The 2022-23 NBA Season Preview

October 14th, 2022

By NBA Scouting Live

Milwaukee Bucks’ superstar forward Giannis Antetokounmpo and Golden State Warriors’ superstar guard Stephen Curry will lead the way for the upcoming 2022-23 NBA season.
(Photo:
Aaron Gash/Associated Press, via San Francisco Chronicle)

With the NBA season almost underway and ready to begin in a few days on October 18th, it is time to write about the annual season preview article to alert what to expect for the upcoming year.  Here are our rankings on how all of the 30 NBA teams will likely fare during the regular season, which teams will make the playoffs, and which NBA team will win the 2023 NBA championship.  The Golden State Warriors won the 2022 NBA Finals, and they will come back as the defending champions for the new season.

We went to Basketball-Reference to look at various metrics to try to predict and forecast how all of the 30 NBA teams will fare in the regular season.  Some of the results were a bit surprising, but we were generally satisfied with how our predictions turned out. 

Our staff made predictions for the upcoming year, starting with our overview and projected regular season finishes for all 30 NBA teams, award predictions, All-Star teams, and which team will ultimately become NBA champions in 2023.

In the Western Conference, people will be watching the emerging rivalry between the experienced, battle tested Golden State Warriors versus the upstart, up-and-coming Memphis Grizzlies, and the two teams could be destined for another showdown in the playoffs in 2023.
(Photo:
Justin Ford/Getty Images, via Bleacher Report)

Western Conference

  1. Memphis Grizzlies (53-29)

The Memphis Grizzlies won a lot of games and improved immensely as a team last year under the tutelage and leadership of head coach Taylor Jenkins and superstar point guard Ja Morant. 

Ja Morant became a superstar and one of the best players in the league, Desmond Bane continued to accelerate his growth by being a very good scorer and defender in addition to being a sharpshooter, and Jaren Jackson Jr. has become one of the best defensive players in the league.  They fought valiantly in the playoffs, and they were very competitive against the eventual champions Golden State Warriors before losing to them in six games in the second round.

This year, they are a very deep and talented team that will retain most of the core players that helped them accelerate to being title contenders.  They will be banking on continued growth from their key rotation players, and Ziaire Williams could be due for a breakout season off the bench this year.  The Grizzlies are an exciting, young team that will bring toughness and defense, and are led by a dynamic point guard in Ja Morant, and they could be poised to make a deep run in the playoffs this year.

2. Phoenix Suns (52-30)

The Suns won a whopping 64 games in the regular season last year, and they have a very deep and talented team, led by their star guards, Chris Paul and Devin Booker.  Mikal Bridges and Jae Crowder are two of the best defensive players in the league, and Deandre Ayton is a solid starting center that has provided an imposing interior presence to this team.  After reaching the 2021 NBA Finals, they had a disappointing playoffs finish last year, as they were walloped in Game 7 in the second round by the Dallas Mavericks.  Even worse, Jae Crowder is now holding out, which effectively puts the Suns’ already diminishing title chances for the upcoming season in peril.

This season, they will be bringing back mostly the same crew, and they are hoping to have more synergy and better health this time around with head coach Monty Williams coming back to lead the way.  There are questions about if their bench and guard play in the postseason, but the Suns have a very good group of players that will likely help them win many games, at least during the regular season.

3. Golden State Warriors (50-32)

The Warriors had a tremendous season that culminated with them winning a championship last year.  They started off 18-3, and they were able to get a healthy Klay Thompson midway through the season.  While they were hamstrung by injuries at times, they were able to get healthy enough for the playoffs, and Stephen Curry had a dominant postseason run to get them the title.  Led by their superstars Stephen Curry, Andrew Wiggins, Jordan Poole, Draymond Green, and Klay Thompson, along with legendary head coach Steve Kerr, the Warriors may be poised to repeat to win a title this year. 

There are some mild concerns, though.  They do have an aging core and a significant injury history, and several notable bench players left them in the offseason.  In addition, the Draymond Green’s punch on Jordan Poole in practice may threaten the team’s chemistry, at least in the short term.  The Warriors will bank on their returning key players, as well as on their young bench players, and they also signed Donte DiVincenzo and JaMychal Green to help aid them on their quest for another title in 2023.

4. Minnesota Timberwolves (47-35)

Last year, the Minnesota Timberwolves were able to come together under head coach Chris Finch to lead their team to the playoffs, and stars Karl-Anthony Towns and Anthony Edwards had banner years in helping them doing so.  They had acquired defensive stalwart Patrick Beverley, who really improved their defense and culture to help get them to the postseason.  They lost in six games in the first round to the Grizzlies, but they won the respect and hearts of many fans throughout the NBA.

In the offseason, they packaged Beverley, an assortment of role players and numerous first round picks to Utah in a blockbuster deal to acquire 3-time Defensive Player of the Year award winner and star center Rudy Gobert from Utah, which will likely strengthen the Wolves defense even more, even though they did lose Beverley in the process.  The Timberwolves will have a lot of size, and Gobert and Towns will theoretically complement each other really well in the front-court. 

They also have a skilled backcourt and added Kyle Anderson, a skilled point forward to their team, but questions about their depth and bench still remain.  While they are still a relatively inexperienced team, they have a very good group of core players that could take them to the next step of slowly becoming title contenders in the future.

