Victor Wembanyama is a teenager entering the league from playing in France and should need time to fill out his frame and adjust to NBA basketball. Unfortunately for the rest of the league, that may not slow him down any. He has looked amazing in the preseason and could elevate the Spurs right past this win total. On the other hand, the Spurs had a historically bad defense last season and won just 22 games, so 10 wins is already a major step forward. Devin Vassell and Jeremy Sochan could one day soon be starters on the next great Spurs team.
The Houston Rockets were quite bad last season, but they aggressively added talent this summer. Fred VanVleet, Dillon Brooks and Jock Landale should all be rotation upgrades, not to mention growth from players like Jalen Green and Jabari Smith Jr. It’s not yet clear how this will all fit together, but the veterans plus the defensive identity of a proven coach like Ime Udoka should push them up the standings from last year’s finish, even if the playoffs are likely a bridge too far.
The return of LaMelo Ball for a full season should be a boost, but the return of Miles Bridges seems to have been cut short by his own lack of self-control. Mark Williams looks like a long-term starter at center, but how Steve Clifford configures the middle of the lineup will likely decide how high this team climbs. Look for this team to run a lot and then run some more to take advantage of their one offensive advantage.
The jump for the Orlando Magic is coming, but it will be next year. Their two best players are forwards and they don’t have a guard who shoots from outside, which will constrict the offense into the five worst in the league. Their defense should be solid and they have a lot of intriguing young players, but they need either one of those guards to make the leap or they need to add an offensive difference-maker next offseason. One important question: is Franz Wagner or Paolo Banchero the future No. 1 option for this team?
The Utah Jazz didn’t properly execute their tank last season, in large part because the players they got back in the Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell trades were ready to contribute immediately: Walker Kessler looks like a future Defensive Player of the Year and Lauri Markkanen was an All-Star. They’ll stay near the bottom by giving a lot of minutes to first-and-second-year players and trying to rehabilitate the career of John Collins.