2022-23 NBA Season Preview

The complete guide to one of the most highly anticipated seasons in NBA history – breaking down everything you need to know about each team.

Basketball is finally back! With the 2022-23 NBA season officially tipping off Oct. 18, here are my rankings and playoff predictions for all 30 teams in the Association.

Western Conference

  1. Denver Nuggets – With back-to-back MVP Nikola Jokic (27 points per game) on the team, the Nuggets have been a consistent threat in the West, reaching the playoffs in each of the last four seasons. Denver is finally back to full strength this year, as they welcome back starting point guard and rising all-star Jamal Murray (21 ppg) – out over a year due to a torn ACL – as well as forward Michael Porter Jr (19 ppg). On paper, this is one of if not the deepest team in the league, as they significantly upgraded their roster this offseason through signings of Bruce Brown Jr, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Christian Braun, and Peyton Watson. Year after year, the Nuggets are a competitive top three team in the conference during the regular season, but just can’t seem to convert when it really matters – in the playoffs. This season is truly a win or bust for Denver; they have all of the pieces to win a championship, but we’ll have to wait and see if they can finally get the job done.
  2. Golden State Warriors – The reigning NBA champs have high aspirations for this season, as they hope to go back-to-back and reignite the Golden State dynasties of the past. After keeping their core four intact this summer (Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, and Jordan Poole) as well as various other young developmental players (James Wiseman, Jonathan Kuminga, and Moses Moody), the Warriors certainly have the tools and personnel to rule the Western Conference once again.
  3. Los Angeles Clippers – With the return of two-time champion, five-time all-star, and full-time robot Kawhi Leonard (25 ppg), the Clippers are a really scary team this year, and a favorite to make it out of the West. Playing alongside Leonard is seven-time all-star Paul George (24 ppg); after leading an injury-plagued Clippers team to a 42-40 record and the ninth seed in the conference last season, George is hungrier than ever for success, and hopes to help deliver the team’s first championship ever. The offseason addition of veteran all-star John Wall (20 ppg) and returning players Reggie Jackson (16 ppg), Norman Powell (21 ppg), and Marcus Morris (15 ppg) make this Clippers team incredibly versatile, with multiple weapons and scoring threats on the court at all times. Can this year’s team break the Clipper Curse, or will history repeat itself once again?
  4. Phoenix Suns – As the top seed last season (with an unbelievable 64-18 record), the Suns were poised to go back to the Finals for the second straight year and win their first NBA Championship. These hopes and dreams went up in flames (lots of flames) when Phoenix was blown out at home in Game 7 of the second round by the Dallas Mavericks, with a final score of 123-90. After almost losing starting center DeAndre Ayton (17 points, 10 rebounds per game) this past summer – as Ayton initially agreed on a four-year $133 million deal with the Indiana Pacers, but Phoenix was able to match the offer sheet and hold onto the budding all-star for the foreseeable future – the Suns have managed to keep their solid core and return with nearly the same team as last season, led by veteran point guard Chris Paul (15 points, 10 assists per game) and superstar Devin Booker (27 ppg). Aside from health concerns, as Paul is 37 years old and understandably slowing down, the Phoenix Suns are in a prime position to contend for a championship again.
  5. Memphis Grizzlies – Memphis had a breakout year last season, ending up as the second best team in the conference with a 56-26 record. But one big question surrounds the Grizzlies this upcoming season – are they a legit threat to contend, or was last year just a fluke? MVP hopeful Ja Morant (27 ppg) and third-year player Desmond Bane (18 ppg) will look to lead this team to another playoff appearance; yet in a fully healthy Western Conference, it could prove challenging for this young and inexperienced squad. 
  6. Minnesota Timberwolves – The Wolves scored big in the offseason, trading for three-time all-star and three-time DPOY (Defensive Player of the Year) Rudy Gobert (16 points, 15 rebounds per game). Aside from Gobert, Minnesota has a trio of young stars in Anthony Edwards (21 ppg), Karl-Anthony Towns (25 points, 10 rebounds per game), and D’Angelo Russell (18 points, 7 assists per game). Even though their bench depth is considerably weaker than last year, the T-Wolves have the right pieces and weapons at every starting position to contend for a top spot in the Western Conference, and possibly make some noise in the postseason.