5. Denver Nuggets (45-37)

The Nuggets are a solid team that is led by MVP point center Nikola Jokic, who had a 2000-point, 1000 rebound, 500 assist season last year.  Unfortunately though, they were hampered by injuries that were dealt to Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr., so they made the best out of a tough scenario, but they ended up losing to the Golden State Warriors in the first round.

Jokic will be coming back to lead the way, and they’ll bank on a healthy Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. to help them this season.  Aaron Gordon has been a solid supplementary player that provides energy, some scoring, and rangy defense, and they also add a defensive stopper in Bruce Brown.  They added a veteran 3 and D guy in Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, and second-year guard, Bones Hyland could be due for a breakout year for them.  Still, they’ve struggled to stay healthy or to guard upper-echelon opponents in the postseason at times, but as long as they have Jokic, the Nuggets will be very competitive in the postseason.

6. Dallas Mavericks (45-37)

The Dallas Mavericks made a surprise trip to the Western Conference Finals last year due to the tremendous play of superstar point forward Luka Doncic and strong coaching from Jason Kidd.  They weren’t able to re-sign Jalen Brunson, but they were able to swing a big trade to land a very skilled center in Christian Wood.

On the other hand, there’s concerns about their defense and if they’ll be able to defend upper-echelon opponents, and they don’t seem to have much star power elsewhere outside of Doncic.  The Mavericks will depend heavily upon Doncic, and they look to be a team on the verge of being a title contender, but they also could be at significant risk for regression, especially if Doncic gets hurt or doesn’t play quite as well as he did last year.  Still, they made a deep run last year, and they could potentially make a deep playoff run this year, too.

7. New Orleans Pelicans (43-39)

Last year, Zion started the season injured, and the Pelicans got off to a 1-12 start, which immediately caused panic within Pelican nation.  But Brandon Ingram’s strong play helped keep their team afloat, and they were able to add star guard C.J. McCollum around the trade deadline.  The Pelicans were able to reel off a string of wins late in the year, and they were able to win both of their play-in tournament games to make it to the playoffs.  They were surprisingly competitive before losing in six games to Phoenix in the first round last year.

With Zion coming back, there is a healthy dose of cautious optimism in the air amongst Pelican nation.  Zion Williamson is a super athletic, star forward that can dominate when healthy.  Problem is, he has been quite injury prone over the years.  Brandon Ingram and C.J. McCollum have been a very good duo together, and Jonas Valanciunas added a very good three-point shot to his arsenal to diversify New Orleans’ offensive attack.  Herb Jones had a very good rookie season, as he shot the ball much better than expected and provided tough, hard-nosed defense, as he is expected to be their defensive stopper this year.

There is still a lot of competition in the West, and there’s concerns for potential regress and whether or not if Zion can stay healthy.  LeBron and the Lakers have reloaded by making a much-needed trade to get Pat Bev.  The Pelicans will have their work cut out for them to make it back to the playoffs, and they’ll need to prove that their second half surge was no fluke last year.

8. Los Angeles Clippers (43-39)

The Clippers nearly made it to the playoffs without Kawhi Leonard last year, and a healthy Kawhi paired with superstar forward Paul George could make their team sleeper contenders out in the West. 

They also boast having a strong bench and are led by a solid head coach in Tyronn Lue, but a lack of a true third star on their team combined with their seeming inability to stay healthy could make it difficult to pinpoint how truly good they’ll be this season.  That said, if they can reach their full potential, they could make a deep playoff run and become title contenders this year.

9. Los Angeles Lakers (40-42)

Last year, the Lakers made a curiously bold move by opting to trade numerous role players (including some that helped them win the 2020 title) for Russell Westbrook, a very athletic, star combo guard that is a consistent triple-double threat, but struggles with his outside shot and was on a mammoth contract.  They ended up disappointing greatly as they missed the playoffs last year despite also having LeBron James (who missed a chunk of games in the second half due to injury), and head coach Frank Vogel got fired.

The Lakers will attempt to give their superstar trio of LeBron James, Anthony Davis, and Russell Westbrook another go, but also perhaps because no one to take on Westbrook’s $47 million contract that badly, even if it’s expiring.  That said, the Lakers were finally able to reload and retool their roster by adding Pat Beverley via trade to improve their defense.  Plus, they hired former Milwaukee Bucks’ assistant coach Darvin Ham to be their head coach, who could introduce some new concepts to make their team more cohesive for the upcoming season.

On the downside, there are still a lot of questions revolving around the Lakers’ ability or inability to shoot from the outside, as well as their questionable bench.  But as long as they have LeBron, Anthony Davis, and Patrick Beverley, the Lakers should have a good shot to make the playoffs in 2023.

10. Sacramento Kings (38-44)

Rookie forward, Keegan Murray had a big summer, as he dominated as a scorer and looked to be a sleeper contender for the Rookie of the Year award, and the Kings could be slowly building towards a spot in the play-in tournament in 2023.  They will have De’Aaron Fox coming back, a very athletic scoring point guard that can dominate for stretches, but has an inconsistent outside shot. 

They traded Haliburton though, but they were able to get former All-Star center Domantas Sabonis, whose post presence and passing skills should establish the Kings to have solid interior play and to be competitive this year.  They also acquired Kevin Huerter and Malik Monk to improve their shooting.

