NBA

NBA 2022-23: Can the Warriors go again, or will the Bucks bounce back? Stats Perform writers predict new season

By Sports Desk October 17, 2022

The new NBA season is about to get underway, with narrative everywhere across the league.

The defending champions in Golden State are many people's favourites to go again, but the Warriors have not exactly prepared perfectly after two of their stars recently came to blows during the preseason.

The Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving saga seems to have ended with hope that the pair can fire the Brooklyn Nets to glory, especially if the team's third star in the form of Ben Simmons can finally join them on the court.

Will back-to-back MVP Nikola Jokic lead the Denver Nuggets to glory? Or can Luka Doncic do the same for the Dallas Mavericks? Might Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks get back to the top again?

Stats Perform's experts give their predictions on who could thrive in the regular season, who might take the MVP crown and who will go all the way and lift the Larry O'Brien Trophy in June 2023.

 

Liam Phillips

East first seed: Milwaukee Bucks

West first seed: Denver Nuggets

MVP: Joel Embiid

Champions: Denver Nuggets

Simply put, the Nuggets will have a terrific regular season record as long as Jokic is healthy, and he is one of the most durable superstars of his era.

Jokic has played at least 73 games in six of his seven years, and the other season he played 72 out of 72 in the shortened 2020-21 season.

The Nuggets went 48-34 this past season with their second and third-best scorers being Aaron Gordon (15.0 points per game) and Will Barton (14.7).

With ascending talents Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. returning from long-term injuries to assume those roles and give the Nuggets three elite scoring options, they could ride the best offense in the league all the way through the Finals.

Ben Spratt

East first seed: Milwaukee Bucks

West first seed: Denver Nuggets

MVP: Luka Doncic

Champions: Milwaukee Bucks

There are no shortage of potential contenders in the West, with each of the Nuggets, the Warriors and the Los Angeles Clippers looking strong candidates depending on injuries or – in the case of Golden State – off-court (or, rather, practice court) issues.

In the East, however, a fit Bucks team would appear to be clear of the rest, particularly given the Boston Celtics' tumultuous offseason.

The Bucks were a disappointing 13-13 in the regular season and playoffs last year when missing Khris Middleton, who did not play the final 10 games of the postseason as the Bucks narrowly lost to the Celtics.

With his return and the omnipresent threat of Antetokounmpo, it might be difficult to bet against the 2021 champions.

Nicholas McGee

East first seed: Philadelphia 76ers

West first seed: Golden State Warriors

MVP: Giannis Antetokounmpo

Champions: Golden State Warriors

Preseason fights, Klay Thompson being restricted to limited action in the exhibition schedule, key bench players leaving in free agency. Will any of it matter? No.

The Warriors have navigated discord before during title defences and will do so again in 2022-23. Even with the likes of Gary Payton II and Otto Porter Jr. departing, the Warriors have excellent depth with several emerging talents complementing a core that reaffirmed their championship pedigree by beating the Celtics in six games last season.

Golden State will bank on Jonathan Kuminga and Moses Moody taking the next step in their second seasons, while Jordan Poole has the chance to ascend to stardom once the fallout from him being punched by Draymond Green dies down.

Everything revolves around Stephen Curry, though, and there is no sign of him slowing down or his game-tilting range reducing at 34 years old.

This is a team with an insatiable appetite for proving themselves all over again, and they have all the resources to do so once more. If James Wiseman stays healthy and blossoms into an impactful starting center, it will be difficult to envisage anyone stopping them.

David Segar

East first seed: Milwaukee Bucks

West first seed: Memphis Grizzlies

MVP: Giannis Antetokounmpo

Champions: Milwaukee Bucks

As Ben said, it is difficult to see a stronger contender in the East than Milwaukee, presuming their stars can stay fit.

With Ja Morant getting better all the time and the Phoenix Suns looking like they might fall away slightly, it would not be a huge surprise to see an ever-improving Grizzlies team top the West and perhaps even make it to the NBA Finals this time.

However, it feels like Giannis is ready for another big campaign and, in a team that includes the likes of Middleton, Jrue Holiday and new arrival Joe Ingles, he should have plenty of capable support.

Only Embiid (30.6) and LeBron James (30.3) averaged more points per game than Antetokounmpo's 29.9 last year, a career high for the Greek.

Anything can happen in the NBA, but of all the big teams who could threaten, Milwaukee feel like the one with the fewest issues heading into the season, and they will want to make up for their early playoff elimination at the hands of the Celtics last time out.

 

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