The 2022-23 NBA season is rapidly approaching opening night, which means a few important things: getting used to off-season acquisitions in new uniforms, media day outtakes taken way out of proportion, training camp storylines, working out the kink preseason games, and of course season preview articles that will likely be very wrong. That said, I’m going to break down each team for this upcoming season by ranking teams in conference standings while offering insights to what teams did this offseason in case you forgot or if you’re just starting to get into basketball. Along the way, I’ll provide some bold predictions, list each team’s MVP, X-Factor, plus key addition, and give my way-too-early playoff predictions and season awards. Let’s get started…
1. Milwaukee Bucks (54-28)
MVP: Giannis Antetokoumpo
Key Add: Re-signing Pat Connaughton to a veteran contract extension
X-Factor: Love him or hate him, Grayson Allen
After coming up short in last year’s playoffs with a 2nd round exit to the Boston Celtics, I predict the Bucks to have quite the bounce back as the top team in the Eastern Conference. The regular season is Milwaukee’s bread and butter, as they have finished as a top 3 team in each of the past 5 seasons. Led by one of the world’s most dominant basketball players Giannis Antetokoumpo, All-Defensive guard Jrue Holiday, paired with elite shooting from Khris Middelton, Grayson Allen, and Pat Connaughton to spread the floor on offense, the Bucks are locked and ready to make another championship run.
2. Boston Celtics (52-30)
MVP: Jayson Tatum
Key Add: Trading for Malcolm Brogdon
X-Factor: Robert Williams
Honestly, I had the Celtics as my number one team in the east throughout this offseason up until the news broke about the full year suspension of Head Coach Ime Udoka. However, coming off a Finals series loss to one of the greatest dynasties ever assembled in 6 games, the Celtics only needed to make minor tweaks to get back into that position this year. As a Philly fan, it hurts me to admit this, but the Celtics had an almost perfect offseason. The Celtics lacked consistent depth in both the frontcourt and backcourt. And what did the Celtics do? Yep, brought in exactly that with a trade for floor general Malcom Brogdon and Danilo Gallinari (now out with an ACL injury, but shortly after brought in veteran Blake Griffin who can handle his own off the bench). Overall, the Celtics are simply a complete team with two veteran All-Stars and solid role players who match their game. My only hesitation for the Celtics is having to bring in an interim head coach for the season.
3. Philadelphia 76ers (50-32)
MVP: Joel Embiid
Key Add: P.J. Tucker
X-Factor: Tyrese Maxey’s hustle and grit
I feel comfortable giving my 76ers a homecourt playoff series this season. Daryl Morey did exactly what he needed to do to give this team a chance to make a deep run in the playoffs: bring in some legit players to come off the bench. The starters on this 76ers team weren't the problem last year, it was the total lack of shooting and playmakers off the bench… and head coaching, but that’s a whole other blog to be written about. And in typical Daryl Morey fashion, he improved the Sixers roster by acquiring numerous players of his from his time with the Houston Rockets, like P.J. Tucker, Montrezl Harrell, and Danuel House. To say the least, these guys got that big ole dawg in them. Pair that up with an already efficient offense led by my 2022-23 MVP Joel Embiid, a 100 pound lighter James Harden (his words, not mine), plus dudes like Tobias Harris, Matisse Thybulle, and Tyrese Maxey, who I predict to be an All-Star, this team should be able to achieve 50 wins. Like I mentioned earlier, the only thing holding this Sixers team back is Glenn Rivers.
4. Miami Heat (47-35)
MVP: Dreadlock Jimmy Butler
Key Add: By default, Nikola Jovic (Literally, the Heat only made one offseason move)
X-Factor: Tyler Herro
Heat Culture is real. Any team that Pat Riley and Erik Spoelstra put together will be a hard working, competitive team. There should be nothing different about this year’s team. The core of the roster includes a duo of All-Stars in Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo, who will continue to lead this team, and a plethora of shooting options from Tyler Herro, Duncan Robinson, Gabe Vincent, and Max Strus. Even with the loss of two energy guys off the bench in P.J. Tucker and Markieff Morris, I still expect this team to comfortably have a winning season.