On the downside, the Kings haven’t been a very good defensive team in recent years, but their new head coach Mike Brown was hired to improve their defense and to make the Kings a more cohesive team.  Brown had coached LeBron when he was a head coach with the Cavs, and he was an associate head coach with the 2022 Warriors.  There is a lot of competition out in the West, but the Kings could surprise people and make a bid for the playoffs this season.

11. Portland Trail Blazers (36-46)

The Trail Blazers had their worst year in recent memory last season.  Dame Lillard got off to a horrendous start, and then got injured midway through the year, which left C.J. McCollum to try to carry an underachieving bunch under then-rookie head coach Chauncey Billups before he got traded.  When McCollum got traded to New Orleans around the midseason trade deadline, Portland signaled a move to wave the white flag on their season and to rebuild for the next year.

Portland traded to get Jerami Grant in the offseason to pair him up with superstar guard, Dame Lillard, and Anfernee Simons had a solid year last season as a very athletic, scoring combo guard.  On the downside, the Blazers have a patchwork bench that is filled with mostly young, unproven players, though they did sign defensive ace Gary Payton II to lead their second unit.  They’ll need much more out of Lillard, Grant, and their starters than what they had produced last year.  But with a lack of depth on their roster and with injury-prone players, it could be difficult for the Blazers to make it to the playoffs at season’s end.

12. Utah Jazz (36-46)

The Jazz had recently traded away their star center, Rudy Gobert to Minnesota shortly after their head coach Quin Snyder resigned, which signaled a rebuild for the upcoming season.  Then, they also traded defensive stalwart Patrick Beverley to the Lakers in a continued bid to rebuild for the long haul.  They also traded Donovan Mitchell and Bojan Bogdanovic away in a further effort to rebuild.

Currently though, they still have former All-Star point guard Mike Conley and former Sixth Man of the Year award winner Jordan Clarkson returning to provide them with a scoring punch.  Losing their best defensive player and their anchor Rudy Gobert and star guard Donovan Mitchell definitely hurts them, but they were able to get back Collin Sexton, Lauri Markkanen, and Ochai Agbaji in the trade, as well as draft picks.  They won’t defend nearly as well as they used to, but they will plan for the future in the meantime.

13. San Antonio Spurs (31-51)

The Spurs traded former All-Star guard Dejounte Murray in a tear-down effort to rebuild, which will likely ensure them to be one of the worst NBA teams in the league for the upcoming season.  They don’t have any surefire stars on their roster right now, and their current group of point guards are relatively unproven and untested, despite Tre Jones playing fairly well in a bench role last year.  On the other hand, they still could win more games, stay competitive, and surprise people this year.

They have a legendary head coach in Gregg Popovich, who has won five NBA titles with them, and he’s known to get the most out of his players and maximize his talent on a yearly basis.  Keldon Johnson is a solid 3 and D scorer that helped team USA win the gold medal in the 2020 Olympics, and veterans Jakob Poeltl, Doug McDermott will provide stability for their team.  Devin Vassell is a sharpshooting guard that could be due for a breakout season, and rookie forward Jeremy Sochan could bring some scoring, toughness, and defense off the bench.  The Spurs may not likely make the playoffs this year, but they could be just good enough to stay competitive for most of the games this season.

14. Oklahoma City Thunder (25-57)

Much of the Thunder fanbase’s enthusiasm for the upcoming season evaporated when the possible Rookie of the Year favorite and the extremely talented point center, Chet Holmgren injured his foot at the CrawsOver Pro-Am and was announced to be out for the season.

Regardless, the Thunder still has a solid core group of players to work with in the meantime.  Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is a very skilled, slashing scoring guard whose versatility and playmaking skills makes him one of the best guards in the West.  Josh Giddey had a very good rookie season, and he is a tall point forward that can drop triple-doubles.  Lu Dort is a tremendous defender that is known for being one of the best defensive players in the NBA.  Rookie swingman, Jalen Williams is a tall, athletic scorer that looked like a future star at times this summer.

On the other hand, the Thunder is still a very inexperienced team, and they struggled mightily to score or to score efficiently last year.  Without Holmgren, the Thunder will almost surely be near or at the bottom of the standings this year, but they have a very bright future ahead of them.

15. Houston Rockets (18-64)

The Houston Rockets have a collection of young, promising players for the upcoming season.  Jalen Green is an exciting scoring guard that has tremendous athleticism and vast offensive skills, and he will lead the way for them this year.  They also have a Rookie of the Year contender in Jabari Smith Jr., whose athleticism, shooting, and versatility will enable him to thrive this year.  They also may be expecting big seasons out of Alperen Sengun and Tari Eason.

On the downside, the Rockets have only won 37 games in the last two seasons, and they were only 2-6 when James Harden was with their current head coach Stephen Silas, and the Rockets were very bad on both sides of the ball.  They have a lot of inexperienced, young players, and they will likely be one of the worst teams in the league once again.

The Milwaukee Bucks and the Philadelphia 76ers are two of the best teams in the Eastern Conference, and they could end up facing off against each other in the 2023 NBA Playoffs.
(Photo:
Stacy Revere/Getty Images, via Bleacher Report)

Eastern Conference

1. Philadelphia 76ers (51-31)

There was a lot of excitement in the air within 76er nation when they traded to get superstar guard James Harden at the trade deadline, and they paired him with fellow superstar center Joel Embiid to give themselves a dynamic 1-2 combo for the playoffs.  They also had a strong season out of then second-year guard, Tyrese Maxey.  They had a good second half of the season, which enabled them to drum up excitement, but they fell short as they lost to the Miami Heat in the second round of the playoffs this year.

