By Kalen Lumpkins
Kalen is a fourth year BGSU student from Toledo, Ohio. He is a sports management major with a minor in journalism. His primary sport interests include football and tennis, but he also has an interest in a wide variety in other sports, from baseball to hockey. His dream job outside of college is to be a sportswriter for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
October 18, 2022
Maxwell Media Watch
It is finally that time of the year for basketball fans. After an insane off-season, it is understandable that fans are eager to see how this year will play out. There are plenty of lingering questions that are set to be answered this season as well. Can the Warriors dynasty continue their dominance? How will the Celtics do without Ime Udoka on the sidelines? Can the Lakers bounce back? Who will be MVP? It is a long season, so we are not going to have these answers immediately. However, if you want something to base your season predictions on, I am here to help. Without further ado, here is how I see the NBA regular season playing out.
Eastern Conference Standings
- Boston Celtics (58-24)
- Milwaukee Bucks (56-26)
- Philadelphia 76ers (55-27)
- Cleveland Cavaliers (51-31)
- Brooklyn Nets (49-33)
- Miami Heat (47-35)
- Atlanta Hawks (44-38)
- New York Knicks (42-40)
- Boston has had a roller coaster offseason after their Finals loss to the Warriors. They signed a much-needed playmaking guard in Malcom Brogdon and filled what seems to be the only hole in the Celtics roster. They also signed a quality shooter in Danilo Gallinari, but then the forward tore his ACL a few weeks later. Jaylen Brown was almost traded in a package deal offer for Kevin Durant that fell through, so there could be tension between him and the front office. Add-on the widely known suspension of Ime Udoka, and you have a team that is riddled with questions going into the season. Despite all the drama, I expect Brogdon’s presence to greatly improve the Celtics’ gameplan, including getting better looks for Jayson Tatum. The Celtics leader was shut down by Golden State in the finals, and that is surely still on his mind. Expect an MVP caliber season from #0 (Tatum) and expect interim coach Joe Mazzulla to continue to emphasize their defensive approach.
2. Speaking of MVPs, the two-time award winner Giannis Antetokounmpo did everything he could to bring the Bucks to another Finals, but the absence of Khris Middleton proved too much as they fell to Boston in game 7 of the second round. Despite the loss, Milwaukee decided to run it back by bringing 16 of the 20 players that were on their roster last season. The Bucks have proven that they can win when they are healthy. It’s getting healthy that seems to be the problem. Middleton is recovering from wrist surgery, Joe Ingles is still battling his ACL tear, Brook Lopez missed some preseason games because of an ankle injury among other injuries. When this team is not 100%, it shows, especially on the defensive side of the ball. The Bucks dropped from 1st to 13th in points allowed at the rim after injuries to Lopez and George Hill. Despite the struggles, having Giannis on the team hides the defensive struggles. We will see how he elevates his game this season, and the continuation of Mike Budenholzer’s defensive schemes should keep Milwaukee in the championship picture.
3. The East was the most competitive it has been in years last season, with the second, third and fourth seed all posting 51-31 records. One game made the difference for these teams last year, and it begs the question of what last year could have been for the Sixers. After a (somewhat) dominant series against the Raptors, Philly would lose steam and fall to Miami in the second round. Joel Embiid missing time of course did not help, but the biggest flaw for the Sixers was the presence of James Harden. Or lack thereof. In the series, he averaged just 18 PPG on 40% shooting. We did see a flash of ‘prime’ Harden in Game 4, where he scored 31 points and carried Philly to even the series in Embiid’s absence. The key to this year for the Sixers will be James Harden performing on a consistent basis, and I think he will surprise everyone and show that he still has it. Embiid will be, well Embiid, and these two factors will make the Sixers a legitimate threat to the Celtics and Bucks.
