We take a look at the 2022-23 NBA season and if the Golden State Warriors can repeat
As the NBA begins its 76th season, they are some teams who are very optimistic about their chances to win the Larry O’Brien trophy and other teams who will be looking to put as many ping pong balls into the NBA Draft Lottery machine.
There is a number of teams who fall into between those two ideals and so have decided to put each NBA team in a tier. Here are the tiers that each NBA team falls into:
Tier 1- “We expect to be tasting champagne in June”
Golden State Warriors
The Good: The defending champions bring back six out of the seven top scorers and have some young players on the roster who are poised to make an impact such as Johnathan Kuminga, Moses Moody, and James Wiseman. The Warriors can afford to give some of their veteran players rest during the season and let the young guys get experience before the playoffs.
The Bad: In case you have not heard, the Warriors are having some very physical practices. Also, next summer forward Andrew Wiggins, Draymond Green, Jordan Poole who were all key players last season will be looking to get new contracts (Editor’s Note: Poole and Wiggins signed contract extensions on October 16). Does the “Disease of More” start to affect this team? Will the young guys take the next step in their development?
The Good: Last season, this team won 64 games and had the best record in the league. The Suns re-signed center Deandre Ayton after matching the offer sheet that was given to him by the Pacers this summer. They also added Damion Lee and Josh Okogie to provide some depth and defensive versatility to the roster. Also, they still have one of the best backcourts in the league with Chris Paul and Devin Booker.
The Bad: The last time the team was on the court it was getting blown out by the Mavericks in the Western Conference semifinals. Forward Jae Crowder has requested a trade. Coach Monty Williams and Deandre Ayton do not have the best relationship and apparently have not spoken much this pre-season.
Also, the team is up for sale after owner Robert Sarver was pressured to sell the team after he was first suspended for a year from the NBA for allegations of racism and misogyny. Then, he decided to sell his team after the backlash from the investigation. Yikes, this off season for the Suns went as well as CNN +.
Los Angeles Clippers
The Good: The Clippers get the return of Kawhi Leonard who missed the entire season recovering from a knee injury that he sustained in the 2021 playoffs. This team learned to win without Leonard and players such as Reggie Jackson, Luke Kennard, Norman Powell, Marcus Morris and Terrance Mann contributed and had productive seasons.
The Clippers managed to win 42 games without Leonard and Paul George playing in only 31 games. Also, point guard John Wall joins the team after spending a season in exile in Houston. This team has so much versatility and lineup combinations that they can matchup with anyone in the league.
The Bad: The combination of George and Leonard is on year 4 and has only played 104 games together. The team is banking on Wall who has not played more than 60 games since 2016-2017 season. Also, with all of the depth that the Clippers enjoy is everyone going to be happy with their role after having a bigger role last season? Coach Tyronn Lue will have to juggle a lot of egos and minutes to keep everyone happy.
The Good: The Bucks are a playoff tested team and you can make the argument that if they would have been healthy they would have beaten the Celtics in the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals last year in the playoffs instead of losing in Game 7. Khris Middleton sustained a wrist injury in the first round of the playoffs vs the Bulls last season but is expected to be ready shortly after the start of the season.
Also, they added forward Joe Ingles in free agency to add another player that make shots and put the ball on the floor. Oh, by the way they have Giannis Antetokounmpo too. He is really good at basketball.
The Bad: The team has surrounded Giannis with four starters who are in their 30’s. While having experience can be a good thing, older players are more prone to injury and getting fatigued as the season goes along. Could this be the season that the Bucks supporting cast show signs of decline?
The Good: They get a full season of an in-shape James Harden. The team also added P.J. Tucker and De’Anthony Melton; two players who can make threes and keep the floor spaced for Joel Embiid. In my opinion, this is easily the most balanced and talented team that Philly has surrounded Embiid with.
The Bad: This team, has the second most wins in the NBA since 2018 but has never made the conference finals. Also, Harden has had his share of playoff meltdowns in his career and still has not overcome those issues. Doc Rivers has not coached a team to the conference finals since 2012 and has blown three 3-1 leads in the playoffs. The 76ers will be judged by their performances in May and June.
