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CouchGM’s Staff talks expectations for the 2022-2023 NBA Season. Check out the full championship odds table here.
Tonight is opening night of the 2022-2023 NBA Season! Let's preview our projections and discuss expectations for the new season.
Let's start with the East.
|Projected Seed||Team||Projected Record||Championship Probability|
|9||New York Knicks||39-43||1.69%|
What are your thoughts on the East?
Andrew: This is probably Embiid’s year to win MVP. To end the regular season after the Harden trade, Philadelphia went 19-9, which is on pace to win 56 games over the course of a full year. That was at Embiid playing out of his mind (he averaged 30.6 points, 11.7 rebounds, 4.2 assists, and shot 49.9/37.1 for the year). Those all are career highs or his second highest of his career. I don’t think it’s fair to expect that from him again, so I expect them to be between 45-50 wins, pending load management and injuries to Harden and Embiid.
I will not be surprised if Kyrie plays 75 games and is top 5 in MVP voting. He’s in a contract year and I think he needs to clear up his reputation around the league to show he is available, willing, and interested in playing at a high level to get a new deal. Simmons never was a shooting threat, which he unfortunately needed to be in Philadelphia, but he doesn’t have to be even the 3rd or 4th best offensive option when he plays behind Irving, Durant, and shooting threats Curry, and Harris.
If it wasn’t for load management I’d put Philadelphia and Brooklyn as the top 2 teams in the East, but realistically I expect them to both be between 47-52 wins and get home court advantage in the first round. Boston will probably be the top seed as they embark on their own revenge tour. They made some moves to get noticeably better, and their only question mark is how big of an impact will the new coach have.
Terry: First, The Boston Celtics got better by adding Malcolm Brogdon but the Ime Udoka suspension made them worse. How much better and how much worse remains to be seen of course but because players make coaches, I’m going to say that the addition of Brogdon will be a bigger plus than the Udoka minus. Also, the Celtics’ roster is probably the deepest roster in the East so they appear to be ready to win a lot in the regular season and yet still be well constructed for playoff success (again).
Second, it will be interesting to see how hungry the combination of Joel Embiid and James Harden is right out of the gate. All reports indicate that Harden is in good shape and is prepped to again play at an MVP level. Given that he can opt out of his current deal and become an unrestricted free agent next summer, and acknowledging that he believes he is worthy of one more max deal (even though he is currently 33 years-old), I’d look for a good year from the Beard. Embiid will get more MVP votes than Harden because, well, he’s Joel Embiid. So if those two play at that MVP-like level, they will create a lot of space for the rising Tyrese Maxey and a lot of corner 3s for P.J. Tucker. Anything less than the conference finals will be a disappointment in Philly.
Finally, the Nets will be must-see-TV. Whether they start fast and Brooklyn excitement grows in New York and elsewhere or whether they start slow and Nash’s seat gets hot and everyone starts pointing fingers at Ben Simmons, Kyrie’s commitment level, and elsewhere, watching Nets games should be high on your list.
Top 4 in the East: Celtics, 76ers, Bucks and Nets. Next 4: Heat, Cavaliers, Hawks, Raptors.
Zach: I feel like there are more good teams in the East (and in the league in general) this season. There are probably 10 teams in the East (Boston, Brooklyn, Milwaukee, Miami, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Toronto, Cleveland, New York, Chicago) that think they will be in the playoffs, and at least 1 more (Charlotte) that thinks they have a shot at the play-in. Unfortunately, 4 of those teams will eventually miss out. Moving a little farther down, and based on its trade for Bogdanovic, Detroit is ready to at least give its youngsters a fighting chance. Orlando also seems like it is interested in competing instead of tanking, and Washington still has Bradley Beal. That leaves Indiana as the only team that seems to be ready to tank, but they still have Hield and Turner (and Haliburton, a CouchGM favorite since before his draft). So, at least at the beginning of the season, there won’t be many easy games in the East. It will be interesting to see which teams in January join the Wembanyama sweepstakes. Maybe this is finally the year the Wizards trade Beal.
