The NBA is back, and The Circuit predicts everything from the Finals matchup, to the MVP to most confusing player and more! How will your
team do this year? Who will win the major awards? Find all that out here!
This might be the most interesting NBA season of my lifetime. We have one of the greatest championship cores of all-time primed to defend what is theirs. We have the greatest player of all-time (sorry people over 35 who can’t admit that their childhood wasn’t the apex of the universe) set to become the all-time scoring king. We have a literal alien playing over in France waiting in the (extremely long) wings to take over the league. And we have the Brooklyn Nets. What a year we have in store!
We also have a team that’s about to be sold for more than $4 billion. We have looming expansion news coming (there have been some strong rumbles lately, look out for Seattle & Vegas to be announced in the next 6 months). And we could see the longest playoff drought in North American sports come to an end (the play-in counts, right?). With so many storylines to maneuver through, it can be overwhelming. But don’t fret! I’ve got you covered.
From over/unders, to who will win the major (and novelty) awards, to who will ultimately win the NBA championship, this post predicts every aspect of the 2022-23 NBA season!
Without further ado, let’s dive into how we think each team will finish, as well as predicting how each team will do vs. their over/under win total (because I love to gamble). *I went 23-30 in over/unders during the 2021-22 season, so if you bet on all my picks, you’re going to win some serious cash. Just saying.
1- Philadelphia 76ers (O/U 50.5= OVER)
2- Brooklyn Nets (O/U 51.5= UNDER)
3- Toronto Raptors (O/U 46.5= OVER)
3- Boston Celtics (O/U 55.5= UNDER)
5- New York Knicks (O/U 40.5= OVER)
I am all-in on the 76ers. Joel Embiid is going to push all his chips to the middle of the table to win the MVP after finishing second in back-to-back seasons. Harden is in the best shape he’s been in since his OKC days, and PJ Tucker gives them much-needed defense and leadership. This team needs to answer some questions in the playoffs, but this team should win a ton of regular season games. Over.
The Brooklyn F*cking Nets. Kevin Durant is old, Ben Simmons doesn’t want to play basketball, and Kyrie Irving is a nutcase. What could go wrong? I do think this team will be better than last season because Kyrie probably will play more than 29 games, right? I’m still not convinced Ben Simmons will ever play an NBA game again, but if he does he should help their defense. I don’t think they win 50 games, but I think they’re a team that could be dangerous. If Hell freezes over. And pigs fly. And the Jets beat the Packers in Lambeau (oh wait, that last one happened!) Under. Probably.
I will not bet against the Raptors. I will not bet against the Raptors. I will not bet against the Raptors. Over.
The Celtics are in a lot of trouble. They give me real “year from Hell” vibes this season; their all-defensive center is going to miss two months, and their coach was just suspended for the entire year amid scandal. Maybe I’m just saying this because I’ve coached before, but COACHING MATTERS. Udoka was awesome for Boston, and this team will struggle without him. Are they a playoff team? Yes. Are they the biggest lock for me of the 30 over/unders for winning fewer than 55 games? You bet your ass they are. Way under.
The Knicks are going to be better this year. Not a lot better mind you, but better. And for Knicks fans, I think you should be happy with that. Over. Probably.
1- Milwaukee Bucks (O/U 52.5= OVER)
2- Cleveland Cavaliers (O/U 47.5= OVER)
3- Chicago Bulls (O/U 44.5= UNDER)
4- Detroit Pistons (O/U 28.5= OVER)
5- Indiana Pacers (O/U 23.5= UNDER)
The Bucks are easily going over. They’re more rested after an early playoff exit, and Giannis feels like he’s about to really explode this season to end all debates about who the best player in the world is (not that there should be anymore). Look for the Bucks to kick some ass this season. Over.
Cleveland rocks! They have a literal velociraptor on defense in Evan Mobley, and they finally have a guy that can go get a bucket in a big game. They’re still pretty young and seem like a wing short to be real title contenders (who do we know that’s a wing from Akron who knows a little something about winning with the Cavs???), but I love this team in the regular season. Excitingly over!
The Bulls are going to take a huge step back this season. Lonzo Ball, whom I love, is starting to make me question whether or not he will ever play again. DeRozan can’t possibly replicate last season, and Vucevic is on the decline. Way under. Underrrrr.
Detroit is going to be a pain in the ass to play this year. Cunningham and Ivey will be a really competitive backcourt in five years, but for now they have to settle for frisky, but will still land in the lottery. A really fun over.
