2022-23 NBA Season Preview: A Team-by-Team Breakdown

There’s a strong chance that if everyone in the NBA remains relatively healthy, we will witness one of the greatest seasons in NBA history this year, and the Points in the Paint podcast with Ben Wittenstein and myself will cover all 30 teams with insider analysis and next-level content.

But before the regular season tips off, let’s break down each team and predict where they’ll end up.

Atlanta Hawks | The 43-39 Hawks won both of their play-in games to get into the playoffs, ultimately losing in the first round to the No. 1 Heat in five games. It did serve as a coming-out party for De’Andre Hunter, who showed promise in the series loss to Miami, leading the team in postseason scoring at 21.2 ppg.

Looking ahead to this upcoming season, Atlanta decided to get more help for the talented Trae Young, trading for 2022 All-Star Dejounte Murray from the Spurs to pair with Young in the backcourt (Murray had career highs in points, rebounds and assists last season with San Antonio). Defensively, Atlanta will need to improve as they gave up a disastrous 112.4 ppg last season. In order to prove themselves as one of the top teams in the East, the Hawks will need to keep opponents from getting whatever they want on offense.

Record Prediction: 44-38

Indiana Pacers | The Pacers entered last year with playoff aspirations, but after multiple injuries and close losses early on the schedule, the writing was on the wall for a rebuild. At the trade deadline, the Pacers acquired Tyrese Haliburton and guard Buddy Hield from the Kings in exchange for a package headlined by All-Star Domantas Sabonis.

After finishing the season in 13th place in the East, the Pacers used their sixth overall pick in this year’s draft to select Arizona wing Bennedict Mathurin. Indiana then continued their push to get younger, trading Malcolm Brogdon to the Celtics for draft compensation and more young talent, including Aaron Nesmith. Pacers fans will have to witness growing pains but with Haliburton, Mathurin and Chris Duarte on the court together, this franchise is bound to find success in the future.

Record Prediction: 26-56

Detroit Pistons | The Pistons will look to be as competitive as they were at the end of last season, as they had a streak of over 20 games where they covered the spread. A loss is still a loss, but the Pistons looked like a young team on the rise late in the spring.

Cade Cunningham showed a lot of promise in his rookie season, and now Detroit will have a very entertaining backcourt after drafting Purdue guard Jaden Ivey fifth overall in the 2022 draft. Ivey’s ability to score at the rim will be a sight to see, although he’ll need to work on shooting from deep. While this is not the year for Detroit fans to buy season tickets, the Pistons can continue to build around Cunningham and Ivey as they try to construct the foundation for a future playoff team.

Record Prediction: 28-54

Cleveland Cavaliers | The 2021-22 Cavaliers were a rollercoaster. They went into the season with low expectations but quickly got off to a great start. For much of November they hovered between the fourth and eighth seeds before peaking in December — when they were knocking on the door for No. 2 in the Eastern Conference. But they eventually slid all the way to the Play-In Tournament as the eighth seed, losing to both the Nets and Hawks, ending their playoff aspirations.

The Cavaliers made a big splash late in the offseason by acquiring guard Donovan Mitchell from the Jazz in a blockbuster trade. By acquiring a star like Mitchell without giving up their core in return means that Cleveland has one of the strongest starting lineups in the league with Mitchell, Darius Garland, Jarrett Allen and Evan Mobley. This Cleveland roster has the potential to be a real threat in the East for years to come. While they won’t yet contend for a championship in 2022-23, a top-six seed should be attainable, especially if players like Isaac Okoro continue to develop.

Record Prediction: 46-36

Chicago Bulls | Bulls fans heard all the noise about how DeMar DeRozan was a bad signing — and then watched him emerge as an MVP candidate. Chicago got off to a fast start with a 27-14 record halfway through the season before injuries and COVID-19 resulted in the team limping into the postseason.

Chicago looked strong defensively when Lonzo Ball, Alex Caruso and Patrick Williams were all on the floor and healthy. But what glooms over Chicago is the status of Ball, who will not be healthy for the start of the season. The All-Star trio of DeRozan, Zach LaVine and Nikola Vucevic is enough for the Bulls to contend with the Eastern Conference’s elite, but the difference in the playoffs will be how Chicago’s secondary players perform.

Record Prediction: 44-38

Milwaukee Bucks | Bucks fans shouldn’t worry about Giannis Antetokounmpo leaving anytime soon despite his offseason comments about potentially playing for Chicago. With a hopefully healthy supporting cast to lean on, the two-time MVP will have Milwaukee right back in the mix to claim their second title in three years.

