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  1. #1

    Lightbulb 2022-23 NBA Preview

    I only rank the teams I expect to qualify for the playoffs, based on their likelihood of making it to the NBA Finals.

    Eastern Conference

    1. Milwaukee Bucks
    Middleton’s knee injury doomed the Bucks’ back-to-back hopes. Even without him, the Bucks pushed the Celtics to 7 games in the second round. It is logical to say that with a healthy Middleton the Bucks win one more game that round.

    Antetokounmpo won two MVPs in a row (2019 and 2020) before winning the title in 2021 and the Finals MVP. Right now, the Greek Freak is the best player in the game due to his elite scoring, rebounding, passing, and defense. He never takes a day off and works twice as hard in the playoffs. No off-the-court drama for that matter. And he is 27 years old – perhaps he has yet to reach his peak!

    As long Antetokounmpo remains healthy, and has a strong supporting cast, he will win more titles and be the best player of the 2020s.

    2. Boston Celtics
    Tatum & Brown are versatile two-way players with superior size, skills, and athleticism. Tatum is on the verge of MVP-caliber, and Brown is not far behind. I did not think the Celtics were championship caliber, not because of their star wing players, but I did not believe in their supporting cast. Smart, Horford, the Time Lord, and Williams played better than they ever did.

    Now, with Brogdon, they’re even deeper than ever. But they will miss Gallinari. The Celtics are good enough to return to the Finals, but a healthy Bucks will beat them in the East Conference Finals.

    Nobody knows how the Celtics will respond to their new coach Mazulla while Head Coach Udoka is suspended. But I think the promotion from within the team will be much smoother than people think – he is already familiar with the players and the players are familiar with him.

    3. Brooklyn Nets
    None of us can understand what Durant is thinking or why he is always dissatisfied, or why he says some of the things he says. But once he is on the floor he is all business and one of the top 5 players in the league. Getting swept by the superior Celtics was a career lowlight, but a disjointed season where his co-stars quit on him couldn’t have ended any other way.

    Nets went 36-19 with Durant, and he averaged 29.9 ppg, 7.4 rpg, and 6.4 apg with splits of 51.8/38.3/91.0. He will be 34 when the season starts, and he already recovered from one nasty injury, but he should have at least one more MVP caliber year in him.

    When Irving was on the floor, he was brilliant, (27.4 ppg, 5.8 apg) but he was available only for 29 games. It is no longer clear being a great player is the most important thing to Irving. And there is plenty of evidence that basketball is no longer his top priority.

    Ben Simmons is capable of guarding any position and he is a superior playmaker and rebounder. His limitations as a shooter is pretty obvious, but if he averages 16, 8, and 8, then he has done enough to make the Nets competitive. I believe he will be healthy and productive, despite all the questions about mental health and bad back.

    When the Nets are at full strength, they can be a dynamic offensive team. They lack size, defense, and rebounding. But Simmons checks on all three of them. They can beat anyone in a 7 game series, based on talent alone, but their questionable intangibles (coaching, chemistry, mindset) means they won’t beat the Bucks or the Celtics in the playoffs.

    4. Philadelphia 76ers
    Embiid is an MVP caliber player, and Harden is still an All-Star player. Maxey is turning into a very good starter, and Harris remains underrated. Coach Rivers has already won the championship.

    They have all the parts for a championship run, but the whole remains less than the sum of the parts. Embiid is in top condition but he lacks leadership skills. Harden, after being the most overrated player in the last 10 years, is now a declining one. They have solid players, but the other playoff contenders have as good third and fourth options if not better.

    Morey seems hell-bent on turning them into Rockets East with P.J. Tucker and Danuel House Jr. The 76ers need young and energetic two-way players who can step up when Embiid is tired, and when Harden ghosts again. I hope for a Brooklyn-Philadelphia matchup in the playoffs, though.

    5. Cleveland Cavaliers
    Despite injuries, the Cavs ended the season as an elite defensive team (5th points allowed, 8th in defensive FG%). They are pesky, scrappy, well-coached. They need health and offensive efficiency, though. Mitchell will improve the Cavs’ offense, because he can create offense for himself and others. If the Cavs are healthy, they will be tough. Besides a lack of playoff experience as a team, they do not have a true superstar or MVP caliber player. The other teams ahead of them do. Star power counts, so expecting the Cavaliers to knock off two of them in 7 game series is too much.

