NBA Predictions


Photo Courtesy of BasketNews

October is just around the corner and for sports fans, that means the start of the 2022-23 NBA season. After an exciting finish to the previous season (with the Golden State Warriors taking the title in a six game series against the Boston Celtics) as well as an active and uncertainty-brewing offseason, basketball fans are excited, if not a little overwhelmed about the upcoming season. As a result, we put together a list of predictions on key players and teams to guide you through what looks to be an exceptional season. 

MVP: Joel Embiid

After two consecutive years of losing the MVP race to Nikola Jokić, the seven foot Cameroonian-French center is hungry for the ever-elusive Most Valuable Player award. There is no doubt that it’s within his reach too; Embiid was last year’s scoring champion, averaging 30.6 points per game last year. Furthermore, he posted an impressive average of 33.8 minutes a game, leading the Philadelphia 76ers to the Eastern Conference Semifinals (the team eventually lost in the six game series after Embiid sustained an injury to his thumb in game two). More than that, Embiid is certainly in his prime at 28 years old. Possibly one of the largest deciding factors in the MVP race, however, may be unrelated to Embiid at all: Jokić has already won the MVP award two years in a row. While not impossible, it is unlikely that Jokic will win it again — the last time a player was MVP for three consecutive years was Larry Bird in the 70’s. If anything, the race is less about Embiid and more about Jokić not winning. At any rate, there doesn’t seem to be any ceiling for Embiid’s performance this year.

Defensive Player of the Year: Marcus Smart

Can Marcus Smart repeat as the Defensive Player of the Year? His stats say yes. At only 28 years old, Marcus Smart averaged 1.7 steals in the regular season and 1.5 steals in the playoffs last year.  proved he could perform just as well in i situations. In Game 5 of the Finals, he gathered four steals while guarding the legend, Stephen Curry. There’s not much more for Smart to improve upon, who is also a 3x member of the All-Defensive NBA Team. Guards around the league are in for quite the reckoning this year. 

Most Improved Player: Russell Westbrook

2022 was not a kind year to Russell Westbrook. Not-very-affectionately dubbed “Westbrick” the 2016 MVP saw a dip in all of his stats this past season and overall disappointed many fans with his performance, especially during crunch time. To his credit, however, Westbrook has worked tirelessly this summer to prove his haters wrong. He’s improved his jump shot in the gym and has had several meetings with coach Darvin Ham to better communicate and define his role on the team. Time will tell if this year will be different for him, but if he truly has changed, the 34-year-old could make the case for Most Improved Player this year.

Rookie of the Year: Keegan Murray

Going into the season, it can be difficult to pinpoint the future rookie of the year when there isn’t much evidence to reference. College, G-league, and overseas stats don’t necessarily translate well to the big league, and any number of things can come up during a season. If we do know one thing, however, it’s that Sacramento Kings’ guard Keegan Murray was the MVP of the 2022 Summer League. Selected 4th overall in the draft, Murray averaged a smooth 23 points, seven rebounds, two assists, and one steal, while also shooting above 40%. If he’s able to perform consistently this season he’ll have a high chance of winning the same award that Michael Jordan, LeBron James, Kevin Durant, and more were once the proud owners of.

Western Conference Finalists: Lakers

I may be biased, but the Lakers boast one of the strongest lineups prior to the 22-23 season. Yes, LeBron is in his 20th year. Yes, Anthony Davis missed the majority of the past two seasons due to consecutive injuries. Yes, Russell Wrestbrook sucked. But on paper, the Lakers still make the case for the best team in the NBA. Led by coach Darvin Ham (who won the 2020-21 championship as part of the Bucks’ coaching staff), the Lakers are more than well-rounded. They offer playoff experience, defensive intensity (thanks Patrick Beverly!), a great combination of both young and veteran talent, a very capable offense, and perhaps most importantly, a legacy to protect. Assuming they can work out their chemistry problem from last year and everyone stays healthy (namely Davis), the Lakers will be a nearly unstoppable force in the NBA this year.

Eastern Conference Finalists: Celtics

Last year, the Celtics shocked the NBA world when they made it to the NBA Finals after going 4-0 against the Nets, 4-3 against the Bucks, and 4-3 against the Heat. Though they eventually lost the Finals, it’s clear that a championship is still on their mind. This offseason they only improved,  acquiring sharpshooter Malcolm Brogdon (averaging 19.1 ppg, 5.1 rpg, and 5.9 apg with the Indiana Pacers) while also maintaining their core of Jayson Tatum, Marcus Smart, Jaylen Brown, and Al Horford. The Celtics are a consistent team, and they showed that they’re more than capable of playing with the other big dogs.

NBA Champions: Lakers

A Lakers-Celtics title battle might be the best thing to ever come out of a NBA season. For one, the teams have one of the largest and longest rivalries in sports history, comparable to the Red Soxs/Yankees, Duke/North Carolina, and Dodgers/Giants. They’ve met a total of 12 times in the Finals and combine for 45% of all NBA championships. Their histories go back to the starting days of the NBA, giving them legacies that not many other teams can brag about. Lastly, and most importantly, the two are currently tied for the most championships ever with 17 apiece. That means that whoever wins this year has the most NBA championships. You could make the case for either team to win this year. But at the end of the day, in a similar way a 34 year old Steph Curry led the Warriors to a title, the veteran talent and experience of LeBron seems like the deciding factor in a battle between two giants of teams. 

As is with every year, there is no way to perfectly predict all the outcomes. But if one thing is for sure, the 2022-23 NBA season will be one fans will remember for a long time.