Last season, the Bucks were third in offensive rating but in the middle of the pack defensively, so they need to significantly improve in that area in 2022-23. But the biggest concern for Milwaukee might be their aforementioned health, with Khris Middleton expected to miss the start of the season due to his wrist injury. Even with Middleton out, players like Jrue Holiday and Bobby Portis are proven and efficient enough to help Giannis and the Bucks win in a deep Eastern Conference.

Record Prediction: 55-27, Championship Contender

Brooklyn Nets | From Kyrie Irving’s stance on the COVID-19 vaccine leading to him being ineligible to play home games to a frustrated James Harden being traded for Ben Simmons in a blockbuster deal with the 76ers, it sure hasn’t been boring in Brooklyn. But with all the drama that’s went down in New York since Kevin Durant and Irving arrived in 2019, it’s fair to say that Nets fans deserve at least one full season of the 7-Eleven experience with their two All-Stars.

When looking ahead to this season, KD and Irving will take offensive pressure off Simmons once he eventually gets healthy. With Joe Harris back in the lineup and another season from Seth Curry, this team can be one of the best in the East. But will head coach Steve Nash be able to improve his in-game adjustments? If not, his seat may be getting hot even though it’s not his fault that Brooklyn has had its stars miss so many games over the past two seasons. Theoretically, Brooklyn should be one of the East’s top teams, but we all know how those lofty preseason expectations for the Nets have turned out in recent years…

Record Prediction: 51-31

Toronto Raptors | The Raptors were not expected to win a lot of games last season, but in the end, they found themselves with nearly 50 victories and in the playoffs, giving the 76ers all they could handle in the first round. Toronto head coach Nick Nurse proved he’s one of the best coaches in the Association, and multiple players stepped up, like newly minted All-Star Fred VanVleet. First-round pick Scottie Barnes also proved to be much more polished on offense than originally anticipated, averaging 15.3 points per game on 49.2% shooting in a successful Rookie of the Year campaign.

When you add in a rejuvenated Pascal Siakam and the intriguing OG Anunoby, this Raptors team has the potential to evolve from a fringe playoff team into a contender — assuming that their promising youngsters continue to develop and they can find a closer for crunch time.

Record Prediction: 42-40

Philadelphia 76ers | In last year’s postseason, a locked-in Joel Embiid defeated a gritty Raptors team who had no answer for the five-time All-Star. The Sixers were then knocked off by the Heat in the second round, ending the season on a disappointing note. But behind a loaded roster in 2022-23, this could be the year Philly finally returns to the NBA Finals.

James Harden says he’s fully committed to winning his first championship, and he’s been working out with talented teammate Tyrese Maxey this summer. The Sixers also have enough guard depth to stagger Harden in case he misses significant time due to injury. Tobias Harris will provide the offense as the third option in the lineup, and while there’s no such thing as a replacement for Embiid, former Sixth Man of the Year Montrezl Harrell can help keep the Sixers afloat in the regular season when JoJo is resting on the bench.

Record Prediction: 53-29

Boston Celtics | The Boston Celtics reached the NBA Finals and tried to capture their 18th banner but came up short in six games to the Warriors last season. Before that unlikely playoff run, Boston had a historic midseason turnaround under first-year head coach Ime Udoka, seeing the team go from a likely Play-In Tournament appearance to nearly stealing the top seed in the East at the end of the regular season.

In 2022-23, all eyes will be on the superstar pairing of Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, and the duo should combine for over 50 points a night. As for Marcus Smart, the Celtics relied on him to be the floor general and guard the opposing team’s best perimeter player last season. The addition of Malcolm Brogdon from the Pacers will now allow Smart to play his natural position on the wing.

Boston will look to repeat its defensive efforts from last season, as they led the NBA in almost all defensive categories, including field goal percentage, defensive rating and points per game. If an efficient Celtics roster can come together under interim head coach Joe Mazzulla (who’s filling in for Udoka during his season-long suspension), Boston could be right back on the big stage in June.

Record Prediction: 50-32

New York Knicks | If you’re a Knicks fan, this will be another turbulent season filled with both hope and despair in New York City. Whether it’s with their top-paid players — like Julius Randle — underperforming, injuries or having no true point guard, the Knicks have recently struggled on the court, and it’s likely to continue.

