The NBA season is set to start Tuesday night and it’s set to be one of the most exciting seasons in recent memory.
For the first time in a short while, things seem to be getting back to normal after throwing the sports world off a little and maybe no league was thrown off more than the NBA. From the player testing, to the social distancing, to all the zoom calls, and limited to no fans in arenas. The thing that effected players the most though was probably the shortened off-seasons.
We saw the NBA have the 2 shortest off-seasons in its 75 year history which hindered what players could do. Whether it was a normal recovery time for their body and mind or working on getting better. The players that the shortened off-season hurt the most was probably the younger guys that were drafted in the last couple of years. They came into the league and had no kind of consistency which made it hard to truly evaluate guys in the last couple of drafts.
But now things are back to normal and that also brings a lot of excitement.
There are lots of storylines going into the 2022-2023 season but here are the biggest main ones:
It would seem like there is going to be the potential for lots and lots of drama this year sow where do we start? We saw a very messy off-season for a few teams and it could alter their championship hopes if things get any worse. Especially the two teams we saw in the Finals.
Is Draymond done with the Warriors?
For the Warriors it’s whether they can overcome Draymond Green punching Jordan Poole in practice and his lingering contract extension. We’ve all seen the video by now so no need to talk about what happened really. It’s more so what happens next for Draymond and the Warriors. He and the team have said all the right things after the video was leaked and it seems like they are more upset with the leak than the actual punch.
If that is true then the hardest part is going to be Draymond regaining his teammates trust throughout the season because as a leader, that’s really something you can’t do. Yes, it’s something that’s happened before in other locker rooms like when Michael Jordan punched Steve Kerr in practice and gave him a black eye or when Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal came to blows but those are 3 of the greatest players ever and it was probably easier for those guys to regain the trust because they were the best players on the team.
Then, he saw Andrew Wiggins sign a new 4 year $109 million extension while Jordan Poole signed a 4 year $140 million extension. It would seem like Draymond is going to be the odd man out unless the Warriors want to pay a tax bill that will be much larger than a lot of countries GDP. Something like that can really linger and cause some drama that will hinder their chances at a 5th championship in 9 years.
Why won’t the Celtics just fire Ime?
Perhaps the biggest news worthy drama from the NBA off-season came from Boston who announced that they were suspending head coach Ime Udoka for the full 2022-2023 season and the reasoning was due to him breaking team rules.
There has been lots of speculation on what exactly those rules were that he broke but the Celtics didn’t say what they were so we’re all just left guessing. The one thing that is for certain though is that Ime Udoka will not be coaching the Celtics after he was able to get them to their first title appearance in 12 years.
How is that going to impact the team? They have a new rookie interim head coach, Joe Mazzulla, but how good is he going to be for them? Can he make the same adjustments or command the same respect as Ime? That remains to be seen but one thing could be for sure, the Ime situation and the drama that came with it could cause them to drop in the Eastern Conference standings.
Will Russ still be a Laker in January?
For the whole off-season, Russell Westbrook’s name was in trade talks. After a season where he probably didn’t play to the standards he wanted to, Russ will be in the last year of his contact and will be playing for his next one. The Lakers still seem to want to get rid of him. If you believe all of the reports. The players, coaches, and management have all said the right things regarding Russ and a potential trade but that doesn’t mean anything.
Then they added Patrick Beverly via trade and it’s really hard to imagine that the Lakers would want to have a Russ and Pat Bev experiment going when they’re supposed to be in win now mode. Just like with a Russ trade, all parties have said the right things and they seem to have squashed their beef so we can only believe them at their word. Also, to be fair to Russ in this regard, he has always been a great teammate so he and Pat Bev could really be on good terms right now.
Still seems like the writing is on the wall and Russ will be out of LA sooner rather than later.
Are things all good in Brooklyn now?
If it wasn’t for all of the drama in Boston the Nets would have had the messiest off-season. They ended their season with an embarrassing sweep at the hands of the Celtics in the first round of the playoffs then things got worse for them.
First, Kyrie Irving asked to be traded before the deadline to opt into his 2022-23 contract but no deal could be worked out so he opted into the contract and some thought he still wanted to be traded. Then Kevin Durant asked to be traded and when he wasn’t he requested that head coach Steve Nash and GM Sean Marks be fired. The Nets chose to stick by Nash and Marks and kept KD and Kyrie and are hoping everything works out.
This is all while Ben Simmons is on the roster so they somehow have to mesh with the 3 players mentioned all while the 2 best players don’t really like the coach and while being in win now mode.
Did we all just forget about the Ayton and Monty Williams drama?
The Suns had a very embarrassing exit from the 2022 playoffs at the hands of the Mavericks and that wasn’t even the worst thing that happened to them in the playoffs. It was the mess that happened between head coach Monty Williams and center Deandre Ayton.
