The Circuit 2022-23 NBA 1st Quarter Polls
With teams roughly 23 games into the season, it’s time for some quarter polls baby! Who’s hot and who’s not? Who’s the MVP? Is Kawhi Leonard alive? Find out all that more here with The Circuit’s 2022-23 NBA 1st Quarter Polls! Circuit Artwork Thanksgiving marks the (rough) 1st quarter mark of the NBA season. All 30 teams are somewhere between 19-22 games after this weekend, so it’s time to check in and see how our predictions are going and make some new ones! Three Things I was Right About… Getty Images The Cavaliers Would Ascend… I felt really good about this before the season, and an 8-2 start did not deter me. Then they slipped a bit but now appear to be back on track. Donovan Mitchell fits this team like a glove, giving them scoring in the clutch and shot creation, two things they desperately needed. Plus he can defend now! Who knew? (Not the Jazz) This team is really good on both ends of the court, and will be dangerous come playoff time. The Hornets Would be Awful… Without LaMelo Ball, this team is rudderless. With him, they are simply not talented enough. But at least they have a rudder. This team needs to trade Rozier, Hayward, and anything else other than LaMelo and go all-in on the Wemby Sweepstakes. Also, can we start a new rule with coaching hires? You can’t re-hire a coach that you already fired unless that coach won at least one playoff series. That seems fair, doesn’t it? Clifford did nothing with a much more talented team 7 years ago, so why did The Fake G.O.A.T. Michael Jordan think this time would be different, with almost no talent to speak of? This needs to be a new rule! The Miami Heat Would Crater Down the Standings… Before the season I picked the Heat 7th in the East and… turns out I was way too optimistic because as of me writing this they are 11th! Now I think they’ll make the play-in because the two New York teams are ahead of them. But I was exactly right with this team: they are too old, too unathletic and too heavy (not to name names, Kyle Lowry). Three things we were big WRONG on… Getty Images There Was a Floor to the Lakers Season… I expressed pessimism about the Lakers season; I thought they would struggle to make the play-in, escape due to the greatness of LeBron, and get annihilated in the first round. But as disjointed as I thought this roster was, and as toxic as the Westbrook situation was, I never thought the Lakers would be in the conversation for the worst team in the league. Thankfully they’ve stopped the car from flipping on the highway and now they’re just spinning out of control. Progress! At least Davis is playing really well and staying fairly healthy, two things I didn’t think he was capable of. And Russ has not been the issue! *Rant Time* I blame Pat Beverly; he’s a clown, and he isn’t a good NBA player. The fact that Pelinka thought Patrick Beverly, the dirtiest player of all-time who’s biggest NBA contribution was wrenching his teammates leg back in 2014, would help this team win is a fireable offense. Rant over. Coaching Matters? With all due respect to Joe Mazzulla and his jawline, this shouldn’t be working. The Celtics A) don’t have their best/second best defensive player in Robert Williams, B) lost one of their two big offseason additions for the summer back in August, and C) LOST THEIR COACH TO A SCANDAL A WEEK BEFORE THE SEASON. A COACH WHO LED THEM TO THE FINALS IN HIS FIRST YEAR. Maybe it’s because I have been a coach, but I really thought coaching mattered? But apparently it doesn't! I’m glad Mazzulla is getting this opportunity, and he’s crushing it in the role, but it does make me worried for the future of coaching. The Warriors Would Kick Everyone’s Ass… Curry is having maybe his best season yet, and the Warriors spent the first 20 games under .500. How does that happen? Klay was supposed to get better, Draymond was supposed to still be an A+ defender, and the kids were supposed to show improvement! But none of those things happened. Oh yeah, and Draymond molly-whopped Jordan Poole in the face right before the season. Yikes. Mabe that was a bigger deal than I thought? I mean who hasn’t clocked a coworker out of nowhere right before the busy season, am I right? I think they’ll be fine because they’ve always been fine, but I don’t feel great about my pick. Now for the brand new portion of the quarter polls, the Wemby Vibes Index! Here are the five best (realistic) fits for Victor Wembanyama ranked: #5- Utah Jazz Holding strong at #5, but oddly for a completely different reason than in the preseason; they're actually good! Kind of. A red-hot start has simmered a bit, but I’m pretty sure they’ve already won more games than some people thought they would all season long. I still think they miss the playoffs, but with Markkanen emerging as a really good NBA player, the Jazz have become a more appealing landing spot for Big Vic. (Still need to do something about those uniforms though) #4- Orlando Magic A new addition to the Wemby Vibes Index! With Paolo looking like a superstar already, why not give him a transcendent running mate? Wembanyama and Banchero would be a terrifying pick-and-roll, and just a matchup nightmare for 29 teams in the league. He’d fit right into the Orlando Magic big