While RJ Barrett became a 20-point scorer for the first time in his young career last season, Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau will need to put Barrett in a position to consistently score by handing him the keys to the franchise. New York’s addition of Jalen Brunson could also prove to be a step forward for the Knicks.

It’s hard for an older coach to change his philosophy but Thibs will need to limit his starters to more conservative minutes. The declining Randle will need to be more efficient, which should be easier to accomplish since he won’t need to be as ball dominant with Brunson on the floor. In this rebuilding year, the Knicks have a shot to be in the Play-In Tournament if their playmakers show up on a nightly basis.

Record Prediction: 35-47

Miami Heat | The Heat are a serious contender in the East. Not only did they reach the NBA Finals three seasons ago but Jimmy Butler was a three-pointer away from another Finals appearance last season. The biggest question mark for the team in South Beach is who will be the floor general. Kyle Lowry struggled with an 18.2 percent usage rate, his lowest since his third year in the NBA. Another year in the Association also puts the 36-year-old Lowry at an increased risk of injury, which results in the need for load management. Tyler Herro has to develop more as a playmaker, but he did show significant improvement in his third season, earning the 2021-22 Sixth Man of the Year Award.

The Heat need to improve in the frontcourt, including even more production from Bam Adebayo, who increased his points, shots and steals per game for the fifth straight season. Miami has one of the best coaches in Erik Spoelstra and a star player who dominates in the playoffs in Butler. With a healthy offseason and full training camp, Victor Oladipo could be the missing piece for Miami’s championship run. It will be interesting to see how close the Heat get this season.

Record Prediction: 45-37

Charlotte Hornets | The Hornets were arguably the most entertaining team in the Eastern Conference last season with LaMelo Ball proving that he is must-see TV with his ball handling and next-level vision. But Miles Bridges’ legal troubles have resulted in an underwhelming outlook for Charlotte in 2022-23.

Buzz City does still have Gordon Hayward, although he’s never been the same player after suffering his gruesome ankle injury. That being said, he can provide solid veteran leadership to complement Charlotte’s young talent when he is on the court. Rookie Mark Williams and Mason Plumlee will need to make an immediate impact in order to fill the void of Bridges and Montrezl Harrell.

The Hornets brought back head coach Steve Clifford, but it will be hard to win in a stacked and experienced Eastern Conference. While Ball has shown he’s a superstar you can build around for the future, Hornets fans may just have to remain patient this season.

Record Prediction: 38-44

Orlando Magic | This is a Magic team that needs to continue to rebuild before it can compete for an NBA championship. Orlando has recently brought in a load of young talent, including Paolo Banchero, Franz Wagner, Cole Anthony and Jalen Suggs. The Magic also hired a coach in Jamahl Mosley that can develop promising youngsters, which makes it feel like Orlando is actually in a good position to succeed.

Depending on Banchero’s impact and the continued development of his teammates — like Suggs and Anthony — the Magic may soon be out of the running for the lottery. But the East is filled with proven veteran teams, so the Magic will have at least one more season to build chemistry while acquiring the draft assets needed to assemble a playoff team.

Record Prediction: 27-55

Washington Wizards | For the last four seasons, Washington has not been bad enough to tank for a top-three pick but not good enough to contend in the postseason. This year, everything hinges on the health of star players Bradley Beal and Kristaps Porzingis.

Despite the trade rumors, Beal signed a five-year, $251 million max contract with the Wizards during the offseason. After averaging a career-high 31.3 points per game in 2020-21, Beal dealt with injuries which led to his numbers decreasing last season. As for Porzingis, the former All-Star has become injury prone, and Washington doesn’t have enough depth to not depend on him. He has all the talent in the world, but can he stay on the floor? A supporting cast led by Kyle Kuzma, Rui Hachimura, Monte Morris and Will Barton should be enough to at least compete for one of the final play-in spots.

Record Prediction: 40-42

Dallas Mavericks | The Dallas Mavericks surpassed expectations last season. No one had the Mavs winning 52 games but they did just that, landing the fourth seed in the playoffs. Luka Doncic — aka the “Jazz Destroyer” (which will be explained in more detail in the Utah Jazz preview) — really shocked the basketball world in the postseason. After Dallas sent the Jazz home in the first round, the Mavs fell to 3-2 against the Suns in the Western Conference Semifinals, and the media immediately wrote the Mavericks off.

But Dallas did not fold under the pressure, embarrassing the Suns in Game 6 before cruising past them in Game 7 — leading by as many as 46 points. While the Warriors finished Dallas in a gentleman’s sweep in the Western Conference Finals, it was a postseason to remember for Mavericks fans.