Moving on to the West.
|Projected Seed||Team||Projected Record||Championship Probability|
|3||Los Angeles Clippers||54-28||5.74%|
|5||New Orleans Pelicans||50-32||3.68%|
|9||Los Angeles Lakers||40-42||1.74%|
|11||San Antonio Spurs||30-52||1.19%|
|13||Portland Trail Blazers||25-57||1.04%|
|14||Oklahoma City Thunder||22-60||0.97%|
What do you think about the West?
Andrew: In the first week of the season we’ll see 2 games with top 5 teams - October 23 Suns at Clippers, then 2 days later October 25 Warriors at Suns. It’s hard to draw conclusions from games this early in the season, but that doesn’t mean I’m not really excited for both of those games. The Clippers and Nuggets are getting a lot of love from the national media, but to be honest I don’t know how much of that I believe. Of course, we only care about how they play from April - June, at which point Kawhi and Murray will be almost 2 full years removed from their ACL injuries. If you look at the history of players returning from that injury, even after missing a year, their stats are only a shell of what they used to be. The most recent example is Klay Thompson. I know he had an achilles after his ACL but he shot 46.7% overall and 40.2% from 3 the year before those injuries. Last season when they went very easy on him he only shot 42.9% and 38.5%. Those are still great numbers for the average player, but that’s his 2nd worst overall field goal percentage and worst overall 3 point shooting percentage. Don’t expect Kawhi to come back and rule the league. Jamal Murray’s 2020-2021 season saw him post career high field goal percentage (47.7%), field goal attempts (16.5), three point percentage (40.8%), and three point attempts (6.6), as well as assists, minutes, and points per game. He did have that magical playoff bubble experience where he shot 50.5% from the field, 45.3% from 3, and scored 26.5 points, which is all anyone remembers, but for his career he’s a 44.6% shooter and only 36.7% from 3. He is better than who Denver had last year at point guard, so they should be better overall, but don’t expect Murray to be playoff bubble Murray. If he’s even career-average Murray I think that should be considered a win for Denver.
Speaking of the Warriors, they may get better since I’d expect Klay to shoot more like his career average of 45.8% and 41.7% now that he’s a full 3 years removed from the ACL injury and almost 2 years from the achilles injury. His return to form will take pressure off Curry, and if Poole continues to progress I definitely see them as a Finals contender. Having said that, Last year was Steph’s worst career shooting year overall (43.7%) and from three (38.0%). I do not expect them to be a top 2 seed, but as long as they’re a top 4 team with first round home court advantage it will be hard to bet against them.
Terry: The biggest storylines in the west are, first, the return from injury of Kawhi Leonard (and Paul George) for the Clippers and Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. for the Nuggets, and second, when will LeBron pass Kareem? A third question I don’t want to address is how will Phoenix snap back from the Dallas playoffs debacle?
I am bullish on the Clippers for sure. NBA pundits and prognosticators are also bullish on the Clippers. The Celtics probably have the best 1-8 in the league, but the Clippers probably have the best 1-10 roster in the league. Given today’s NBA’s emphasis on load management, the Clippers should win 55 games and get a first-round bye even if Leonard and George only play 60 games. John Wall should be rested and motivated. Like I said about the 76ers above, anything less than the conference finals will be a disappointment for the Clippers.
Barring injury, LeBron will pass Kareem on the all-time scoring list in late January or early February. The Lakers have a lot of questions as a team, but LeBron will pass Kareem this year. Last year Steph Curry became the all-time leader in three-pointers made. It was a big deal. LeBron passing Kareem will easily be 10x bigger. I remember attending a Suns at Jazz game almost 20 years ago when Mark Jackson got his 10,000th career assist. At that time, only John Stockton and Magic had more assists. Jazz fans know assists and the acknowledgement and ovation they gave to Jackson during the next stoppage in play gave me goosebumps. It was an historic event. LeBron passing Kareem will be the biggest historic event the NBA has seen since Michael won his 6th ring. And the magnitude of that wasn’t really understood when it happened. LeBron passing Kareem will be big.
