The NBA’s inaugural in-season tournament is set to begin on Friday, but certain clubs will find it far simpler to get into their allocated groups than others. Based on the standings from the previous season, the league divided each conference into three groups of five. However, as we have already observed, a team’s performance from the previous season does not guarantee that it will continue to be successful or terrible. This is crucial since winning your group is the only definite way to move on in the competition. Each league will only have one wildcard team advance.
After watching all 30 teams play for more than a week, we are in a better position to judge how dangerous each team is and what it means for the other teams. Therefore, based on how dangerous the five teams together are, we will rate the six groups from 1 to 6 below.
1. Group B of the Western Conference
Clippers of Los Angeles
Pelicans of New Orleans
New York Mavericks
Rockets of Houston
Let’s immediately assess the talent we have at our disposal:
With a combined record of 12-2 going into Wednesday, the top four clubs in this group Disinterest is the one thing this group is afraid of. Given that they recently won the title, do the Nuggets really care about winning the in-season tournament? There’s a difference between the Clippers going all in on the tournament and their current, more serious approach to the regular season. Are the pelicans going to be okay? Irving too, will you? It’s going to be a catastrophe if we have this group operating at maximum capacity.
2. Group C of the Western Conference
Kings of Sacramento
Warriors of the Golden State
Timberwolves of Minnesota
Thunder of Oklahoma City
San Diego Spurs
We have one cellar dweller at the bottom once more to mention, although San Antonio is at least a threat to the elite teams, unlike Portland. The Suns have already lost to them twice.
The guards on the other four teams are all capable of amazing solo displays. Imagine a round-robin clutch competition including Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Anthony Edwards, Stephen Curry, and DeAaron Fox. In this group, they will all have the opportunity to duel, and the larger guys aren’t exactly wimps either. Seeing where Chet Holmgren is right now and where he might be come postseason time can be determined by seeing him play his first series of meaningful games in the NBA against Domantas Sabonis, the Draymond Green-Stephen Curry pick-and-roll, and Minnesota’s two highly skilled big men.
Having a few internal rivalries is also beneficial. The most entertaining series of the 2023 postseason was likely the one between the Warriors and Kings. Rudy Gobert and Draymond Green have a history of animosity on social media. Although this group lacks Group B’s level of skill, it has the potential to be far more entertaining to watch.
3. Group B of the Eastern Conference
Bucks of Milwaukee
Knicks of New York
Heat of Miami
Wizards of Washington
Hornets of Charlotte
This group contains two terrible teams, but they’re also two entertaining poor teams, which is precisely what we want. Although Jordan Poole might score fifty points on any given night or LaMelo Ball might force one of those slower opponents off the floor during a transition, Washington and Charlotte aren’t favourites to win the group. However, they can certainly play spoilers. A group with five outstanding teams is rare, so having five enjoyable ones is a good middle ground.
Here, the top three teams are more intriguing, particularly in light of their shared past. In three of the last four postseasons, the Bucks and Heat have faced off. The Heat and Knicks faced off in the most recent postseason and had a memorable series of playoff games in the 1990s. Although their ties aren’t quite as strong, there is still a natural rivalry between big and small markets between the Knicks and Bucks.
The star power speaks for itself, but beneath the basket is where some of the real fun is going to be had. Last season, the Knicks ranked as the second-best club in terms of offensive rebounds. In terms of defensive rebounding, the Bucks and Heat came in second and fourth, respectively. This will be the tournament’s traditional group in that regard. Although Jimmy Butler, Jalen Brunson, and Damian Lillard will score a tonne of points, these games will be quite tough.
4. Group A of the Western Conference
Los Angeles Grizzlies
Suns of Phoenix
Lakers of Los Angeles
Jazz of Utah
Trail Blazers of Portland
On paper, this group appeared to be among the strongest entering the competition. West Group A games are made to appear like appointment television by three A-List contenders, the surprise team from the previous season, and the most entertaining rookie in the league. Of course, that’s not precisely how the season has gone thus far in the real world.
Bradley Beal and Devin Booker have combined for two games for the Suns. Ja Morant, who is out until the rest of the tournament, has not given the Grizzlies any games. The Lakers are lethargic on both ends of the court and have already lost a number of key players. San Antonio is voluntarily giving up the point guard position in order to develop Jeremy Sochan, and Utah lacks a backcourt.
Maybe as the tournament goes on, things get better—healthier, even. However, this group isn’t nearly as desirable as it could be. The games will be a little dull overall, but one of these clubs will show themselves as a serious contender to win everything in the knockout stage.
5. Group A of the Eastern Conference
76ers of Philadelphia
Cleveland’s NBA team
Hawks of Atlanta
The Indiana Pacers
There is depth to this group. This season, Detroit has looked remarkably good so far, but in any situation where teams actually scout the team, their inability to shoot will prove to be a fatal weakness. The Hawks are your typical play-in-caliber basketball squad. Though the NBA’s finest transition offence is still entertaining to watch, Indiana is unable to stop a nosebleed. To put it simply, none of the teams are terrible.
Nevertheless, it’s also not a true championship candidate. James Harden, Philadelphia’s second-best player from the previous campaign, was just traded away. Evan Mobley has struggled as a lone big man, and Cleveland still hasn’t gotten Jarrett Allen back. Selling this group as especially strong is difficult given that none of its teams are likely to make it to the conference finals. Here, Joel Embiid is the only well-known figure. Though this is still one of the weaker groups, the games will be better than they appear on paper.
6. Group C of the Eastern Conference
Celtics of Boston
Nets in Brooklyn
Raptors of Toronto
Bulls of Chicago
Magic of Orlando
If Boston is not the winner of this group, a terrible mistake has been made. The Raptors are unable to score. 3s are unachievable for the Magic. The Bulls decide against making 3-pointers. With Cam Thomas and its never-ending army of defensive-minded wings, Brooklyn has discovered something quite intriguing, but it takes time for an identity to take shape.
The only real competitor for the title or the in-season tournament audience is Boston. Though the Magic and Bulls have tested them during previous regular seasons, the Celtics should be the overwhelming favourites to win the in-season tournament overall if they treat these games seriously. They should also be the clear winners of their group, given the relative lack of competition.