The Good: Any team who has Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving should be a title contender. Last year, the Nets had a record of 27-15 when Durant got hurt and then proceeded to lose 14 of their next 18 games after his injury. If Durant can stay healthy and with the lifting of vaccine mandate in New York City, Kyrie Irving should be a participant in all games now instead of just some select contests.
Because of the talent that Durant and Irving have, it should allow forward Ben Simmons to get into rhythm after he sat out last season due to his back and mental health issues. The team also has shooters in Seth Curry, Joe Harris and Patty Mills who can make the wide open shots they expect to get with all the attention that Durant and Irving will generate.
The Bad: On paper, the team looks loaded but this is a team that Durant wanted to get traded from this summer, Irving went out on the free agent market and did not find a deal to his liking and Ben Simmons still cannot shoot and has not played any meaningful NBA basketball in over 16 months. The team has center Nic Claxton who has played well but after that this team lacks size and rebounding and interior defense could be a problem.
For all of the hoopla, when Irving and Durant signed in Brooklyn they have only won one playoff series. Can the Nets get out of their own way and make a deep playoff run?
Tier 2 “We are a really good team but we have some questions that need to be answered”
The Good: Anytime who you have the reigning NBA MVP on your team in Nikola Jokic you have an opportunity to be good. Anytime a player can return to your team like point guard Jamaal Murray who has a career scoring average of 16.3 and is a 37% career three-point shooter to your team that should make your team better. Anytime you have a player like Michael Porter Jr who in his first season as a starter shot 44% from 3 and averaged 19 points per game.
Their should be plenty of scoring and playmaking in the Mile High City. Jokic dragged this team to 48 wins last season so with the return of these two players this year they should only get better, right?
The Bad: Jamal Murray missed the entire 2021-2022 season recovering from a torn ACL and has not played in an NBA game since April 2021. Porter only played nine games last year before missing the rest of the season with a back injury. This year, the Nuggets have over $67 million tied into these two players who will need to get back into top form for the Nuggets to have a chance to win an NBA championship. Are Porter and Murray ready for the grind of the NBA season and make the Nuggets contenders?
The Good: Last season, this team over/under was predicted to win 47.5 wins and Luka Doncic carried this team to 52 wins and a berth in the conference finals where they lost to the Warriors. Doncic lead the league in usage rate and made the All-NBA First team for the third year in a row. The Mavericks added Christian Wood from the Rockets in a trade to provide some scoring off the bench.
Also, Tim Hardaway Jr. is expected to make a return after being limited to 42 games. After trading Kristaps Porzingis to Washington, the Mavericks had a record of 19-7. If the supporting cast around Luka can produce, then it could be another 50 win season in Dallas.
The Bad: Jalen Brunson who was second leading scorer after the Porzingis trade left in free agency this summer and signed with the Knicks. Who on the team can replace Brunson’s production? Also, in my opinion teams in the West like the Clippers, Timberwolves and Nuggets all got better so the path to get back to conference finals is going to be much harder. Can Luka drag this team back to the conference finals?
The Good: Last year, this team started 23-24 and rumors started to swirl about breaking up the duo of Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum. However, after having that record the Celtics had a record of 42-16 (including the NBA playoffs) and made their first trip back to the Finals since 2010. Some of the reason they struggled in the playoffs was a lack of depth however the team addressed that by adding Malcolm Brogdon in a trade with the Pacers and signing forward Danillo Gallinari and Blake Griffin in free agency.
The additions in the off season can help provide some more playmaking and shot creation for a team that struggled to score 100 points in the playoffs six times and went 1-5 in those games.
The Bad: Ime Udoka, the coach that lead them to the NBA Finals has been suspended for the entire season due to an improper relationship with a co-worker and replaced him with Joe Mazulla who was coaching Division III basketball three years ago. Starting center Robert Williams III is still recovering from off-season knee surgery and is not expected to return until possibly late December or early January. Danillo Gallinari is also recovering from off-season knee surgery and will not be ready for the start of the season.
This team is also depending on 36-year old Al Horford to play major minutes for them but he has not played more than 70 games in a season since 2017-2018. Can they overcome the loss of their head coach for the season and the injuries to their front line to make a return trip to the NBA Finals?