    6. Miami Heat
    The Heat had a great season. Their top 4 players (Butler, Lowry, Herro, Adebayo) missed at least 16 games but the Heat fought their way to the best record in the East. They are not very big, nor do they rebound very well, but they finished 4th in points allowed and 4th in defensive FG%. They won’t take too many threes, 14th but they led the league (37.9%) and they were first in 3 point FG% defense. The Heat are disciplined, well-condition and will not beat themselves.

    But they will finish 6th because the Celtics were better last year and improved in the offseason. The Bucks and the Nets, when healthy, are better. The 76ers have the better MVP caliber player and the Cavaliers are younger and hungrier.

    7. Toronto Raptors
    If the Sixers, Cavaliers, and the Heat are the second tier in the East, then the Raptors are in the next tier – the playoff bubble tier. They lack a superstar, but they have plenty of very good two-way players that are virtually interchangeable in size and skill set, plus a couple of pittbull type of guards in VanVleet and Trent Jr. If Barnes develop into a superstar, then that raises their ceiling and playoff chances. But maybe after a few more years. Coach Nurse is a huge advantage – he will never let the Raptors be out-prepared or out-schemed. The Raptors are good enough to scare any of the top teams before losing in 6 or 7 games.

    8. Atlanta Hawks
    Despite the fact they reached the Eastern conference finals in 2021, there was plenty of skepticism. And sure enough, they fell back to Earth in 2022. Now they added Dejounte Murray, improving the Hawks’ size, talent and versatility. But for all those talents, he couldn’t lift the Spurs into the playoffs for the last three years. Since the Hawks were first round fodder in 2022, they will be again in 2023, even though they improved slightly. They score a lot, but they neither defend nor rebound very well.

    Play-in Tournament possibilities:
    The Chicago Bulls finished 6th last year before going down 4-1 to the Bucks in the first round. They were third in FG% but 13th in scoring, 16th in points allowed, and 26th in defensive FG% and 28th in rebounding. They added Dragic and Drummond, but that won’t move the needle enough. And Lonzo Ball won’t be available perhaps for half of the season.

    New York Knicks took a step back last year, after making it to the first round in 2021 playoffs. They added Brunson, but it remains to be seen if Randle can handle being the best player on a team. RJ, that's your cue.

    Charlotte Hornets finished 43-39 with a solid offense (4th in scoring, 11th in FG%) but had a shitty defense (20th in defensive FG% and 25th in points allowed) and failed to upgrade their roster in the offseason. I expect them to fall in the standings.

    Pistons, Wizards, Pacers, and Magic will not make any noise and end up back into the lottery.

  2. #2

    Default Re: 2022-23 NBA Preview

    Western Conference

    1. Golden State Warriors
    Clearly I underestimated the GSW last season, but I may also be overestimating them this season. Until and unless Curry gets old and the team suffers major injuries, their offensive firepower and underrated defense will make them tough to beat.

    Last year, the 6’ 3” Curry did not have to face bigger and stronger guys like the 2021 Finals MVP Giannis, or the 2020 Finals MVP LBJ, or the 2019 Finals MVP Sugar K Leonard. The GSW did beat teams in front of them and earned their title, though.

    Their core guys are back, and Klay should be more consistent offensively and impactful defensively a year after two serious injuries. They added solid guys in DiVicenzo and JaMychal Green to replace Payton II, Otto Porter Jr and Toscano-Anderson.

    For all the small-ball hype and 3 point shooting, the Warriors finished 2nd in defensive FG%, 3rd in points allowed, 4th in rebounding differential, and 7th in rebounding. They won the title by doing the dirty work in the trenches.

    2. Memphis Grizzlies
    Ja Morant clinched his first all-star and entered the MVP discussion last season with career high in scoring (27/4 ppg) FG% (49.3) rebounding (5.7 rpg) and steals (1.2 spg). He did miss 25 games due to injury and is very slight at 6’ 3” so his size and durability remains questionable.

    The Grizzlies seemed to play even better in those games Morant missed. That doesn’t mean they are better without him, but that they are deep and well-coached. Many other teams have fluke seasons like the Blazers, Hawks, or Knicks, but the Grizzlies seem like they are built for the long-haul.