  7. Dallas Mavericks – Two words: Luka Doncic. The three-time all-star (and All-NBA First Team member) is coming off of an unbelievable season in which he averaged nearly 30 points, 9 rebounds, and 9 assists per game, leading the Mavs to the fourth seed in the West (52-30 record) and a magical playoff run to the Conference Finals. Unfortunately for Doncic, he will have to shoulder an even bigger load this upcoming season, as Dallas lost both their second and third leading scorers this summer – Jalen Brunson (16 ppg) and Kristaps Porzingis (19 ppg). New addition Christian Wood (18 points, 10 rebounds per game) looks to fill in at the center position, but only time will tell if this Mavericks team has enough pieces to win games consistently throughout the 2022-23 season.
  8. Los Angeles Lakers – Where do I start? The Lakers have always been my favorite team, but I think every fan will agree that they’re getting tougher and tougher to root for. Coming off of an extremely disappointing 2021-22 season (33-49 record as the 11th seed in the West), everyone expected a completely new and revamped squad for the upcoming year. Unfortunately, this is virtually the same exact Lakers team as last year – an older Lebron James, an injury-prone Anthony Davis, a struggling-to-fit-in Russell Westbrook, and tons of average role players. After the solid hiring of coach Darvin Ham, Lebron James (30 ppg) and company look to return to the playoffs and prove that their 2020 NBA Championship wasn’t a fluke. Even though they’re not a top team in the conference, the Lakers have the potential to sneak into the postseason and possibly make a run – if healthy.
  9. New Orleans Pelicans – The Pelicans are the most underrated team in the league this year. With the return of soon to be superstar Zion Williamson (27 ppg) from injury, New Orleans is more than ready to finally contend in the West this year. Last season without Williamson, this team – led by veteran C.J. McCollum (24 ppg) and all-star Brandon Ingram (22 pgg) – made the playoffs, taking the top-seeded Suns to six games. The Pelicans may be ranked ninth, but don’t be surprised if they surpass both the Lakers and the Mavs over the course of the year and make some noise in the postseason.
  10. Sacramento Kings – The Kings officially have the longest active playoff drought in professional sports, as they’ve missed out on the postseason for 16 straight years. However, as evident through an impressive 4-0 preseason campaign, this season might be different for the Kings. With a solid duo of De’Aaron Fox (23 ppg) and Domantas Sabonis (19 points, 12 rebounds per game), along with developing rookie Keegan Murray and sophomore Davion Mitchell, Sacramento has the pieces to finish within the top 10 and sneak into the Play-In Tournament, where they then will only need to win two straight games to make the playoffs. In just six short months, the drought could end…
  11. Portland Trailblazers – Nobody can say Damian Lillard isn’t loyal, but it may be his Achilles heel. This past offseason, the six-time all star (averaging 24 ppg last season) signed a contract extension to stay with Portland through the 2026-27 season, earning north of $60 million per year. The money is good; the team is not. The Blazers have decent players surrounding Lillard in Jerami Grant (19 ppg), Jusuf Nurkic (15 points, 11 rebounds per game), and Anfernee Simons (17 ppg), but this young team just isn’t deep enough to contend for a playoff spot in the Western Conference. 
  12. Houston Rockets – The Rockets aren’t a win-now team, but they will be in just a few short years. Led by sophomore sensation Jalen Green (17 ppg), this is an extremely young, high-flying squad that will spend the next year developing and building chemistry for the future. In addition to Green, look for seven-foot center Alperen Sengun (9 ppg), streaky guard Kevin Porter Jr (15 ppg), second-year prospect Josh Christopher (8 ppg), and rookie Jabari Smith Jr to grow and improve significantly over the course of the season. 
