The three-team trade that sent Damian Lillard to the Milwaukee Bucks was mostly unexpected. We knew the Phoenix Suns and Deandre Ayton were likely to be involved as a third team but all signs pointed to the Toronto Raptors or the Miami Heat as the team that would land Lillard.
Instead, Lillard joined the team that finished the last regular season with the best record in the league. The Heat and Raptors both missed out on a huge opportunity to upgrade their roster and the Suns, another contender, gambled on a new defensive anchor, swapping Deandre Ayton for Jusuf Nurkic and additional depth.
All three teams involved in the trade did well but not everyone moved up in our updated NBA Power Rankings. With Damian Lillard on the Bucks, who is on top of the NBA?
Updated NBA Power Rankings: Effects of the Damian Lillard trade
The Wizards are at the beginning of a rebuild the rotation-level talent they do have — Jordan Poole and Kyle Kuzma — will have their flaws accentuated by the lack of support around them. This should easily be one of the worst teams in the league this season.
As they begin the post-Lillard era, the Trail Blazers are right where they should be — loading up on young talent and picks and clearing the way for Scoot Henderson to learn by trial and error.
The veterans like Gordon Hayward and Terry Rozier are the only things keeping them out of the bottom slot. If (when?) they're traded during the season and this is fully the Brandon Miller and LaMelo Ball show things could get ugly in a hurry.
The Rockets invested in veterans to support their young talent and brought in a new coach. But I'm not sure it's enough to completely undo the bad habits and regression that settled in last season.
The Jazz are still caught somewhere between fully rebuilding and scrambling to stay on the treadmill of mediocrity. They could easily and quickly go up or down a few spots but they're not a playoff team.
Victor Wembanyama is going to make a huge difference even if it takes him a while to grow into his talent. But really, this is about the stable influence of Gregg Popovich and the talent of Devin Vassell, Keldon Johnson, Jeremy Sochan and Zach Collins.
The Bulls seem committed to running it back. There's too much talent on this roster for them to completely bottom out without trades or catastrophic injury luck. But there's not enough for them to leapfrog some of the other up-and-coming young teams in the East.
The Pistons were already surprisingly frisky last season and they'll be adding Joe Harris, Monte Morris and a healthy Cade Cunningham. Some of their young players are ready to take the next step and they seem more likely to chase a spot in the Play-In Tournament than the No. 1 odds in the lottery.
The Pelicans could be a lot better than this if Zion Williamson is healthy. But it's hard to have much faith in that at this point and it seems like this could be the year things start to unravel for New Orleans.
Trae Young gives the Hawks upside but also volatility. They're another team who could turn out to land much higher by the end of the season but their capacity for implosion knocks them down a few spots here.
Ben Simmons could give the Nets nothing this year and they'd still be an interesting team on the rise and, potentially, one of the best defenses in the league. Mikal Bridges is a breakout star and Nic Claxton is a defensive rock. If a few of their young players take off they could sneak into the playoffs.
The Magic played great basketball in the second half of last season and should be even better with another year of experience. The Magic will also be looking for a backcourt upgrade and a trade for someone like Jrue Holiday could really change their fortunes.
The Pacers faded after a strong start last season as injuries took their toll. They're much better equipped to survive that kind of bad luck this season with the additions of Jarace Walker and Obi Toppin.
Anthony Edwards may be ready to take the leap and Karl-Anthony Towns might be healthy for the whole season. But I'm not sure that alone is enough for dramatic improvement when so many other teams in the middle of the pack made bigger improvements.
The Miami Heat landed Josh Richardson and Thomas Bryant and will have a healthy Tyler Herro. But they also lost Max Strus and Gabe Vincent and played shot so much better than expected on their way to the NBA Finals last season that some regression seems inevitable.
This is largely the same team as last year and trade rumors continue to swirl. But I would expect a coaching change to smooth out some of the rougher vibes from last season and more of their talent to show through.
In a playoff series, with Kawhi Leonard and Paul George healthy, the Clippers can beat anyone. Across the regular season, with nagging injuries, a desire to protect the health of their stars and a whole lot of Russell Westbrook, I can't in good conscience put them any higher.
Luka Doncic has been able to carry lousy rosters to almost unbelievable heights and there's no reason to think he can't do it again. But even an MVP campaign by Doncic can only take this group so far.
The Grizzlies had the second-best record in the West last season but missing Ja Morant for 25 games is going to take a toll, even with Marcus Smart carrying the mantle of snarling aggressiveness for Morant and the departed Dillon Brooks.
The Thunder were a surprise last season and this year they have more talent, more depth, more experience and a few key additions (Chet Holmgren and Vasilije Micic) that specifically address some of their key weaknesses from last season.
This would be a slide for the 76ers but the MVP-urgency for Joel Embiid has been removed and the looming James Harden mess will cast a shadow over the beginning of their season. They can be much better than this but I wouldn't count on it.
It's been a long time since the Knicks were this good and even longer since they were this good two years in a row. But they added Donte DiVincenzo and there's every reason to think they can break the cycle and keep building on the confidence and momentum they built last season.
The Cavaliers' playoff lost overshadowed how good they were in the regular season. They added some key shooters and another year of growth from Evan Mobley could help them make sure they don't disappoint again.
The Warriors have settled the chaos from last season and will be counting on their talent and chemistry to get them back to the NBA Finals. Chris Paul is not the player he was and a less-than-ideal fit but seems likely to be more helpful than Jordan Poole was last year.
The Sacramento Kings return the fundamental elements of perhaps the most efficient offense in NBA history, along with former EuroLeague MVP Sasha Vezenkov, JaVale McGee and flexible shooter and creator Chris Duarte. They should be even better this year.
The Lakers locked up the core that helped carry them deep in the playoffs but also added even more depth with players like Gabe Vincent, Jaxson Hayes, Taurean Prince and others. As long as they're healthy, they should be one of the best teams in the league.
The Suns still need to figure out their depth and rotations and they'll be asking Jusuf Nurkic to carry a big defensive load. But they are an unprecedented collection of perimeter scoring and that makes both their floor and ceiling incredibly high.
Swapping Marcus Smart for Kristaps Porzingis makes the Celtics much better on paper but how it affects their chemistry is an open question. But they have the talent to go toe-to-toe with the Bucks, and if they can turn Malcolm Brogdon into something else — more depth or a happier contributor — they could have unexpected upside.
The Milwaukee Bucks may have sacrificed some depth and defense in the Damian Lillard trade but they also added the dynamic offensive creator they were missing the past two years. The Lillard-Giannis-Middleton-Lopez foursome is the most talented quartet in the Eastern Conference and if they're healthy they can beat anyone.
The defending champions get the benefit of the doubt and hold the top spot, even though their depth looks a bit shakier than last season's title run.