5. Brooklyn Nets (46-36)
MVP: Kevin Durant
Key Add: Royce O’Neal
X-Factor: Kyrie Irving the basketball player
I usually fill the X-Factor slot for an underrated role player who in my eyes can be a game changer. For the Nets though, I truly think Kyrie’s motivation to win and focus on basketball will be a key component to the Nets’ success this season. First and foremost, Kyrie and KD need to stay healthy. The All-NBA duo have only played FORTY-FOUR (44) games with each other since the start of the 2020-21 season. Another concern I have is how well will Ben Simmons mesh with the two stars after taking a full year hiatus from basketball. There are also questions about how well Steve Nash can coach an NBA team. All of these concerns leave me ranking a championship contender as the 5 seed.
6. Cleveland Cavaliers (44-38)
MVP: Donovan Mitchell
Key Add: Donovan Mitchell
X-Factor: Evan Mobley
After just missing out on the playoffs last season with a loss against the Hawks in the Play-In Tournament, the Cavaliers upgraded their roster big time with a blockbuster trade for All-Star guard Donovan Mitchell. With a clear franchise player in place, a great head coach in J.B. Bickerstaff, and a hodgepodge of excellent young pieces in Jarrett Allen, Evan Mobley, and Darius Garland, I predict Cleveland to comfortably make the playoffs this year and maybe even bypass the Play-In Tournament as a whole.
7. Toronto Raptors (41-41)
MVP: Pascal Siakam
Key Add: Re-signed Chris Broucher
X-Factor: Scottie Barnes
Last season, the Raptors exceeded most expectations with a playoff berth, only to come up short with a quick 5 game exit to the Sixers in the opening round. Toronto is pretty much running the same team back this season which is not necessarily a bad idea, but also not a great idea. Don’t get me wrong, this team is solid, led by a top coach in Nick Nurse and All-Star caliber players like Pascal Siakam and Fred VanVleet. I also expect Scottie Barnes to take the next step in his career to be a fringe All-Star talent. However, the Raptors still won’t be able to hang with the Eastern Conference’s best teams and will likely be in the Play-In.
8. Chicago Bulls (40-42)
MVP: Zach Lavine
Key Add: Goran Dragic
X-Factor: Ayo Dosunmu
At this time last year, the whole NBA community was high on the Bulls being the next NBA juggernaut with a “Big 3” of DeRozan, Lavine, and Vucevic. I had contradicting thoughts and ranked the Bulls as my 7 seed in the east. Ultimately, Chicago ended last season as the 6 seed, losing to the Bucks in 5 games in the first round. I think Chicago will repeat the type of season they had last year. Similar to the Raptors, they’re good, but not great. They’re not terrible, but definitely not amazing. They have interesting pieces like Ayo Dosunmu and Patrick Williams, but I just don’t see Lavine and DeRozan being able to carry this team to a playoff run.
9. Atlanta Hawks (40-42)
MVP: Trae Young
Key Add: Dejounte Murray
X-Factor: John Collins
The Atlanta Hawks traded 3 future first round picks and a pick swap to the San Antonio Spurs for Dejounte Murray. Do I think Murray is a good player? Yes. Do I think his type of game will mesh well with Trae Young? Not so much. I’m getting Houston Rockets trading for Chris Paul while they have James Harden type of vibes from this Atlanta duo. I’m not saying Young/Murray are Harden/Paul, but I believe both Young and Murray are the type of players that need the ball in their hands to be at the top of their games. With that overarching concern, the rest of the Atlanta roster is nothing too special. Yes Capela can average 10 and 10 a game, yes Bogdan Bogdanovic can have great shooting stretches, but this roster isn’t competing with the big boys in the east like Milwaukee, Miami, and Philly on a nightly basis.
10. Washington Wizards (38-44)
MVP: Bradley Beal
Key Add: Will Barton
X-Factor: Kristaps Porzingis
Once again, it’s going to be a long season in Washington D.C.. The Wizards are one of a number of teams in the NBA where they’re awkwardly not full on tanking/rebuilding, but also in no way competing for a championship. However, this team can definitely hold their own on offense with Bradley Beal leading the squad and nice pieces in Will Barton, Monte Morris, and Kyle Kuzma. A big question going into this season is which Kristaps Porzingis will show up, and if the good one does then the Wizards may flirt with an appearance in the Play-In Tournament.