4. Last season was a success for the Cavaliers, despite losing two games in the play-in tourney and ultimately missing the playoffs. The big three of Darius Garland, Jarrett Allen and Evan Mobley made Cleveland a force on defense while also controlling the paint. The Cavs can find success in the East with these three, but a missing piece needed to be filled for them to be championship contenders. Flash forward to today, and they may have filled that void with the signing of Donovan Mitchell. The addition of the former Jazz star means that Cleveland now has a presence in the paint, outside the key and beyond the perimeter, and I think opposing defenses will have a hard time covering all three parts of the court per game. Depth will be an issue, especially come playoff time, but the ceiling of the Cavs with those four on the floor is highest among teams that missed the post season last year.
5. The Brooklyn Nets beat the Cavaliers in the first play-in tourney game last season to become the 7-seed to set up what could have been one of the best playoff series of all time against Boston. Long story short, it was not, as they would get swept by the Celtics instead. And that is when turmoil almost happened in Brooklyn. Both Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant stated their displeasure with the organization and almost went to different teams. While both players ended up staying, it remains to be seen how they will perform on a team they may or may not want to be a part of the following season. Best case scenario is that the team strives, and the additions of Ben Simmons and Seth Curry pay dividends. Worst case scenario is that the Nets do not improve, and Brooklyn loses two of the best players in NBA history for nothing in return. I expect something in the middle with the Nets as the 5-seed going against the Cavs.
6. The Heat finished last season one game from the NBA Finals but fell to the Celtics in game 7. In that series, it was clear that there was not a consistent threat in Miami offensively besides Jimmy Butler. I expected the Heat to go to work to find that piece, like a Donovan Mitchell or even Jalen Brunson, but ended up with an uneventful offseason. Due to this, I expect a drop of quality for the team. They will still make the playoffs as a 6-seed, but until there’s a true number two in Miami, they will not get over the hump.
7. Atlanta is coming off an underwhelming year of their own after making the Eastern Conference Finals the season before. John Collins and Bogdan Bogdanovic are becoming quality pieces for the Hawks, but I think Trae Young has yet to take that next step in his game. He is an unstoppable force when his shots go in but his decision making still needs to improve. For example, when they were down against Miami in their playoff series, Young would try shots from the logo to spark something for the offense. In general, he has had far too many ugly games in important situations, and I think that trend will continue this year. The Hawks could have a title contending team, but that will be determined by Trae Young’s play.
8. For the Knicks, where Trae Young is still public enemy #1, they will look to improve on last year’s letdown after making the playoffs the prior season. New York was able to pick up help for Julius Randle with the acquisition of Jalen Brunson. I still think Brunson needs to prove himself, but players like R.J Barrett and Obi Toppin will take some pressure off the former Dallas star. Expect the Knicks to improve this year and become possibly one of the top 5 seeds in the 2023-24 campaign.
Western Conference Standings
- Golden State Warriors (65-17)
- Denver Nuggets (59-23)
- Los Angeles Clippers (56-26)
- Memphis Grizzlies (52-30)
- Minnesota Timberwolves (50-32)
- Phoenix Suns (47-35)
- New Orleans Pelicans (46-36)
- Dallas Mavericks (43-39)
- After putting together one of the best offensive clinics in NBA history, the Warriors are prepared to run it back as the defending champs for the fourth time in eight seasons. All seemed to be well in San Francisco, until Draymond Green decided to punch Jordan Poole during a practice. Green said after the incident that both will take a professional approach and continue to focus on the team. The impact of the punch to the team remains to be seen, but this group, especially the big three (Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Green) have been through enough to overcome this situation. With that being said, I expect the Warriors to continue to be an offensive juggernaut, and I cannot see any team in the West being able to win four games against this team.
2. It has been an unfortunate couple of postseasons for the Nuggets. With injuries to Michael Porter Jr. and Jamal Murray lingering in the past two seasons, Denver would be eliminated twice in the first round, winning just one game across both series. This season, however, they come at (mostly) full strength. We all saw what Jamal Murray can do after watching his play in the bubble, while Porter Jr. brings back his defensive prowess. Staying healthy will remain the focal point for the Nuggets, but at full strength they can be a large challenge on both sides of the ball. Oh, and Nikola Jokic will be going for his third straight MVP trophy. Expect Denver to have a breakout season.