They spent their offseason recruiting most of Daryl Morey’s old acquisitions and draftees back when he was with Houston.  They traded to get De’Anthony Melton on draft day to bolster their bench, signed Montrezl Harrell, and they also added 3 and D role players such as P.J. Tucker and Danuel House to add more shooters and defenders to their team.  On the downside, they don’t run an especially dynamic offensive system, and James Harden has been known for disappearing at times in the playoffs.  The 76ers have a lot of upside this year, but they’ve also been known to disappoint.  Most likely, they’ll entertain and be competitive in the playoffs, but they’ll really have to come together to be able to get to the next step of making it out of the East and into the NBA Finals in 2023.

2. Milwaukee Bucks (50-32)

The Bucks had a magical year in 2021 that culminated with them winning the championship, thanks to superstar point forward, Giannis’ tremendous play throughout the season.  Last year though, they were dealt with an early season injury to Brook Lopez, who came back in time for the playoffs, but star forward Khris Middleton ended up getting injured and was unable to play against Boston.  They took the Celtics to seven games before losing to them in the playoffs, but Giannis and Jrue Holiday’s strong play were able to carry them far into the postseason.

The Bucks re-signed Bobby Portis and Wes Matthews, they also signed Joe Ingles in the offseason, and they also drafted MarJon Beauchamp.  They’ve made strides to have a deeper, more talented roster.  Unfortunately for them, other teams such as the Celtics also have made upgrades to their team, too.  The Bucks will definitely contend for the championship, but they’ll need to stay healthy to be able to do so in 2023.

3. Boston Celtics (48-34)

The Boston Celtics have a sterling forward tandem in superstars Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, as well as a very good group of role players that have helped get them to the 2022 NBA Finals last year.  Al Horford is a very underrated, fundamentally sound veteran big man that shoots the ball well, Robert Williams and Grant Williams developed into one of the league’s best defenders, and Marcus Smart won the Defensive Player of the Year last year. 

They have a very good bench that got even better by adding star guard Malcolm Brogdon via trade, who immediately may make himself the frontrunner for the Sixth Man of the Year award.  Head coach Ime Udoka did a great job of leading this team in his first year with the Boston Celtics, and they came very close to winning the title last year. 

Unfortunately, skilled veteran forward Danilo Gallinari went down to a torn meniscus, so he will be out for a while.  Also, their former head coach Ime Udoka was involved in a scandal that caused him to be suspended for the season.  Also, Robert Williams has had a lingering knee injury that will cause him to miss the early parts of the season.  The Celtics will need to bounce back from their series of setbacks, but they still remain an incredibly deep and talented team that will definitely contend for the title for the upcoming season.

4. Miami Heat (48-34)

The Miami Heat locked up the first seed last year, and they were able to get all the way to the Eastern Conference Finals last season.  They had a banner year with superstar forward Jimmy Butler leading the way, Tyler Herro was named Sixth Man of the Year, and Bam Adebayo also played very good defense.  They got strong production from unheralded sources, and head coach Erik Spoelstra deserves a lot of credit for helping to develop his players and to help get his team to win a lot of games last year.  They fell short and lost to the Celtics last year, but they had a very good year overall.

They lost P.J. Tucker in the offseason, but others are expected to step up in his absence.  The Heat retained most of the same players from last year, and they also selected Nikola Jovic in the draft.  The Heat are a very solid, balanced, tough, defensive-minded team.  It’s uncertain if they have enough offensive firepower or elite talent to win the championship, but they have a good culture, and a solid group of players that will enable them to be a title contender this year.

5. Cleveland Cavaliers (46-36)

The Cavaliers surprised a lot of people and won far more games than expected under head coach J.B. Bickerstaff, and they were almost able to get into the playoffs last year.  They have the formidable trio of young stars in Darius Garland, Evan Mobley, and Jarrett Allen that will lead the way, and they also swung a big trade to land superstar guard Donovan Mitchell to fortify their offensive attack. 

They are a solid defensive team that has great size in the frontcourt, and they have a good bench that is led by veterans Kevin Love, Ricky Rubio, and Isaac Okoro.  Their lack of experience may be the only thing that’s holding them back right now, but they certainly have the talent to make the jump to becoming a playoff team at the end of this season.

6. Toronto Raptors (46-36)

The Toronto Raptors had a surprisingly good season under head coach Nick Nurse.  They won far more games than expected, Scottie Barnes won the Rookie of the Year award, Pascal Siakam turned in a strong season, and Fred VanVleet made the All-Star team.  They lost in 6 games to the Philadelphia 76ers in the first round, but they fought valiantly in the process of battling against them.

This year, they return much of the same crew, but they also add veteran forward Otto Porter, who was a member of the 2022 Golden State Warriors’ championship team.  There are a lot of good teams in the East, so it’ll be tough for them to continue to advance in the playoffs, but the Raptors have put together a solid, quality team that should enable them to compete in the postseason.

7. Atlanta Hawks (44-38)

After a Cinderella run to the 2021 playoffs in which they made it to the Eastern Conference Finals, the Hawks came crashing back down to Earth, as they ended up only getting the eighth seed before losing in 5 games to the Miami Heat in the first round last year.