11. New York Knicks (35-47)
MVP: R.J. Barrett
Key Add: Jalen Brunson
X-Factor: Immanuel Quickley
Congratulations to Jalen Brunson and his agent for getting an absolute bag from the New York Knicks front office. I’m not sure how the free agency pitch meeting went or what the Knicks exactly see in Brunson, but $27 million a year is absolutely wild. I understand Brunson is a solid scoring, floor general type guard, but Brunson is getting paid similar to guys like Jayson Tatum, DeMar DeRozan, and Draymond Green. I do like the Knicks other guards like R.J. Barrett and Immanuel Quickley, but besides that trio, this team is subpar. Additionally, Randle isn’t that guy from a few seasons ago and there’s nothing else really going for the Knicks in my opinion. Might be sooner than later for Knicks fans to hit the lottery odds machine.
12. Charlotte Hornets (30-52)
MVP: LaMelo Ball
Key Add: Literally no one
X-Factor: LaMelo Ball
The Hornets could quickly become one of the worst teams in the east this season. There are so many holes on this roster and questions that owner Michael Jordan may need to consider suiting up for a 10-day contract. Besides their obvious star in LaMelo Ball, the rest of the team may be putting on a 4 month showcase for the trade deadline because that may be the only viable option for the Hornets come February. Players like Kelly Oubre Jr., P.J. Washington, and Miles Bridges may be on the way out if the Hornets decide to go full-on tank mode for some of the top prospects in the upcoming NBA Draft.
13. Orlando Magic (28-54)
MVP: Cole Anthony
Key Add: Paolo Banchero
X-Factor: Paolo Banchero
I like what the Magic are slowly building down in Disney. Of course they’re still years away from playoff contention, but with young pieces like first overall pick Paolo Banchero, Cole Anthony, Jalen Suggs, Franz Wagner, and Wendell Carter Jr., they’re steadily building some solid NBA players. Fans should also keep an eye on Markelle Fultz’ and Jonathan Issac’s return from long term injuries. Overall, just another rebuilding year for Orlando and expect them to be towards the top of the lottery.
14. Detroit Pistons (26-56)
MVP: Cade Cunningham
Key Add: Jaden Ivey
X-Factor: Saddiq Bey
Similar to the Magic, the Pistons are in the midst of a vast rebuild. Coming off a great draft where Detroit was able to acquire Jaden Ivey and Jalen Duren, the team looks to keep developing their young talent of Cade Cunningham, Saddiq Bey, and Isaiah Stewart. The young Pistons’ core is also surrounded by solid veterans such as Bojan Bogdanovic, Alec Burks, and potentially Kemba Walker, but he may be parting with the team soon. It’s likely to be a win for your favorite team when Detroit comes to town, but watch out for Ivey and Duren to be rookie of the year candidates.
15. Indiana Pacers (24-58)
MVP: Tyrese Haliburton
Key Add: Bennedict Mathurin
X-Factor: Chris Duarte
I’m convinced the Indiana Pacers are going to do everything in their power to tank for top prospects Victor Wembanyama and Scooter Henderson. It’s obvious the Pacers knew they weren’t going anywhere with the core of Domantas Sabonis, Myles Turner, and Malcom Brogdon. With Sabonis now in Sacramento and Brogdon now in Boston, I see Turner as the next man out this year, as Indiana attempts to get a totally clean slate and build around Haliburton and the draft. It's going to be a tough season in the Hoosier State.
1. Golden State Warriors (60-22)
MVP: Steph Curry
Key Add: A healthy James Wiseman
X-Factor: Jordan Poole
Before the 2016 playoffs, Warriors owner Joe Lacob caught headlines when he said “We’re light-years ahead of probably every other team in structure, in planning, in how we’re going to go about things." Fast forward to the start of the 2022-23 season… and his take still stands. Look, the Warriors aren’t going to put up 70 something wins again like they did in 2016 due to the fact that the league has changed in terms of resting star players for load management. However, I’m fairly confident the Warriors can reach a 60 win season. They undoubtedly have the best backcourt in the NBA with Curry and Thompson, and even if Golden State decides to rest one of the two, they can plug in Jordan Poole, who could likely start on the majority of NBA teams. Let’s not forget gritty players like Draymond Green and Kevon Looney running the frontcourt and the deep bench made up of young athletes like newly acquired Donte DiVincenzo, Jonathan Kuminga, James Wiseman, and Moses Moody. Unless the Warriors get drastically injured throughout the season and all things go wrong, pencil in the reigning champs for another deep playoff run.