The Good: The team lost in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals and had a chance to win the game but fell just short. The team made the Eastern Conference Finals despite injuries sustained in the playoffs to reigning Sixth Man of the Year Tyler Herro, an injury to Kyle Lowry and poor play from sharp shooting guard Duncan Robinson. If the Heat can have these players get healthy, they could possible generate enough offense to make a deep playoff run and possibly the NBA Finals.
The Bad: The Heat had the third worst offense in the playoffs last year and they did not add anyone this off-season who could provide more offense this season as so many of the contending teams did in the Eastern Conference. The Heat are depending on the 36-year old Kyle Lowry who got slower as the season progressed and was not thrilled with his conditioning last season to provide more of an impact.
After signing a 5 year, 90-million-dollar contract extension at the beginning of last season, Duncan Robinson had trouble staying on the court in the playoffs because of his porous defense and his inability to make shots (he averaged 4.6 points per game and shot 38 percent from 3-point range). The Heat need Lowry and Robinson to make plays in the playoffs if they plan to play beyond the conference finals.
The Good: The Timberwolves added defense stalwart Rudy Gobert in a trade this offseason with the Utah Jazz. The Timberwolves had plenty of scoring but now they get a center who has been in the top 10 in defensive win shares and defensive rating every season since the 2018-2019 season. The Timberwolves went from 23 wins in 2020-2021 to 46 wins last season and made this trade for Gobert to continue to win right now.
The team is also banking that third-year player Anthony Edwards will continue to improve. Last season, Edwards had increases in his points per game, field goal percentage, 3-point percentage and assists per game.
The Bad: The Timberwolves gave up a lot in a trade for Gobert who at times struggled to be on the court in the playoffs when opposing teams play a smaller lineup. The Timberwolves are going to rely on D’Angelo to be their starting point guard however behind him they lack a pure point guard who can distribute the ball and make plays for the other players on the court.
Tier 3-“We can win a championship, but we need _______ to happen”
Los Angeles Lakers
The Good: Quite simply, this team has Lebron James and Anthony Davis which is still a very talented duo. During their time with the Lakers, the team has a 75-33 record when both of them plays. General Manager Rob Pelinka added players this off season that has the ability to defend such as guard Patrick Beverly, center Thomas Bryant and forward Lonnie Walker IV. The Lakers were ranked 28th in defense last season. If James and Davis can play more than 60 games together, then the Lakers could be a factor this season.
The Bad: As stated in the previous paragraph, the duo has had trouble staying healthy. Last season, the 37-year old James only played 56 games and Anthony Davis played only 40. Also, the Lakers still have Russell Westbrook on the roster and his inability to fit in with the Lakers was large factor in the team going 33-49 last season. The rumors of trading Westbrook has been going on since last season and if the Lakers can make a trade for some players that could help the Lakers be a contender. Another NBA championship can be on the horizon for the Lakers.
The Good: After the injury to guard Colin Sexton who would miss the entire season, Darius Garland had to do all of the play making and shot creation for this team. The Cavs this summer traded for guard Donovan Mitchell to help make and create shots for the rest of this team; that finished 25th in offense and 20th in point per possessions. This team is poised to exceed expectations and will look to continue to improve on the 44 wins they had last year.
The Bad: For the Cavs to go further than the play-in tournament, they are going to need to get continued production from forwards Kevin Love and Caris Levert. The 34-year old Love played in over 70 games for the first time since 2015-2016 and had the third-most points off the bench in the NBA. Can he repeat that performance? Levert has always struggled to stay healthy but if he can play along with Mitchell and Garland and score points while they are on the bench this offense can improve and cause opposing defenses trouble when they play the team from northern Ohio.
The Good: The duo of Demar Derozan and Zach LaVine is back for year two after combining for 52.3 points, 9.8 rebounds, and 9.4 assists. Also despite a mountain of trade rumors this summer, forward Pat Williams is still on the roster and is possible ready to take a leap in Year 3. The Bulls also will need continued growth from guard Ayo Dosunmu who made the NBA All-Rookie 2nd team last season and will be in starting lineup until the return of injured guard Lonzo Ball.
