NBA 2022-23 Season Preview

Andrew Buckle,

The NBA is back for the 2022-23 season, starting with a blockbuster double-header on ESPN on Wednesday October 19. Jayson Tatum and the Boston Celtics will take on Joel Embiid and the new look Philadelphia 76ers, while Steph Curry and the defending champion Golden State Warriors will take on LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers.

Here’s a breakdown of what is new this season on ESPN, who have doubled down as the home of the NBA in Australia:

  • 48 additional regular season games (2 more per week on average).
  • 5 additional playoff games across the first & second round
  • Any Game 7 played during the second round of the playoffs regardless of ESPN’s game count.

To access ESPN and ESPN2 on Fetch, subscribe to the Vibe Pack for just $6 per month. Visit Menu > Manage > Subscriptions to subscribe.

Also don’t forget to add your team tags so you don’t miss any of your favourite teams’ matches. Here’s a quick video on how to be prepared for the new season.

Finally, here are some brief thoughts on the top contenders from each conference, as well as some fearless predictions, for what is shaping up to be a hell of an exciting season.

Eastern Conference

The defending Eastern conference champion Boston Celtics made a big splash in the early offseason, trading for well-rounded combo guard Malcolm Brogdon. The Celtics can boast one of the deepest rotations in the conference, with all key members of their Finals team returning. But, a season-ending injury to their other offseason acquisition, Danilo Gallinari, and a shock report revealing that head coach Ime Udoka would be suspended for the entire season for breaching the team’s code of conduct, have the Celtics starting the season mired in drama and leaving fans uncertain whether this team can replicate their recent success.

The Brooklyn Nets haven’t been far removed from drama for the last few seasons, with this offseason – in the wake of an embarrassing sweep by the Celtics – being no exception. Both Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant publicly sought trades, but the team was unable (or were ultimately unwilling) to honour their request. It remains to be seen whether midseason moves are in the Nets future. The good news for the Nets – Ben Simmons, acquired from the Philadelphia 76ers at last year’s trade deadline, has suited up. Though he has understandably looked a little rusty in their pre-season matches so far, if he can fill a suitable complementary role for his superstar teammates the Nets could be very dangerous. Brooklyn also added forwards T.J. Warren, Royce O’Neal and Markieff Morris, while the return of sharpshooter Joe Harris, who missed the entirety of last season, should also be a boost to their postseason chances.

The Philadelphia 76ers, also no strangers to off-court drama, have perhaps had their busiest (and calmest) offseason in years. James Harden – acquired from the Nets in the Ben Simmons trade – re-signed for a team-friendly contract allowing the 76ers to pursue some highly-touted free agents to surround Harden, last year’s MVP runner-up Joel Embiid and rising star guard Tyrese Maxey. The 76ers have gotten tougher and more versatile defensively – perennial hustle champion P.J. Tucker and high-energy low post scorer Montrezl Harrel bolster their frontcourt, while promising guard D’Anthony Melton looks likely to slot into the team’s sixth man role. The 76ers have had disappointing playoff eliminations in recent years, but fans should be excited because this squad looks in good shape to reverse those fortunes.

While the Milwaukee Bucks certainly haven’t had the flashiest offseason, they have been quietly productive in their success in retaining key pieces of arguably the most talented roster in the conference. They remain a title contender, with Khris Middleton returning from injury (he missed the Celtics series, where the Bucks were eliminated in 7 games) and two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo hungrier than ever to get back to the Finals. Re-signing key rotation players Bobby Portis and Pat Connaughton were the offseason priorities, but the Bucks also added veteran Aussie Joe Ingles, who should be a great fit once he has returned from the serious ACL injury that he suffered last season.

The Miami Heat have a habit of defying expectations, but it feels like the defending number one seed have their work cut out for them this season. Falling just short of a Finals appearance last year, the Heat have confidence they can offset the significant loss of P.J. Tucker by continuing to develop their younger talent and retaining their winning culture. Victor Oladipo, who became one of the Heat’s most reliable playoff performers after making an unlikely return from serious injury, received a contract extension. Jimmy Butler and Kyle Lowry are a year older, and prone to injury themslves, but the Heat need more from their new $130 million man, Tyler Herro, and defensive anchor Bam Adebayo if they are going to hang with the elite of the East.

If there was a surprise team last season it was the Cleveland Cavaliers. Their young core of Darius Garland, Jarrett Allen and Evan Mobley were a lot of fun to watch and should keep the Cavaliers as contenders for years to come. After a much-improved season the Cavs wanted more and pulled off a blockbuster trade with the Utah Jazz, bringing in All Star guard Donovan Mitchell. This line-up is very dangerous. Rest assured, no team will be sleeping on this squad. The Cavs have an exciting balance of young star talent and veteran leadership (Kevin Love is coming off a tremendous shooting season, while Ricky Rubio is one of the more reliable floor generals in the NBA) and it remains to be seen just how high their ceiling will be.

The Atlanta Hawks traded away a large volume of future prospects to the San Antonio Spurs to partner All Star Dejounte Murray with Trae Young. While they progressed through the play-in last season – and may have to do so again – this should improve their prospects. The New York Knicks gave former Dallas Mavericks guard Jalen Brunson a big pay day after his breakout season, and he’ll join RJ Barrett and Julius Randle to form the Knicks nucleus as they search for a return to the playoffs after a disappointing season.