The two had a bad exchange in the playoffs that led to Ayton being benched and it seemed like everything was pointing towards an Ayton exit given he was a restricted free agent. He did hit free agency and his name was brought up in sign and trade talks but he eventually signed an offer sheet with the Pacers which the Suns matched so for now, he is still in Phoenix making it look like everything was ok.
Doesn’t seem like it is though because at Suns media day Ayton said he and Williams hadn’t spoken so whatever went on between the two is still lingering. Now, Ayton also said he’s there to play basketball and win games so that could very well be enough but for a team that lost in the second round of the playoffs and didn’t really improve they can’t have any mishaps.
Hope For Good Health
Last season we lots of stars miss a lot of time due to injury and from the looks of things those stars are going to be back on the court to try and help their teams win a title.
Can Kawhi and PG stay healthy?
Kawhi Leonard missed all of last season due to a torn ACL while Paul George missed all but 31 games for the team. Both are healthy and will be ready to build on everything the Clippers did last season.
Can they stay healthy though? There has been a lot of talk about the health of Anthony Davis but he has played more games than both Kawhi and PG since they all arrived in LA and he at least helped the Lakers win a championship.
So it’s imperative that PG and Kawhi stay healthy so the live up to the hype that surrounded them when they first put on a Clippers uniform.
Are the Lakers contenders if Lebron and AD are healthy?
Just like injuries to the 2 stars for the Clippers derailed their season, injuries did the same for the Lakers who saw their 2 stars miss a big chunk of the season. Anthony Davis played in only 40 games while LeBron played in 56.
Things are a little bit murkier for them though. They don’t have the roster the Clippers have and they have a new head coach in Darvin Ham. Yet, one could still argue that the Lakers just need to stay healthy and get to the playoffs and jump on the backs of AD and LeBron.
LeBron is in year 20 while AD hasn’t been able to stay healthy the last couple seasons of his Lakers tenure so neither staying healthy is a guarantee and everything the Lakers do goes as far as those two take them.
Zion Williamson is another star that missed all of last season due to injury and he’s probably the most talked about guy that everyone wants to see play after their injury. Last season he was the butt of a lot of jokes because of his weight but he’s slimmer down and looks extremely healthy and ready to help lead the Pelicans to heights they have never been before.
The Pelicans with Zion back in the lineup are going to be one of the most intriguing teams this season. After watching what they did without him last year it would seem that adding a very efficient and unstoppable force like Zion back in the lineup would make them fringe contenders.
He’s the key though. Brandon Ingram is truly becoming a star but he and Zion both need to stay healthy for them to have the success they want.
Is Ben going to play?
Ben Simmons missed all of last season but are we 100% sure it was due to injury?
He started the season with the Sixers who he didn’t want to continue playing for after how things quickly turned after their playoff loss at the hands of the Hawks in the 2021 playoffs. He requested a trade before the season and spent time away from them before eventually joining the team and then being traded to Brooklyn.
Once he got to Brooklyn he started his ramp up and reportedly injured his back which caused him to miss the whole season and playoffs.
They could have used him on both ends of the floor last season and will look to do that this year and make everyone forget about their messy offseason. He adds a different dynamic to the Nets on both ends of the floor so his health is very important to their success.
Reinforcements for Jokic and the Nuggets
Nikola Jokic was somehow able to lead a depleted Nuggets to the 6th seed in the West last season which was a big reason he received he 2nd straight league MVP.
He doesn’t have to work as much this season though because Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. are making their returns to the Nuggets lineup. Murray missed all last season after tearing his ACL in the 2021 season while MPJ only played in 9 games before he had to sit out the rest of the season due to a back injury.
Both guys returning makes the Nuggets instant contenders if they can get back to where they were before their injuries. How long will it take for them to get back to normal though? Coming back from any kind of injury is tough but back and knee injuries could mean a slow start for both guys. As long as they’re good by the playoffs the Nuggets should be good.
Sick For Vic
I am in no way shape or form an advocate of actively tanking. I think it hurts the product and could be detrimental to a team’s or player’s psyche. I do understand that for some teams it’s a necessity for them to be successful but at the same time some teams take it too far and it never works out for them.
With that being said, I fully understand the teams that are going to be tanking this season.
Victor Wembanyama is worth it. He’s the type of prospect that the team that gets the first pick would never trade out of the spot and if they did there would only be 2 guys in the league right now (Luka Doncic and Giannis Antetokounmpo) that wouldn’t be traded for him. He’s simply that good of a prospect.
The insane levels of tanking teams are going to be doing is going to be crazy but after seeing Wembanyama live I fully understand and will applaud teams for doing so.
I truly believe if you are a team that isn’t a true contender and have control of your pick that you should try to tank to get this kid.
Now it’s time for some predictions!
This season is going to be an extremely fun and exciting and I think that means we are going to have some really tight races for all of the awards.