3. Even though the Clippers missed the postseason, last year was still a success for LA in my eyes. Being able to win 42 games without Paul George and Kawhi Leonard shows how good this team can really be with the big 2 on the floor. This team also has depth behind Kawhi and PG as well, with players like Reggie Jackson, Terrance Mann, and new signee John Wall. Being a balanced team on both sides of the ball, the Clippers are going to be a force to be reckoned with. I think people are overlooking this squad, and I truly believe that they are the biggest threat to Golden State in the west when healthy.
4. The Grizzlies had one of their best seasons in franchise history last year, and Ja Morant’s huge elevation in his game is a part of the reason for that. What would have happened in their series with the Warriors had Morant not missed time will be the biggest ‘what if’ for Memphis fans, but I expect them to be able to rebound and keep the same defensive identity they did last year. The absence of Jaren Jackson Jr. to start the season will be noticed, but when he returns, this team will have a chip on their shoulder. I also do expect Ja Morant to be an MVP finalist.
5. The Grizzlies’ first round opponent last season was the Minnesota Timberwolves and they put on a phenomenal series. The Timberwolves would fall short, and it was mostly because of poor decision making. Players like Anthony Edwards and Karl Anthony Towns tried to play too much ‘hero ball,’ attempting to carry the team instead of creating quality shots. In other words, the maturity levels between the Grizzlies and Timberwolves were as bright as day. This year, however, I expect the players to take a step forward mentally and become a top five offense on the league. I still think that defense is a concern, despite Minnesota’s bust in free agency, but the players performing more as a team will make up for the flaws on the other side of the ball.
6. I do not think anyone expected game 7 in the Western Conference second round to turn out the way it did. Especially no one in Phoenix. After being on the wrong side of one of the biggest blowouts in NBA postseason history, the Suns are looking to get back to the NBA Finals like they did two seasons ago. The Suns are bringing pretty much everyone back from last season, including a huge signing with Deandre Ayton. However, it seems that opposing teams have been able to figure out Monty Williams’ gameplan quicker than a couple seasons ago. Devin Booker will make sure to keep the Suns in contention, but I predict a decrease in quality for the Suns this season.
7. On paper, the Pelicans can become one of the most improved teams in the league and a legitimate championship contender. In reality, the floor and ceiling for this team solely depends on the health of Zion Williamson. That has not proven to be a good thing to bank on given that he has only played 85 games in three seasons, including missing the entirety of the 2021-22 campaign. Without Zion, the Pelicans held their own by making the playoffs and taking the Suns to six games. The additions of CJ McCollum and Brandon Ingram have proven to be gold, but there still seems to be a missing piece and intensity that only Zion can fill. I have New Orleans as the 7-seed because even if Zion misses significant time again, I expect the players to know what to do and still be a quality team. If Zion plays for a majority of the season, however, the Pelicans can surprise many.
8. Unfortunately for the Mavericks, I expect them to have the biggest drop off from last year. Luka Doncic will be, well, Luka Doncic again, but my major concern with Dallas is the lack of a second option. Jalen Brunson used to be the backup for Luka, but he is now in a Knicks jersey. The return of Tim Hardaway Jr. will provide some shooting help, but other players will have to step up if the Mavericks want to return to glory. Spencer Dinwiddie and Christian Wood will have to produce on a nightly basis to help Luka out, but I just do not see that happening. The Mavs will have to be busier come next free agency.
The NBA season is set to kick off on October 18 when the Philadelphia Sixers face the Boston Celtics at 7:30 PM.
Well researched and full of supported opinion. Now I look forward to an objective update midway in the season. Grading yourself will be enjoyable to read.