Doncic is still young, so Dallas’ championship window will be open for years to come. The main problem is their depth on the perimeter. Luckily for them, Tim Hardaway Jr. will return from injury this season. Dallas also acquired Christian Wood, a borderline All-Star who is a valuable piece to add alongside Doncic in the pick-and-pop game. The Mavs exceeded expectations last season, but will they do it again this year? They have a team that can compete in the loaded Western Conference, but the question remains as to who will be Doncic’s “Robin” as they push for another deep playoff run.

Record Prediction: 43-39

Houston Rockets | The Rockets began their rebuild in the 2020-21 season, as the departure of Russell Westbrook and James Harden signaled that Houston was embracing a youth movement. The franchise drafted Jalen Green and acquired Kevin Porter Jr. and Alperen Sengun, quickly becoming one of the NBA’s most fun teams to watch (despite the losses). Now with the rookie Jabari Smith Jr. in the mix, Houston is compiling all the right pieces together for the future.

The Rockets couldn’t guard a parked car last season, as Houston had one of the worst defensive ratings in the NBA. But that’s going to happen when you have a lot of young and inexperienced players who are offensive-minded. Rather than trying to trade their way into contention, a path through the draft will allow the Rockets to continue to build a playoff contender. If Green, Sengun and Porter all take leaps forward in their game, and Smith proves why he should have been the No. 1 overall pick, the Rockets could be out of the lottery and on their way to relevance at this time in 2023.

Record Prediction: 24-58

Memphis Grizzlies | The Memphis Grizzlies should be the defending champions — if you ask Ja Morant, anyway. The reigning Most Improved Player was not in the MVP conversation but had the Golden State Warriors on their heels in the playoffs. Morant unfortunately went down with an injury and the Grizzlies fell short to Steph Curry and company.

Memphis has exceeded expectations two seasons in a row, and their future can only get brighter. Grizzlies head coach Taylor Jenkins is just in his fourth season in charge, while general manager Zach Kleiman, who was just named Executive of the Year, has expertly built the identity of this young team through the draft. As for who’s on the court, sharpshooter Desmond Bane showed improvement in his game, and Jaren Jackson will be a Defensive Player of the Year candidate for years to come. Those guys, along with Morant, will be the foundation of the Grizzlies as they go on another postseason run.

Record Prediction: 48-34

New Orleans Pelicans | The New Orleans Pelicans have all the pieces to be a top-five team in the West. Last season, the Pels found their identity in the Play-In Tournament and somehow made the playoffs, gaining valuable experience. Although they faced the mighty No. 1-seeded Phoenix Suns, New Orleans proved to be quite a challenge in a tough six-game battle. The basketball world was also introduced to Jose “Grand Theft” Alvarado, a defensive pest on New Orleans’ bench who consistently went viral.

In 2022-23, Zion Williamson is expected to return, and if the Pelicans can get at least 65 games out of him, that’s an easy 25 points and 8-plus rebounds with the All-Star on the floor. During last season, Brandon Ingram showed he can close down the stretch, and you can’t forget about CJ McCollum, who’s a proven third option for this team. The Pelicans’ frontcourt can compete with any team, as Herbert Jones can defend the perimeter while Jonas Valanciunas and Jaxson Hayes clog up the middle. As long as Zion can figure out a way to stay healthy, the possibilities for head coach Willie Green and the Pelicans are endless.

Record Prediction: 46-36

San Antonio Spurs | After another disappointing season ended in the Play-In Tournament, San Antonio is now in rebuild mode. The Spurs no longer have players like DeMar DeRozan or Dejounte Murray to rely on, and the franchise that hasn’t made the postseason since 2019 will continue to struggle in 2022-23.

So say this name three times in a row: Victor Wembanyama. That’s who the Spurs have the opportunity to tank for in next year’s NBA Draft because this current roster is not ready to compete in the rigorous Western Conference. Future Hall of Fame head coach Gregg Popovich’s days with the Spurs are slowly coming to an end, so there’s also a question regarding whether he will stick around for San Antonio’s full rebuild.

Record Prediction: 20-62

Oklahoma City Thunder | The Oklahoma City Thunder are one of those teams who will be fun to watch on NBA League Pass. Last season, rookie Josh Giddey showed he can push the tempo and distribute the ball, while dominant defender Lu Dort continued to blossom. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is the leader of OKC, and you can expect another year of promising numbers on his stat sheet. The Thunder will likely be lottery-bound again next year but that seems to be a part of GM Sam Presti’s plan to build another title contender from the ground up with his plethora of draft picks.