They still boast having Trae Young, as well as a solid group of big men in Clint Capela, John Collins, and Onyeka Okongwu, but they also added star guard Dejounte Murray in a trade to really bolster their backcourt.  The Hawks will need to improve their defense, but they are a deep and talented team that definitely improved their chances greatly to make it back to the postseason.

8. New York Knicks (44-38)

The Knicks had surprisingly made it to the playoffs in 2021 under their then new head coach Tom Thibodeau, and they had an All-Star banner year from star forward Julius Randle.  However, they crashed back down to earth last season and missed the playoffs, and their Kemba Walker era was mired in disappointment.

In the offseason, they traded Kemba away to Detroit, and immediately signed former Dallas Mavericks’ star point guard Jalen Brunson to a lucrative contract to patch up their issues at the point.  The Knicks really struggled to score the basketball, and their centers Mitchell Robinson and Nerlens Noel (the latter who is now with Detroit) had trouble staying healthy. 

In the meantime, the Knicks will be banking on R.J. Barrett and Evan Fournier to provide scoring and additional support to claw their way back to the playoffs.  It could be a make or break year for Thibodeau and the Knicks, and they will lean on him as well as on Randle, Brunson, and Barrett to try to get back to the postseason, but it won’t be easy as they’ll face some stiff competition out in the East.

9. Chicago Bulls (43-39)

The Bulls have a star-studded starting lineup, and they have a good group of starters to lead the way for them.  They have Zach LaVine, DeMar DeRozan, and Nikola Vucevic coming back, and Lonzo Ball will provide shooting, playmaking, and defense to aid them.  Patrick Williams missed a lot of time due to injury, but he is a terrific shooter when healthy, and he is a very athletic, young forward that has very good potential as a 3 and D player.

They also have a solid group of bench players, and Billy Donovan led them to exceed their expectations last year.  On the downside, they’ll be facing stiff competition in the East, and they’ll have a much harder time sneaking up on opposing teams.  They also have a fairly old core apart from Zach LaVine, as DeRozan and Vucevic are both in their 30s, and the Bulls will certainly have to improve their defense.  Lonzo Ball currently has a lingering knee injury that will cause him to miss considerable time this season.  If the Bulls do return to the playoffs though, they have enough talent to maybe sneak in a few wins and surprise people once again.

10. Brooklyn Nets (42-40)

The Nets came off a really disappointing season last year, as it was filled with distractions.  Kyrie Irving missed a lot of time due to his unwillingness to get vaccinated combined with the vaccine mandate that was imposed by the state of New York to start the season. Kevin Durant also missed a lot of time due to injuries.  The Nets allowed Kyrie to play road games, and then New York lifted the mandate to allow Kyrie Irving to play home games.  James Harden was disgruntled and they later traded him for Ben Simmons, but Simmons missed the reason of the season due to injury.

However, even when Kyrie Irving was playing, they were only 14-15 with him, as opposed to 30-23 when they were without him during the regular season.  They also got swept in the first round by the Boston Celtics, as Kevin Durant struggled to consistently make shots and was highly turnover prone in the playoffs, and the Nets also played terrible defense in the postseason. 

The Brooklyn Nets are a very talented team that has some of the best players in the NBA when focused, and Kevin Durant is a great player that can do everything on the court.  However, they’ll need to stay away from distractions and come together more as a team.  Head coach Steve Nash looked lost at times when coaching against Boston in the playoffs, and he struggled to make adjustments, and he wasn’t able to win a game against his former assistant and Boston’s then head coach, Ime Udoka.  If the Nets underachieve and lose in the first round once again, or miss the playoffs, there will be a lot of questions surrounding Steve Nash on whether or not if he should return for the following season.

11. Washington Wizards (38-44)

The Wizards turned a lot of heads by trading to acquire former star center, Kristaps Porzingis to pair him up with Bradley Beal.  However, Beal was injured when this happened, and Porzingis has been oft-injured, so there is a real concern that Porzingis may be a shell of his former self when he dazzled as a former All-Star in New York.  Bradley Beal is a very skilled, offensive-minded guard that can shoot, score, and pass, but he’s coming off of a down, injury-riddled year, and he struggled with his three-point shot last year.  Kyle Kuzma had a solid season in his first year with Washington, and he provided some much needed scoring for them.

The Wizards swung a trade to get Will Barton and Monte Morris, two solid role players, but they also traded away Kentavious Caldwell-Pope in the process.  They drafted rookie guard Johnny Davis, who turned in a very productive sophomore season at Wisconsin, but he looked terrible in the summer, as he shot the ball horrendously at the Las Vegas Summer League.  With much uncertainty regarding their stars long-term health and if they will be able to get back to playing nearly as well as they used to, the Wizards could end up falling just short of a playoff bid this season.

12. Indiana Pacers (37-45)

The Pacers are coming off a really disappointing season in which they won just 25 games under head coach Rick Carlisle, and they traded away former All-Star Domantas Sabonis for Tyrese Haliburton to speed up the rebuilding process.  They got a really good, versatile player in Haliburton, whose versatility and all-around skill set could help the Pacers in many different ways.  Myles Turner is a skilled big man that can shoot and defend, and he is a tremendous shot blocker that has provided Indiana with a defensive presence in the middle.  Chris Duarte had a good rookie season, and they also were able to add Buddy Hield, Jalen Smith, and Daniel Theis along the way.

