The NBA season is about to kick off and it’s time for our third annual 48 bold predictions feature.
Last year, we certainly had some misses. The Blazers did not win over 50 games. The Wizards did not trade for Pascal Siakam (instead they traded for Porzingis) and the Magic did not trade for veterans, such as Kevin Love, and make a push for the postseason.
Still, we had a bevy of hits, including the Heat finishing as the one seed and making the Eastern Conference Finals. John Wall sitting out the entire 2021-22 campaign was something seen as bold last fall but turned into reality. We had the Hawks taking a few steps back from their Eastern Conference Finals appearance the season before and Kevin Durant nearly reached the statistical milestones we predicted, though he didn’t average 30 points per game; he only averaged 29.9.
Let’s get into this year’s bold predictions, starting with Durant:
1. Kevin Durant remains with Brooklyn throughout the season and makes First Team All-NBA.
- The Nets appear more stable with Durant showcasing his greatness but additional questions remain in Brooklyn.
2. Ben Simmons is in the All-Star conversation again.
- Simmons has made the All-Star team in three of the four years where he’s been healthy for the entire campaign. He falls just short of getting voted in this year and there will be some controversy regarding whether his sitting out last season led voters to exclude the former Sixer.
3. The Raptors earn the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference.
- The table is set for the Raptors to exceed expectations much like the Heat did last season.
4. Pascal Siakam contends for First Team All-NBA
- Siakam takes another leap and while he falls just short of First Team All-NBA, he earns the Second Team nod, leading his squad to the No. 1 seed in the conference.
5. The Cavaliers march into the postseason as the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference but lose in the first round.
- The new additions face some growing pains early but find themselves winning enough to gain home court in the first round of the postseason.
6. The Sixers earn the No. 2 seed in the conference.
- The Rockets-Process collaboration in South Philadelphia proves to be a hit.
7. James Harden leads the league in assists, averaging a career-high 12 assists per game.
- Only five players have 12.0 assists per game in NBA history (the last was John Stockton who hit the total eight times in his career). Harden hasn’t won the assist title since the 2016-17 season when he averaged 11.2 per game, though Harden’s playing style and talent around him, gives him an opportunity to beat his prior marks and make some history this season.
8. The Sixers trade Tobias Harris to the Rockets at the deadline.
- Perhaps this is not bold, as Daryl Morey has made a deadline move nearly every season since he first got the opportunity to. The Sixers move Harris for Eric Gordon and Derrick Favors, reshuffling some of the depth around their stars.
9. Miami trades for Russell Westbrook.
10. The Heat finish as the No. 4 seed behind a pair of veterans accepting different roles.
- Westbrook accepts a role off the bench and Jimmy Butler agrees to play the four on a full-time basis. The two variable situations begin to stabalize as the season progresses and Miami enters the postseason on solid footing (with a valuable future asset—the Lakers 2027 1st rounder—in hand).
11. The Nets hold onto Kyrie Irving, finish as the No. 5 seed.
- The market for Irving is bleak with Los Angeles moving one of their two eligible firsts in their deal for Lowry. A more-motivated Irving remains with the Nets and has a great final stretch, leading many to believe Brooklyn is a title contender again.
12. The Celtics come back down to earth, finish as the No. 7 seed in the Eastern Conference.
- Boston is one of the co-favorites to win the NBA title (+600 at DraftKings along with the Clippers and Warriors) and FiveThirtyEight gives them a 97% chance to make the postseason. Still, I’m still bearish on Jayson Tatum growing into a true No. 1 star. With congestion at the top of the Eastern Conference and the team adjusting to a new coach, I could envision a scenario where Boston is in the Play-In.
13. The Bucks proceed with caution through the 2022-23 campaign, resulting in a No. 6 seed finish.
- Khris Middleton is entering the year on the sideline and Milwaukee does its best to get through the regular season without major injuries.
14. Charlotte trades for Buddy Hield and Myles Turner.
15. The Hornets finish as a bottom-three team in the East and land the No. 2 pick in the NBA Draft Lottery.
- Charlotte’s hiring of Steve Clifford signals that the team is trying to get to the postseason, however, the reality ends up being a down season that brings in a running mate for LaMelo Ball (likely Scoot Henderson).
16. The Magic are frisky but only win 20 games, finishing as the worst team in the Eastern Conference.
- Paolo Banchero is a star in the making but this team is young and certainly will have its fair share of growing pains.
17. Haliburton makes the Pacers a Play-In Tournament contender.
18. The Bulls miss the playoffs entirely.
- Chicago struggles and DeMar DeRozan & Co. are unable to give the Bulls the same lift they provided last season, leading to an offseason where heavy change is speculated.
19. The Wizards have a top-5 offensive rating.
- Washington picked up several key parts this offseason that fit nicely around Bradley Beal and the former No. 3 overall pick could be in-line for a major statistical season with more added play-making responsibilities.
20. Kristaps Porzingis plays in 65 games.
- Some may say this is expected. Others will say it’s a bold take.
21. Washington makes the Play-In Tournament as the No. 8 seed and advances to the No. 7 via an upset over the Celtics.
- The Wizards upset the Celtics in the Eastern Conference’s first Play-In Game, setting themselves up for a first-round series with the Sixers for the second time in three seasons.