Eastern Conference Predictions

1 Philadelphia 76ers

2 Milwaukee Bucks

3 Boston Celtics

4 Cleveland Cavaliers

5 Brooklyn Nets

6 Miami Heat

7 Atlanta Hawks

8 Toronto Raptors

9 New York Knicks

10 Chicago Bulls

11 Washington Wizards

12 Charlotte Hornets

13 Detroit Pistons

14 Orlando Magic

15 Indiana Pacers

Western Conference

Predicting where the chips will fall in the wild West this season feels like a fool’s errand, but we can’t (yet) go past the defending champions, Golden State Warriors. While the loss of a few key rotation pieces – Otto Porter Jr. and Gary Payton II notably – could hurt their depth the Warriors will be entering this season with Klay Thompson on their active roster. Limited to only 32 regular games last season, and an extraordinary playoff performance considering his absence from the game, this is a huge boon for a team with aspirations of being the #1 seed. They also have the luxury of continuing to develop some of their young talent and former #2 draft pick James Wiseman looks likely to take on a larger role. The Warriors have had some drama lately, with veteran forward Draymond Green being disciplined by the team for a violent altercation with hotshot guard Jordan Poole, but it remains to be seen whether this incident has any ripple effect on team chemistry or the longer-term presence of both players on the roster.

The Los Angeles Clippers might be just as loaded as the Warriors this season, although they may need to overcome a slow start as one of their All Star players, Kawhi Leonard, returns from the injury that kept him sidelined for the entirety of last season. Paul George, limited to only 31 regular season games last season, will be looking to unlock the full potential of this tandem that has continued to elude them. The Clippers barely missed the Playoffs last season, despite the absence of Leonard and George, and have a host of versatile and experienced wing players returning. Hungry for a return to the court after years of injury and hardship is John Wall, once one of the most explosive scorers in the game. His level of play could be the X-factor that the Clippers need to elevate them to the top of the West.

The Phoenix Suns hit rock bottom in Game 7 of the Western Conference semi-finals, when they were embarrassed on their home court by the Dallas Mavericks and eliminated from the Playoffs. Last year’s #1 seed comfortably led the standings throughout the season, and their offseason following their shock exit hasn’t been rosy. Their majority owner is seeking to sell the team after being embroiled in a scandal and while they managed to retain free agent centre De’Andre Ayton, matching an offer made by the Indiana Pacers, one does wonder if a fresh start was more in Ayton’s interest. But, the Suns still have one of the game’s savviest maestros in Chris Paul, and one of the NBA’s most gifted scorers in Devin Booker, so despite some unease about the vibes they should remain one of the West’s elite teams on present talent alone.

Nikola Jokic, on his way to earning his second straight MVP award, carried the injury-riddled Denver Nuggets to the Playoffs last season. Electrifying guard Jamal Murray and promising forward Michael Porter Jr. are set to return from injury to fill out the well-balanced roster that has been in contention in the West each of the last four seasons. Two-way role players Bruce Brown and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope should make significant contributions this season, and the Nuggets are hoping Bones Hyland continues to develop into a key bench contributor after an eye-opening rookie season.

The Memphis Grizzlies, spearheaded by the explosive Ja Morant, look unlikely to replicate their magical regular season run from last year. They ended the season with the #2 seed, but their inexperience proved telling in their playoff run. With Jaren Jackson Jr. currently out of the line-up due to injury, and useful rotation players D’Anthony Melton and Kyle Anderson unreplaced, the Grizzlies could find themselves a tad thin to open the season. While still a young and talented team, they will need their key players – including sharpshooter Desmond Bane, one of the most improved players from last season, and the gritty Dillon Brooks – to be at their best to stick with the pack.

The New Orleans Pelicans turned some heads during their surprising playoff run last season, surviving the Play-in Tournament and causing the #1 seed Suns some stress in the first round. The addition of CJ McCollum at last year’s trade deadline brought out the best in athletic forward Brandon Ingram, while their troupe of young players, including defensive ace Herb Jones, showed poise well beyond their years. The most fascinating thing to watch this season might be how they re-integrate former #1 pick Zion Williamson, who missed the entirety of last season. Zion has unmatched size and athleticism and averaged over 27 points per game two seasons ago. He is a potent weapon joining an already confident and well-coached team, and if he can remain healthy and complement his now-gelling teammates the Pelicans will be a must-watch team.

The Dallas Mavericks, who will be hoping that Luca Doncic can have an MVP-calibre season, will be looking to go one step further. The loss of Doncic’s backcourt partner Jalen Brunson, who signed a big contract to join the New York Knicks, is significant and it remains to be seen whether their increase in size with the addition of Christian Wood will help them replicate their success. The Minnesota Timberwolves pulled off a massive trade, sacrificing many future assets to bring in the multiple defensive player of the year winner in Rudy Gobert to form a twin towers line-up with gifted scorer Karl-Anthony Towns. It’s a gamble that could backfire. With combo guard Anthony Edwards expected to make an All-Star leap, the Timberwolves have a lot of firepower. As LeBron James chases Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for the all-time leading scorer in league history, can he lead the Los Angeles Lakers and their mismatched core back to the Playoffs? With a healthy Anthony Davis, and a rejuvenated new group of young players, there is reason to believe they’ll be presented an opportunity.

Western Conference Predictions

1 Golden State Warriors

2 Phoenix Suns

3 Denver Nuggets

4 Los Angeles Clippers

5 Memphis Grizzlies

6 New Orleans Pelicans

7 Dallas Mavericks

8 Minnesota Timberwolves

9 Los Angeles Lakers

10 Portland Trail Blazers

11 Sacramento Kings

12 Houston Rockets

13 Utah Jazz

14 San Antonio Spurs

15 Oklahoma City Thunder

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