The 2022-23 NBA season is upon us, and always, the start of a new season creates a call for fans, bloggers, and media personalities alike to set forth their predictions for the new season.

Gone are the days where the only two legitimate title contenders were the Golden State Warriors (though they still are a threat, and the defending champions to boot) and whichever team LeBron James was plying for. This season, I can count at least six to eight teams with realistic title hopes.

Read on for my 2022-23 NBA Standings, Playoff Predictions, and NBA Finals Pick, and if you’d like to debate or discuss any picks, or want to follow for more NBA and NFL content, be sure to connect with Sak Sports Blog on Twitter or on Facebook! Writer’s Note: While this article was published on October 27, 2022, it reflects predictions made during the preseason, not taking any of the NBA’s 2022-23 regular season results in to account.

See Also: Previous Predictions

Eastern Conference

Photo: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
  1. Philadelphia 76ers (55-27)
  2. Milwaukee Bucks (53-29)
  3. Brooklyn Nets (50-32)
  4. Boston Celtics (48-34)
  5. Cleveland Cavaliers (47-35)
  6. Miami Heat (46-36)
  7. Atlanta Hawks (45-37)
  8. Toronto Raptors (43-39)
  9. Chicago Bulls (39-43)*
  10. New York Knicks (36-46)*

Non-Playoff Teams

  1. Charlotte Hornets (35-47)
  2. Washington Wizards (33-49)
  3. Detroit Pistons (25-57)
  4. Orlando Magic (23-59)
  5. Indiana Pacers (19-63)

Having Joel Embiid and James Harden have proven to be a lethal combination on the court, and even if Embiid’s availability is on-and-off, Harden can carry a deeper Philadelphia 76ers with the additions of P.J. Tucker, Danuel House, De’Anthony Melton, and Montrezl Harrell in the offseason.

The Milwaukee Bucks will be a threat as always with Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton on the court, and could easily claim the Eastern Conference’s top seed with another strong regular season. A fully healthy, active Brooklyn Nets team could also be the class of the East, but with Kyrie Irving’s availability never set in stone, the question of whether Ben Simmons will ever play again, and the team’s subsequent overreliance on Kevin Durant, third place seems like a reasonable starting point.

The Boston Celtics have a very solid team surrounding Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, but head coach Ime Udoka’s shocking suspension and Robert Williams’ knee injury to start the season will temper expectations. A healthy Boston squad would definitely still have the chance to run it back as Eastern Conference NBA Finals representatives with a strong playoff run.

The Cleveland Cavaliers are an X-factor team: they could reach even higher with perennial All-Star point guard Donovan Mitchell on the team, or they could underachieve and wonder if giving up Colin Sexton was the right move. I see Cleveland as a solid team with borderline title aspirations, personally.

Elsewhere, the Miami Heat and Toronto Raptors kind of get lost in the pack, but can’t be counted out at all, especially with relatively NBA Finals appearances. The Atlanta Hawks have raised their expectations after pairing Tae Young with Dejounte Murray, which should make Atlanta’s offense less of a one-trick pony.

On paper, the Chicago Bulls healthy roster is Top 8 in the East, but with Lonzo Ball sidelined to start the season, Chicago might not be firing on all cylinders. The New York Knicks ceiling is slightly higher with Jalen Brunson on the roster, but it won’t be enough to push the franchise much closer to contention.

Western Conference

Photo: Getty Images/NBC Sports
  1. Phoenix Suns (65-17)
  2. Golden State Warriors (59-23)
  3. Memphis Grizzlies (58-24)
  4. Denver Nuggets (55-27)
  5. Los Angeles Clippers (51-31)
  6. Dallas Mavericks (50-32)
  7. Minnesota Timberwolves (49-33)
  8. Los Angeles Lakers (40-42)
  9. New Orleans Pelicans (38-44)*
  10. Portland Trail Blazers (35-47)*

Non-Playoff Teams

  1. Oklahoma City Thunder (31-51)
  2. Sacramento Kings (30-52)
  3. San Antonio Spurs (29-53)
  4. Utah Jazz (26-56)
  5. Houston Rockets (17-65)

The Phoenix Suns are set to run the Western Conference again behind Devin Booker, Chris Paul, Deandre Ayton, and one of the NBAs most well-rounded rosters. The Golden State Warriors will certainly give them a fight though, and if Steph Curry and Klay Thompson hit their stride, the preseason Draymond Green-Jordan Poole nonsense may be quickly forgotten.

The Denver Nuggets are favored to finish high with Jamal Murray returning to a lineup featuring Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Michael Porter Jr., Aaron Gordon, and back-to-back MVP winner Nikola Jokic. I think Denver’s title odds are better than they’ve ever been, but I have the ever-improving Ja Morant and the Memphis Grizzlies coming up with a couple more regular season wins.

The Los Angeles Clippers have the firepower to compete for a Top 4 seed in the West, but like many other teams, come with a *if healthy* asterisk. Paul George and Kawhi Leonard are set to begin the season on the court together, but the number of games they play together will have a large impact on the team’s final record.