Rookie swingman, Bennedict Mathurin had a tremendous summer and preseason, and he showed some promising offensive skills that could help jumpstart Indiana’s offense.  The Pacers have a lot of new players that haven’t had much time with each other, and they really struggled defensively last year.  The Pacers could likely miss the playoffs once again, but they could surprise people and win more games than expected.

13. Charlotte Hornets (37-45)

Third-year playmaking guard, LaMelo Ball had made the All-Star team last year, but the Hornets have been running in place for the last two seasons.  They have been ousted in the play-in tournament for two years in a row, and both times they were blown out.  They didn’t make any major changes to their team.  They replaced head coach James Borrego with Steve Clifford, a coach they used to have in a bid to upgrade their team defensively, and the Hornets really struggled on the defensive end last year.

They drafted Duke’s sophomore center, Mark Williams in the mid first round, who is a very tall, athletic center that gives them a vertical lob threat and a shot blocking presence and they also re-signed veteran backup guard Cody Martin, but they also lost their starting small forward, Miles Bridges in free agency, because Bridges ended up getting himself embroiled and arrested in a domestic violence case, just as he was about to become a free agent.

Gordon Hayward is a veteran starter that can do a little bit of everything but is oft-injured, while Terry Rozier, P.J. Washington, and Kelly Oubre will provide some offense to their team.  On the downside, James Bouknight had a very disappointing rookie season as he had clashed with the previous coach, and he’ll need to prove that he has what it takes to be a regular rotation player.  Without any major changes to their roster, the Hornets will probably find themselves on the outside looking in and falling just short of a playoff bid this season.

14. Detroit Pistons (28-54)

The Detroit Pistons have an exciting backcourt tandem in the works, as Cade Cunningham had a solid rookie season, and he is a versatile point forward that can do everything on the floor.  Jaden Ivey is a vastly athletic, scoring combo guard that can score at will, and he is an aggressive defender that can lock down his man.  They also have solid complementary players in Saddiq Bey, who dropped a 51-point game last year, and Isaiah Stewart, a very efficient, physical banger that can score and rebound in the paint.  They also were able to acquire Jalen Duren in the draft, whose size and tremendous athleticism may remind Pistons fans of a young Andre Drummond. 

Adding to that, they also swung a trade to land Bojan Bogdanovic to instantly boost their offense.  On the other hand, the Pistons are still a very young team, and they were bad on both sides of the ball last year.  Dwane Casey is a former Head Coach of the Year award winner, but he’s only won 63 games in the last 3 seasons.  The Pistons are a promising young, upstart team that has an exciting future ahead of them, but they will need more time to develop, and Casey will have to find a way to get them to gel more quickly this year.

15. Orlando Magic (26-56)

The Orlando Magic is slowly making strides to make their team more competitive on a yearly basis.  After Franz Wagner had a surprise really good rookie season, they were able to get the number one overall draft pick to select former Duke star Paolo Banchero at the top.  Banchero will diversify their offensive attack and add more scoring punch, and with Wendell Carter Jr., Cole Anthony, and Mo Bamba coming back, the Magic could be poised to make a jump in wins this year.  With Jonathan Isaac possibly also returning, the Magic could become significantly more competitive in the East.

On the other hand, they were a really bad offensive team last year, and they had the worst Offensive Rating amongst all NBA teams during the 2021-22 season.  They will need much more offensive production out of second-year guard Jalen Suggs, who defended fairly well, but seemed overwhelmed by the immediate responsibilities he was tasked with as a scoring combo guard on the first unit last year.  Markelle Fultz, R.J. Hampton, and Bol Bol are talented project players that have missed a lot of time due to injuries, and the Magic have a lot of young, unpolished players.  The Magic may still find themselves at the bottom of the standings, but if Banchero can make his impact felt quickly, they could surprise and win more games than expected.

In addition, our staff made picks as to who would win the 2022-23 NBA season awards.

Philadelphia 76ers’ superstar center, Joel Embiid put up strong numbers last year, and he is a strong contender to win the MVP award in 2023.
(Photo:
Getty Images, via Fadeaway World)

Our Projected 2022-23 NBA MVP:
Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers

Joel Embiid really elevated his play last year, as he was an already sterling low post presence, and he added a reliable outside shot to his game.  He is a terrific scorer that brings strong interior play to his team, and he also received help when his team traded for James Harden at the deadline.  The 76ers will go as far as Embiid and Harden can take them.  They could be poised to win many games this year, and that combined with an expected tremendous year out of Embiid will definitely strengthen Embiid’s MVP case to win this award in 2023.

2nd: Ja Morant, Memphis Grizzlies
3rd: Luka Doncic, Dallas Mavericks

Others Receiving Votes:
Jayson Tatum, Boston Celtics, Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors, and Nikola Jokic, Denver Nuggets

Golden State Warriors’ forward, Draymond Green is our preseason pick to be the 2022-23 Defensive Player of the Year.
(Photo:
Kyle Terada/USA Today Sports, via SB Nation)

Our Projected 2022-23 Defensive Player of the Year:
Draymond Green, Golden State Warriors

Draymond Green is a super versatile, rangy defender that can guard all five positions and can lock down anyone on the court.  He has been tremendously vital to the Golden State Warriors, and he has been their best defender in each of their title runs.  He has had some trouble staying healthy, but barring injuries, Draymond Green’s terrific defensive skills combined with his tremendous defensive versatility and basketball IQ makes him our preseason pick to win the Defensive Player of the Year award in 2023.

