Short preliminary Overview:
Warriors won the 2022 title because of talent and experience.The younger talent not named Wiggins contributed relatively little however, so it’s not clear that the Dubs got this one because they were the more talented team. If the Bucks had Middleton available for this last championship run it’s not clear that the Dubs had enough for a 7 game series. Instead, it was Boston with not enough from Tatum in the finals. It’s very hard to believe that the 2022 Celtics were the best that the East had to offer.
Barring injuries, this year the Warriors have nothing in their way of a repeat trip to the Western Conference Finals. They are the most experienced team. They move the ball and themselves much better than any team in the league. They are now bigger with Wiseman. They are more talented with several young players that will undoubtedly improve their overall games. Getting to the finals may not be easy however. Younger teams like the Grizzlies, Pels, Suns and Wolves are all likely to improve and challenge for that other spot atop the West. Meanwhile the Nuggets and Clipps have all-star level talent returning in Murray and Leonard respectively. The Mavs are bigger with the additions of Wood and McGee and all signs point to Doncic as one of the favorites for MVP this season.
Side note: Zion Williamson, Ja Morant and Ant Edwards are so young and talented that it’s impossible to know how good they’ll be by the end of the season. All three are potentially generational talents along with Luka at about the same age. While it seems we know what Luka brings every night, there’s currently no way to know how good any of these other three will become should they stay healthy. As of right now there is no way to put a ceiling on any of these three players. Incredible young explosive talents and they’re all in the West.
In the East the Bucks look stacked and ready to return to the finals. They’ll get Middleton back, Grayson Allen stepped in nicely after DiVincenzo was lost to injury (he’s now with the Kings). Conaughton and Portis are only going to get better overall while remaining tough as nails. Joe Ingles is with them now – that should add more ball movement and spacing to what was already excellent. Boston could get back to the top, but they won’t do it as a consensus best in the East. Even if they didn’t have coaching and injury issues (Udoka is out and Brogdon is coming back from a recent injury. I believe Galinari is out indefinitely with an knee injury??). Still, Boston needs Tatum to do what he didn’t come close to doing in the 2022 playoffs: he needs to lead them and close consistently against great opponents. He’s not there yet.
Eastern Conference pre-preview
The Nets should be ready to run with both Kyrie and Ben Simmons alongside KD and Seth Curry. No proof yet, but if they want to claim “best starting 4 in the game” I doubt many would argue. They’ll have to prove it, and without knowing anything about team chemistry and Kyrie’s minutes there’s really no reason to put Nets atop the East yet. They need to be hitting on all cylinders in April -May, and no reason to think that will happen. Yet.
Sixers just seem way too thin, although there are good reasons to think that Maxey and Harden will figure out the ball-movement and scoring load now that they’ve had a preseason together. Embiid should be right there with Giannis and Luka atop the MVP race. Injuries are probably everything for this team, so look for a good amount of time management.
Miami is basically the same team as last season, though the big Serbian rookie, Nikola Jovic, could be an intriguing addition.
Cleveland now has Donovan Mitchell alongside Sexton. No clue how that will look, so not worth speculating yet. However, Cleveland is a very solid defensive team that is well coached and could figure out their offense well enough to make noise in the East.
Indiana has the ascending Haliburton in charge now, and there is every reason to look at him early in the season to see where this team is headed. Will he be taking the bulk of the shots? A conventional answer would be no, because that’s not his role. Or rather it hasn’t been. But is an efficient penetrating and dishing and shooting Haliburton the best option for the Pacers? They’ve got plenty of talent and some experience. Let’s see where their new leader takes them now that they’ve had an offseason together to figure is out.
The Bulls, Toronto and Hawks look to be loaded with talent at both ends. On any given night they can outrun and outscore any team in the league.
Detroit and Orlando will be interesting to watch. Both orgs look solid but the talent is super young if not raw. Expect the Pistons to upset any team on any given night if they aren’t taken seriously for 48 minutes.
Western Conference pre-preview
mohini Post authorOctober 15, 2022, 12:45 am
I’m pretty much writing off Porland, Utah, San Antonio and Sacramento this year but if you’ve heard something that might make any of these playoff teams let me know. I’m high on Houston as a dark horse and Pels at a potential top 5 in the West regular season should Zion stay healthy.
awoodsOctober 16, 2022, 3:44 am
I wouldn’t write Sacto off. With Mike Brown as head coach, Sabonis for a full season, a likely big step up from Davion Mitchell, and a rookie who looks really good in Keegan Murray, I think they’ll be in contention for a low level playoff berth. They also picked up Kevin Huerter from Atlanta in the off-season. I don’t share your optimism about Houston. I think there still a year or two away from sniffing the playoffs.
mohini Post authorOctober 16, 2022, 2:48 pm
I agree Sac has the talent, but they also have Fox who doesn’t seem to understand how other players similar to him are transitioning to all the ball sharing and movement. Only Kyrie and Trae Young seem to be able to get away with it, and I suppose Luka to some extent (but that’s an MVP candidate so not exactly someone Fox should be emulating). On the other hand, let’s say that Fox figures it out by end of April. I don’t see how they even get into the play-in with this insane lineup in the West:
Shoe ins for the western playoffs:
Shoe ins for the western play-in if they don’t make it into the top 6:
I don’t consider the Lakers a shoe in for the play-in. So Kings need to fight these teams to get into the play in tourney …
I agree that the Kings look better on paper, and I think Sabonis will be an all star this year over AD and Green (not betting on it of course). But Fox will have to lead them with a whole slew of new talent, and I see some teams taking the next step faster than the Kings: Thunder and Rockets for instance. I expect both to be in the play-in with the Jazz, Spurs, Blazers and Kings looking in from the outside. We will see!
mohini Post authorOctober 16, 2022, 4:12 pm
Somehow Pels were left off the list above. I guess I erased them, but Zion or not their in the play-in and probably in the playoffs above the Wolves but too much uncertainty around Zion.
awoodsOctober 16, 2022, 7:56 pm
Pels are on the list above with the Nuggets as a play-in shoe-in if they don’t make the top 6. I don’t have that confidence in the Pelicans simply because Zion hasn’t proved he can stay healthy. I break down the West like this:
Will be in top 6:
Could be either top 6 or play-in depending on health:
Likely in top 6, but could fall into play-in territory if one key player gets injured:
Likely in play-in, but could get into top 6 if things go right:
Likely won’t make playoffs, but could get to play-in if things go right:
Won’t make playoffs:
mohini Post authorOctober 17, 2022, 3:35 pm
Got it, but I put the Pels in as a shoe in even if Zion gets hurt and is out for the entire season starting on Weds. They were awesome vs. the Suns. They’re a complete team without Zion. Outstanding defensively. Ingram should be an MVP candidate if Zion doesn’t play much this year. If Zion plays most of the season this is a top 5 team in the West IMO. They are better than the Suns and Mavs with Zion and neck and neck with them without him.
Just my opinion of course, but that’s what I saw in the playoffs vs. Suns who really didn’t deserve to get past them. Pels looked like the better team to me and that was with McCollum playing less than a full season.
Your list is also reasonable IMO. I’m guessing that the main difference between us isn’t the Pels but the Thunder. I think Giddey is an all-star and will lead them to the play-in tourney.
Where do you have the Kings though? I assume just above the Rockets and Blazers.
awoodsOctober 17, 2022, 7:01 pm
Yep missed the Kings, but you have the correct spot for them. I’d put them in the Lakers and Pelicans category.