Indiana is going to be terrible. They’re going to trade Hield and Turner, and that will set up the all-out tank for Wemby. Even with such a low number of 23.5, I’m going under.
1- Miami Heat (O/U 50.5= UNDER)
2- Atlanta Hawks (O/U 46.5= OVER)
3- Washington Wizards (O/U 35.5= OVER)
4- Orlando Magic (O/U 26.5= OVER)
5- Charlotte Hornets (O/U 36.5= UNDER)
The Heat and the Celtics are the two east teams that I see tumbling way down the standings. The Bulls will also take a step back, but not as dramatically as these two teams. Miami has Butler and Lowry each one year older. They are starting a turnstile on defense in Tyler Herro, and they literally don’t have a power forward on the roster. Look for the Heat to find themselves going from the #1 seed to maybe the play-in. Way under.
Murray should help Atlanta a lot. He provides some protection for Trae on defense, and allows Young to play off the ball more. I don’t think they’re great, but I think they are improved. Sliiiiiiiight over.
The Wizards are really uninteresting this season. They will be just good enough to make the play-in, but not anywhere near good enough to actually compete in the playoffs. Give me the over, I guess.
The Orlando Magic are going to be a League Pass wet dream. Banchero should dazzle, and Wagner is going to take the next step as the second-coming of Hedo Turkoglu in Orlando. They aren’t ready to make the playoffs yet, but they’re getting close. I’ll take the over.
As a devoted fan of the Charlotte Hornets, it gives me great pleasure to say that the Hornets will be the worst team in the East this season. We lost our second best player to a domestic abuse scandal. We hired a coach we fired a couple years ago. Our point guard’s nickname is literally “Scary”. And LaMelo is set to miss the first two weeks of the season. This team stinks. Give me the way under! And maybe, just maybe… give me Wemby!
1- Golden State Warriors (O/U 53.5= OVER)
2- Los Angeles Clippers (O/U 52.5= UNDER)
3- Phoenix Suns (O/U 53.5= UNDER)
4- Los Angeles Lakers (O/U 45.5= UNDER)
5- Sacramento Kings (O/U 34.5= OVER)
The Warriors won the title last season. That happened. This season, here is what will most likely happen: Klay will be exponentially better now that he’s had a full year to get back into basketball shape. Wiseman will give them something, as opposed to last year when he never played. Kuminga & Moody will get more playing time and should look a lot better. And people still think they won’t be better??? Give me way over!
I can’t help but laugh at people picking the Clippers to win the title. Really? Kawhi will get injured. How do I know this? Because I have eyes and have seen that happen every year since 2017. Paul George will also be hurt. How do I know this? See my explanation for Kawhi. These two guys will not finish the season. And if by some miracle they do, they’ll choke just like they did in the bubble. They’ll be better than they were a year ago, but give me the under and spare me the eye roll of picking this team to win anything.
The Suns are another team that I think is about to tumble backwards. Their owner just got suspended and they’re about to be sold (usually not great). Their 3rd best player tried his damndest to get up outta there and now has to come back. Plus one of their starters is demanding a trade (yes it’s Crowder so it doesn’t really matter, but it kinda does). The west is going to be better, so I’ll take the under.
The Lakers… Jesus Christ. You could tell me they trade Russ and win the title, or you could tell me they finished 12th in the West and both would be conceivable. As a Lakers fan (yes I root for 2 teams. But one of them is Charlotte, so give me a break), here are the players I like on this roster: LeBron James & Austin Reaves. That’s it! Davis is going to get hurt because he’s soft, and Russ is going to implode by Thanksgiving. I think they will be better than last season, but not by a huge margin. I’m going under.
Then there are the Kings! This line is disrespectful, they are much better than 34 wins. I see this team hovering around the 40 win mark and sneaking into the play-in, giving Sacramento fans their best moment since the Bush administration. Way over!
1- Dallas Mavericks (O/U 48.5= UNDER)
2- Memphis Grizzlies (O/U 49.5= UNDER)
3- New Orleans Pelicans (O/U 44.5= OVER)
4- Houston Rockets (O/U 24.5= OVER)
5- San Antonio Spurs (O/U 23.5= OVER)
Luka is going to be special. He’s going to be one of the 10 best players ever when he retires, and he’s coming off of his first real triumph in the playoffs. This is typically when the greats ascend and win their first MVP. Will that be the case here? Keep reading to find out! But unfortunately I don’t like the roster around him, so give me the slight under.