2nd: Jrue Holiday, Milwaukee Bucks
3rd: Rudy Gobert, Minnesota Timberwolves

Others Receiving Votes:
Andrew Wiggins, Golden State Warriors, Marcus Smart, Boston Celtics

Orlando Magic’s rookie forward, Paolo Banchero is our pick to win the 2022-23 Rookie of the Year award for the upcoming NBA season.
(Photo:
Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images, via The Spun)

Our Projected 2022-23 Rookie of the Year:
Paolo Banchero, Orlando Magic

Paolo Banchero is a very athletic, skilled combo forward that can really score the basketball, and he also possesses underrated playmaking skills, especially for his size.  He is a versatile scorer that can put the ball in the hoop in many different ways, and he could be the Magic’s go-to scorer this season.  He’s expected to make an immediate impact right away, and his strong offensive skills combined with his ability to take over games could enable him to win the Rookie of the Year award in 2023.

2nd: Jabari Smith Jr., Houston Rockets
3rd: Keegan Murray, Sacramento Kings

New Orleans Pelicans’ head coach, Willie Green gave a memorable speech in his team’s second play-in tournament game to get them a comeback win over the Los Angeles Clippers, which helped the Pelicans get into the 2022 NBA Playoffs.
(Photo:
Stephen Lew/USA Today Sports, via Fadeaway World)

Our Projected 2022-23 Coach of the Year:
Willie Green, New Orleans Pelicans

Willie Green did a very good job of turning his team around from a 1-12 start to get the New Orleans Pelicans to the playoffs last year, and he gave a really moving, motivational speech to help lift his team past the Clippers in the play-in tournament and into the postseason.

Now with Zion Williamson healthy and returning and with a good starting lineup, he could be poised to help lead the Pelicans get many more wins in the regular season.   He is a very underrated coach, and he is a leader that really knows how to get the most out of his players and inspire his team to get victories.

2nd: Chris Finch, Minnesota Timberwolves
3rd: Joe Mazzulla, Boston Celtics

Others Receiving Votes:
J.B. Bickerstaff, Cleveland Cavaliers, Steve Kerr, Golden State Warriors, and Taylor Jenkins, Memphis Grizzlies

Boston Celtics’ newly acquired guard, Malcolm Brogdon is a versatile, very skilled playmaker that could win the Sixth Man of the Year award in 2023.
(Photo:
Steven Senne/Associated Press, via Boston.com)

Our Projected 2022-23 Sixth Man of the Year:
Malcolm Brogdon, Boston Celtics

When Boston acquired Malcolm Brogdon, it was a tremendous get that signaled that they were going to really fortify their bench.  Brogdon is a versatile, All-Star-caliber guard that has solid shooting, scoring, and playmaking skills, and he’s a seasoned veteran that has been consistently productive when healthy.  He gives the Celtics a gifted offensive player that can be a solid lead ball handler, and he also will be very productive when healthy, which could enable him to win the Sixth Man of the Year award in 2023.

2nd: Jordan Poole, Golden State Warriors
3rd: Bobby Portis, Milwaukee Bucks

Others Receiving Votes:
Tyler Herro, Miami Heat

Our Projected 2022-23 All-NBA 1st Team:

C Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers
F Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks
F Jayson Tatum, Boston Celtics
G Luka Doncic, Dallas Mavericks
G Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors

Our Projected 2022-23 All-NBA 2nd Team:

C Nikola Jokic, Denver Nuggets
F Kevin Durant, Brooklyn Nets
F Kawhi Leonard, Los Angeles Clippers
G Jimmy Butler, Miami Heat
G Ja Morant, Memphis Grizzlies

Our Projected 2022-23 All-NBA 3rd Team:

C Rudy Gobert, Minnesota Timberwolves
F LeBron James, Los Angeles Lakers
F Jaylen Brown, Boston Celtics
G Paul George, Los Angeles Clippers
G Devin Booker, Phoenix Suns

Others Receiving Votes:
Andrew Wiggins, Golden State Warriors, James Harden, Brooklyn Nets, and Trae Young, Atlanta Hawks.

Our Projected 2022-23 NBA All-Defensive 1st Team:

C Rudy Gobert, Minnesota Timberwolves
F Draymond Green, Golden State Warriors
F Andrew Wiggins, Golden State Warriors
G Patrick Beverley, Los Angeles Lakers
G Jrue Holiday, Milwaukee Bucks

Our Projected 2022-23 NBA All-Defensive 2nd Team:

C Jaren Jackson Jr., Memphis Grizzlies
F Robert Williams, Boston Celtics
F Bruce Brown, Denver Nuggets
G Matisse Thybulle, Philadelphia 76ers
G Marcus Smart, Boston Celtics

Others Receiving Votes:
Dorian Finney-Smith, Dallas Mavericks, Jarrett Allen, Cleveland Cavaliers, and Jimmy Butler, Miami Heat

Our Projected 2022-23 NBA All-Rookie 1st Team:

F Paolo Banchero, Orlando Magic
F Jabari Smith Jr., Houston Rockets
F Keegan Murray, Sacramento Kings
G Bennedict Mathurin, Indiana Pacers
G Jaden Ivey, Detroit Pistons

