At the start of each new NBA season, every team has one goal in mind: to win a championship. While we all understand that goal is not achievable for the majority of the league, there are always a handful of teams that can realistically hoist the Larry O’Brien at the season’s end.
One of the first things games check after booting up NBA 2K23 will be the team and player ratings. Although 2K Games and Visual Concepts have improved on the ratings, there are still a few headscratchers. We’re going to break down which teams are the best to play with on the hardwood in NBA 2K23.
10 Cleveland Cavaliers – 91
Last season was a series of ups and downs for the Cleveland Cavaliers. The team started extremely well and was poised to cause noise in the Eastern Conference playoffs until injuries began to derail the season. Ricky Rubio (78) tore his ACL and Collin Sexton (78) had a meniscus injury, both missing the entire year. Lauri Markkanen (78), Evan Mobley (84), Jarrett Allen(85), Caris LeVert(78), and Darius Garland (87) all missed many games as well throughout the season that prevented the team from ever being at full strength.
However, as disappointing as last season might’ve been, things are looking up for Cleveland. During the offseason, the Cavaliers swung for the fences and acquired All-Star shooting guard Donovan Mitchell (88) from the Utah Jazz. Even though the Cavaliers don’t have a player above a 90 rating, they have five players above an 80 and several role players rated at least 75. Cleveland is an exciting, young team that projects to excel on offense (95), but should still be a stout defensive (87) team.
9 Denver Nuggets – 92
For the past few seasons, the Denver Nuggets have excelled in the regular season, only to falter in the playoffs. Most of the failed postseason trips are the direct result of injuries, but sooner or later the Nuggets will be pressured to get over the hump. In the absence of Jamal Murray (84), Nikola Jokic (96) has established himself as one of the best players in the league, winning the MVP award in back-to-back seasons.
With Murray and Michael Porter Jr. (80) returning from injury, the Nuggets shuffled their role players and signed Bruce Brown (76), Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (76), and DeAndre Jordan (72) in the offseason. Denver can light it up on the offensive side of the court (98), but it’s the defense (85) that struggles at times. The Nuggets are still a team to watch in the Western Conference, but having too many injury-prone players in their starting lineup (Murrary and Porter Jr.) might be their ultimate downfall.
8 Philadelphia 76ers – 92
For a team that has Joel Embiid (96) on its roster, it’s certainly a shock that the Philadelphia 76ers have yet to reach the Eastern Conference Finals with him. Two years ago, the 76ers were on the cusp of reaching that stage but the infamous non-layup by Ben Simmons (83) happened. Frustrated by his lack of offensive intensity and the ensuing reports of a back injury and mental health struggles, Philadelphia traded Simmons last year to the Brooklyn Nets for James Harden (89).
The tandem of Embiid and Harden is an offensive explosion that the 76ers simply did not experience with Simmons. Add in the recent emergence of Tyrese Maxey (85), the 76ers have a formidable three-headed beast that could make some noise in the Eastern Conference. Embiid’s lockdown interior defense and the addition of P.J. Tucker (77) elevate Philadelphia’s team defense (89), making them a dangerous two-way team.
7 Miami Heat – 93
Two years removed from reaching the NBA Finals during the bubble in Orlando, the Miami Heat secured the top seed in the Eastern Conference during the regular season. Unfortunately, the team fell short of another Finals appearance, losing to the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference Finals in seven games.
More or less, the Heat are returning the core team to make another run at a championship. Leading the charge are Jimmy Butler (93) and Bam Adebayo (87), but Miami won’t reach its lofty goals without the high-octane offense of Tyler Herro (84). The 22-year-old is one of the best sixth men in the league and he’ll only continue to get better. The Heat is a rare team with a higher defensive rating (93) than offensive (92).
6 Boston Celtics – 94
Time was beginning to run out for the pairing of Jayson Tatum (93) and Jaylen Brown (87), but the two young stars were finally able to reach the NBA Finals. However, the Boston Celtics lost in six games to Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors, and once again, questions began to swirl regarding their potential future.
