The 2022-23 NBA Season is tipping off, and there are no clear betting favorites for the Title.

Here are some quick takes on each team as the year begins.

Eastern Conference

Atlantic Division:

Boston Celtics – The defending Eastern Conference Champion was having a strong off-season prior to losing their Head Coach Ime Udoka, and Free Agent big man Danilo Gallinari. After a slow start last year, they turned things on with their defense. Will that defensive intensity continue? Malcolm Brogdon adds to the rotation. Robert Williams is expected to be out +/- 12 weeks. 36 year old Al Horford was very important for Boston during the post-season; and better when he had rest in-between games. If I’m Boston, I’m significantly limiting Horford’s regular season time, and just trying to get to the playoffs with Williams and Horford healthy and rested.

Brooklyn Nets – Color me skeptical that things don’t go awry for the Nets. That said, you have to acknowledge they still have plenty of talent. Given Kevin Durant’s ties to the renovation of the Baltimore Arena, I’d like to root for him. His skills have never been a question. He’s one of the elite all-time scores, and is now appearing on lists for the best players ever in the 10-15 range. His Twitter fingers get a bit old, but whatever. Golden State winning another title without him has to sting. For now he has opted to stay in Brooklyn, but only a few months ago he was requesting a trade. Where do you want to go Kevin? You got yourself to Brooklyn, make it work. Obviously his on-floor life will be easier if Kyrie Irving is on the court with him. Given that Irving hasn’t hit the 70 game plateau since ’16-’17, we should believe it when we see it. Ben Simmons didn’t suit up with the Nets after being traded to Brooklyn last year. He now says he’s ready to go. Okay. He can help defensively, and will help move the ball offensively. His issues at the line might be mitigated some with Irving handling the ball in close-and-late. I do feel his unwillingness to shoot is an issue though. TJ Warren could be an underrated move. Also like Cam Thomas. They’ve got the elite talent, and rotation depth that says they can contend – but I feel like they’re more likely to implode vs. reach their potential.

New York Knicks – They aren’t a contender, but I think they can get back to the feel good vibes they had in the ’20-’21 season. Jalen Brunson will be a steadying presence. RJ Barrett continues to improve. Is Julius Randle an engaged All-Star caliber PF, or does he spend another year sulking? Feel like they should get Obi Toppin on the floor more, and push the ball.

Philadelphia 76ers – A lot of people like Philly as the beast of the East. It won’t surprise anyone if they ‘re the #1 seed entering the Playoffs. I’ve always hated watching James Harden play. ISO ball and unengaged defense is a tough watch.. I did think he was written off a bit too much last though. Only a year prior he was pretty strong for the Nets. Last Spring he was overweight, and looked slow. Now you have his teammates talking about him as their leader. You really want to lead, show some interest in playing defense, and move the ball around (making sure Joel Embiid gets touches every-time down the floor).

Toronto Raptors – Another candidate for the #1 seed in the East is the Raptors. Great coaching, great length. Maybe not enough offense to win multiple rounds in the Playoffs?

Central Division:

Chicago Bulls – Lonzo Ball isn’t expected back until January. Could they takeoff when he returns? Maybe it’s more likely that Zach Lavine is traded in-season?

Cleveland Cavaliers – Seems like they should be a playoff team after getting Donovan Mitchell. Evan Mobley looks like a star. Jarrett Allen teams with Mobley to give strong interior defense. Darius Garland, and Caris LeVert give other scoring options.

Detroit Pistons – Cade Cunningham and Jade Ivey should be fun to watch.

Indiana Pacers – Everyone has the Pacers as one of the league’s worst teams, and there seems to be a lot of expectation that Buddy Heid, and Myles Turner will be traded. As a Maryland fan, I’m excited that Jalen Smith is projected to start, and figures to get a lot of run. As currently constituted, I actually find them interesting. The aforementioned players plus Tyrese Haliburton, and Bennedict Mathurin. That’s some decent names for an apparently bad team.

Milwaukee Bucks – If Khris Middleton had been healthy in the post-season, would Milwaukee have won a 2nd straight title? What’s not to like (okay, maybe his 3 point shooting) about Giannis? Have to love the intensity and desire he plays with.

Southeast Division:

Atlanta Hawks – TraeYoung, and Dejounte Murray will both score. Will they share the ball with each other, or take turns running iso? Clint Capela averaged 11.9 boards last year. Feel like we’ve been hearing about De’Andre Hunter’s ability for years, but he’s just now entering his 4th year in the league. He’s been good, is he ready to reach another level?

Miami Heat – Kyle Lowry looked slow last Spring. Can you limit his minutes? Victor Oladipo has played 41 games the last two years. I feel him providing regular scoring off the bench would help them a lot. Does he still have that in him? It’s a good group. It’s probably not a good enough group to really push the top of the conference.

Orlando Magic – Looks like a fun group. A League Pass team.

Washington Wizards – The starting group looks good enough to reach the Play-In Tournament. The primary reserves Johnny Davis, Rui Hachimura, Deni Avdija, and Corey Kispert look like solid depth.

Charlotte Hornets – Looks like another long-year for Charlotte. There was a decent amount of hype for James Bouknight last year. That was a rough Rookie year. Better in Year 2?

Western Conference

Northwest Division:

Denver Nuggets – How many games do Jamal Murray and Michael Porter play? Can Nikola Jokic win a 3rd consecutive MVP?