The Bad: The Bulls still have not addressed their need of an interior defender this offseason and could be in the market for someone like the Pacers Myles Turner to fill that need. Lonzo Ball’s health is something else that is holding down the expectations of Bulls fans. Ball is still having issues with the knee that has kept him out of action since January 14. At this time, there is no time table for his return. After Ball’s injury after January 14, the Bulls went 19-22 without him in the lineup. What are the Bulls playoff hopes without Lonzo Ball in the lineup?
The Good: After missing the playoffs for the first time since 2012-2013 season, the Raptors returned to the playoffs last season finishing 5th in the Eastern Conference. The key to the Raptors return to the playoffs was the improved play of forward Pascal Siakam who made 3rd team All-NBA last season. Siakam had increases in his points per game, field foal percentage, three point percentage, rebounds and steals. If Siakam continues to improve, he can be one of the premier two-way players in the league.
The Bad: The Raptors were ranked 15th in scoring offense and 19th in three point shooting. The offense at times struggled from the perimeter and should be area of focus this season. One of the players that will need to get better is Scottie Barnes. Barnes had averages of 15.3 points, 7.5 points and 3.5 assists but shot only 30 percent from three and only got to the free throw line three times per game. The Raptors are going to need Siakam, Barnes and their second-leading scorer last season Fred VanFleet to play at a high level to make a run in the very talented Eastern Conference.
The Good: Of the nine players that averaged more than 20 minutes per game, seven of them will return this season for Memphis. This team proved last season that they can win without their star player Ja Morant. The Grizzlies went 20-5 in games that Morant did not play. The team went 3-1 vs Golden State and 2-1 vs Phoenix in the regular season as well so this team was ready to play against the better competition in the Western Conference last year.
The Bad: Jaren Jackson Jr will be sidelined after undergoing surgery this summer on his foot. At this time, no return date has been set when he will be back on the court. The Grizzlies will also be cautious with Morant who hurt his knee in the playoff series vs the Warriors and missed the last three games in which the Grizzlies fell to the Warriors 4-2. With Jackson being out for the foreseeable future and Morant coming back after having issues with his knees, do the Grizzlies have enough talent to repeat their 50 win season and go farther than last year?
New Orleans Pelicans
The Good: The Pelicans finally made their first trip to the playoffs after trading away Anthony Davis to the Lakers (Ironically, the Lakers missed the playoffs last season). The player that help lead the way to that playoff berth was guard CJ McCollum. The Pelicans got the veteran guard from Portland at the NBA tradeline and immediately the trade started to paid dividends. McCollum averaged 22.7 points and 5.4 assists during his time in New Orleans last season being the primary ball handler and setting up forward Brandon Ingram who in his first full month with McCollum averaged 29 points per game.
The team also will get back Zion Williamson who missed all last season with a variety of injuries. The team played six hard fought games vs the Suns last year in the first round of the playoffs and could be a sleeper this year with all the talent that they have.
The Bad: The team lacks a traditional point guard who can be a distributor to the all the scorers mentioned above. They are depending on McCollum to be a point guard and score which is a role that he has never had in his career and could put more minutes on him than New Orleans may feel comfortable with.
Also, the Pelicans need to improve their defense if they want to improve on their 36-46 record from last year. The Pelicans had the 5th worst opponent field goal percentage in the league. The Pelicans have plenty of scoring but can they guard anyone?
Tier 4: “We are going to better than anyone would think and could make the play-in tournament”
The Good: General Manager John Hammond is building this team the same way he did during his days in Milwaukee with lanky frontcourt players that can do a variety of things on both offense and defense. In the frontcourt alone, they have Wendell Carter, Franz Wagner, Chuma Okeke, Mo Bamba, the return of Jonathan Issac and the addition of the number 1 overall pick in this year’s draft in Paolo Banchero.
Last year, the team got great production from point guard Cole Anthony who improved in his scoring and assists averages per game. If the Magic can find someone to pair with Anthony in the backcourt, the Magic could flirt with a .500 record this season.
The Bad: It is not a good sign that starting center Mo Bamba was the second best three point shooter on the team. The Magic were the third-worst three point shooting team in the league and was second to last in points scored last year only in front of Oklahoma City. This team, finished last in the Eastern Conference in terms of wins and losses but have added talent that I believe will have them improve on their 22 win season from last year.
