Predictions for the 2022-’23 NBA season



Source: Ashley Landis, AP

The 2022-’23 NBA season opened on Oct. 19 following a tumultuous offseason filled with blockbuster trades, surprise free agent signings, and numerous team decisions to clean house and rebuild.

With old playoff challengers revamping their rosters and new teams hoping to launch into contention, the future of the league is more unpredictable than ever. Though the Golden State Warriors won the championship last season, many teams have retooled their rosters, opening a window of opportunity for anyone to become this year’s champion. 

I. Contenders

The clear-cut contenders in the Western Conference this season are the Los Angeles Clippers, and Golden State Warriors. In the Eastern Conference, the Boston Celtics and Milwaukee Bucks are front runners for the championship.  

With last season’s late acquisition of 3-and-D players Norman Powell and Robert Covington, the Los Angeles Clippers have one of the deepest benches in the league. Their offseason signing of former NBA All-Star John Wall raises their ceiling, though questions remain given his lengthy injury history. Along with the long-awaited return of star player Kawhi Leonard, who was out with an injury to his right knee, the Clippers’ bench depth and star power position them in strong contention for an NBA championship. 

Fresh off winning it all in June, the Warriors maintain very high chances of going back-to-back. Despite offseason drama between players Draymond Green and Jordan Poole, the team has retained key players during the offseason with Poole signing a lucrative four-year, $128 million contract. The success of the Warriors this season, thus, depends on their ability to continue playing at a high level and the progression of their young talent. 

Following a crushing defeat in the finals last season, the Boston Celtics addressed their void at point guard by trading for Malcolm Brogdon. In order to return to the finals this year, the Celtics will have to improve the synergy between stars Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. Additionally, they must ensure that big man Robert Williams’s injuries do not derail their season early on, perhaps by finding a temporary substitute as he recovers.

Although the Milwaukee Bucks failed to meet expectations during last year’s playoffs, superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo’s ability to dominate on the court places the team firmly in championship contention. With limited money to spend in the offseason, the Bucks made hay out of signing forward Joe Ingles to bolster the team’s shooting. Though they made no drastic moves, the Bucks’ seasoned roster gives them a fighting chance to win.

II. Play-off Locks

In the West, the Dallas Mavericks, Denver Nuggets, Phoenix Suns, and Memphis Grizzlies seem poised to at least make the playoffs. All of these teams will need to make improvements during the season in order to become serious contenders.

The Mavericks’ addition of Christian Wood filled their void at big man. With Wood paired alongside Luka Doncic, the team will be significantly stronger offensively. However, the team’s defensive strength remains dubious. 

Though the Nuggets added shooter Kentavious Caldwell-Pope during the offseason, their lack of any major additions could hurt their chances this year. Their ability to make a deep run in the playoffs this season will depend on Nikola Jokic continuing his MVP-level play. 

The Suns also failed to make major changes to their roster following a disappointing performance last postseason. The team will likely need a move or two in order to make noise in the increasingly competitive West. 

The Grizzlies are a team whose success largely hinges on the continued progression of their youth. With tons of young talent and a lack of veterans, young star Ja Morant will need to take the lead to propel this team to the next level. 

In the East, certain teams’ championship windows have narrowed while others have opened. The Brooklyn Nets, Miami Heat, Cleveland Cavaliers, and Philadelphia 76ers round out the definitive picks for the teams making the playoffs. 

The Nets are a team whose championship window has narrowed significantly due to disgruntled stars Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving and their dwindling bench talent. Additionally, the team’s lack of significant capital makes mid-season improvements difficult. 

The Heat locked down young star Tyler Herro in the off-season. However, the lack of roster shake-ups illustrates their faith in their current roster. Though the team has bench depth, they lack the star power necessary to make a deep run this season.  

The Cavaliers’ trade for All-Star Donovan Mitchell has elevated the team’s ceiling significantly. The major roster improvement significantly raises their potential this season. 

The 76ers success this season hinges strictly on how consistently stars Joel Embiid and James Harden can perform throughout the season and in the playoffs. 

The Lakers have struggled in recent years.
Source: Mark J. Terrill, Associated Press

III. Play-off Hopefuls 

Though the New Orleans Pelicans await the return of star Zion Williamson, their lack of experience hinders them from being a true contender in the highly competitive West. The Portland Trail Blazers’ offload of key bench pieces last season narrowed their contention window; however, the addition of Jerami Grant and star Damian Lillard’s return from injury gives them an opportunity to prove themselves. Though the Minnesota Timberwolves’ pairing of big men Karl-Anthony Towns and Rudy Gobert in the offseason bolsters their talent, their roster has yet to be proven in the postseason. While the Los Angeles Lakers have an immensely talented duo in Lebron James and Anthony Davis, their disappointing seasons in the recent past combined with inadequate bench depth make them an increasingly unlikely contender. 

Despite the addition of Dejounte Murray, the Atlanta Hawks are not a team on par with contenders. The Toronto Raptors’ lack of major offseason moves combined with an increasingly talented East puts them lower on this list despite their success last year. Due to the injury of guard Lonzo Ball, the Chicago Bulls should expect an early slow start, which affects their ability to make a deep playoff run. The Charlotte Hornets are also struggling with early season injuries; additionally, the lack of star power in their absence could dig them into an early season hole.

The Spurs begin their rebuild this season.
Source: Ronald Cortes, Getty Images

IV. Lottery

These are teams that will probably miss the playoffs. 

Despite the front office effort to become competitive, the Sacramento Kings’ coaching woes and lack of overall talent in the stacked West will prevent them from making the playoffs.

 The San Antonio Spurs recently solidified their acceptance of rebuilding with the trade of Dejounte Murray over the offseason; thus, they will likely not look to contend any time soon. 

The Houston Rockets are too young of a team to make a real run, and this season will likely be focused on team building for future years. 

Injury to rookie Chet Holmgren hampers the Oklahoma City Thunder’s opportunity to make the playoffs after seasons of tanking. 

The Utah Jazz is another team who recently blew up its roster and will likely tank for a high draft pick this season. 

The Washington Wizards are a team close to playoff contention but is projected to barely make it due to the greater talent of other teams. 

The New York Knicks’ addition of Jalen Brunson is likely not enough to put them over the top. 

The Orlando Magic, Indiana Pacers, and Detroit Pistons are all in the midst of a rebuild and not looking to realistically compete this season.