  13. Oklahoma City Thunder – From next year up until 2029, the Thunder have 38 total draft picks – 19 in the first round and 19 in the second round. This unbelievable haul of picks sets up Oklahoma City extremely well for the future. This is another young team in the rebuilding/tanking section of the standings; however, they currently have a promising trio in Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (24 ppg), Josh Giddey (12 ppg), and Chet Holmgren (out for the 22-23 season with a foot injury). As long as they keep developing players and acquiring draft picks, the future is bright in OKC. 
  14. Utah Jazz – After trading away all-stars Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell in exchange for draft capital and young talent this past summer, the Jazz are officially in rebuild mode. Even though they won’t be a contender in the West, look for guard Collin Sexton to have a breakout year. One event for Jazz fans to look forward to is next year’s NBA Draft Lottery, as Utah has great odds to potentially receive the top pick in 2023 and claim one of the most intriguing and sought-after prospects in NBA history: 7’4” unicorn Victor Wenbanyama.
  15. San Antonio Spurs – Under legendary coach Gregg Popovich, the Spurs made the playoffs for 22 consecutive seasons, resulting in five total NBA Championships. Sorry Spurs fans, but that golden era is officially over in San Antonio. Like other teams this offseason, the Spurs traded away their best player, all-star and rising superstar Dejounte Murray. Coming into this season, San Antonio is left with a solid trio of Keldon Johnson (17 ppg), Tre Jones (6 ppg), and Jakob Poeltl (13 points, 9 rebounds per game) – who will all play big minutes and be bright spots for this young team moving forward – but it won’t be nearly enough to stay competitive. 

Eastern Conference

  1. Milwaukee Bucks – After a 2021 NBA Finals victory just a year ago, Milwaukee is fully healthy and looking to win it all once again. Led by a trio of two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo (30 points, 11 rebounds per game), clutch playoff performer and three-time all star Khris Middleton (20 ppg), and four-time All-Defensive Team member Jrue Holiday (18 ppg), the Bucks have been unbelievably consistent, finishing within the top three of the East in four straight seasons. This team only improved over the summer by keeping stars and role players, all while adding veteran forward Joe Ingles and promising rookie MarJon Beauchamp. Unlike most franchises these days, this Bucks team has been built from the ground up through drafting players and developing them over the years – get ready for them to sit atop the East this year.
  2. Boston Celtics – Fresh off an impressive run to the NBA Finals last season, the Celtics have the potential to get there again this year, and even win this time. Jayson Tatum (27 ppg), Jaylen Brown (23 ppg), Marcus Smart (12 ppg), and Robert Williams III (10 points, 10 rebounds per game) will have some extra help this season with the arrival of guard Malcolm Brogdon, who averaged an impressive 20 points in just 36 games last season before injury. However, Boston will be without Coach of the Year candidate and defensive specialist Ime Udoka for the entirety of the 2022-23 season, as he was suspended for “violating organizational guidelines.” But with an insanely deep team, the Celtics will still dominate the regular season; yet it remains to be seen if they can stay fully healthy and utilize past playoff experience to finally get the job done in the postseason with a different coach.
  3. Miami Heat – Last season, the Heat ended the season with a first place record of 53-29 in the East. With virtually the same roster returning, Miami has the pieces to fall into one of the conference’s top three spots once again. Six-time all star Jimmy Butler (21 ppg) is the clear heart and soul of this team, but don’t overlook veterans Kyle Lowry (13 ppg) and Victor Oladipo (12 ppg), as well as young rising stars in Bam Adebayo (19 points, 10 rebounds per game) and Tyler Herro (20 ppg). While the Heat aren’t always a great regular season team, they certainly have the talent to get hot in April and make a deep playoff run.
  4. Philadelphia 76ers – The Process may come full circle this year for Sixers fans. On paper, this is the best roster that Philadelphia has had in years, but it’s tough to tell if it’ll click over the course of the season. With nine-time all star James Harden (21 points, 10 assists per game), MVP candidate Joel Embiid (30 points, 11 rebounds per game), third-year sensation Tyrese Maxey (17 ppg), forward Tobias Harris (17 ppg), and veteran P.J. Tucker (7 ppg), the 76ers are insanely deep and stacked both offensively and defensively. After finally trading away Ben Simmons towards the end of last season, this franchise has no more excuses; it’s a win-or-bust year for the Philadelphia 76ers. 
