The 2023-24 NBA season is finally here, which means the Golden State Warriors are about to embark on an attempt to win a fifth championship in the last decade. It’s a championship-or-bust season for the Dubs, and it starts with an exciting showdown against the Phoenix Suns.
It can be hard to know how to view the team you root for. Whether you’re a fan reading this article or a media member writing it, we all have our nose very close to the action, and that can cloud our view — sometimes positively, and sometimes negatively.
So I always love to take a step back and see how the rest of the world — not just those who cover and root for the Warriors — sees the team. To do this I decided to take a look at preseason power rankings from four popular and respected websites: ESPN, The Athletic, The Ringer, and SB Nation. I wanted to see what they thought of Golden State heading into a pivotal season.
There’s never consensus in gauging teams, which is why we watch the games. And yet all four publications have the same six teams at the top of their rankings, albeit in varying orders. You can probably guess which six teams, but let’s run through them nonetheless.
There are two teams from the East, and they’re fairly obvious. The Milwaukee Bucks led the NBA in wins last year and then went out and added a top-five offensive player in Damian Lillard. The Boston Celtics were just one win behind, and managed to turn Malcolm Brogdon, Marcus Smart, and Robert Williams III into two of the best two-way players in the NBA, Jrue Holiday and Kristaps Porziņģis.
That leaves four teams in the West. There’s the defending-champion Denver Nuggets, who boast a nearly identical team to the one that will put rings on their fingers tonight. There’s the team they play in today’s season opener, the Los Angeles Lakers, who bested the Dubs in the playoffs, made a run to the Conference Finals, and had a fantastic offseason, retaining D’Angelo Russell, Austin Reaves, Jarred Vanderbilt, and Rui Hachimura, while adding Christian Wood, Cam Reddish, and Taurean Prince. And there’s the offensive juggernaut Suns, who added high-scorer Bradley Beal to a team that already had Kevin Durant and Devin Booker.
And, of course, there’s the Warriors.
The Warriors are ranked sixth out of those six teams by ESPN’s panel, as well as by The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor. O’Connor’s power rankings are done by tiers, and he has the Warriors in the second tier, titled “Knocking on the Door” alongside the No. 5 Lakers and the No. 7 Memphis Grizzlies (the rankings were released before the news that Grizzlies center Steven Adams will miss the entire season with an injury). O’Connor says he’s very excited to watch the Warriors, but notes the possibility of a trade, saying, “If an opportunity arises to go all in, don’t be surprised if the Warriors seize it. Because as long as the core trio is healthy, this team is a title contender.”
Golden State is just a touch higher in the other rankings. The Athletic’s Zach Harper places all six teams in the top tier, titled “The Contenders,” with the Dubs at No. 5, ahead of the Suns. His optimism stems from, “I know they came up short, but you still have to love the team’s core in terms of competing for a title. Maybe Klay Thompson isn’t quite himself, and maybe the mileage on Draymond Green worries you a bit. But Steph Curry is still destructive, and the addition of Chris Paul gives them another playmaker.”
My colleague Ricky O’Donnell also has Golden State at No. 5, but ahead of the Lakers. He places the Warriors at the front of a 13-team tier called “Conference Finals or Bust,” and notes that “The Two Timelines era is dead. The Warriors finally wised up to realize Stephen Curry is the timeline, and prioritized the present with the star guard turning 36 years old before the playoffs. Jordan Poole and James Wiseman are now long gone. Chris Paul, Gary Payton II, and Dario Saric will provide a steadier hand to bench units. The biggest addition for Golden State might be the return of Andrew Wiggins, who only played 37 games due to injuries last year. Golden State can bank on Curry being a top-three player in the world again this season.”
So there you have, Dub Nation. The consensus is in: the Warriors are one of the best teams in the NBA, but until we see how it works out with an aging core and Chris Paul in the fold, they’re still seen as a hair behind the Bucks, Celtics, and Nuggets.