The bad news is that Thunder fans will not see No. 2 overall pick Chet Holmgren this season. The seven-foot rookie injured his foot during the offseason in a pro-am game versus LeBron James. The injury will help the former Gonzaga Bulldog gain more muscle and put on the weight that’s needed for a lengthy career.

OKC is the youngest team in the NBA with an average age of a little over 23. This inexperienced roster needs time to develop and build chemistry as a unit, and they’ll be at the bottom of the Western Conference as they learn the necessary lessons that are taught in the Association.

Record Prediction: 23-59

Portland Trail Blazers | Last season, the Portland Trail Blazers had a record of 27-55 in Chauncey Billups‘ first season as head coach, and six-time All-Star Damian Lillard only appeared in 29 of those games. But the biggest takeaway for the Blazers was the development of Anfernee Simons, who averaged 17 points per contest on 44 percent shooting from the field (40% from beyond the arc). With Simons taking on a more significant role and Lillard back and healthy in the lineup, Portland could surprise the league.

Health has been an overall issue with this Blazers team, but when available, Jusuf Nurkic is a double-double machine and complements Lillard well in the pick and roll. By also adding Jerami Grant to the lineup, the Blazers should be able to make some noise at the bottom of the West. Portland is still a little thin talent-wise, so it really comes down to if the Blazers can stay healthy and play solid defense.

Record Prediction: 40-42

Denver Nuggets | Nikola Jokic won his second-straight NBA MVP with record numbers last season. One of the biggest reasons he won the award was because without Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. in the lineup, he carried the Nuggets to the sixth seed in the Western Conference. To help out their star big man, Denver added quality pickups in Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Bruce Brown this offseason, and both players will provide better spot-up shooting and on-ball defense.

Murray and Porter Jr. are expected to return this season, so the Nuggets should be able to make the playoffs again. It will take time for the duo to get acclimated, but proven head coach Michael Malone, who just earned a contract extension, will get them ready to play. The Nuggets have the depth, talent and experience needed to compete in the West — but does Denver have enough superstar power to win a championship?

Record Prediction: 53-29

Minnesota Timberwolves | The way Minnesota celebrated defeating the L.A. Clippers in the Play-In Tournament, you would have thought it was a championship celebration. But the excitement came from the fact that it was only the franchise’s second playoff appearance since 2004.

As for this season, the Timberwolves look destined for a bright future with Anthony Edwards emerging as a star and developing on both ends of the floor. GM Tim Connelly took a massive swing by acquiring Rudy Gobert from the Jazz to pair with Edwards and All-Star Karl-Anthony Towns, unloading five players and five picks for the big man who is considered to be an elite defender that’s limited on the offensive end. Minnesota also signed KAT to a four-year, $224 million supermax extension, signifying that the franchise expects to contend in the West. While the Gobert-KAT fit is somewhat questionable, if Minnesota can put it all together, they’ll be one of the sleeper teams in the Western Conference this upcoming season.

Record Prediction: 43-39

Utah Jazz | To start this preview by mentioning a player on another team seems unfair, but the reality is that Dallas’ Luka Doncic destroyed the Jazz in the playoffs — which essentially led to the franchise embracing a complete rebuild. First, the team parted ways with defensive star Rudy Gobert, marking the end of an era in Utah. Superstar Donovan Mitchell was later part of a blockbuster trade that sent him to the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Replacing Quin Snyder with a young head coach in Will Hardy and trading away two All-Stars means that Utah has committed to the future. The Jazz have an insane amount of first-round picks over the next seven years and will need to deal their remaining veterans that have trade value, like Mike Conley and Jordan Clarkson. This season, the Jazz will likely be in the Victor Wembanyama sweepstakes as they attempt to build this team from the ground up.

Record Prediction: 19-63

Los Angeles Clippers | Along with a top-five head coach in Tyronn Lue, the Clippers may have the most talented roster in the NBA. Last season, Kawhi Leonard missed the whole campaign while Paul George also battled injuries throughout the year — and LA still managed to go 42-40, which put them in the Play-In Tournament. A full season of Leonard should help, as he looks stronger in training camp.

