Oh man, there’s nothing quite like realizing that it’s finally October as an NBA fan. The 2022-23 preseason is already underway, and the regular season starts off on October 19 (in Manila time) with a double-header of the Boston Celtics vs. the Philadelphia 76ers (7:30 AM) and the Golden State Warriors taking on the LA Lakers (10:00 AM).
That’s a sick lineup to start the season, and the next day things start to really go off with 12 games set to be played on October 20. I can’t wait for things to start off again, and truly look forward to our favorite league being back in full swing.
Here are the top five storylines I’ll be keeping a close eye in heading into the season. They’re certainly not the only things to watch out for, but they’re my personal favorite.
Can the Golden State Warriors repeat?
The Golden State Warriors finished last season with the third seed, and had some tough moments in the playoffs, like their 134-95 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies in the conference semis. On top of that, they also fell into a 1-2 hole against the Boston Celtics before rattling off three-straight victories to win the series 4-2 and complete their redemption arc in the post-KD era.
Steph Curry also finally earned his long-awaited NBA Finals MVP after averaging 31.2 points, six rebounds and five assists, including a 43-point, 10 rebound and four assist performance in Game 4 that broke the Celtics’ morale and kicked off the win streak that netted them the title.
The Warriors have plenty of things to worry about though, because they lost a few rotation players in free agency. Gary Payton II went to Portland, Otto Porter Jr. went to Toronto, Nemanja Bjelica moved back to Europe, and Juan Toscano-Anderson moved south the LA.
While they still have their talented four-man core of Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and Andrew Wiggins, what the Warriors will be hoping for the most is to see development from James Wiseman, Moses Moody and Jonathan Kuminga. It’s also a given that everyone will want to see how Jordan Poole continues to develop, but the previously mentioned trio need to see consistent game time and improvements because the Warriors are banking on them to get significantly better in the next year or two as their original core winds down. Things will get especially tough in the coming offseason, because both Green and Wiggins are hitting free agency.
If there was a time to win one last chip with the Curry – Thompson – Green trio, it might be this year.
What drama will follow the Brooklyn Nets and LA Lakers?
Anyone who has even a minor interest in the NBA likely knows about all of the off-court drama surrounding the Brooklyn Nets. Kevin Durant’s trade request, which was eventually not granted, was also followed with rumors that he tried to force out both his coach and GM. Durant, for the most part, still looks like an unapologetic dick about how he made a trade request at the beginning of his four-year extension (which doesn’t even have a player option) and desperately seems to want everyone to get over the whole thing.
Kyrie Irving is also on the last year of his contract after not getting the extension that he wanted, so he’s going to be playing for potentially his last big bag. Nets GM Sean Marks has suddenly had a reversal of fortunes and now supports Irving’s choice to be unvaccinated, after he missed most of last season thanks to both a team ban from away games and a state-mandated ban from home games. It’s bizarre how things are working out now, and Marks has gone out of his way to say that he’s not KD’s boss.
On the other side of the country, we’ve got plenty of drama to look forward to in LA, because the Lakers are so far still intent on fielding the Lebron James – Russell Westbrook – Anthony Davis triumvirate. Westbrook, for all of the things he’s accomplished in the NBA, is still a horrible fit for the Lakers’ system overall, unless he suddenly becomes content with becoming a supporting player. He and LeBron James are both best with the ball in their hands. Both James and Davis have had injury problems the past two season, too, so the Lakers’ title aspirations hinge heavily on bot of them being able to stay on the court. James has taught me to never doubt him if he’s healthy, but that’s a big if these days.
It’s strange too, that the Lakers brought in Westbrook’s eternal nemesis in Patrick Beverley. Funnily enough, it turns out that they’ve become fast friends, with Beverley saying that Russ has become his best friend on the team so far. I’m curious to see if that lasts after Beverley gets in Westbrook’s face for making a bone-headed play.
What happens to the Celtics?
The Boston Celtics still have a great young roster, with their young group of Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart and Robert Williams III still together. They’ve also recently signed Blake Griffin to a one-year deal to add more veteran presence, and continue to have Al Horford on the roster. Horford turned back the clock a few times in the playoffs and was instrumental in the Celtics sending the then-defending champion Milwaukee Bucks home in the East semis. Oh, and they also added Malcom Brogdon to the squad while still keeping younger role players like Grant Williams around.
However, coach Ime Udoka’s one-year suspension hangs a great cloud of uncertainty over the entire Boston Organization. The full details of just what happened aren’t fully out yet, but it’s bad enough that they told him to take a hike for a full season.
Will the Sacramento Kings make the play-in tournament?
I’ve been a Sacramento Kings fan for decades, and I can still remember the pain of blowing a 3-2 series lead and the suspicious refereeing at the tail-end of the series. I also remember Robert Horry’s shot, and hate Vlade Divac for two things: slapping that ball straight to Big Shot Bob and drafting Marvin Bagley instead of Luka Doncic.
As has been the case since 2006, when Ron Artest somehow helped will the Kings to a playoff spot, fans like me having been waiting. The rise of the play-in format has given us some hope again, because the Kings have a half-decent squad that includes two-time All-Star Domantas Sabonis, De’Aaron Fox, Harrison Barnes, Davion Mitchell and Malik Monk.
In a wild NBA, there’s every chance that Sacramento could get lucky by staying healthy and sneaking into a 9th or 10th seed. For a team that’s got the most embarrassing playoff drought in American sports, that’s already enough for fans to cling their hopes to. But, well hey, if we don’t make it, at least I’m already used to failure.
I’ll tell you what, though, if the Kings somehow sneak into the proper playoffs, the NBA world will see and even nuttier celebration than Patrick Beverley’s play-in championship form. The TNT crew can make fun of us all they want.
How will the suddenly-stacked Cleveland Cavaliers perform in a very tough Eastern Conference?
The Cleveland Cavaliers swung for the fences this offseason, and came out of nowhere to complete a trade for Donovan Mitchell. Most people thought Spida was going to New York, but in the end Mitchell has instead joined a talented young team that already had a trio of Darius Garland, Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen.
Adding Mitchell to that core surely elevates their offense, considering that he averaged 25.9 points and 5.3 assists for the Utah Jazz last season. His lowest scoring season was still 20.5 points per game, and that was his rookie year. While there are questions about how Garland and Mitchell’s defensive weaknesses will be a factor in the Cavs’ success, they do have two excellent rim protectors in Mobley and Allen.
Garland is understandably excited to have Mitchell on the team, which is never a bad sign for a young team.
They’ve still got good players on the bench, too, with Kevin Love and Caris LeVert around to anchor the second unit. Love had a couple of 30+ point performances in last year’s regular season, and his ability to knock down the three and grab rebounds is going to come in handy thanks to the
They also brought back Ricky Rubio, who is still recovering from an ACL injury, but can definitely provide veteran mentorship while still sitting in the sidelines.
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