Minnesota Timberwolves – I like Rudy Gobert, but am still just slack-jaw amazed by that trade. Beyond the package the Timberwolves gave up, I’m also curious how Towns and Gobert play together? There aren’t many players that are more fun to watch than Anthony Edwards .

Portland Trail Blazers – Am I crazy thinking Portland could be better than the very minimal expectations most have? I liked Jerami Grant addition. Anfernee Simmons has some scoring ability, as does Josh Hart. Gary Payton will help with his defense. Damian Lillard missed a lot of time and wasn’t right after his ab surgery. If Dame Time is back, they won’t just get walked over.

Oklahoma City Thunder – They would have been more fun to watch if Chet Holmgren wasn’t already broken. They’ve got decent pieces. I like Josh Giddey. Let’s see if if former Terp Aaron Wiggins can play his way from deep bench, into the rotation.

Utah Jazz – Collin Sexton is going to score a lot. The Jazz are going to lose a lot as they look to increase their lottery chances.

Pacific Division:

Golden State Warriors – The defending champs are bringing Jordan Poole, Donte DiVincenzo, Jonathan Kuminga, and James Wiseman off the bench. Young, talented legs behind the starters. I figure Klay Thompson is better after another off-season of rest / training. Andrew Wiggins balled out in The Finals. They’ve locked up Wiggins and Poole. Looking ahead to next year, the Warriors have 12 players under contract. Those 12 players have base salaries of $215M, and an estimated luxury-tax bill of $280M. I figure Draymond Green is a Warrior all year as Golden State goes for another title – but does he become an issue (beyond the altercation with Poole) if it becomes clear he isn’t going to be extended?

LA Clippers – How many games do Kawhi Leonard, and Paul George play together? If they’re healthy entering the playoffs, their all-around games give them a chance. I liked the John Wall addition there too.

LA Lakers – For me, Michael Jordan will always be the greatest player I ever saw. I realize part of that is my age (43), and childhood memories – but it’s also just preferences about Jordan I have in a conversation of him vs. anyone. That said, I don’t think I’m slighting LeBron James, to say James is the 2nd best player I’ve ever seen. You’ve got the vast physical talents, the mental acuity, the passing, the rebounding, and most importantly – the commitment to excellence. He’s been in the league since 2003-04, and he enters ’21-’22 as someone that can easily be on an All-NBA team here in Year 20 of his career. It’s a remarkable career, and for him, and for the NBA as a whole – I hope the Lakers aren’t a dumpster fire. Lonnie Walker’s addition was panned by most, but he’s young, and should give them some scoring (not shooting). Dennis Schroeder is back. He can help. Patrick Beverly will bring his defense and intensity. Kendrick Nunn is solid. Russell Westbrook will continue to get lots of attention, with many feeling he’d help the Lakers more by not playing. Maybe he locks into a 6th man situation and provides some regular scoring with the 2nd unit? Definitely an issue with him being as ball dominant as he is (with James) and struggling shooting as he does. Still, the biggest story with the Lakers is their biggest player – Anthony Davis. Davis has to stay on the court and perform like an upper-echelon All-Star if the Lakers are going to be a playoff team, and even then – it might not be enough.

Phoenix Suns – The Suns went 64-18 last year. Even if they regress, 50+ W’s should be within reach, right? You want Chris Paul healthy when the post-season begins. I like Cameron Payne, but seems like they’d be well served to get some additional PG help, and limit his regular season minutes. This is a quality team, that’s being a bit overlooked. One way to get past some of the Deandre Ayton drama would be to feed him the ball.

Sacramento Kings – I like the Kings to make the Playoffs. Keegan Murray looks ready to help immediately. The rest of the starting lineup is quality (including former Terp Kevin Huerter), and they’ve got multiple usable options (Davion Mitchell, Malik Monk, Terence Davis) off the bench. No superstars here, just a number of good players who will show up each night and compete.

Southwest Division:

New Orleans Pelicans – Zion Williamson is back, and looks to be under 300 lbs. He’s going to score (efficiently) and help the defense. Brandon Ingram is very solid. Herbert Jones plays D. CJ McCollum adds scoring punch. Do they need a PG addition?

Dallas Mavericks – Luke Doncic will be in the MVP mix, but does he have enough around him to win multiple rounds in the Playoffs? Ehh.

Houston Rockets – Jalen Green, and Jabari Smith look like two real pieces. Former Terp Bruno Fernando landed a nice deal with Houston.

San Antonio Spurs – Devin Vassel, and Keldon Johnson will have plenty of shooting opportunities. The Spurs will compete with the Jazz for Lottery ping-pong balls.

Memphis Grizzlies – The Grizzlies are more than Ja Morant. And one of the encouraging aspects about them is how they played while Morant was injured last year. Former Loyola (MD) Greyhound Santi Aldama is projected to start. Jaren Jackson is hurt to begin the year. That gives more opportunities to Desmond Bane, Dillon Brooks, and Brandon Clarke. You can just see how much they enjoy playing together, and the overall enthusiasm jumps out at you. Lot to like.

Chris Stoner
Chris Stoner

Owner

Chris Stoner founded Baltimore Sports and Life in 2009. He has appeared as a radio guest with 1090 WBAL, 105.7 The Fan, CBS 1300, Q1370, WOYK 1350, WKAV 1400, and WNST 1570. He has also been interviewed by The Baltimore Sun, Baltimore Business Journal, and PressBox (TV). As Owner, his responsibilities include serving as the Managing Editor, Publicist, & Sales Director.

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