2. Los Angeles Clippers (54-28)
MVP: Kawhi Leonard
Key Add: John Wall
X-Factor: Paul George
Top to bottom, this is maybe the deepest roster in the NBA. Led by All-NBA talents Kawhi Leonard, who is coming off an ACL injury, and Paul George, this Clippers roster can go 13 players deep with talents like Terrance Mann, Norman Powell, Nicolas Batum, Robert Covington and more all coming off the bench. I just see this team being super gritty, winning hard fought games after missing the playoffs last season with a loss to Minnesota in the Play-In Tournament. With a well-rested Kawhi, Paul George determined to win his first ring, and a rejuvenated John Wall trying to get his career back on track after long term injuries, I expect to see this team, led by my coach of the year winner Tyron Lue, to make a lot of noise in the West.
3. Phoenix Suns (53-27)
MVP: Devin Booker
Key Add: Re-signing Deandre Ayton long term
X-Factor: Chris Paul
Coming off a stunning game 7 blowout loss against the Mavericks in the conference semifinals last season, this Suns team is determined to make another championship run. Phoenix showed this in the offseason by signing center Deandre Ayton long-term after rumors that they may not commit to him. Even though the Suns had a disappointing end of the season last year, let’s not forget they’re led by All-NBA backcourt in the NBA2K cover athlete Devin Booker and point general Chris Paul. The Suns are loaded with guys able to spread the floor on offense with DPOY candidate Mikal Bridges, Cameron Johnson, Landry Shamet, and Torrey Craig. Ultimately, this roster will be competing for another playoff run and I envision them having home court advantage in the first round.
4. Denver Nuggets (49-33)
MVP: Nikola Jokic
Key Add: The return of Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr.
X-Factor: Bones Hyland
The band is back together in Denver. For the first time, the Nuggets will have their core 4 of Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray, Michael Porter Jr., and Aaron Gordon all playing together to start the season. This is a relief to Nuggets fans, as their team has been set back by injury bugs the past few seasons in their quest to get back to the conference finals for the first time since the Disney Bubble. For this season, I view the Nuggets roster as very front loaded. I think they have a really good starting lineup, but lack some depth besides Bones Hyland, who had moments of incredible shot making last year, and veterans like KCP and Bruce Brown. In short, this team will be efficient in the regular season, but I’m hesitant in penciling them in for a deep playoff run.
5. Minnesota Timberwolves (46-36)
MVP: Anthony Edwards
Key Add: Rudy Gobert
X-Factor: Karl Anthony-Towns
Minnesota is looking to go all-in these next few years after trading away 4 first round picks and 1 pick swap with the Utah Jazz over the span of the next 7 drafts to land DPOY Rudy Gobert. The combo of All-Star centers sharing the court at the same time could be lethal as KAT is known to stretch the floor and knock down long range shots, while Gobert can sit at the rim which he is best at. All of this seems good on paper, but I’m not overly confident in this duo playing well together because there is a bad history of teams giving up lots of assets to pair high-level centers. Anthony Davis and Demarcus Cousins in New Orleans and Joel Embiid and Al Hortford in Philly immediately come to mind. I think Gobert’s presence will take away from KAT’s game, leading Anthony Edwards to take over as the best player and have a breakout season to become the league’s Most Improved Player. With the bench full of fine, veteran role players, I picture the Timberwolves avoiding the Play-In tournament and easily making the playoffs.
6. Memphis Grizzlies (43-39)
MVP: Ja Morant
Key Add: Kenny Lofton Jr.
X-Factor: Desmond Bane
How does the 2 seed in the west last year get dropped all the way down to the 6 seed? Well, it’s quite simple when you look at what teams in the west did in the offseason. Teams like the Clippers, Suns, Nuggets, and Timberwolves all got better, whether it be due to players returning from injury, offseason trades, or free agency adds. The Grizzlies didn’t do much at all besides adding a few late draft picks and acquiring Danny Green, who will be out most of the year. This Grizzlies roster is solid and gritty, and will be a hard fought win for any team all season long. Overall, Ja Morant can only do so much to carry Memphis this year with a roster full of young guys.