    3. LA Clippers
    This is Leonard’s 4th year with the Clippers, but he has yet to lead them to the promised land after winning titles and Finals MVP with the Spurs in 2014 and the Raptors in 2019. Leonard missed the entire season due to an ACL tear, but because of “load management” he has not played in 60 games since the 2017 season. The most he ever played was 74, and in 11 seasons, he has cracked 70 only twice. Therefore I will be surprised if he hits 70 this season. As long he suits up 60 to 65 games, and stays healthy for the playoffs, the Clippers will be a tough out. When healthy, Leonard is the best all-around player in the league besides Giannis Antetokounmpo.

    Paul George is not a number one option, but he is the perfect second option. Coach Lue already won a title and he has a very deep and talented cast – and could be dynamic if John Wall has anything left in the tank. I will not pick the Clippers to win the title until Leonard is healthy.

    4. Denver Nuggets
    The Nuggets play at an elite level when back-to-back MVP Jokic is on the floor, but they are pretty shitty when he is off the court. Murray is expected to make a full healthy return this season after rehabbing his torn ACL. Porter Jr will also be back, but the Nuggets’ depth and team defense remain questionable. Their ceiling is the Conference Finals, but I think they will struggle to stay in the top half otherwise.

    5. Phoenix Suns
    The Suns rode tremendous momentum during the bubble season in Orlando all the way to the 2021 NBA Finals, and continued to 2022 with the best record in the league. But that finally crashed in the playoffs versus the Mavericks and a horrible offseason when they screwed around with Ayton’s contract and failed to improve their roster. Even if they do better than #5 in the season, there is no reason to trust them in the playoffs, especially given Paul’s track record of choking and collapsing across multiple franchises.

    6. Dallas Mavericks
    The loss of Brunson will hurt, but he was not irreplaceable. Doncic will always be an All-NBA first team and MVP candidate, and he is proven in the playoffs. He led the NBA in playoff scoring in 2021 (35.7) and 2022 (31.7), only the fourth player to lead the league in back to back playoffs (McGrady in 2001-02, Bryant in 2007-08, and Durant in 2013-14). Doncic has improved on defense under Coach Kidd. But I have them 6th because they have not closed the talent gap between them and the other 5 teams.

    7. Minnesota Timberwolves
    The Wolves surprised everyone in 2022, and reached the playoffs due to their league leading scoring offense (115.9 ppg) and pushed the Grizzlies to 6 games in the first round. They improved in the off-season by trading 5 guys and 5 draft picks to the Jazz for 2022 rebounding leader and 3 time DPOY Rudy Gobert. They ranked 16th in rebounding and 16th in defensive FG% and 24th in points allowed. Toody should improve those numbers.

    Anthony-Towns has MVP talent but he has made the All-Star game only three times in 7 years and has yet to be picked for the All-NBA first or second team. Anthony Edwards averaged 21.3 ppg in his second year and he looks like the genuine article – a perennial All-Star.

    The Wolves have plenty of talent but they are not mentally focused because they waste too many possessions and blow too many leads. They must mature to become a true contender, but their talent alone will ensure a playoff bid.

    8. New Orleans Pelicans
    There is no reason to completely trust the Pelicans but there is even less reason to trust any of the others below them. Adding McCollumn turned things around in the mid-season, enabling the Pelicans to clinch the playoffs after a shitty 4-16 start. Zion’s return will have everyone hyped but can he stay healthy? Can he use his athleticism to do anything other than score? He has plenty of room to grow as a rebounder and a defender. Wheras Ingram is a dynamic scorer and playmaker. Guys like Jones, Nance Jr and Alvarado bought in Coach Willie Green’s defense, but the Pellies won’t go far unless their best offensive players also play defense consistently.

    Play-in Tournament possibilities

    Sacramento Kings should improve under Coach Brown, who will have a defensive scheme that improves their 29th points allowed defense. If they can improve, they can sneak in the play-in tournament.

    LA Lakers
    get way too much media coverage than a crappy team should. LBJ can still be the best player on the floor on any given night, but he can no longer sustain that over 82 games without taking it easy or getting injured. The Lakers lack the right personnel or mindset to maximize Westbrook’s ability to grab a rebound, push the ball up the floor and unleash terror. AD was brought to the Lakers to become the number one option but so far he has chosen to ride LBJ’s coattails until he retires. Therefore the Lakers will not be good enough to make the playoffs.

