Image Courtesy: The Mercury News
Projected Conference Standings (of teams predicted to make playoffs/play-in tournament)
The Bucks re-signed forward Bobby Portis. They of course have former MVP Giannis Antekounmpo and will look to get back to the Finals for the first time in 2021.
The Celtics added the Indiana Pacers’ Malcolm Brogdon to shore up their point guard position. Star forward Jayson Tatum’s turnover problems in the NBA Finals’ loss to Golden State will have to be fixed if Boston want to get back to winning a championship.
The Sixers re-signed star James Harden on a smaller contract, allowing Philadelphia to add other free agents. Harden wants to win a championship and he can do that with last season’s leading scorer Joel Embiid.
The Heat were a Jimmy Butler made three away from reaching the Finals for a second consecutive year. It will be up to off ball guards Tyler Herro and Max Strus to play well next to Butler and get the Heat deep into the playoffs.
Toronto will continue to play through forwards Scottie Barnes and Pascal Siakam and add assets to push through and make a run at Milwaukee, Boston, and Philadelphia at the top of the eastern conference.
Atlanta is just a year removed from an Eastern Conference Finals appearance. The Hawks paired guard Trae Young with San Antonio Spurs guard Dejounte Murray to share ball handling duties. Now, Young will be able to come off of screens and take more open threes, which should help the Hawks scoring load.
Chicago maintained wings Zach LaVine and DeMar DeRozan but will need to get better defensively to be a true contender in the eastern conference.
Cleveland will use young big man tandem Evan Mobley and former Brooklyn Net Jarrett Allen to create offense and suffocate other opponents on defense.
Charlotte lost young star Miles Bridges due to legal issues but will trot Terry Rozier and LaMelo Ball out in their backcourt and continue to be one of the most exciting teams in the league.
10.New York Knicks
The Knicks added Mavericks guard Jalen Brunson to hopefully fix their point guard role. Brunson is surrounded by wing RJ Barrett and forward Julius Randle.
1.Golden State Warriors
The reigning NBA champions will just keep doing what they’ve been doing with guard Stephen Curry leading the way.
2.Los Angeles Clippers
LA added guard John Wall to come off the bench and with star forward Kawhi Leonard returning from injury, the Clippers are expected to make a bounce back season in 2022-2023.
Back to back MVP Nikola Jokic gets star guard Jamal Murray and forward Michael Porter Jr. back from injury entering this season. The Nuggets are a clear top four or five team in the west and will challenge Golden State again for the west crown.
Dallas eliminated the reigning western conference champions at the time in the second round of the playoffs. The Mavericks lost guard Jalen Brunson but former Brooklyn Nets starter Spencer Dinwiddie should fit right in next to star Luka Doncic in the backcourt. Dallas will be a quality team in 2022-2023.
Phoenix has a salty taste in their mouth after losing in the West Semifinals to the Mavericks in May. Back to back Coach of the Year Monty Williams will have to keep working with Devin Booker, Chris Paul, and his entire team on keeping their defensive intensity up every game.
Memphis was the two seed in the playoffs last season but many believe only because of injuries in Denver and LA. But the Ja Morant led Grizzlies will most definitely be in the playoffs next season in a loaded western conference.
7.New Orleans Pelicans
In a crowded southwest division (Memphis, Dallas, …), New Orleans has finally gotten star forward Zion Williamson back from his injury. He will team up with off-ball guard CJ McCollum and wing Brandon Ingram to form a competitive team down south.
Minnesota traded for former Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert to play center for them. They will move Karl-Anthony Towns over to the four and allow Anthony Edwards to create outside at guard.
9.Portland Trail Blazers
Portland’s Damian Lillard continues to remain content in Portland while developing guard Anfernee Simons gives the Blazers a second option outside. Portland will be okay in 2022-2023.
10.Los Angeles Lakers
LA needs shooters outside of LeBron, Russell Westbrook, and Anthony Davis. Their front office has not done that yet. Until that happens, this is as high as I will project the Lakers.
Projected NBA Finals:
LA Clippers 2
Projected Award Winners
MVP: Giannis Antentokounmpo, Forward, Milwaukee Bucks
DPOY: Mikal Bridges, Guard/Forward, Phoenix Suns
MIP: Bobby Portis, Forward, Milwaukee Bucks
COY: Jason Kidd, Dallas Mavericks