The Good: Cade Cunningham averaged 17.4 points, 5.5 rebounds and 5.6 assists in his rookie season and performed like his is going to be a franchise cornerstone for the Pistons. Cunningham had the highest usage rate in last year’s rookie class and higher than perennial All-Stars Jimmy Butler, James Harden and Khris Middleton. To help the Pistons become less reliant on Cunningham, the Pistons drafted Jaden Ivey with the fifth pick in the draft, acquired forward Alec Burks in a trade with the Knicks and Bojan Bogdanovic from the Utah Jazz.
Burks is a career 38 percent three point-shooter and averaged 11.7 points for the Knicks last season. Bogdanvoic averaged 18 points per game for the Jazz last season and shot 38 percent from the field. The Pistons will probably still miss the playoffs this year but they will be very much improved from last year’s team.
The Bad: This team is still bad on both ends of the floor ranking near the bottom in most offensive and defensive categories last year and while Burks and Bogdanovic can be productive their impact may be marginal at best.
Also, because this team is still trying to obtain draft capital and salary flexibility some of the veterans like Burks and Bogdanvoic could be traded to get some of the draft capital and salary flexibility that you want to have as a rebuilding team. If the Pistons can make a 5-8 win improvement which is a possibility, I think the front office will be happy with that.
The Good: This time last season, the Kings had a glut of point guards in De’Aaron Fox, Tyrese Haliburton and then-rookie Davion Mitchell. A year later, Fox and Mitchell are still on the roster after trading away Haliburton at the NBA tradeline in February. The trade of Haliburton for Domantas Sabonis seem to provide a boost to Fox. Fox averaged 27 points and 6.1 assists in the month of March and then in April he went up 30.9 points and 7.4 assists.
This offseason, the team added guard Malik Monk, guard Kevin Huerter and first round draft pick Keegan Murray. These additions give the Kings some versatility and depth to ease the offensive burden from Fox and Sabonis. If the team plays well, they can firmly be in place for the play-in tournament in the Western Conference.
The Bad: The Kings roster finally has some great balance to it but this team is still lacking a perimeter defender that can take on tough defensive assignments. Keegan Murray projects as possible 3 and D guy but that is a lot to ask of a rookie. Also, in their first 20 games they have 11 games versus team who made the playoffs so this team will need to gel quickly to make that push for playoffs and end the current longest postseason drought in professional sports.
The Good: This year, is the first season in where the Rockets do not have a player who is wanting to be traded on the roster (James Harden) or a veteran player they were keeping who did not fit into their long-term plans (John Wall). It is a fresh start for a team that is trying to develop an identity. The player that Houston is relying on to start that identity is guard Jalen Green. Green got off to a shaky start but in the last 25 games he shot 48% on two point field goals, 39% from three and 76% from the free throw line. In addition, he scored 30 or more points in six of his last seven games.
The other intriguing piece on this team is center Alperen Sengun. Sengun per-36-minute averaged 16.7 points, 9.5 rebounds and 4.5 assists last season and will be the starting center after the trade of Christian Wood to the Mavericks. If Green and Sengun have put in the work to get better this summer, the Rockets will continue to rocket toward respectability (pun intended).
The Bad: The team was a disaster on defense last season ranking 29th in defensive rebounding and last in total rebounding which tells you that the Rockets were giving up a ton of second shots to teams last year. Some of that may be cured by addition of forward Jabari Smith who the Rockets selected third overall in the 2022 NBA Draft but that is a lot to put on a rookie. The Rockets have 14 players under the age of 23 so projecting this team to be consistent is a tall order but the sooner that this team can figure it out; the league will have another exciting team.
Tier 5: “If we don’t win this year, _______________ will happen this year or in the offseason”
New York Knicks
The Good: Last season, the Knicks were coming off of their first playoff berth since the 2012-2013 season and optimism was abound in the Big Apple for this team. However, that optimism turned into boos, regret and overall apathy toward this team. From December through February, the team went 14-26 and had a season worst seven-game losing streak in February.
To bring some talent to this roster, the Knicks signed guard Jalen Brunson in free agency this summer. Brunson had a breakout season with the Mavericks averaging 16.3 points, shot 50 percent from the field, averaged 4.8 assists and shot 37 percent from three. The Knicks hope with the signing of Brunson can give them a Big Three of Brunson, Julius Randle and RJ Barrett.