22. Atlanta trades for Deandre Ayton.
23. The Hawks’ new trio is exciting but it leads to a No. 9 seed.
- Atlanta has a shaky regular season but they begin to find form as the postseason nears.
24. The Knicks make the postseason as the No. 10 seed and lose to the Hawks in the Play-In.
25. The Celtics stop the end-of-season skid, defeat the Hawks to claim the No. 8 seed before losing in the first round.
- Boston matches up with Toronto in the first round of the 2023 NBA playoffs but loses to Nick Nurse’s club.
26. The Nets and Heat face off in a historically great first-round series.
27. Cleveland’s magical season ends at the hands of their division rival.
- The Bucks defeat the Cavs in the first round of the playoffs.
28. The Sixers advance to the Eastern Conference Finals.
- Philadelphia advances past the Wizards and Raptors to make their first Conference Finals since Allen Iverson lead the team to the top of the east back in the 2000-01 campaign (lost to the Lakers 4-1 in the NBA Finals).
29. The Nets advance to the NBA Finals.
- Brooklyn bests Miami, Milwaukee, and Philadelphia on their way to the franchise’s first NBA Finals appearance since it moved from New Jersey.
30. The Lakers settle in after the Westbrook trade, earning the No. 6 seed in the Western Conference.
31. Anthony Edwards enters the All-NBA Conversation.
- The former No. 1 pick hears some NBA MVP chatter while taking a massive leap in year three. Edwards earns Third Team All-NBA honors while taking home the Most Improved Player award.
32. The Timberwolves finished with a top-3 seed in the Western Conference.
- Minnesota showcases a tough defensive mentality, which lands them the No. 3 seed in the Western Conference and a first-round series with the Lakers.
33. The Jazz are not the worst team in the Western Conference but they still land the No. 1 pick in the draft lottery.
- Utah wins 28 games, leapfrogs Houston and other teams in the NBA Draft Lottery to land Victor Wembanyama.
34. Memphis regresses and returns to the Play-In Tournament.
- The Grizzlies earn the No. 7 seed in the conference, though they win the Play-In game to keep the seeding.
35. Luka Doncic wins the MVP.
- Coming off of a strong offseason, Doncic leads the Mavericks to the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference, earning the league’s MVP award.
36. The Warriors further integrate young guys into the rotation, landing the No. 4 seed.
37. The Clippers finish as the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference.
- Kawhi Leonard is back and the team has the depth to win Los Angeles enough games to finish atop the conference.
38. The Suns struggle before trading Ayton and finish with the No. 8 seed.
- Phoenix heads toward the Play-In, one season removed from a No. 1 seed.
39. The Blazers start hot but miss the postseason.
- Damian Lillard enters the offseason with more question marks surrounding his future.
40. The Nuggets’ new pieces prove to be valuable, Denver lands the No. 5 seed, adding elevated hope entering the NBA playoffs.
41. Bones Hyland wins the Sixth Man of the Year award.
- The second-year guard makes even more improvement in year two.
42. The Warriors again crush the Nuggets in the first round.
- Some new characters in the Denver-Golden State series; however, leads to the same result.
43. Zion Williamson makes it to the postseason healthy, Pelicans land the No. 9 seed.
- Williamson looks like a star when given a full allotment of minutes.
44. The Kings play 83 games but the final one is a play-in tournament loss to the Pelicans.
- This technically doesn’t end their postseason drought. Or does it?
44. The Pelicans upset the Suns and enter the postseason as the No. 8 seed.
- The future in New Orleans looks strong after a hard-fought battle with the Clippers.
45. Kawhi’s return isn’t enough to advance past the Warriors.
- Golden State bests Los Angeles in the second round of the postseason.
46. Doncic leads the Mavericks to just one playoff series win in the 2022-23 postseason.
- Doncic, who has two playoff series wins in his young career, beats the Grizzlies in the 2-vs-7 matchup to add one more. Yet, an upset occurs in the second round.
47. The Lakers make the Western Conference Finals but lose to the Warriors.
- Anthony Davis playing center pays extreme dividends for the Lakers, as the team is able to space the floor against the Timberwolves in the first round and gain an in-the-paint advantage against the Mavericks in the second round. It’s not enough to keep the Warriors from advancing, however.
48. The Warriors repeat as champs, overcoming a great series by Durant (Steph Curry wins Finals MVP.
- The Warriors win their fifth title of the Curry era; Curry takes home his second FMVP, going back-to-back.
49. Darvin Ham gets snubbed for Coach of the Year.
- Given Los Angeles’ expectations, some argue that Ham should have won the award. Instead, Tyronn Lue wins the award.
50. Jaden Ivey wins the Rookie of the Year award.
51. Rudy Gobert wins the Defensive Player of the Year award.
52. The Warriors-Nets NBA Finals set viewership records.
- Steph Curry vs. Kevin Durant has the makings of the most anticipated NBA Finals we’ve seen in quite some time.
53. The NBA board of governors approves the league expansion with only one team.
- The announcement is made leading up to the NBA Finals with Las Vegas set to begin play after the 2024-25 campaign; Seattle remains without an NBA team.