  5. Cleveland Cavaliers – Everyone saw the Cavs turn the corner last season as they made the Play-In Tournament and finished above .500 (with a 44-38 record) for the first time since LeBron left (2017-18 season). A combination of seasoned veterans – such as champion and five-time all star Kevin Love (13 ppg), guard Caris LeVert (13 ppg), and Olympic medalist Ricky Rubio (13 ppg) – and high-flying young players – including Evan Mobley (15 ppg), Jarrett Allen (16 points, 10 rebounds per game), and all-star Darius Garland (21 ppg) – made Cleveland basketball fun to watch again, and notably more competitive in the East. The Cavs also scored big this summer, as they traded for three-time all star and arguably the best shooting guard in the league, Donovan Mitchell (26 ppg). It’s officially Showtime in Cleveland.
  6. Brooklyn Nets – The Nets nearly fell apart this offseason, as superstar duo of seven-time all star Kyrie Irving (27 ppg) and two-time champion (and former MVP) Kevin Durant (30 ppg) both requested trades. Luckily for Brooklyn fans, it looks like they’re sticking around for the time being. In addition, the Nets welcomed the arrival of Ben Simmons, who comes with lots of question marks and strings attached, as he hasn’t played in an official NBA game since the end of the 2020-21 season; yet Simmons has proven to be an all-star level player when healthy. This team is a strange mix of players – aside from the three above, Brooklyn is dangerously inexperienced with not much depth. While they may not be a top five squad in the East this year, anything can happen in the playoffs, especially if you have KD on your team.
  7. Atlanta Hawks – After the Hawks reached the Eastern Conference Finals a year ago, they come into this season as a young yet battle-tested and experienced team, fully healthy again and ready to go far in the postseason. The acquisition of all-star and rising superstar Dejounte Murray (21 ppg, 8 rpg, 9 apg) this past offseason is big, especially since he won’t even be the first option in ATL. Two-time all star point guard Trae Young (28 points, 10 assists per game) is set for another breakout year, as he’ll be paired in the backcourt with Murray, while still having multiple frontcourt weapons in John Collins (16 ppg) and Clint Capela (11 points, 11 rebounds per game). The Hawks are a sleeper pick to go far this postseason. 
  8. Toronto Raptors – Toronto finished fifth in the conference last season with a solid 48-34 record. While it’ll be tougher to replicate that in a now fully healthy and loaded East, the Raptors definitely have the depth and personnel to sneak into the playoffs and make some noise. All-star Fred VanVleet (20 ppg), NBA champion Pascal Siakim (22 ppg), and young forward Scottie Barnes (15 ppg) will take big leaps again this season, along with a supporting cast of OG Anunoby (17 ppg), Gary Trent Jr (18 ppg), and Otto Porter Jr (8 ppg). Even if this isn’t their year to win it all, this young Raptors squad will be a force in the Eastern Conference for years to come. 
  9. Chicago Bulls – Unlike most franchises in the league, the Bulls have a team of experienced veteran players. Chicago has two clear superstars that will keep them competitive in the East – two-time all star Zach LaVine (24 ppg) is set to have another breakout year, while running mate and five-time all star DeMar DeRozan (28 ppg) is coming off arguably the best season of his career. Aside from those two, the Bulls are full of question marks. Two-time all star Nikola Vucevic (17 points, 11 rebounds per game) is known for his consistency and versatility as a center; however, his stats went down considerably last season, and at 31 years old and past his prime, durability as a starting center for 82 games might be a concern. Andre Drummond (11 points, 10 rebounds per game), another two-time all star, is nowhere near the player he once was on the Pistons – where he averaged nearly 17 points and 16 rebounds per game – and with the Bulls being his fifth team in only three years, Drummond’s consistency, availability, and desire to play a backup role are all factors to think about. Lonzo Ball (13 ppg) is a great facilitator and playmaker when healthy, but after being diagnosed with a torn meniscus and set to miss a few months at the minimum, Chicago is left without a true and proven point guard entering the season. The Bull’s starpower will bring them to the Play-In, but do they have enough to go any further?
