casualties: None

Lakers executive Rob Pelinka built on the plan he realized at the trade deadline — that it's better to hit singles around LeBron James and Anthony Davis than whiff on home run swings for name-brand players. They retained Austin Reaves, Rui Hachimura and D'Angelo Russell on fair contracts. As important, Vincent is good, Prince will help, and Hayes might, too. They lost nothing of consequence and gained depth.

9. Boston Celtics

  • Incoming free agents: Oshae Brissett, Dalano Banton and Jay Scrubb (two-way)

  • Outgoing free agents: None

  • Draft picks: Jordan Walsh (38th)

  • Incoming trade acquisitions: Kristaps Porzingis

  • Outgoing trade casualties: Marcus Smart, Grant Williams, Danilo Gallinari and Mike Muscala

Losing Smart and Williams — arguably the two toughest players on a team that lacked grit this past season — is no small concession. But Porzingis is an All-Star-level talent, capable of protecting the rim and spacing the floor. The Celtics needed a reliable third scoring option when Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown get stuck, and Porzingis can be that, too, so long as he is healthy. And he is healthy (right now). Now, about that supermax extension waiting for Brown, could he and the front office sustain the suspense any longer?

8. Detroit Pistons

  • Incoming free agents: Malcolm Cazalon (two-way)

  • Outgoing free agents: Cory Joseph

  • Draft picks: Ausar Thompson (5th), Marcus Sasser (25th)

  • Incoming trade acquisitions: Joe Harris and Monte Morris

  • Outgoing trade casualties: None

Thompson is legit. Morris is a nice safety net for Cade Cunningham's return from a season-ending leg injury. Taking on Harris' expiring $20 million salary came with a pair of second-round picks, and he might actually give the Pistons something. A workmanlike stepping stone of a summer for a rising young roster.

7. Dallas Mavericks

  • Incoming free agents: Seth Curry, Dante Exum and Mike Miles Jr. (two-way)

  • Outgoing free agents: Justin Holiday

  • Draft picks: Dereck Lively II (12th) and Olivier-Maxence Prosper (24th)

  • Incoming trade acquisitions: Grant Williams and Richaun Holmes

  • Outgoing trade casualties: Davis Bertans and Reggie Bullock

Dallas re-signed Kyrie Irving, which could be incredible or incredibly bad, depending on the day. Christian Wood is still unsigned, but Williams and Holmes together are an upgrade anyway. Williams' shooting and defense are an especially encouraging fit next to Luka Dončić, and Curry adds more long-range firepower. The Mavericks also bought a second first-round pick to add to their lottery selection. If either can contribute right away, Dallas may have just reestablished itself as a threat to return to the Western Conference finals.

6. Indiana Pacers

  • Incoming free agents: Bruce Brown Jr. and Oscar Tshiebwe (two-way)

  • Outgoing free agents: Oshae Brissett

  • Draft picks: Jarace Walker (8th), Ben Sheppard (26th), Mojave King (47th) and Isaiah Wong (55th)

  • Incoming trade acquisitions: Obi Toppin

  • Outgoing trade casualties: Chris Duarte

It cost the Pacers $22 million to steal Brown from the Nuggets, but he and Toppin are tremendous running mates for Tyrese Haliburton. Walker and Sheppard might be, too, if they can earn minutes on a team quietly stockpiling talent. Nobody should be flying into Indianapolis expecting an easy business trip anymore.

5. Utah Jazz

  • Incoming free agents: Omer Yurtseven and Joey Hauser (two-way)

  • Outgoing free agents: None

  • Draft picks: Taylor Hendricks (9th), Keyonte George (16th) and Brice Sensabaugh (28th)

  • Incoming trade acquisitions: John Collins

  • Outgoing trade casualties: Rudy Gay and Damian Jones

Collins is good, and he only cost the Jazz a second-round pick and Gay's expiring contract. George just made the All-Summer League's first team, and he might not be the best of Utah's three first-round draft picks. Yurtseven is ... even a decent flier. The Jazz continue to take steps on the road back to relevancy.

4. Cleveland Cavaliers

  • Incoming free agents: Max Strus, Georges Niang, Ty Jerome, Craig Porter Jr. (two-way) and Isaiah Mobley (two-way)

  • Outgoing free agents: Robin Lopez

  • Draft picks: Emoni Bates (49th)

  • Incoming trade acquisitions: Damian Jones

  • Outgoing trade casualties: None

The Cavaliers needed to address the wing position between guards Donovan Mitchell and Darius Garland and bigs Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen, and they certainly did. Strus is beyond solid. He competes, and Cleveland needs that. Niang might help in that spot, too, and he can also spell either big. They re-signed Caris LeVert to hold the fort on the wing, too. And Bates would be a steal if he ever lives up to the hype. Shooting 40% on 7.5 3-pointers per game in the Las Vegas summer league is a start. None of it may be the punch that lands Cleveland a true title shot, but they are stronger today, and they were already a force.

Bradley Beal has been a star laying in wait on his NBA title shot. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
Bradley Beal has been a star laying in wait on his NBA title shot. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

3. Phoenix Suns

  • Incoming free agents: Eric Gordon, Yuta Watanabe, Keita Bates-Diop, Bol Bol, Drew Eubanks and Chimezie Metu

  • Outgoing free agents: Jock Landale, Torrey Craig and Darius Bazley

  • Draft picks: Toumani Camara (52nd)

  • Incoming trade acquisitions: Bradley Beal and Jordan Goodwin

  • Outgoing trade casualties: Chris Paul, Landry Shamet and Cameron Payne

Beal will be amazing in the space provided by Kevin Durant and Devin Booker. I have few doubts about that. The biggest question was always depth around three max-salaried stars, and the Suns did well to round out their roster. They retained Josh Okogie and Damion Lee. Terrence Ross, Bismack Biyombo and T.J. Warren are still unsigned, but Gordon, Watanabe, Bates-Diop, Eubanks and even Bol can all contribute. Gordon, especially, was a major win, since he can play crunch-time playoff minutes. Teams in Phoenix's position, with only minimum contracts to offer, have done a lot worse than the Suns have this summer.

2. Houston Rockets

  • Incoming free agents: Fred VanVleet, Jock Landale, Jeff Green and Aaron Holiday

  • Outgoing free agents: Boban Marjanovic

  • Draft picks: Amen Thompson (4th) and Cam Whitmore (20th)

  • Incoming trade acquisitions: Dillon Brooks

  • Outgoing trade casualties: K.J. Martin, Usman Garuba, Ty Ty Washington and Josh Christopher

The Rockets did not transform into a contender overnight, but they are no longer the 60-loss team they have been for three years. VanVleet is the perfect floor general for Jalen Green and Jabari Smith Jr. under new head coach Ime Udoka. Green is another veteran voice, and Brooks will demand effort from everyone, even if his gets the best of him sometimes. Then, there is Thompson, who is electric, and Whitmore, a lottery talent who fell in their lap. Both enter a far better environment than their most recent predecessors.

1. San Antonio Spurs

  • Incoming free agents: Sir'Jabari Rice (two-way)

  • Outgoing free agents: Keita Bates-Diop

  • Draft picks: Victor Wembanyama (1st) and Sidy Cissoko (44th)

  • Incoming trade acquisitions: Reggie Bullock, Cedi Osman and Cameron Payne

  • Outgoing trade casualties: None

The Spurs landed Wembanyama, a transformational talent. What else needs to be said? There are actually no pushovers in the NBA anymore. (Except for the Wizards, the only team that tried to lose the summer.)