    Blazers lack the size, talent, or defensive attitude to make the playoffs, much less contend for at title.

    Rockets, Thunder, Spurs, and Jazz are all in tank mode for the big Frenchman.

  3. #3
    7-time NBA All-Star
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    Default Re: 2022-23 NBA Preview

    Good stuff. Disagree with both 3 seeds.

    No way either team stays healthy and coherent.

  4. #4

    Default Re: 2022-23 NBA Preview

    I remain the eternal optimist.


  5. #5
    High School Starter
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    Default Re: 2022-23 NBA Preview

    I don't get why everybody rank Clippers so high. I think they will be play-in participants.

  6. #6
    ... on a leash ArbitraryWater's Avatar
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    Default Re: 2022-23 NBA Preview

    Quote Originally Posted by Sulico View Post
    I don't get why everybody rank Clippers so high. I think they will be play-in participants.

    based on what?

  7. #7
    Cancer Wally450's Avatar
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    Default Re: 2022-23 NBA Preview

    Great write up!


  8. #8

    Default Re: 2022-23 NBA Preview

    Quote Originally Posted by ArbitraryWater View Post
    based on what?
    Based on last year, likely.
    That Las Vegas has the Clippers at the second highest win total of 2022-23 is no factor in the logic of trolls or haters.

    Celtics: 53.5 wins
    Clippers, Bucks, Suns: 52.5 wins

    https://www.vegasinsider.com/nba/odds/win-totals/

  9. #9

    Default Re: 2022-23 NBA Preview

    Quote Originally Posted by Wally450 View Post
    Great write up!


    Thanks!

  10. #10
    XXL Im Still Ballin's Avatar
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    Default Re: 2022-23 NBA Preview

    Dark Horse: Lakers if they acquire Turner and Hield.

  11. #11
    NBA Legend and Hall of Famer Xiao Yao You's Avatar
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    Default Re: 2022-23 NBA Preview

    Quote Originally Posted by Im Still Ballin View Post
    Dark Horse: Lakers if they acquire Turner and Hield.
    dark horse for play in?

  12. #12
    3-time NBA All-Star NBAGOAT's Avatar
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    Default Re: 2022-23 NBA Preview

    i'm not willing to put bkn that high. also think memphis will take a seat back without jaren for a good portion of the year. would consider minnesota over them. I like the Kings this year but the blazers have a decent chance to be better. they have mostly good starters around dame who's still great. Sacramento's offense will be pretty good, defense not so much

  13. #13
    NBA Legend and Hall of Famer Xiao Yao You's Avatar
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    Default Re: 2022-23 NBA Preview

    Quote Originally Posted by NBAGOAT View Post
    i'm not willing to put bkn that high. also think memphis will take a seat back without jaren for a good portion of the year. would consider minnesota over them. I like the Kings this year but the blazers have a decent chance to be better. they have mostly good starters around dame who's still great. Sacramento's offense will be pretty good, defense not so much
    Minnesota is certainly too low even with Towns hurt

  14. #14
    wet brain highwhey's Avatar
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    Default Re: 2022-23 NBA Preview

    what momentum did the suns ride? maybe they're just a good team and its not momentum?

  15. #15
    Great college starter Charlie Sheen's Avatar
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    Default Re: 2022-23 NBA Preview

    Quote Originally Posted by Gotterdammerung View Post




    LA Lakers
    get way too much media coverage than a crappy team should. LBJ can still be the best player on the floor on any given night, but he can no longer sustain that over 82 games without taking it easy or getting injured. The Lakers lack the right personnel or mindset to maximize Westbrook’s ability to grab a rebound, push the ball up the floor and unleash terror. AD was brought to the Lakers to become the number one option but so far he has chosen to ride LBJ’s coattails until he retires. Therefore the Lakers will not be good enough to make the playoffs.
    I agree with the Lakers getting too much coverage, but I think they are being disrespected too much as a consequence. There's w wide range of places this team could finish. AD and Lebron Play 65 games a piece and this is comfortably a playoff team. I concede... it is not the likeliest of scenarios.

    Aside from his 3pt shooting, AD has been fantastic for LA... when he has played. I wouldn't say he's riding Lebron's coattails. I feel like that's an unfair criticism. Lebron has continued to play at an all-time level and I don't believe there is a single player in this league that would be a #1 option on the same team over him.

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