SLAM’s 2022-23 NBA Preview: Bold Takes for this Season

SLAM's 2022-23 NBA Preview: Bold Takes for this Season

The 2022-23 NBA regular season is finally here.

The energy has truly shifted around the Association since the Golden State Warriors put the haters to sleep and won another NBA championship. This offseason, there was a sudden coaching change in Boston, a reported trade request in Brooklyn by Kevin Durant (that didn’t actually happen), and some major moves during free agency, from Donovan Mitchell teaming up with Darius Garland, Jarrett Allen and Evan Mobley on the Cavaliers to Jalen Brunson becoming a New York Knick. Then there’s the highly-anticipated return of Zion Williamson, Ben Simmons and SLAM 240 co-cover star Kawhi Leonard, who is sure to be a scary sight alongside Paul George now that they’re both healthy.

While we’ve dished out some bold takes in the past, this year’s preview might feature our boldest takes yet. Here’s the official 2022-23 SLAM Staff NBA Preview:

Anthony Holt, Slam Goods Apparel Designer

The Cavaliers will emerge as a top three seed in the East. 

With the blockbuster trade for Donovan Mitchell, the Cavaliers will claim the No. 3 seed. The championship experience of Kevin Love and Luke Walton will evolve Mitchell into the leader the franchise needs to make a playoff run. The Cavs will reach the second round of the playoffs before being eliminated by the Celtics, who will face the Bucks in the ECF.

NBA Finals Matchup: Bucks vs Grizzlies

Deyscha “Sway” Smith, Associate Editor

Ben Simmons will make a case for winning Most Improved Player of the Year.

Before any of you mention me on Twitter or pop off in the comment section, hear this one out. We all know what happened last year, and by no means is Ben Simmons, a three-time NBA All-Star, any sort of “up and coming player.” But if this preseason showed us anything, it’s that Ben is actually back and playing basketball again. After averaging 15.9 points per game during his time in Philly, if he brings that same energy and presence (both literally and in terms of his defensive game) to the Nets this year, by technicality, it’s really only up from here in terms of his overall improvement.

Will he win MIP? Unlikely, but then again, just imagine if he actually did put himself in the running for the award.

PS: When I predicted the Celtics would make the ECF in our season preview last year, y’all called me real bold for that take back then. If Ben gets active and starts playing at that All-Star level again, just make sure your apology is as loud as the disrespect has been.

ECF Matchup: Celtics vs Nets

Joshua Tapia, Editorial Intern

Damian Lillard takes the Portland Trailblazers to a top 5 seed in the West while securing his first MVP. 

Damian Lillard will finish the season above 32 points a night with eight assists. If he disciplines himself defensively, Dame could become a reliable defender against the League’s best scorers.

Here’s my playoff prediction: Lillard will lead the Blazers past the No. 4 seed Mavericks in the first round, the Warriors in round 2, but get defeated in Game 6 against the Clippers.  

Adam Figman, Chief Content Officer

The Sixers are winning the championship.

Everything is coming together at the perfect time in Philly: James Harden is healthy and more motivated than ever, Joel Embiid has a better understanding of how to treat his body to make it last a full season plus playoffs, Tobias Harris is the perfect starter to play next to two stars, Tyrese Maxey is making a leap, and Daryl Morey is going to be aggressive adding role players throughout the season to put around this group in order to ensure the team has everything it needs come postseason time. The 76ers: 2023 Champs. 

Michael Harris, Editorial Intern

The Lakers will make the Western Conference Finals.

The Los Angeles Lakers will figure it out this season. Russell Westbrook will embrace his role off the bench, Anthony Davis will be healthy and be a top three candidate for MVP, while Patrick Beverley will bring the defense at the guard spot necessary to help the Lakers lock down shooters. The Lakers will also finish as the top three seed in the West and make it all the way to the WCF to face the Grizzlies.

NBA Finals Matchup: Heat vs Lakers

Ajayi Browne, Editorial Intern

The Dallas Mavericks will win the NBA Finals.

The Dallas Mavericks will reach the NBA Finals for the first time since 2011 and Luka Doncic will average career-highs across the board while having his most efficient season on his way to winning MVP. The team’s new additions, Christian Wood and Javale McGee, will give this team what they were missing last year, while Tim Hardaway Jr’s return will be vital, too.

Theus McBee, Co-Host of No Pump Fakes

Anthony Edwards will make his first All-Star Game and the Minnesota Timberwolves will make it to the Western Conference Finals for the first time in nearly 20 years

The conversation of Ant Man “possibly” being a part of the top five under 25 group will come to an end and we will finally give him his rightful title of “Best Shooting Guard in the NBA.”