The Bad: The most troubling thing about the Knicks is that could not play defense which is a trademark of Tom Thibodeau teams. The season that the team made the playoffs the team they ranked 1st in opponents points allowed per game however last season they slipped and were giving up nearly 107 points per game. If the Knicks don’t win this year, could Thibs be removed as coach? The Knicks are expecting to win and if does not happen this team could be ready to make a change in the roster or with the head coach.
The Good: In the off-season, the Hawks traded for All-Star guard Dejounte Murray to help provide some defense in the backcourt and for the Hawks to not be so dependent on Trey Young. Young had the 4th highest usage rate in the NBA last season and the Hawks had no real secondary ball-handler that could initiate offense.
Of the eight top players that played the most minutes last season, all of them are under 30 and starting to enter into their prime. This is year five of the Hawks rebuild and while they do have an appearance in the Eastern Conference Finals in that time period, they have struggled with winning consistently. If the Murray and Young can find some synergy, this should be a team that should improve on the 43 wins that they had last season.
The Bad: The Hawks had a horrible to start the season (17-25) with their star player calling the regular season boring and it showed on the court. During their run to Eastern Conference Finals in 2021, the Hawks improved their defense however that improvement did not continue last season. The Hawks ranked near the bottom in field goal percentage allowed, three point percentage allowed and forcing turnovers. If the Hawks season goes bad, could they possible make a coaching change or decide to break up this core of players?
The Good: The Trailblazers missed the playoffs due to Damian Lillard only playing 29 games due to injury, trading veterans CJ Mccollum, Robert Covington, Norman Powell and playing a lot of their young players to see what they have going forward. The biggest revelation from last season came from guard Anfernee Simmons who has always had potential but did not get the opportunity to play a lot because of the crowded backcourt in Portland. Simmons took the most of his opportunity averaging 17.3 points, shooting 40 percent from three-point range and have a field goal percentage of 49 percent.
Also, Portland traded for Jerami Grant who averaged 19 points last season to provide some perimeter defense and scoring. The roster appears to have a good balance of scoring and defense which could make Portland a fringe playoff contender in the Western Conference.
The Bad: Lillard played only 29 games last year due to an abdominal injury and you wonder how the 32 year-old will bounce back from this injury. This team, was horrific on defense last year ranking last in defensive rating, committing third most personal fouls and allowed the most points allowed per game in the NBA. If the Blazers get out to a slow start, will we start to hear those Damian Lillard trade rumors again?
The Good: The Wizards are hoping that the return of guard Bradley Beal from injury and full season of Kristaps Porzingis can help with a return to the playoffs. Porzingis averaged 22 points, 8.8 rebounds and shot his best percentage from 3-point range since the 2020-2021 season after his trade from Dallas. The team added some veteran players such as Monte Morris and Will Barton in a trade with Denver as well. Both players have played on winning teams before and can make open shots with the attention that Beal and Porzingis will draw. If Beal can regain his form, the Wizards will be a dangerous team in the Eastern Conference.
The Bad: The Wizards are depending on Porzingis who has not played 60 games in a season since the 2016-2017 season. After this season, Porzingis has a player option for $36 million for next season, do the Wizards want to pay someone injury prone like Porzingis that amount of money which would hinder their ability to compete in the future? While Morris and Barton are good players ,both struggled last year with their previous teams making them expendable. Thirteen out of their first twenty games are against teams that made the playoffs this year. If the Wizards get off to a slow start, will they trade Beal and Porzingis to get a shot at a top pick in this loaded NBA Draft?
The Good: The Hornets started out the season 28-22 which was good enough for 7th place last season however after injuries to Gordon Hayward they limped to 10th place and were beat by 29 points in the play-in game vs the Hawks to end their season. The Hornets offense was great last year, the team was 4th in points per game and averaged 28.1 assists per game which lead the league. The engine to this offense is point guard LaMelo Ball who had another great season.
The first time All-Star averaged 20.1 points per game and 7.6 assists per game. He improved on his three-point and free-throw shooting as well. If the Hornets can keep Hayward healthy (he has not played in more than 50 games since 2019-2020 season) then they could have a shot of being in the mix for one of the last playoff spots.