The Grizzlies round out my group of 4 teams that are taking big steps back this season (Boston, Miami, Phoenix & Memphis). JJJ is out for an extended period of time, and typically when teams come out of nowhere one year, they take a step back the next. I’ll take the under, but I don’t feel great about it.
The Pelicans are my most confusing team. Some days I think they could be the 4 seed, other days I think they could be the 10 seed. If Zion can stay healthy and stay in shape, I think they could be pretty good. Over!
The Rockets are not great, but they are improving. Unfortunately for them, they might be improving too soon and miss out on Wemby. I’m going over.
This team is disastrous. They have no one of any interest. They will be one of the worst teams in the league. I’m going over for 2 reasons: it’s hard to lose 60 games, and Pop is going to win them games they have no business winning. Slight over.
1- Denver Nuggets (O/U 51.5= OVER)
2- Minnesota Wolves (O/U 49.5= OVER)
3- Portland Blazers (O/U 40.5= UNDER)
4- Oklahoma City Thunder (O/U 22.5= OVER)
5- Utah Jazz (O/U 25.5= UNDER)
Jokic is overrated to me, but if Murray and Porter can play regularly they should be really good. I love the KCP addition, and Bones could make a big leap. Going over.
This Wolves team is really fun. This team will win 50 games with the best defensive anchor in the league, and a movie star-turned superstar in Edwards. This is the best Minnesota team, maybe ever. Over!
Portland tried to rebuild on the fly with Jerami Grant, but why? They still won’t be good, and Lillard is going to waste yet another season withering away in mediocrity. Give me the under.
22.5 is so low, it’s hard to justify the under with anyone. Chet going down for the whole season is the thing that bums me out the most about this season, and I’m worried he will never work out (how many 7-footers have serious foot injuries and make it? None. The answer is none). SGA and Giddey will carry this team to more than 22 wins. Going over.
The Jazz should be really bad this year, assuming they fully tear it down and trade Conley. The Jazz will go under and get the worst record in the league. Give me the Under.
Now let’s take a look and see who I have winning the major (and novelty) awards!
Regular Season Awards
MVP: Joel Embiid (Philadelphia 76ers)
After back-to-back runner-up finishes, Embiid finally takes home the hardware this year. The best player on the best team in the East with a strong narrative? Game over.
Defensive Player of the Year: Rudy Gobert (Minnesota Timberwolves)
Voter fatigue is real, so I was hesitant on this pick. But Minnesota is going to be much improved, and if they can be a top-10 defense, I think you have to vote for Gobert. Mobley was someone I wanted to pick here, but I settled on it being one year early (2024 DPoY: Evan Mobley).
Coach of the Year: Chris Finch (Minnesota Timberwolves)
The reasoning for Finch is basically the same for Gobert; Minnesota is going to be awesome and exceed expectations. Without a clear frontrunner now that Udoka is gone, give me Finch in a tight race.
Rookie of the Year: Keegan Murray (Sacramento Kings)
Chet was my lock of locks for this award, but that’s out the window. Banchero is intriguing, but I love Murray as a sleeper here. He’s going to hit a bunch of 3’s for a team that will be one of the most pleasant surprises of the season.
6MoY: Jordan Poole (Golden State Warriors)
I’m going chalk here. A shifty guard who gets 20 a night wins this award every year, and Poole feels like the best bet to fit that description. Oh, and fill in the blank with your own punched-in-the-face joke.
Stan Van Gundy Coaching Award (Worst coaching job)
Chauncey Billups (Portland Blazers)
Portland is going to be really disappointing this season. Last year they had the Lillard injury excuse, but this year he’s playing. Falling far below expectations gets Billups this award, and likely gets him fired.
Allen Iverson Award (Most exciting player to watch)
Zion Williamson (New Orleans Pelicans)
IF Zion stays healthy, he wins this award. There’s no way point-Zion isn’t the most fun player to watch in the NBA. There’s just no f*cking way.
Rasheed Wallace Award (Most impactful trade)
Jusuf Nurkic (to Toronto Raptors)
Taking a total shot in the dark here. I wanted to avoid the easy Buddy Hield to the Lakers one because that’s too obvious. If Toronto gets a quality center, they could be real Finals contenders.
