The teams in this category are either a player away from truly contending for an NBA title, or they need everything to go right to have a chance.
Notable players lost: Reggie Bullock, Christian Wood, Davis Bertans
Notable players added: Grant Williams, Seth Curry, Richaun Holmes, Dante Exum, Dereck Lively II, Olivier Maxence Prosper
The Mavs had four things they needed to improve on going into the 2023-2024 season. They needed to add perimeter defense, rim protection, and rebounding, while allowing chemistry to grow between Luka and Kyrie.
Defensively, the Mavs addressed that weakness by adding Williams, Exum, Lively II, and OMax. However, unless Lively II evolves much quicker than expected, they are still lacking in the rim protection and rebounding departments. Dallas is seemingly a legitimate starting center away from being a true contender.
Golden State Warriors
Notable players lost: Jordan Poole, Donte DiVincenzo
Notable players added: Chris Paul, Dario Saric
The Warriors put up a good fight but fell short in their attempt to defend their 2022 NBA title. Losing Jordan Poole could prove to be more costly than anticipated, as he was able to occasionally provide the type of scoring that Steph Curry has provided for them during many championship runs.
Replacing him with Chris Paul is an intriguing move, but Paul is at the end of his career and won't be able to provide the scoring punch that Poole displayed. The Warriors are always dangerous, but they are getting older, and the rest of the conference is collectively catching up with them.
Notable players lost: Dillon Brooks
Notable players added: Derrick Rose, Marcus Smart
The most important factors for the Grizzlies this season will be if they can stay afloat during Ja Morant's 25-game suspension and if Marcus Smart can be a better version of Dillon Brooks. They also need to mature as a group. Morant, Desmond Bane, and Jaren Jackson Jr. have turned into stars, but Memphis is a little light on the depth side of things.
Notable players lost: Richaun Holmes
Notable players added: Chris Duarte
The Kings made it all the way to the playoffs for the first time in almost two decades before falling to the Golden State Warriors in seven games. De'Aaron Fox and Domantas Sabonis established themselves as a potent duo and put the rest of the league on notice. Offensively, the Kings were a juggernaut. Defensively, it was a different story. Overall, Sacramento looks to still be a player or two away from truly contending
Los Angeles Lakers
Notable players lost: None
Notable players added: Jaxon Hayes, Gabe Vincent, Taurean Prince, Cam Reddish
The Lakers made it all the way to the conference finals but were swept by the eventual NBA champion Denver Nuggets. LeBron is getting closer to the end of his career, although he is still playing at a high level. The pairing of James and Anthony Davis is still one of the best in the league, and the Lakers added depth to their roster this off-season.
However, this team will only go as far as LeBron and Davis can lead them, and "Father Time" is eventually going to come calling. If James or Davis goes down with an injury, or James really starts to show his age, the Lakers won't have a chance at competing for a championship. Even with both players healthy, L.A. still might not have enough perimeter shooting.