The Bad: Miles Bridges who lead the team in scoring last season is away from the team while he has been charged in a domestic abuse case with the mother of his children. Bridges, who is currently a free agent and was expected to re-sign with the Hornets but because of his legal issues is not currently on any NBA roster. Ball injured himself in the pre-season and is expected to miss an unspecified amount of time with an ankle injury.
The team is also replacing coach James Borrego who had guided the Hornets to back-to-back appearances in the play-in tournament. They replaced him with Steve Clifford who coached the Hornets from 2013-2018 and never won more than 43 games as the coach of the Hornets. If the Hornets get off to a bad start, would they trade Hayward and possibly guard Terry Rozier and turn the team over to the young guys?
Tier 6 “We just want ping-pong balls, baby”
Oklahoma City Thunder
The Good: General Manager Sam Presti continues to rebuild through the draft and stockpiling picks for future drafts. Last season, the Thunder selected Chet Holmgren with the 2nd overall pick in the 2022 NBA Draft. Holmgren was amazing during Summer League however he sustained an injury to his foot and will miss the entire 2022-2023 season. The Thunder will still be trying to develop their current roster to see what players will be on the team will they return to contention.
One of the revelations of last season was the play of Josh Giddey. Giddey, the 6th overall pick in the 2021 draft was a You Tube sensation with his flashy passes and overall play making ability. His development as a jump shooter will be the next piece of his game that will need to develop.
The Bad: Once again, this team is not expected to contend this year and has a plethora of draft picks in future NBA drafts. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander who was the leading scorer last season just signed 5 year, $179 million dollar contract extension this summer. Did Presti signed him to that deal so that he could be salary match for a trade or does he plan to keep his young guard as the centerpiece for the dynasty that he is trying to build?
The Good: The Jazz had the fourth most wins in the NBA since 2017 and had made the playoffs six straight seasons in a row. They found great players in the draft, made smart trades and use free agency to fill out their roster. That’s over!!!
The team realized that with all of that success and the growing disharmony between their two best players it was time for a change. The team has acquired a number of future draft picks, got some salary cap relief and still has some possible trades of veterans on the team that they can make this season.
The Bad: Most of the assets they received back in the trade of Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert will not help the team this year. The team still has players such as Mike Conley, Jordan Clarkson, and the recently acquired Lauri Markkanen and Colin Sexton. All of these players are probably not in the team’s future and will probably be used to acquire more draft picks. It will be a lot of losing this year in Salt Lake City. The Jazz are focused on securing ping pong balls for the upcoming NBA Draft.
The Good: The team has young group of players that played well last season and are all under the age of 24 years old. The group is lead by Tyrese Haliburton who was obtained when the Pacers dealt Damontas Sabonis to Sacramento Kings in February. Haliburton nearly averaged a double-double with the Pacers last season averaging 17.5 points and 9.6 assists per game.
The other player that the media is focused on is Benedict Mathurin who was drafted 6th overall in the 2022 NBA Draft. He has been a solid contributor in the preseason and has generated some buzz as a potential Rookie of the Year Candidate.
The Bad: Center Myles Turner who has been in trade rumors since forever is still on the team and is linked with several teams who be a contender for his services. The other player that is generating interest in guard Buddy Hield. Hield has shot close to 40% from three-point range for his career and nearly averaged 16 points for his career. Any team who will be contending for a championship this season would love to have players with the skills that Turner and Hield provide. The Pacers are playing to get a high draft pick to speed up their rebuilding process.
San Antonio Spurs
The Good: The last consecutive summers the team has traded away Demar DeRozan and Dejounte Murray and will fully commit to see what they have on their roster. The team was stuck between being a fringe playoff team or having a high pick for the last three years and is finally committed to the tanking process.
The two most talented returning players are Keldon Johnson and Devin Vassell. Both players will get more opportunities to prove themselves if they will be apart of the new era of the Spurs. The team will try to get ping pong balls for Victor Wembanyama who is projected to be one of the best prospects since Lebron James.
The Bad: The team is a void of any players that you would really want to watch on a nightly basis. Also, coach Gregg Popovich contract ends at the end of the season and at this point there have been no discussions about an extension. Could the winningest coach in NBA history be coaching his last season? If so, is sad for one of the greatest coaches of all-time.
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