With the opening week of the NBA season behind us, here are some of the storylines to keep an eye on during the 2022-23 NBA season.
During the past offseason the Boston Celtics head coach Ime Udoka was suspended for the 2022-23 NBA season after various reports of him having an affair with a female staffer. The Celtics have started off the season 3-0 at the time of writing, but with a new head coach and some new additions to the team it will be interesting to see if they can reach the finals like they did this past year.
The Los Angeles Lakers also have a brand new head coach in Darvin Ham. He got handed the keys to a team that missed the playoffs last season and has the task of dealing with a weirdly shaped roster. The Lakers had the opportunity to trade Russell Westbrook to the Indiana Pacers for Buddy Hield and Miles Turner in the offseason, but they turned the trade down. The Lakers have started off 0-3 on the year and their lack of three-point shooting has been a problem for them, shooting 25/118 from behind the ark. A team in LA will always be in the spotlight, and with LeBron James, Ham will be under a lot of pressure to fix this team. The question to be answered this season is if the Lakers will bounce back from this sluggish start.
The Philadelphia 76ers have championship expectations this season, but despite James Harden playing like an MVP candidate they have started 0-3. With Harden and their other star Joel Embiid both being very injury prone it’s important that they can get wins while the two of them are playing together. If one of the pair goes down for a prolonged period can Tyrese Maxey and their bench step up and keep them afloat?
The Utah Jazz traded three-time Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert to the Minnesota Timberwolves for a package of five players and five draft picks. This is a win-now move for Minnesota that puts them as a Western conference favorite. The thing to watch out for with the Timberwolves is how Karl Anthony-Towns will play on the perimeter and how they play against teams that go small-ball against them.
All-Star shooting guard Donovan Mitchell was also shipped off by the Jazz to the Cleveland Cavaliers for more picks and young assets. Mitchell gives the Cavs a much-needed secondary ball handler to pair next to Darius Garland. Cleveland was off to a hot start last year before injuries caused them to fall in their tournament. After the trade Cleveland looks like a lock to make the NBA playoffs this year, but it will be interesting to see the fit between Garland and Mitchell and if J.B. Bickerstaff is a championship-level coach.
The rookie of the year race is off to a fiery start. The No. 1 overall pick Paolo Banchero for the Orlando Magic has been playing like a veteran already. Paolo is the first teenager to score over 20 points in his first three NBA games. Bennedict Mathurin, the 5th pick, has been one of the best rookies that the Pacers have ever had. Before this season, no Pacers rookie had even scored 70 points through four games. Mathurin has scored 89. Jabari Smith of the Rockets, Keegan Murray of the Kings and Jaden Ivey of the Pistons are all averaging over 15 points per game. The future of the NBA is looking strong, not to mention the 2023 NBA draft prospect Victor Wembenyama.
When the best player in the upcoming draft is an 18-year-old who measured over 7-foot-4 barefoot, but dribbles and shoots like a guard while blocking nearly every shot in his area, no wonder teams are trying to be awful so they have a chance to get him. Wembenyama is a generational prospect. Richard Jefferson, a former NBA player and current analyst, said Wembenyama could have gone higher than LeBron James if they were in the same draft class. Teams like the Jazz and the San Antonio Spurs are expected to be at the top of the draft lottery after trading their allstars. Another team expected to continue to tank is the Oklahoma City Thunder, especially now that their No. 2 pick Chet Holmgren was ruled out for the season.