Najee AR Fareed, Editorial Intern 

Trae Young will make First Team All-NBA, lead the League in assists and take the Hawks all the way to winning a championship. 

The Hawks had a down year last season but their defense should be bolstered by a resurgent Clint Capela, Dejounte Murray’s arrival, and the rise of Onyeka Okongwu. The offense? Ice Trae might hold it down on the offensive end, but the Hawks have much more than just him. Deandre Hunter is taking big steps and John Collins’ lesser offensive load, with the addition of Murray, should free up his game for lobs and catch-and-shoot threes.

The Hawks will win one this season. For 3 Stacks and Lemon Pepper Wings and Zone 6 and Old Nat and everything else we love.

Colby Cusano, Brand Partnerships and Analytics Intern

Zion Williamson will bring the New Orleans Pelicans from an No. 8 seed to a No. 4 seed in the Western Conference and take home the Most Improved Player Award. 

After a decent season that saw them squeeze into the playoffs, the Pelicans are ready to make another run and with a healthy Zion Williamson. They now contain one of the most talented trios in the League.

NBA Finals Matchup: Mavs vs Celtics

Delon George, Marketing Manager SLAMgoods

The Brooklyn Nets will win the title.  

Though a lot of politics surround the Nets’ Big 3, I believe they have a lot to prove individually and together as a team this season. With Kyrie Irving will playing full-time from the start of the season and Kevin Durant avoiding injuries, the Nets are bound to have momentum this year. 

Brooke Brennan, WSLAM Intern

Lonzo Ball will return mid-season and take control of the Bulls’ offense, pushing them to be a top four seed team in the East.

While injury plagued his 2021-2022 season, Lonzo’s return mid-way through this year could give the Bulls the point guard anchor they need to take control on offense. After losing in the first round to the Bucks last year, the Bulls proved that they can be a playoff team, but have to make those adjustments. Returning key players, rising young talent, and added veteran depth will help to develop this team unit.

As for Zo, I project he’ll make an All-Star team in the near future. 

Andrew “Pitt” Pitagorsky, VP of Brand Partnerships

RJ Barrett will win Defensive Player of the Year. 

RJ Barrett will become an NBA All-Star and win Defensive Player of the Year. Going into Year 4 of his young career, RJ will take the next step in his growth and make the leap to the All-Star player we all know he could become. With the help of the coaching staff, and a pure point guard in the lineup, RJ can focus more on the defensive side of his game, and be an elite defender of the League.

Andres Puerta, Social Media SLAMFTW 

The Miami Heat will win the Eastern Conference Finals. 

The Miami Heat have a solid starting lineup. They are coming off a great season, with a solid performance in the playoffs from Jimmy Butler who showed what he can do in the playoffs. Tyler Herro showed out as the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year. They have a competitive group of guys and it doesn’t matter who is on the court. With the Heat being one of the top teams in the East last year, this will be the year they win the Eastern Conference Finals.

Arvind Pitchai, VP of Social Media

Luka Doncic will average a triple double and win MVP. 

Here’s another Luka Doncic prediction: when he averages a triple-double this season, he’ll definitely win MVP. We all know about Luka’s scoring prowess and ability to see the floor, but he also can clean the glass at a high clip. Will this lead the Mavs to the Finals? Who knows but it’s going to be a fun season watching Luka regardless.

Marcus Allen, Social Graphic Designer

The Knicks will make the Eastern Conference Finals.

A big season from the New York Knicks is upon us as they will make the ECF in 2023. Future star, RJ Barrett will have the best season of his career with his new backcourt partner Jalen Brunson and ultimately earn Most Improved Player and or Defensive Player of the Year. Let’s get it.

Dave Schnur, President

The T-Wolves and the Cavs will go on a playoff run and make the Conference Finals.

Karl-Anthony Towns moving to the 4 full time will be a matchup nightmare for opposing teams. He’ll hit a career high number of threes this season, Ant Edwards will make his first All-Star Team, Rudy Gobert is gonna Gobert and D-Lo will get his, too. The Cavs already have a great young core with Garland, Mobley and Allen. Adding a perennial All-Star SG like Spida that can stretch the floor and facilitate will bolster an already potent offense. Garland and Donovan may be the best backcourt in the East. 

Max Resetar, Editor 

Stephen Curry will break his own record of 402 threes in a season. 

The Dubs finally have everyone healthy. Every player on the roster has a clearly defined role and they each understand that their number one target on offense is No. 30, whether that means passing to him, screening for him, or getting the f— outta his way when the reign starts to rain. With a complete season of all the major hitters, their offense is gonna hum all the way to an easy 450 threes for the most recent Finals MVP. 

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