Top 4 in the West: Warriors, Suns, Clippers, Nuggets. Next 4: Grizzlies, Timberwolves, Pelicans, Mavericks.
Zach: My bold prediction for the season is that Willie Green will win Coach of the Year. The Pelicans were MUCH better after acquiring CJ McCollum (and Larry Nance, Jr!) at the trade deadline (+2.2 points per 100 possessions) than before (-4.2). Now McCollum, Ingram, and Co. have had an offseason to gel, and, oh by the way, they’re also getting back Zion Williamson. If Zion is able to play a reasonable number of games (say, 60), New Orleans could contend for a top-4 seed.
If Memphis doesn’t regress, then Taylor Jenkins could get it as make up for not winning last year (when Monty Williams won as make-up for not winning the year before).
The West, unlike the East, has several teams (Utah, Houston, Oklahoma City, San Antonio) that I expect to be really bad. The top of the West is still really strong, though.
Who's the most underrated team?
Andrew: I’ll say Portland. Healthy Lillard is scary Lillard, and I expect them to be in the play-in mix, yet our model only projects 25 wins. They will go as far as Anfernee SImons goes (said no one ever). Lillard will be normal Lillard. Grant was a good acquisition and will help Nurkic with the rebounding, but if Simons can be CJ McCollum lite, then expect them to be back in the 40-45 win range.
Terry: The Minnesota Timberwolves. It will be interesting to see how well Rudy Gobert will mesh with Karl-Anthony Towns. But notwithstanding that unknown, Anthony Edwards is a star on the rise. His ascension alone could propel the T-Wolves to 50 wins. Our model projects a 42-40 record. Also, D’Angelo Russell’s job should get easier with the addition of Gobert and by sharing some of the playmaking with Edwards. Look for Minnesota to exceed expectations this year.
Zach: The Toronto Raptors. Our model says 43 wins and Vegas over/unders are around 45.5. But the Raptors won 48 games last year and won 50+ two of the three years before that. Scottie Barnes will take a second-year leap, Siakam will be All-NBA (22.8 points, 8.5 rebounds, 5.3 assists on 49/34/75 shooting splits last year is REALLY good), Van Vleet and Anunoby return, and Otto Porter, fresh off a championship with the Warriors, joins the bench. If I were a betting man, I’d take the over on Toronto.
Who's the most overrated team?
Andrew: Both teams that took Utah’s stars - Cleveland and Minnesota. Vegas has them winning 47.5 and 49.5, respectively. Our model, correctly in my opinion, is much lower on them, expecting 41 and 42 wins respectively. How Minnesota pairs KAT with Gobert will be interesting, with the expectation obviously that KAT will be able to focus as the stretch 4 that shoots jumpers while Gobert anchors the defense and stands around waiting for lobs. Maybe that unleashes a new level of DeAngelo Russell, but I’ll believe it when I see it. Cleveland will get to see how Donovan Mitchell and Darius Garland work together as ball dominant guards who take a lot of shots. Both guys led their team in field goal attempts per game by a wide margin, so I think each of their effectiveness will be offset because they overlap skillsets (not too dissimilar to the Westbrook and Lebron pairing last year). If one of them turns into a catch and shoot 3 point threat then yes they could live up to expectations, but I would not bet on it.
Terry: The Memphis Grizzlies. Our model forecasts 52 wins for Memphis and I just don’t see that. The backcourt of Ja Morant and Desmond Bane is arguably one of the top-5 backcourts in the league; throw in Dillon Brooks, Jaren Jackson, Jr. and Stephen Adams and Memphis has a potent 1-2-3-4-5. But after Brandon Clarke, the bench is thin. And young. The Grizz said goodbye to De’Anthony Melton and slo-mo Kyle Anderson, both strong bench contributors. I’d look for the Grizzlies to underachieve this year and finish with about 46 wins, 6 less than our projection.