Jeremy Lin Award (Hottest 2-week stretch from a random player)
Dean Wade (Cleveland Cavaliers)
This award is admittedly a crapshoot of epic proportions, but I feel great about this one. Dean Wade is going to slay for a few weeks at some point this season, and it’s going to be a borderline religious experience for us all.
This year I’m adding a special section to gauge which teams have the best karma heading into the season in terms of landing the best prospect we’ve seen since LeBron James. I call it:
The Wemby Vibes Index
Victor Wembanyama is a preternatural killer who is going to take the NBA by storm. He’s got Kevin Durant’s body type and style of play, with Rudy Gobert’s defensive instincts, stretched into Yao Ming’s height. WHAT? With all due respect to Kevin Durant, Anthony Davis & Zion Williamson, Wemby is the most prized draft pick since LeBron in 2003. Here are the 5 teams I view as having the best chances to land the #1 pick, ranked in order of who deserves him.
#5- Utah Jazz
The Jazz have had sustained regular season success for years now, so do they really deserve to get a generational talent? This tank job is going to be less-than-dignified, which also hurts them. Not to mention they have the worst jerseys in the NBA. That matters! I don’t want to see Wemby stalking opponents in those middle school practice uniforms.
#4- San Antonio Spurs
They might have the most boring market in the league, which hurts. There’s no talent on this roster, so he would be basically playing by himself. On top of that, Popovich can’t be coaching for much longer, and he would be the only reason I would want Wemby to land in San Antonio. Plus you had Duncan, that should hold you over for a good 30 years.
#3- Indiana Pacers
I consider Indiana to be the home of basketball, so that gives the Pacers some pretty good vibes. I love their colors, and they have a legitimate point guard who is going to be an all-star sooner rather than later. I don’t hope Wemby lands here, but it wouldn’t be the worst thing.
#2- Oklahoma City Thunder
Holy Hell, Wemby & Chet? What the f*ck would that even look like??? Multiple 7’4”+ players handling the rock and protecting the rim? A CHET HOLMGREN-VICTOR WEMBANYAMA PICK AND F*CKING ROLL??? This would be amazing. And it feels like this is the prize that Presti has been saving his tickets for.
#1- Charlotte Hornets
Yes this is a homer pick. No it’s not completely unfounded. They have an all-star point guard who loves to run-and-gun and has a flare for passing showmanship. Seems like a pretty good compliment for Wemby. Charlotte has needed a center since I was in high school watching Al Jefferson lumbering up and down the court, so there’s another check. They have fantastic uniforms, and Wemby would look mighty fine in the teal and purple. The only reason this team doesn’t deserve him is the Clifford situation… They need a coach who can lead them to sustained success. Other than that, Charlotte is the team Wembanyama should go to. And if that happens, I will probably pass out from pure happiness.
All-NBA First Team:
G- Luka Doncic (Dallas Mavericks)
G- Steph Curry (Golden State Warriors)
F- Kevin Durant (Brooklyn Nets)
F- Giannis Antetokounmpo (Milwaukee Bucks)
C- Joel Embiid (Philadelphia 76ers)
All-NBA Second Team:
G- Trae Young (Atlanta Hawks)
G- Devin Booker (Phoenix Suns)
F- Jayson Tatum (Boston Celtics)
F- LeBon James (Los Angeles Lakers)
C- Nikola Jokic (Denver Nuggets)
All-NBA Third Team:
G- James Harden (Philadelphia 76ers)
G- Donovan Mitchell (Cleveland Cavaliers)
F- Anthony Edwards (Minnesota Timberwolves)
F- Evan Mobley (Cleveland Cavaliers)
C- Rudy Gobert (Minnesota Timberwolves)
Now let's take a look at my projected standings and playoff predictions!
1- Philadelphia 76ers
2- Milwaukee Bucks
3- Brooklyn Nets
4- Cleveland Cavaliers
5- Toronto Raptors
6- Boston Celtics
7- Miami Heat
8- Atlanta Hawks
9- Washington Wizards
10- New York Knicks
11- Chicago Bulls
12- Detroit Pistons
13- Orlando Magic
14- Indiana Pacers
15- Charlotte Hornets
1- Golden State Warriors
2- Denver Nuggets
3- Minnesota Timberwolves
4- Los Angeles Clippers
5- Phoenix Suns
6- Dallas Mavericks
7- Memphis Grizzlies
8- New Orleans Pelicans
9- Los Angeles Lakers
10- Sacramento Kings
11- Portland Blazers
12- Houston Rockets
13- Oklahoma City Thunder
14- San Antonio Spurs
15- Utah Jazz
7 Miami Heat def 8 Atlanta Hawks
9 Washington Wizards def 10 New York Knicks
8 Atlanta Hawks def 9 Washington Wizards
The Heat and the Hawks are a clear tier (or two) above the Wizards and Knicks. These games will have little drama to them, and should be fairly predictable.
