Pause, take a deep breath and strap yourself in for NBA season 2022-23. Now that the preseason is all but done, opening day is upon us and with that, it’s time to make a few predictions as to who will go well and which teams are the best bets to make the playoffs.
Whether you place an annual bet on the NBA, make your picks every game, or simply follow the season for the fun of it, one thing is certain, the world’s biggest basketball league has been incredibly unpredictable in recent years.
The Golden State Warriors may be many people’s favorites for a fifth title in nine seasons but the Dubs will face fierce competition from the other top-fancied teams including the LA Clippers and Brooklyn Nets. So, who’s had a great summer, who’s made the best additions, and who among the NBA’s glitterati will spur their side onto success come the season climax in spring 2023?
Fresh from topping the Boston Celtics 4-2 in June, the Warriors return most of their title-winning core for the new season alongside some exciting-looking prospects ready to step up. The odds for the Golden State Warriors to make the playoffs reflect the view that so long as Stephen Curry, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson stay fit then the Dubs are as close to playoff-reaching certs as there’s likely to be.
The Warriors will have been keeping an eye on goings on 400 miles south at how the LA Clippers have fared during the close season. The signs are encouraging with no key departures from the Crypt and expectations building that anything short of a return to the playoffs will be a failed campaign. If superstar two-way duo Kawhi Leonard and Paul George can regain their dominance then the Clippers will be a force to be reckoned with.
Over to the east, it’s been an offseason of drama for the Brooklyn Nets. Goran Dragic has joined likely championship rivals, the Celtics, while Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond headed for the Bulls. Much will depend on locks Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, Ben Simmons and Joe Harris but the Nets are a good bet to make the playoffs. As for the Boston Celtics, youngsters Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown look like exciting prospects and the team from Boston make up the quadruple of teams most favored to be heading for the playoffs.
A little deeper into the odds for the playoffs are the Milwaukee Bucks though Khris Middleton’s likely absence early on might hamper their chances of a good start to the season. Those looking at outsiders to make the playoffs might want to take a second glance at last term’s surprise package, the Cleveland Cavaliers who only dropped into the Play-In tournament after injuries took their toll as the season entered its latter stages.
With the Clippers and the Warriors the hot favorites to be winners of the Western Conference, thoughts turn to which other teams could finish in the top six places. The list of true contenders is almost unprecedented in what looks to be a league as deep in talent as it's ever been.
The Denver Nuggets have returned to full strength and should have a good run. That is so long as Michael Porter Jr. and Jamal Murray hit the court in peak condition and reigning MVP Nikola Jokic continues his impressive points per game form into the new season.
It’s been a break filled with drama for the Phoenix Suns whose followers will anticipate playoff qualification at the very least. Whether the Suns can quickly put the saga of where Jae Crowder will play his basketball in 2022-23 behind them may count. That said, the Suns still possess one of the best starting lineups in the Western Conference and should be there or thereabouts come the season’s final buzzer.
Beyond the best bets for the Western Conference playoff qualifiers, the LA Lakers still have a ton of issues to contend with but hopes remain for a return to form after a season of struggle last time out. The Memphis Grizzlies might take time to recover from the loss of star forward Jaren Jackson Jr. to another injury and the Dallas Mavericks' chances rest on a continuation of their 2021-22 defensive solidity.
If the sportsbooks are to be believed, the Eastern Conference is shaping up to be a three-way shootout between the Boston Celtics, the Nets and the Milwaukee Bucks. The Boston team’s impressive top seven should see them have a good run though squad depth could be an issue. Milwaukee fans have enjoyed seeing their side post impressive winning streaks to peak at the right time in recent seasons and the Nets' ensemble remains largely intact after a summer of rumors surrounding stars including Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving.
Elsewhere, the Philadelphia 76ers have strengthened with the additions of De’Anthony Melton, P.J. Tucker and Danuel House while hanging on to the prolific James Harden. Miami Heat as runners-up last season, Erik Spoelstra was thwarted in his efforts to land a handful of big names so overachieving against the squad strength on paper is again the aim. As for the Cleveland Cavaliers, neutrals will be taking note as to how they start the campaign given some blockbuster trading that looks to have assembled a team of all talents. It could be an exciting season for the Cavs who should be a good bet to make the playoffs.
Among the rest, the Atlanta Hawks have upgraded their defense, the Toronto Raptors squad is largely as it was and their young core continues to develop with game time. The New York Knicks may be the best bet to sneak one of the last playoff spots given it's qualify or bust for coach Tom Thibodeau who welcomed Jalen Brunson as the NY team’s key free agency addition in July.
Taking everything we’ve seen last term and the goings on during the close season, it’s difficult to look past the LA Clippers star-spangled squad showing strongly in 2022-23 and pipping the Golden State Warriors to the Western Conference title in the final game.
In the Eastern Conference, the Milwaukee Bucks will take some stopping and they’re the pick to take the title, edging out the Boston Celtics. With an intact squad from last season and the return of Khris Middleton set to boost morale and the Boston point haul, the Celtics could well enjoy a glorious campaign.