We’re just about a quarter of the way into the 2022-23 season, as most teams have played at least 20 games. Here’s a rundown of the BALLERS editorial team’s take on what’s been going on so far.
What’s been the biggest surprise so far?
Carlo: The Sacramento Kings. As a long-suffering fan, it’s been amazing to watch them find themselves in playoff contention. The team isn’t perfect, but the addition of coach Mike Brown has stabilized team culture. The trade for Kevin Huerter now looks like a one-sided robbery, and offseason signing Malik Monk is now playing like a Sixth Man of the Year contender. Those pieces all perfectly complement stars De’Aaron Fox and Domantas Sabonis, who are both playing at a high level and run the offense to perfection. The defense isn’t great, but I wouldn’t have believed you if you told me we’d score over 150 points against the Nets without overtime in a game.
Gio: The New Orleans Pelicans. There have been teams that have beaten their timelines (e.g., the Memphis Grizzlies) and it seems like it’s the Pelicans’ turn to do so. Yes they have players like Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram but they have put themselves in good footing amidst the logjam that’s the Western Conference.
Aldo: The Phoenix Suns. Coming into the season, I expected them to implode after last May’s disappointing Western Conference Semifinals loss against the Dallas Mavericks and DeAndre Ayton sharing that he did not talk to Monty Williams at all during the summer. Instead, they’re once again the number one seed in the West despite the prolonged absences of Chris Paul, Cam Johnson, and Jae Crowder who all played key roles on last year’s team.
What’s been the biggest disappointment so far?
Carlo: The Golden State Warriors. After winning the title and shutting up doubters last year, their incredibly bad away record to start the season is confusing. They’re relying too much on Steph Curry to carry them this year, and it’s clear that they miss versatile players like Gary Payton II on defense.
Gio: The Los Angeles Lakers. They’re a relatively healthy bunch and they have shown the ability to dominate. But dominating and consistently dominating are two different things. You can even add the fact that the Lakers haven’t made the necessary roster moves to get better. That the players they traded away in recent years are thriving only adds salt to the wounds.
Aldo: The Minnesota Timberwolves. They’re currently 11th in the West with a sub-.500 record after an offseason that saw them go all-in with the acquisition of Rudy Gobert. The move was expected to immediately elevate them to at least the second tier of Western Conference contenders, but they have even regressed from last year’s progress.
Who’s your early season MVP?
Carlo: Jayson Tatum. The Celtics, even their crazy offseason drama involving suspended coach Ime Udoka has not stopped them from playing like the best team in the league. Giannis Antetokounmpo is a close second for me, considering how well the Bucks have played while still missing Khris Middleton.
Gio: Luka Doncic. Yes his team is currently at the play-in spot but the season is still in its early stages and Doncic is in midseason form. One would think teams have already figured out ways to defend Doncic but he remains an unstoppable force, more often than not scoring 30 points on a given night. He’s clearly the frontrunner and at this pace, it’s his award to lose.
Aldo: Jayson Tatum. The Boston Celtics are the top team in the league so far and he is playing the best basketball of his career. He looks determined to avenge last June’s NBA Finals loss to the Golden State Warriors and is averaging 30.8 points on 48.1% field goal shooting, 7.7 rebounds, 4.6 assists, 0.9 steals, and 1.2 blocks per game. What’s scary is that he is still only 24 years old and he may be only scratching the surface of his full potential.
Which player has impressed you the most?
Carlo: De’Aaron Fox has always had speed and the ability to finish at the rim, but this season he’s vastly improved his midrange and three-point shooting. He’s averaging 24.3 points, 4.9 rebounds, six assists with shooting splits of 52.2 / 38.7 / 82.4. He’s also become one of the best clutch players in the league so far this season.
Gio: Paolo Banchero. The dude has shown he can carry a heavy load and has by and large been the best rookie from this 2022 NBA Draft Class. Like Doncic, the Rookie of the Year award is his to lose, but looking at the bigger picture, the Orlando Magic have to take care of their franchise player. History has shown that the big men the Magic selected first overall one way or another end up with the Los Angeles Lakers and with the way Banchero has been playing, they would be wise to not let him look elsewhere.
Aldo: Tyrese Haliburton. Everyone knew that he was good, but I believe only a handful thought that he was this good. He leads the league in assists with 11.3 per game and is also averaging 19.9 points, 4.7 rebounds, and 1.8 steals. While these statistics are already impressive in themselves, the true beauty of his game lies in his efficiency. His shooting splits of 48/38/85 as a point guard are elite on a “Steve Nash back-to-back NBA Most Valuable Player” level and his 2.7 turnovers per game, especially when considering his usage, are quite noteworthy. Furthermore, he recently had a three-game stretch where he had a total of 40 assists and a mind-boggling zero turnovers.