The Clippers also added former All-Star John Wall to the roster, and he has a lot to prove after being sidelined for most of three years with injuries and rehab. At last season’s trade deadline, L.A. acquired Norman Powell and Robert Covington to add depth out on the wings. Don’t forget that they still have Reggie Jackson and Luke Kennard under contract as well.

Behind Lue’s game-planning, the Clippers have the luxury of playing multiple quality lineups. After getting a taste of their first Western Conference Finals just a couple of years ago, LA will be hungry to prove that they can have the best record in the NBA.

Record Prediction: 60-22, Championship Contender

Golden State Warriors | Season-long injuries were no longer an issue for Golden State, who won another NBA championship this past season as they defeated the Boston Celtics in six games. With four titles since 2015, the Warriors will see a stronger West now that several notable players are back from injuries across the conference.

However, Golden State has arguably the best point guard in the league with Stephen Curry. Klay Thompson also has a full offseason and training camp under his belt to get himself into true game shape, and you can’t forget about Andrew Wiggins, who became an All-Star last season. The Warriors’ only concern is their bench depth after losing Gary Payton II, Otto Porter Jr., Juan Toscano-Anderson, and Nemanja Bjelica. Contributions from Moses Moody, Jordan Poole, and Jonathan Kuminga will be key if Golden State wants to repeat.

Record Prediction: 55-27, Championship Contender

Phoenix Suns | Can the Suns ever recover from their playoff collapse from last season? The Suns took yet another step forward by winning an NBA-high 64 games only to fall in the second round of the 2022 playoffs, losing to the underdog Mavericks in seven games. Despite this offseason’s contract drama surrounding Deandre Ayton, the Suns were able to keep him while adding more bench depth at every position. Ayton is a reliable post scorer and was able to crash the boards while shooting 63.4 percent from the field last season. Signing three-time All-Star Devin Booker to a supermax extension also ensures this team has the stars needed to win in the NBA.

Speaking of stars, the 37-year-old Chris Paul is getting older and playing a position that continues to evolve and rely on speed with the league’s increased pace. CP3’s struggles to score the basketball last season were detrimental to the Suns’ success, as Paul posted a career low in scoring with 14.7 ppg. Paul did lead the league in assists, making it known that he still is the “Point God,” and he has also elevated Ayton’s pick-and-roll game. If Ayton and Paul are able to alleviate Booker with more offense, the Suns are positioned to make another deep run in the postseason like they did in the 2020-21 campaign.

Record Prediction: 51-31

Sacramento Kings | The Kings made an interesting trade at the deadline by sending young prospect Tyrese Haliburton to Indiana for Domantas Sabonis, but giving up a promising youngster for an All-Star talent in Sabonis may not have been a bad decision. At point guard for Sactown, De’Aaron Fox provides passing and scoring in transition but there are questions about his efficiency and whether he is a closer for this Kings team. Expect for former first-round pick Davion Mitchell to get a chance to showcase his skills more this year.

With the fourth pick in this past NBA Draft, Sacramento selected Keegan Murray, who looks poised and ready to compete for Rookie of the Year. The Kings also picked up Kevin Huerter via trade and Malik Monk in free agency this offseason. Huerter is a solid shooter who can score in bunches, while Monk can get hot from the perimeter at any time.

Sacramento’s new head coach Mike Brown will have his hands full as he tries to get the franchise back to their winning ways from the early 2000s. While the Kings should improve this season, there will be hiccups along the way. As a positive, they’re clearly better than the basement of the West (Oklahoma City, San Antonio, Utah and Houston).

Record Prediction: 33-49

Los Angeles Lakers | The Lakers are coming off one of the most disappointing seasons in franchise history. Expectations were high after acquiring Russell Westbrook in the 2021 offseason to form a “Big 3” with LeBron James and Anthony Davis — but things obviously didn’t go as planned, as LeBron only appeared in 56 games while Davis only played in 40.

This year, the Lakers went with a different approach by gathering a younger, but unproven, supporting cast to surround their veteran core. That being said, LA’s youngsters offer more upside and bring in much-needed athleticism. Los Angeles also took big steps to improve the bench with the acquisition of veteran Patrick Beverley and the return of Dennis Schroder.

New Lakers head coach Darvin Ham plans to run the offense through Davis this season, which could alter the way opposing teams try to defend LA. Davis has reportedly lost some weight to get in better shape and has been in the gym improving his shooting. If James and Davis both play like they did in 2019-20, the Lakers should pose a threat in the postseason.

Record Prediction: 47-35, Championship Contender