man legacy with Shaq & Dwight, and those blue pinstripe uniforms are some of the best in the sport. #3- Oklahoma City Thunder The Thunder fall from 2 to 3 here, only because of a potential trade disaster that has a contender in line to potentially win the lottery. But this Thunder team is really fun, and SGA has transformed into a superstar before our eyes. Who knew? Maybe he could have made this leap two years ago if they let him play more than 12 games a season. Regardless, with SGA and Wembanyama, and Holmgren isn't a bust, this Thunder team all of a sudden is a burgeoning dynasty. #2- Charlotte Hornets My beloved Hornets fall one spot here, but not for lack of effort. They have truly been one of the worst teams in the league, and are in prime position for Big Vic. Hopefully LaMelo takes his time, maybe a couple extra weeks, to really heal those injuries and make sure he’s right so we can lose a whole bunch of more games and secure the worst record. I’m telling you, there aren’t many more exciting duos than LaMelo Ball & Victor Wembanyama! #1- New Orleans Pelicans Getty Images Except of Course Victor Wembanyama & Zion Fucking Williamson. The Pels enter the Index thanks to the Lakers absolutely imploding and potentially gift-wrapping the #1 pick for them. I think the Lakers will avoid this catastrophe, but it’s on the table. And that’s enough to vault New Orleans from out of the Index all the way to #1; just a chaaaaance to pair Zion and Wemby together is a Ragin Cajun’s wet dream, and one the league should be terrified of. Talk about a dynasty? You’re looking at one in the Big Easy. Regular Season Awards MVP: Jayson Tatum (Boston Celtics) Getty Images Tatum is the best player on the best team in the league. He’s averaging 32 points a night along with All-NBA caliber defense. It looks like he took the Finals loss and got better, which is a scary proposition for the rest of the league. He’ll have to fend off Curry on the ascending Warriors, but right not Tatum is the MVP. Defensive Player of the Year: Anthony Davis (Los Angeles Lakers) Getty Images The Lakers might be a trainwreck to this point, but Davis is playing out of his mind on both ends. Leading the league in rebounds and 3rd in blocks, he’s looking like the old AD again on the defensive end. I don’t believe he will win this award at the end of the season, but given how critical I have been of Davis, I wanted to celebrate him when he plays well. Coach of the Year: Joe Mazzulla (Boston Celtics) Getty Images Sure this makes my coaching heart die a little, but given the circumstances Mazzulla has done a great job. But I don’t want him to. But I do. I’m torn! Let’s move on! Rookie of the Year: Paolo Banchero (Orlando Magic) Getty Images Watching him at Duke, I thought he would be a really efficient scorer/facilitator, but I didn’t think he’d be this good this soon. He’s been awesome, and is dragging the Magic to a respectable offensive efficiency for the first time since Josh Peck got hot. Sixth Man of the Year: Kevin Love (Cleveland Cavaliers) Getty Images Bones is making a case in Denver, but Love has been the man. Cleveland is awesome, and Love has been a big part of that with not only his stats, but his leadership and wisdom. If Poole can turn things around in the Bay, it’s hard to imagine he won’t win this award. But for now, it’s Love’s to lose. Stan Van Gundy Coaching Award (Worst coaching job): Chris Finch (Minnesota Timberwolves) Getty Images Given I picked him to be the Coach of the Year, and the Timberwolves are a lottery team, he’s a worthy selection here. At least with Clifford, I expected/wanted the Hornets to be bad. Finch has 4 All-NBA caliber players and yet they are under .500. Unacceptable. And if you’re wondering why Steve Nash doesn’t get this award since he’s already been fired, I simply ask you this: Who could coach that dumpster fire successfully? Exactly. Allen Iverson Award (Most exciting player to watch): Steph Curry (Golden State Warriors) Getty Images Dude is unconscious right now. He’s drilling 3’s at a rate that only… Well, Steph Curry can. He’s likely going to have just the second season ever with 400 3’s. Who was the other? Steph in 2016. It’s a magical season, and so far, a thrilling one. Rasheed Wallace Award (Most impactful trade/buyout player): Kevin Durant to Anywhere Getty Images Usually I give a specific destination for this award, but at this point I don’t really care where he goes, so long as he gets the hell out of Brooklyn. Phoenix? Scary. Memphis? Sure. New Orleans? Fantastic. Just please, for the love of Barkley, send him somewhere else! Jeremy Lin Award (Hottest 2-week stretch from a random player): Lauri Markkanen (Utah Jazz) Getty Images Markkanen is having a wonderful season so far, leading the Jazz to one of the most surprising records in the league. Will it last? I doubt it. But so far, he definitely has had the best out-of-nowhere hot stretch. 