The Celtics bolstered their bench by trading for Malcolm Brogdon (82) from the Indiana Pacers and signing Danilo Gallinari (78), though Gallinari suffered a torn ACL while playing for Italy in a FIBA World Cup qualifier. Regardless, Boston still has the reigning Defensive Player of the Year in Marcus Smart (82), two other defensive juggernauts in Al Horford (82) and Robert Williams III (85), and a pair of interesting young players in Grant Williams (77) and Payton Pritchard (76).
5 Los Angeles Lakers – 95
It’s not very often a LeBron James-led team misses the playoffs. In fact, James (96) has only missed the postseason a total of four times throughout his illustrious 19-year career. The Los Angeles Lakers dealt with nagging injuries to James and Anthony Davis (90) all year, as well as below-average play from the significant acquisition from last offseason, Russell Westbrook (78).
Despite only having two players above an 80, the Lakers are, somehow, a top-five team in NBA 2K23. When healthy, James and Davis are devastating on offense (95), and the Lakers acquired Patrick Beverley (78) to boost their overall defensive prowess (94). The issue with the Lakers is the team is extremely top-heavy, so if something were to happen to James or Davis, the end result isn’t going to be pretty.
4 Memphis Grizzlies – 95
The team that many on “Draft Twitter” claimed as their own, the Memphis Grizzlies have improved significantly over the past few seasons by way of simply drafting well. Since 2018, the Grizzlies drafted Ja Morant (93), Desmond Bane (83), and Jaren Jackson Jr. (83), three highly productive players on both ends of the court. Morant is among the best point guards and dunkers in the league, while Bane is among the best three-point shooters.
Although Memphis failed to get past the Golden State Warriors last season in the second round of the playoffs, their success in the draft has them set up for sustained success. Memphis has one of the league’s best offenses (98), while still sporting a lockdown defense (92). With the average player age of 23 years old, the Grizzlies will remain a major factor in the Western Conference for quite some time.
3 Golden State Warriors – 95
For the fourth time since 2014, the Golden State Warriors are reigning NBA Champions. Led by Stephen Curry (96), the Warriors vanquished the Boston Celtics in the NBA Finals, claiming the first title since Kevin Durant left the team. Golden State’s climb back to the top of the league was one not many expected, given Klay Thompson’s (83) injuries over the past few seasons and with Curry and Draymond Green (83) getting older.
Luckily, Golden State found new contributors in Andrew Wiggins (84) and Jordan Poole (83), who played huge roles in the team’s championship run. The Warriors are also equipped with a pair of young prospects in Jonathan Kuminga (78) and James Wiseman (75) that the team hopes will flourish into prominent role players or be used in a trade to acquire a disgruntled star elsewhere.
2 Los Angeles Clippers – 96
Forever labeled the second team in Los Angeles, the Clippers are more than ready to emerge from the shadow of the Lakers. The team has assembled a terrifying roster with superstar talent in the starting lineup and extensive depth on the bench. So, what’s the only problem? Staying healthy. Kawhi Leonard (94) is set to return after missing the entirety of last year with a torn ACL and newcomer John Wall (78) is returning from a ruptured Achilles.
The Clippers adding Wall after the former Kentucky star failed to find much success in Washington is simply a case of the rich getting richer. It’s a low-risk, high-reward type of move that can push a budding team like Los Angeles to a championship. Paul George (88) remains one of the most underrated players in the league and will continue to perform at an All-Star level. Although Leonard is the only player rated above a 90 for the Clippers, every single rotational player that projects to play meaningful minutes is at least a 75, which is exceptional depth for a team.
1 Milwaukee Bucks – 96
If it weren’t for Khris Middleton (86) spraining his MCL against the Chicago Bulls, we might be talking about the Milwaukee Bucks being repeat champions. Once Middleton went down, the Bucks became easier to defend and fell to the Boston Celtics in the second round. But when healthy, the Bucks are among the best in the league.
Leading the way for Milwaukee is superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo (97). The highest-rated player in the game, Antetokounmpo is only getting better. He’s a force of nature when he drives to the basket and has started developing a consistent outside jump shot. Jrue Holliday (86) is the perfect complement to Antetokounmpo, focusing on defense and making the correct basketball play. But at the end of the day, all the Bucks need is Antetokounmpo on the roster to be the best team in NBA 2K23.
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