  10. New York Knicks – After failing to make a trade for Donovan Mitchell, the Knicks went out and overpaid/signed guard Jalen Brunson (16 ppg) to a 4 year, $104 million contract. After all-star Julius Randle’s (20 ppg) big step back and inconsistent play last season, the Knicks will now look to Brunson and RJ Barrett (20 ppg) to lead the way; however, these two players thrive while being the second option, an example being Brunson behind Luka Doncic last season in Dallas, and so having first-option responsibilities and expectations might be too much. If the Knicks can build chemistry, gain momentum, and stay competitive early on in the season, they have the potential to sneak into a Play-In spot. While they have a clear ceiling, there’s no floor for this young squad – if there’s trouble and drama right out of the gates, it could be a trainwreck in New York.
  11. Detroit Pistons – The Pistons are a super young and athletic team. Coming off of a horrendous 14th place finish in the East last year (23-59 record), the Pistons have nothing to lose entering the season, as they can’t play much worse. Don’t worry, there is hope for Detroit fans this year – rookies Jaden Ivey and Jalen Duren, along with sophomore sensation Cade Cunningham (17 ppg), could all have a big year, and they certainly have the potential to be all-stars in the future. Detroit basketball will be fun to watch this season, but only time will tell if they can stay competitive and win now to fight for a Play-In spot in a tough Eastern Conference. 
  12. Washington Wizards – Three-time all star Bradley Beal (23 ppg) officially joins the short list of loyal superstars, as he resigned with Washington this past summer on a five year, $250 million contract. The money is good; the team is not. Aside from Beal, forward Kyle Kuzma (17 ppg), and seven-footer Kristaps Porzingis (22 points, 8 rebounds per game), there’s not much to look forward to in Washington this year. The Wizards will replicate their 12th place finish from last season unless Beal has an MVP type year and carries them into playoff consideration.
  13. Indiana Pacers – Having missed out on DeAndre Ayton this summer, the Pacers are more in rebuild mode than win-now mode. However, there are some bright spots still left on the roster – young guard Tyrese Haliburton (17 ppg), three-point specialist Buddy Hield (18 ppg), rookie Bennedict Mathurin, and seven-foot center Myles Turner (12 points, 7 rebounds per game). Tied for the least amount of televised games in the league, and as a non-contending team in the East, Indiana basketball is definitely not must see TV; yet, they are in good position for the upcoming draft lottery. 
  14. Charlotte Hornets – The Hornets’ offseason was a nightmare to say the least. After a breakout season this past year – in which he led the team in points per game (20), minutes per game (35.5), and total games played (80 of 82) – rising star Miles Bridges was arrested on domestic violence charges this summer, and it looks as if he might not suit up for the Hornets at all this season. After barely qualifying for the postseason Play-In Tournament (as the 10th seed) during the 2021-22 campaign with Bridges, it will certainly be a challenge for this young team to stay competitive in the East without him. Even if star point guard LaMelo Ball finds a way to put this team on his back after recovering from a Grade 2 ankle sprain to start the season, the furthest I see Charlotte going is a repeat first-game Play-In loss (sorry MJ).
  15. Orlando Magic – Over the summer, the Magic selected forward Paolo Banchero with the first overall pick in the draft. Aside from this, Orlando’s roster is virtually the same as last season, when they finished last in the conference with a nightmarish 22-60 record (and only 21 wins the season before last). Combine that with the recent announcement that second-year starter Jalen Suggs is out for the ‘foreseeable future’ with a left knee sprain and bone bruise…..sorry Magic fans, it’s going to be a rough year. Based on recent win totals from the past two seasons, I’m predicting Orlando will stay at this tortoise-like pace and slightly improve to win 23 games this season. But because of recent draft luck and win-loss records, the Magic have placed themselves as the frontrunners to win the Wenbanyama draft lottery; who knows, they might even break 30 wins next year.