7. Dallas Mavericks (42-40)
MVP: Luka Doncic
Key Add: Christian Wood
X-Factor: Spencer Dinwiddie
MVP candidate Luka Doncic is going to have to do it all this season… again. It’s not a surprise that Doncic led Dallas in points, rebounds, assists, and steals last year, as the whole team functions around his play. Assuming that Doncic doesn’t get injured at any point of this season, (like a back injury from carrying the team) then maybe the Mavericks avoid the Play-In Tournament. In all likelihood minor injuries and load management will happen, and this Mavericks team will not be able to handle their own without Doncic. The Mavs just don’t have much play-making ability outside of Doncic and Dinwiddie, who will lead the team’s second unit. They did improve the center position with Christian Wood and Javale McGee, but they aren’t the type of additions to turn this team into a championship contender. I do like their rookie Jaden Hardy a lot, but Doncic is going to have to average a triple double for this team to make any run. When all is said though, Dallas should be able to claim a playoff spot at the end of the season.
8. New Orleans Pelicans (41-41)
MVP: Zion Williamson
Key Add: Dyson Daniels
X-Factor: Herbert Jones
Real solid team down in The Big Easy. So solid, that I’m giving the Pelicans an even .500 record at 41 wins and 41 losses. Of course, the Pelicans are finally getting back their franchise player Zion Williamson after a year long absence last season from a foot injury. He should make an immediate impact for the team with his career average of almost 26 PPG and 7 REB. Zion’s running mates of C.J. McCollum and Brandon Ingram have been able to hold their own throughout their careers, so with the trio fully healthy, who knows what this New Orleans roster can accomplish. Let’s not forget, the Pelicans have a veteran presence at center with Jonas Valanciunas, exciting role players in Devonte’ Graham, Herbert Jones, and Jose Alvarado, and they're led by a respected coach in Willie Green. If I had to make a bet, I would put my money on the Pelicans being in the Play-In Tournament, and making it out as a 7 or 8 seed.
9. Sacramento Kings (38-44)
MVP: Domantas Sabonis
Key Add: Keegan Murray
X-Factor: De’Aaron Fox
Well if you’re a baseball fan, you saw two of the longest playoff droughts end this season with the Seattle Mariners and Philadelphia Phillies ending their droughts of 21 years and 11 years, respectively. Now, the longest playoff drought in the 4 pro sports now belongs to the Sacramento Kings, with 16 straight non playoff appearances. I’m fairly confident that the record keepers can make that number 17 before the season starts. Sure, the Kings could mess around and make the Play-In, but it’s tough for me to see this squad as a top 8 team in the west. This Sacramento team just doesn’t have the roster to compete with the best teams in the league. I have been a fan of Sabonis since his time at Gonzaga. However, he can’t carry this team, which in my opinion, only goes 6 or 7 players deep. I don’t know what De’Aaron Fox we’re getting this year, and guys like Harrison Barnes and Malik Monk are nothing to write home about. With all this said, expect the rookie out of Iowa Keegan Murray to have one heck of a season with a lot of opportunities for him to shine on a depleted roster. It’s going to be a long season for the tens, maybe even hundreds of Kings fans out there.
10. Los Angeles Lakers (38-44)
MVP: LeBron James
Key Add: New Head Coach Darvin Ham
X-Factor: Anthony Davis’ availability
LeBron James is going on year 20. Someone who turns 38 shortly after the Christmas Day games should not have to take on the load that LeBron will have to take on because let’s be honest… Anthony Davis will probably miss a lot of time, as he has only played over 40 games once in 3 seasons with the Lakers. In addition, there is some massive locker room blow-up bound to happen with Russell Westbrooke and Pat Bev. And in full transparency, when any unbiased NBA fan just simply looks at this roster, it’s just flat out not that talented. Kendrick Nunn, Dennis Schroder, Thomas Bryant… I mean these players aren't at their best with all due respect. Similar to the Kings, the Lakers will probably end up in the Play-In, and if I had to responsibly place a wager on the result, I would bet they get bounced and end up not making the playoffs.