This award is tough to pick because, what is the criteria?
For me, I don’t think any 2nd year player should win the award because they’re supposed to improve and I also don’t think any star that was an Allstar should be in the conversation for the award because they’re already great. The last thing is I don’t think a guy who comes back from injury should win the awards because are they really improving from the previous year if they missed most of if not the whole season.
For the most part, the last group of guys that have won MIP turned themselves into Allstars after not making it the previous year so when you think about the award it’ll generally be someone you think will either become an Allstar or fringe Allstar this season.
With those things in mind, there are a few guys that could be in the conversation. Tyrese Maxey, OG Anunoby, Anfernee Simons, Jalen Brunson, and Lauri Markkanen could all very well win the award and I wouldn’t be surprised if they do especially Maxey, but the 2 guys that keep coming to mind the most are Anthony Edwards and RJ Barrett.
Both have the potential to put up some really good numbers and both have a chance to become first time Allstars but if I could only pick one it would have to be Edwards due to the Wolves being a better team.
Really tough choice though.
Rookie of the Year
Rookie of the year has always been about opportunity. Which guy can put up the best numbers in the opportunities they get. When I think about that criteria I think 2 guys are going to be above everyone else and they are Paolo Banchero of the Magic and Ben Mathurin of the Pacers.
Other guys like Keegan Murray, Jaden Ivey, Jalen Williams, Jabari Smith Jr., and Shaedon Sharpe I think are going to have great years but there is just too much established talent in front of those guys for them to truly out up ROY worthy numbers in my opinion.
For Banchero and Mathurin, both are going to be on bad teams that may or may not be tanking and will have ample opportunity to put up great numbers.
There can only be on though and I think the 2022-2023 ROY will be Paolo Banchero.
This is always one of the hardest awards to pick in the preseason because we never truly know who will be coming off the bench enough games to qualify for the award.
The one guy that seems like he is a for sure lock to come off the bench a lot and put up good numbers is the Warriors Jordan Poole. The Warriors starting lineup seems to be set in stone and Poole is coming off a great year that earned him a new $140 million extension.
He seems like the only guy that will consistently be in the conversation due to his numbers and the Warriors being a good team.
Coach of the Year
The criteria for this one seems pretty easy. Either a coach that has a really great record with 60+ wins, someone who improved their team dramatically from the year before, or someone who got their team to a position that no one really saw.
The one guy that I think will fit that description the most is Willie Green. I think he was phenomenal last year and with a year under his belt he should be better.
Plus having Zion back in the lineup plus CJ McCollum bing with the team the whole year should make for win total improvements. They should be, given everyone stays healthy, somewhere near the top of the West.
Defensive Player of the Year
For the first time since 1996 a guard, Marcus Smart, was chosen as the DPOY and I don’t think it happens again this year.
This awards is geared to the big man and there are a few that could easily win it like Anthony Davis, Rudy Gobert again, Jarrett Allen, Robert Williams, but the main guy that comes to mind is Bam Adebayo.
He could have won the award the last few years and I think he will be very motivated this season. Plus it will help that the Heat should have a really good defensive team.
The criteria for this award changes every single year.
Does it go to the guy on the best team with the best numbers? The guy with the best numbers overall? The guy with the best storyline for the season? Maybe the guy who is truly the most valuable by the definition of the words.
Who knows what it will be this year.
There are a lot of guys who have a chance at the awards but my head keeps telling me it’s going to be Joel Embiid.
He has an argument for the last couple of MVP awards and he for sure needs to stay healthy to be able to win but if he does he has all the motivation to do so.
He’s going to once again put up great numbers and the Sixers should be at the top of the East.
Who gonna win the title?
There are lots of teams that could make a legit run at the title this year and teams won’t be able to take nights off as they jockey for position.
For the East, I would really love to pick the Sixers to get to the Finals for the first time since 2001 but I have picked them the last couple of years and they have burned me off one too many times to have trust in them.
That leaves the Bucks for me. I think they’re the most complete team in the East and health derailed their chances at running it back last season. Giannis is going to be Giannis plus Middleton being healthy will be great for them. Then they added Joe Ingles to their roster and he fits what they love to do, defense and shooting, so he should fit in very well.
For the West, it’s tougher to choose a team to represent the conference in the Finals because it’s so stacked.
The one team that keeps coming up is the Clippers though. They have great depth and their role players gained a lot of experience last year with Kawhi and PG out and those 2 are returning. Plus they added John Wall who looked good in preseason and has a lot to prove.
The only downfall on choosing them is health because they haven’t been the healthiest team the last few years and they are the team that a lot of people are picking to win it all and if I know one this it’s that when things are pretty even across the league, the team that most people pick usually folds.
I think if the Clippers stay healthy, they will not only get to their first championship but also win their first championship and Clipper fans will think for one summer that they run LA.
Buckle up! It’s going to be a great year!