Zach: I also expect some regression from Memphis this year. I think they overachieved last season. But I’ll suggest the Denver Nuggets here. Perhaps overrated isn’t the right word, but this is a team I’m most skeptical about. Our model projects only 45 wins, which aligns better with my expectations than Vegas over/unders of 49.5 or 50.5 and chatter I’ve heard of the Nuggets as one of the few true contenders. They did win 48 games last year without Murray and Porter, but it took Jokic somehow being better than the year before. And with the Clippers, Pelicans, and Timberwolves (and maybe even Portland) expecting to improve, 50 wins will just be really tough for anyone. Add to all this that I’m not convinced that Murray will come back and be hugely impactful (we’re remembering and weighing his bubble performance too heavily), I don’t trust Michael Porter, Jr.’s health (he’s missed almost a full season twice the last 4 years, dating back to his college career), and I think they will miss Monte Morris. They still should be a solid team, but I’m low on their status as a true championship contender.
Who is your 2022-2023 NBA Champion?
Andrew: My Phoenix Suns fandom is hard to rein in because 1) we haven’t seen them play any games this year, and 2) they are basically running back last year’s league best regular season team. If they resolve their chemistry, get someone serviceable for Crowder, and Ayton doesn’t demand a trade I would expect them to get to the finals. I’ve already ruled out the Clippers and Nuggets above, and I think eventually the Warriors will get old and fall off, so that leaves the Suns to come out of the west. In the East, I’m left with Philadelphia or Brooklyn, but I think the safe bet is the 76ers. Brooklyn’s Finals potential is too easily derailed by a Durant injury or Irving mentally checking out (yet I acknowledge that their only full season with Durant and Irving ended with a game 7 loss to the eventual Champion Bucks, who they would have beat if Durant didn’t wear size 100 shoes).
I’ll say 76ers over Suns, in the Finals, with Brooklyn and Golden State losing in the conference finals.
Terry: The Philadelphia 76ers. Embiid is a top-5 MVP player. The Beard is fit and motivated. The team as a whole has a bad taste in their mouth because of how last season ended. They added P.J. Tucker and got tougher and better at corner 3s. Their bench improved when they traded for De’Anthony Melton and signed Montrezl Harrell. For all the love the Clippers and Celtics get nationally (and by me) for their deep rosters, the Sixers’ roster is just as deep. Their starters can shoot, rebound and defend. So can their bench. Our model predicts 45 wins; I think they should win 50+. But the roster looks constructed for postseason success. Look for the Sixers to be a top-4 seed in the east and then grind their way through the east playoffs. Wouldn’t it be fun to see the Sixers throw Tucker and Matisse Thybulle at Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving in the playoffs? Or Jason Tatum and Jaylen Brown? Or Giannis and Kris Middleton? I think Daryl Morey has constructed the rosters the Sixers need to maximize their two big stars. They should be able to pace themselves for the first 60 games and then ramp-up the defense and be ready for the slower playoff-pace. The Philadelphia 76ers will win the NBA championship in 2023.
Zach: Apologies to my 5-year-old son, who's favorite team is the 76ers. But I'll choose someone else...
The Golden State Warriors over the Milwaukee Bucks. I went back and forth on this one. I’m still a little traumatized by Giannis going supernova in the Finals two seasons ago, so the Bucks are still the team I fear the most. But the Warriors return the core of the team that won it all last season, many of whom also contributed to winning 4 of the last 8. And I’ll buy that the young Warriors will be useful players this season, I’m a DiVincenzo fan dating back to his Final Four MOP performance with Villanova, and Curry is still one of the most impactful (and fun!) players in the league. They enter the season as our model’s highest rated team, and I’ll take them to end that way, too.back to blog