1st Team All-NBA: Getty Images G- Steph Curry (Golden State Warriors) G- Luka Doncic (Dallas Mavericks) F- Jayson Tatum (Boston Celtics) F- Giannis Antetokounmpo (Milwaukee Bucks) C- Nikola Jokic (Denver Nuggets) 2nd Team All-NBA: Getty Images G- Ja Morant (Memphis Grizzlies) G- Devin Booker (Phoenix Suns) F- Kevin Durant (Brooklyn Nets) F- Anthony Davis (Los Angeles Lakers) C- Joel Embiid (Philadelphia 76ers) 3rd Team All-NBA: Getty Images G- Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (Oklahoma City Thunder) G- Donovan Mitchell (Cleveland Cavaliers) F- Lauri Markkanen (Utah Jazz) F- Pascal Siakam (Toronto Raptors) C- Brook Lopez (Milwaukee Bucks) Now with all the individual awards out of the way, let’s get to the fun stuff; playoff predictions! East Play-In: Getty Images 7 Miami Heat def 8 Brooklyn Nets 9 Washington Wizards def 10 New York Knicks 8 Brooklyn Nets def 9 Washington Wizards Despite predicting them to take a huge step back, I do think Miami will get it together enough to survive the play-in. As for the Nets, this could be foolish. If they blow it up, they won’t be here. But since they haven’t yet, I am forced to assume Durant is still on the team come the playoffs, so he will carry them out of the play-in. Barely. West Play-In: 7 Dallas Mavericks def 8 Sacramento Kings 9 Minnesota Timberwolves def 10 Portland Blazers 8 Sacramento Kings def 9 Minnesota Timberwolves Luka could win the play-in with any other 4 human beings on the planet, so no drama there. For the other three teams, lots of drama! Firstly, the Kings are back! For the first time since 2006, Sacramento will be in the playoffs, and likely will throw a parade and drop a banner for it. Portland had a cute start, but ultimately water finds its level eventually. And in Minnesota, we are at Elfcon 1 (little Santa Clause 2 reference there, the best of the franchise). East 1st Round: Getty Images 1 Boston Celtics def 8 Brooklyn Nets 4-0 2 Milwaukee Bucks def 7 Miami Heat 4-1 3 Cleveland Cavaliers def 6 Toronto Raptors 4-3 4 Philadelphia 76ers def 5 Atlanta Hawks 4-2 Boston will stomp Brooklyn harder than Kyrie stomped Lucky last year. Only fun thing about that series would be to count how many times Ben Simmons gets scared of the basketball. Probably a lot. The Bucks take care of the Heat no problem. Atlanta gives Philly a scare but Embiid pushes the 76ers through. But then there’s Cavs-Raps. What a series this will be! A back-and-forth, 7-game thriller that ultimately sees Cleveland through. West 1st Round: Getty Images 1 Phoenix Suns def 9 Sacramento Kings 4-0 7 Dallas Mavericks def 2 Denver Nuggets 4-2 3 Memphis Grizzlies def 6 New Orleans Pelicans 4-3 4 Golden State Warriors def 5 Los Angeles Clippers 4-1 The Kings’ raucous ride into the playoffs will be short-lived at the mercy of the Suns. Memphis and New Orleans will battle it out in a really fun series, but the experience of the Grizzlies will prevail (unless of course Durant is on the Pels, then give me New Orleans). Luka continues doing Luka things in the playoffs, slaying another western giant in Jokic in a huge upset. And then the Warriors will steamroll the Clippers. Maybe if Kawhi cared about playing basketball, they could win a series. But he doesn’t, so they can’t. East 2nd Round: Getty Images 1 Boston Celtics def 4 Philadelphia 76ers 4-2 2 Milwaukee Bucks def 3 Cleveland Cavaliers 4-1 The Celtics are on a mission to avenge their Finals loss, and Small-Game James won’t be able to stop them. In the other series, Cleveland will play hard but ultimately just not have enough answers for a championship team with a lot of experience and the best player in the world. West 2nd Round: 4 Golden State Warriors def 1 Phoenix Suns 4-2 3 Memphis Grizzlies def 7 Dallas Mavericks 4-3 Luka is fantastic, but Luka alone won’t be able to drag this carcass of a team past the Grizz. At least last season he had Brunson as his sidekick, and a Suns team that we didn’t realize was on the verge of imploding. The Grizzlies are young, feisty, and hungry. But speaking of the Suns, how about another second round exit for the #1 seed? Unless, of course, Durant comes to the desert. Then all bets are off. Eastern Conference Finals: Getty Images 1 Boston Celtics def 2 Milwaukee Bucks 4-3 All summer the Celts had to listen to people tell them they never would have beaten Milwaulkee with a healthy Middleton. Media foot, meet media mouth. Boston is about to do just that on their vengeance tour! Western Conference Finals: Getty Images 4 Golden State Warriors def 3 Memphis Grizzlies 4-2 Poor Memphis, they just can’t seem to get past these guys! Another step in the right direction for the Grizz, but the Warriors find a way to make it out of a chaotic, confusing Western Conference yet again. NBA Finals: Getty Images 1 Boston Celtics def 4 Golden State Warriors 4-1 (Finals MVP: Jayson Tatum ) The rematch! We’ve had some classic Finals rematches over the last 20 years; Celtics-Lakers 2008 & 2010 (okay not quite a rematch but close enough! Would have been had KG not gotten hurt), Heat-Spurs 2013 & 2014, and Warriors-Cavaliers 2015 & 2016 & 2017. What do all of these have in common? None of the teams won back-to-back. The team that lost always came back and won the next time. Sure it took Draymond kicking LeBron in the balls for 2016 to happen, but it did! Look for the Celtics to get their revenge and win their first title since 2008! There you have it! Make sure to check back in towards the end of January for the 2nd Quarter Polls, and make sure to check out all of our other great content on the NFL, World Cup, and more!