11. Portland Trailblazers (35-47)
MVP: Damian Lillard
Key Add: Jerami Grant
X-Factor: Anfernee Simons
The Portland Trail Blazers front office have outdone themselves again. Another year goes by and another year they fail to build a competitive team around Damian Lillard. There are some nice young pieces like Anfernee Simmons, who got a bag this summer, Brandon Williams, and rookie Shaedon Sharpe, who sat out for the entirety of his one year at Kentucky. Who knows if Damian Lillard is in the long term plan for Portland, because it makes sense in my book that this team is rebuilding and should tank while still trying to develop their young players. In other words, this is the western conference version of the Washington Wizards, stuck in between rebuilding and competing.
12. Houston Rockets (31-51)
MVP: Jalen Green
Key Add: Jabari Smith Jr.
X-Factor: Kevin Porter Jr.
Frankly, the remaining four teams could be in any order, but I’m confident that they will be the bottom feeders of the west. The Rockets are slowly building a solid foundation made up of Jalen Green and Kevin Porter Jr., who has shown moments of being an elite scorer. Houston also added rookie Jabari Smith Jr. into the mix after the projected top overall prospect fell to the third pick. The Rockets also added rookie TyTy Washington from Kentucky. For the most part, there’s nothing to be excited about just yet for the Rockets, as they are in the early phases of a franchise reset.
13. Utah Jazz (30-52)
MVP: Jordan Clarkson
Key Add: Ochai Agbaji
X-Factor: Collin Sexton
The good thing going for the Utah Jazz is that they brought in Danny Ainge last year to take over as the team’s CEO of basketball operations. In his first year he traded away star players for a massive haul of assets. Over the next 7 drafts, the Jazz currently own the rights to 13 first round picks and 3 pick swaps. And let’s not forget, the Jazz aren’t playing for anything this year. They can still trade veterans Mike Conley and Jordan Clarkson for more picks and young players at the deadline. This type of massive rebuild worked well for Ainge in Boston, trading franchise players Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce to Brooklyn in maybe the most infamous trade in NBA history, and now he looks to do the same in Utah. As the Jazz look to rebuild through the draft and prepare for the Victor Wembanyama sweepstakes, expect no more than 30 wins from this team.
14. Oklahoma City Thunder (27-55)
MVP: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander
Key Add: Jalen Williams
X-Factor: Josh Giddey
OKC is currently scouting 8th graders and that’s their main focus, as it should be with the amount of draft picks they have. Over the next 7 drafts, the Thunder own 30 picks. Just an absurd number. So when it comes to the players they currently have on the roster, they’re not all that bad in terms of young talent. After the season ending injury of rookie Chet Holmgren, the Thunder will still be led by Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Josh Giddey, and Lu Dort. Certainly, this OKC squad will be fighting for wins all season, but in no way be competing for the Play-In.
15. San Antonio Spurs (22-60)
MVP: Keldon Johnson
Key Add: Jeremy Sochan
X-Factor: Devin Vessel
Instead of myself explaining this year’s San Antonio Spurs, I’ll let Hall of Fame Head Coach Greg Popovich break it down, "I probably shouldn't say this, but I'll say it anyway, what the hell? Nobody here should go to Vegas on the thought of betting on us to win the championship. I know somebody will say 'gosh, what a Debbie downer, what if they work really hard?' It's probably not gonna happen." Yep, that’s all you really need to know. I’m declaring my worst team for the 2022-23 NBA season to be the Spurs. They’re all in for Victor Wembanyama.
MVP: Joel Embiid (Runner Ups: Giannis Antetokoumpo, Luka Doncic)
DPOY: Rudy Gobert (Runner Ups: Mikal Bridges, Bam Adebayo)
ROY: Jaden Ivey (Runner Ups: Paolo Banchero, Keegan Murray)
MIP: Anthony Edwards (Runner Ups: Tyrese Maxey, Scottie Barnes)
6MAN: Jordan Poole (Runner Ups: Jordan Clarkson, Spencer Dinwiddie)
COY: Tyronn Lue (Runner Ups: J.B. Bickerstaff, Chris Finch)
ECF: 76ers over Bucks in 7
WCF: Warriors over Clippers in 6
NBA Finals: Warriors over 76ers in 6
Finals MVP: Steph Curry