2023-24 NBA season preview: Our expert best bets and predictions for every NBA division
The countdown for the 2023-24 NBA season is coming to an end and we couldn’t be more excited for the new season to tip off! With opening night being less than 7 days away, it’s the perfect time to dive into each division and pick out our who will come out on top in each of them. Along with these NBA divisional predictions, be sure to check out our detailed NBA analysis for the 2023-2024 season.
Without wasting any more time, let’s get straight into it!
Atlantic Division: Boston Celtics (-240)
The Atlantic Division might be the easiest one to predict this season. The Boston Celtics are set to dominate once again and their main competitors, the Philadelphia 76ers and New York Knicks, are projected to win 6 and 9 fewer games respectively. Marcus Smart is the most significant departure from Joe Mazzulla’s roster, but that has been more than compensated for with savvy veteran Jrue Holiday coming over from the Portland Trail Blazers.
Kristaps Porzingis is another key addition and he has already shown signs of promise during the preseason. If he is able to avoid injuries he will give the Celtics a scoring presence on the inside they haven’t had in the Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown era. The departure of Robert Williams III could raise a few issues on the interior defensively, but even without him they have the potential to be a top-5 team on offense and defense this season. In a season in which they have only one true competitor in their conference, getting the #1 seed and home-court advantage could be crucial down the line in the postseason, so look for Boston to pile up the wins this year.
Read our NBA Championship Best Bets
Central Division: Milwaukee Bucks (-360)
The Central Division is one of the weaker ones in the NBA with only two teams making it into the postseason last year. Not much should change in that respect with the Cleveland Cavaliers and Milwaukee Bucks being the headliners here. Giannis and the Bucks clinched the division 7 games ahead of the Cavs last time and after all the moves made during the offseason they should be one of the frontrunners for the NBA title. Gone are Jrue Holiday, Grayson Allen, Joe Ingles and Wes Matthews, while in return the Bucks were able to acquire Damian Lillard, Malik Beasley, Cameron Payne and Robin Lopez.
The spotlight will be on Giannis and Dame to start the season and they’ve already won their pre-season debut as teammates against the LA Lakers. Antetokounmpo will be highly motivated after the first-round exit against Miami last season, we’ve already seen him hustle one defense in meaningless pre-season games. Look out for Milwaukee this season — the Bucks might even break the 60-win mark if they stay healthy.
Check out our NBA MVP predictions
Northwest Division: Denver Nuggets (-390)
The defending champions the Denver Nuggets are my pick for the Northwest Division. Although they lost a couple of depth pieces in Bruce Brown and Jeff Green, their core four remains the same as they enter the season looking to repeat as champions. They were playing until mid-June, though, and it remains to be seen what kind of effect that has left on them. Jamal Murray will be extra motivated this season as if he is able to make the All-NBA team in the next two seasons he will be eligible to sign a supermax extension that could net him around $300 million.
Nikola Jokic doesn’t have such issues, and he will once again stuff the stat sheet in hopes of winning his 3rd MVP trophy. Denver has won this division 3 times in the last 5 seasons and with the inexperienced Oklahoma City Thunder and the inconsistent Minnesota Timberwolves being their main rivals in the division, I can’t see anyone taking them down.
Pacific Division: Sacramento Kings (+650)
I’m amazed at just how everyone is disrespecting the Sacramento Kings despite them being the breakout team last season and finishing as the #3 seed in the West after accumulating 48 wins. De’Aaron Fox won the clutch player of the year award, Domantas Sabonis no longer has the wrist injury that slowed him down in the later stages of last season and they’re bringing back almost the same team as they had last year. That continuity should benefit their chemistry and if they are able to improve just a tad on the defensive end (they finished 24th last season in defensive rating), I think they are more than capable of winning the same amount of games that they did last season.
Their biggest issue is a loaded division with the Phoenix Suns, LA Lakers, LA Clippers and Golden State Warriors all gunning for a high seed. None of those teams is without issues, though, and only the Clippers had a positive road record last season. At +650 odds I think the Kings are worth a small wager to win the division for the second year in a row.
Take a look at our picks for this season’s NBA player awards
Southeast Division: Atlanta Hawks (+220)
Only two teams are bound to make the postseason from this division in my opinion – the Miami Heat and the Atlanta Hawks. Although the oddsmakers favor the Heat to win the division for the third season in a row, I feel like there is a lot more value in backing Atlanta at +220 odds. Last year only 3 wins separated them from the Heat as the teams met in the play-in tournament game with Atlanta coming out on top. The Hawks won the division just 3 seasons ago when they made the Eastern Conference Finals and this time around they are projected to win around 41.5 games, exactly where they finished last season.
After hiring a new head coach in Quin Snyder with 22 games remaining last season, Atlanta’s offense elevated to 4th-best in the NBA during that stretch and had a +1.6 net rating. Trae Young also didn’t have the best of seasons with his scoring output going down by more than 2 points per game, but with more time to build chemistry alongside his backcourt teammate Dejounte Murray, I think Atlanta will be better than the team that danced around the .500 mark for most of last season. Defense could be an issue, but in today’s offense-driven NBA I think the Hawks have enough to surprise everyone and take the Southeast Division crown.
Discover our favorite bets for the NBA In-Season Tournament
Southwest Division: New Orleans Pelicans (+210)
The New Orleans Pelicans could make some significant noise this season. The Pels were on a 54-win pace in December of last season while occupying the top seed in the West, but an injury to Zion Williamson caused them to fall all the way down to 10th place in January. Health played a major role for them as their top 3 players — Zion, Brandon Ingram and C.J. McCollum — spent only 172 minutes together on the floor in 10 regular-season games. It remains to be seen if Zion is able to stay on the court for 60+ games, but if that is the case the Pelicans have the potential to be one of the scariest teams in the NBA.
Their two main rivals to take the division crown are Memphis and Dallas, both of which had their fair share of issues last season. New Orleans might not sound like the sexiest pick, but at +210 odds and so much talent on the team they offer really solid value.