Our Projected 2022-23 NBA All-Rookie 2nd Team:

F Jeremy Sochan, San Antonio Spurs
F Nikola Jovic, Miami Heat
F Tari Eason, Houston Rockets
G Jalen Williams, Oklahoma City Thunder
G Dalen Terry, Chicago Bulls

Others Receiving Votes:
Ochai Agbaji, Utah Jazz, Dyson Daniels, New Orleans Pelicans

Projected 2022-23 Eastern Conference NBA All-Star Team:

C Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks
F Kevin Durant, Brooklyn Nets
F Jayson Tatum, Boston Celtics
G Jimmy Butler, Miami Heat
G Trae Young, Atlanta Hawks

G-F Jaylen Brown, Boston Celtics
C Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers
G Jrue Holiday, Milwaukee Bucks
G James Harden, Brooklyn Nets
F Pascal Siakam, Toronto Raptors
F Khris Middleton, Milwaukee Bucks
C Bam Adebayo, Miami Heat

Projected Eastern Conference All-Star Game Coach:
Doc Rivers, Philadelphia 76ers

Projected 2022-23 Western Conference NBA All-Star Team:

C Nikola Jokic, Denver Nuggets
F LeBron James, Los Angeles Lakers
F Kawhi Leonard, Los Angeles Clippers
G Luka Doncic, Dallas Mavericks
G Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors

G Ja Morant, Memphis Grizzlies
F-C Karl-Anthony Towns, Minnesota Timberwolves
C Rudy Gobert, Minnesota Timberwolves
F Zion Williamson, New Orleans Pelicans
G-F Paul George, Los Angeles Clippers
G Devin Booker, Phoenix Suns
G Chris Paul, Phoenix Suns

Projected Western Conference All-Star Game Coach:
Taylor Jenkins, Memphis Grizzlies

Others Receiving Votes in the Eastern Conference:
Jarrett Allen, Cleveland Cavaliers and Zach LaVine, Chicago Bulls

Others Receiving Votes in the Western Conference:
C.J. McCollum, New Orleans Pelicans and Andrew Wiggins, Golden State Warriors

Picks for the 2022-23 NBA Playoffs:

Eastern Conference Play-In Tournament:

(7) Atlanta Hawks vs. (8) New York Knicks, Atlanta wins, clinches the 7th seed

(9) Chicago Bulls vs. (10) Brooklyn Nets, Brooklyn wins

(7) New York Knicks vs. (10) Brooklyn Nets, Brooklyn wins, clinches the 8th seed

Western Conference Play-In Tournament:

(7) New Orleans Pelicans vs. (8) Los Angeles Clippers, LA Clippers win, clinches the 7th seed

(9) Los Angeles Lakers vs. (10) Sacramento Kings, LA Lakers win

(7) New Orleans Pelicans vs. (9) Los Angeles Lakers, LA Lakers win, clinches the 7th seed

1st RoundEastern Conference:

(1) Philadelphia 76ers vs. (8) Brooklyn Nets, Philadelphia wins 4-2
(4) Miami Heat vs. (5) Cleveland Cavaliers, Miami wins 4-2

(3) Boston Celtics vs. (6) Toronto Raptors, Boston wins 4-2
(2) Milwaukee Bucks vs. (7) Atlanta Hawks, Milwaukee wins 4-1

1st RoundWestern Conference:

(1) Memphis Grizzlies vs. (8) Los Angeles Lakers, Memphis wins 4-2
(4) Minnesota Timberwolves vs. (5) Denver Nuggets, Denver wins 4-3

(3) Golden State Warriors vs. (6) Dallas Mavericks, Golden State wins 4-2
(2) Phoenix Suns vs. (7) Los Angeles Clippers, LA Clippers win 4-3

2nd RoundEastern Conference:

(1) Philadelphia 76ers vs. (4) Miami Heat, Philadelphia wins 4-3

(2) Milwaukee Bucks vs. (3) Boston Celtics, Milwaukee wins 4-3

2nd RoundWestern Conference:

(1) Memphis Grizzlies vs. (5) Denver Nuggets, Memphis wins 4-2

(3) Golden State Warriors vs. (7) Los Angeles Clippers, Golden State wins 4-3

Projected 2023 Eastern Conference Finals:

(1) Philadelphia 76ers vs. (2) Milwaukee Bucks, Milwaukee wins 4-2

Projected 2023 Western Conference Finals:

(3) Golden State Warriors vs. (1) Memphis Grizzlies, Golden State wins 4-2

The Milwaukee Bucks and the Golden State Warriors are two really good teams that could end up meeting and facing off against each other in the 2023 NBA Finals.
(Photo:
Benny Sieu/USA Today Sports, via SB Nation’s Golden State of Mind)

Projected 2023 NBA Finals:
(2) Milwaukee Bucks vs. (3) Golden State Warriors, Golden State wins 4-3

Projected 2023 NBA Champion:
The Golden State Warriors

Golden State Warriors’ superstar point guard, Stephen Curry is a legendary player that could be primed to win his second consecutive NBA Finals MVP award in a row in 2023.
(Photo:
Steven Senne/Associated Press, via KSBW)

Projected 2023 NBA Finals MVP:
Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors

This has been a fun write-up, and hope you enjoyed reading our predictions for the upcoming season. The NBA season will begin on October 18th.  It will be exciting to watch NBA basketball once again, and thanks for reading.

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