8 New Orleans Pelicans def 7 Memphis Grizzlies
9 Los Angeles Lakers def 10 Sacramento Kings
9 Los Angeles Lakers def 7 Memphis Grizzlies
The Kings will be a great story, but they are not on the same level as these other three teams. The Grizzlies are good, but I see them missing out in a really tough season, much like Golden State was eliminated in the play-in in 2021.
East 1st Round:
1 Philadelphia 76ers def 8 Atlanta Hawks 4-1
2 Milwaukee Bucks def 7 Miami Heat 4-0
3 Brooklyn Nets def 6 Boston Celtics 4-2
4 Cleveland Cavaliers def 5 Toronto Raptors 4-3
The 76ers will rip the Hawks apart in that series. The Bucks will do the same with the quickly-aging Heat. Nets-Celtics will be a fun rematch, but I think Brooklyn gets their revenge against the Boston “Year From Hell” Celtics. And the Cavs-Raptors series will be the most fun 1st round matchup; give me the Cavs in 7 with a few overtimes and maybe even a buzzer-beater mixed in!
West 1st Round:
1 Golden State Warriors def 9 Los Angeles Lakers 4-1
2 Denver Nuggets def 8 New Orleans Pelicans 4-1
3 Minnesota Timberwolves def 6 Dallas Mavericks 4-3
4 Los Angeles Clippers def 5 Phoenix Suns 4-3
The Warriors and Curry will (unfortunately) decimate the Lakers and LeBron. The Nuggets will also beat the Pelicans in 5, but those games will at least be close. Minnesota-Dallas will surprise a lot of people with the Wolves pulling off the faux-upset, and the Clippers and Suns will battle it out in the “Which Team Will Choke Less” finals, with the Clippers choking less.
East 2nd Round:
1 Philadelphia 76ers def 4 Cleveland Cavaliers 4-1
2 Milwaukee Bucks def 3 Brooklyn Nets 4-2
The Cavaliers will be a great story this season, winning their first playoff series without LeBron James since before I was born, but they aren’t quite ready to compete in the East Finals. Milwaukee-Brooklyn will come down to one thing: One team has Kyrie Irving and Ben Simmons. Give me the other team.
West 2nd Round:
1 Golden State Warriors def 4 Los Angeles Clippers 4-3
2 Denver Nuggets def 3 Minnesota Timberwolves 4-1
The Clippers will put up a fight with Golden State, but in the end the Warriors will win because that’s what they do and the Clippers will lose because that’s what they do (teams are who they are, people like to think teams can change. They can’t change. There are winning teams and losing teams. I didn’t make these rules, I just follow them). In the other series, Jokic vs. Gobert will be an incredible subplot, but the Nuggets will have too much firepower and too much experience .
Eastern Conference Finals:
1 Philadelphia 76ers def 2 Milwaukee Bucks 4-2
This is the big swing for me. Milwaukee should be the favorites in the East, they have the best player in the world and championship pedigree. The Other team has James Harden. Call me crazy, but I’m picking the team with James Harden! I love this 76ers team, and honestly this came down to who I would regret not picking more; Milwaukee is the easy choice, and I would really be kicking myself if I didn’t pick Philly and they stunned Giannis.
Western Conference Finals:
1 Golden State Warriors def 2 Denver Nuggets 4-1
Just go watch their series last year. A lot of things have changed since then, but also nothing has changed.
1 Golden State Warriors def 1 Philadelphia 76ers 4-2
(Finals MVP: Steph Curry)
Like I mentioned in their over/under section, the Warriors should be even better than they were last year, and they won the championship. Curry is one of the greatest players ever, Kerr is one of the greatest coaches ever, and this team is one of the greatest dynasties ever. Give me the Warriors going back-to-back!
There you have it! The complete and comprehensive guide to everything you can expect to see for the 2022-23 NBA season. Make sure to check back in regularly at The Circuit to see what we got right, and more importantly, what we got very very wrong.