Luka Doncic is a generational superstar, but the Dallas Mavericks are still struggling to put together a championship roster around the Slovenian stud. Kristaps Porzingis and Jalen Brunson are out, as Doncic will start alongside Tim Hardaway Jr., Reggie Bullock, Dorian Finney-Smith, and JaVale McGee in 2022-23.

The Minnesota Timberwolves finished 46-36 with the 7th seed in the West last season, and with the addition of three-time Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert, should be even more dangerous this season.

The conference’s biggest X-factor team has to be the polarizing Los Angeles Lakers. Last year’s Russell Westbrook experiment didn’t go as planned, but both LeBron James ad Antony Davis faced significant injury concerns. Another *if healthy* team, the Lakers could potentially make some noise if James and Westbrook have anything left in the tank and Davis stays on the court.

The New Orleans Pelicans ceiling is also higher if Zion Williamson can stay healthy, though they still have a decent roster without him. The Portland Trailblazers sneak in to the 10th seed because no other teams in the conference are worthy of a playoff/play-in spot.

2023 NBA Playoffs

Play-In Tournament

Eastern Conference
Photo: Jeff Haynes/NBAE via Getty Images

#9 Chicago Bulls defeat #10 New York Knicks to win play-in game

#7 Atlanta Hawks defeat #8 Toronto Raptors to advance to 16-team bracket

#9 Chicago Bulls defeat #8 Toronto Raptors twice to advance to 16-team bracket

  • Later in the season with a healthy core, the Chicago Bulls claw their way out of the play-in bracket to make the real playoff bracket.
Western Conference
Photo: Layne Murdoch Jr./NBAE via Getty Images

#9 New Orleans Pelicans defeat #10 Portland Trail Blazers to win play-in game

#7 Minnesota Timberwolves defeat #8 Los Angeles Lakers to advance to 16-team bracket

#8 Los Angeles Lakers defeat #9 New Orleans Pelicans to advance to 16-team bracket

  • The new-look Minnesota Timberwolves are too much for even a healthy Los Angeles Lakers team to overcome, but LeBron James and company are easily able to fend off the play-in bracket winner.

First Round

Eastern conference
Photo: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

#1 Philadelphia 76ers defeat #9 Chicago Bulls in five games

#2 Milwaukee Bucks defeat #7 Atlanta Hawks in six games

#3 Brooklyn Nets defeat #6 Miami Heat in five games

#4 Boston Celtics defeat #5 Cleveland Cavaliers in six games

  • All higher seeds winning, which is boring but to be expected. If there’s any upsets, perhaps it would be Trae Young and Dejounte Murray meshing well to overcome the Milwaukee Bucks, or the Cleveland Cavaliers being a stronger team than I anticipated.
Western Conference
Photo: USA Today Sports

#1 Phoenix Suns defeat #8 Los Angeles Lakers in six games

#2 Golden State Warriors defeat #7 Minnesota Timberwolves in six games

#3 Memphis Grizzlies defeat #6 Dallas Mavericks in five games

#4 Denver Nuggets defeat #5 Los Angeles Clippers in seven games

  • Just like in the Eastern Conference, these Western Conference matchups all go to the higher seeds: but there’s some pretty clos series here. Karl Anthony-Towns, Rudy Gobert, and the Minnesota Timberwolves knock a couple off the Golden State Warriors, while Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, and the Los Angeles Clippers go the distance with the Denver Nuggets.

Conference Semifinals

Eastern Confernce
Photo: Forbes/Getty Images

#1 Philadelphia 76ers defeat #4 Boston Celtics in seven games

#3 Brooklyn Nets defeat #2 Milwaukee Bucks in six games

  • The Boston Celtics have the talent to win the East again in 2023. I have James Harden, Joel Embiid, and the Philadelphia 76ers outlasting Boston in seven games, but make no doubt, the Celtics are still title contenders. The same goes for Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks: the team could make their second title run in three seasons. All four teams left in this round have title aspirations, so eliminating two of them was difficult, but star power reigns through in both cases, with a (theoretically) healthy Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant, and yes, even Ben Simmons, leading the Nets to a series victory over the Bucks.
Western Conference
Photo: Justin Ford/Getty Images

#1 Phoenix Suns defeat #4 Denver Nuggets in six games

#2 Golden State Warriors defeat #3 Memphis Grizzlies in six games

  • The Denver Nuggets and Memphis Grizzlies will enjoy excellent regular seasons behind two-time reigning MVP Nikola Jokic and rising superstar Ja Morant, respectively. But in the playoffs, the Phoenix Suns and Golden State Warriors are just too strong to overcome in a seven-game series.

Conference Finals

Eastern Conference
Photo: Sarah Stier/Getty Images

#3 Brooklyn Nets over #1 Philadelphia 76ers in six games

  • The Philadelphia 76ers will dominate the regular season standings, earning home court advantage in this potential Eastern Conference Finals. But assuming at least Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving are healthy and on the court, the Brooklyn Nets will have the firepower needed to beat pretty much anyone in the postseason. An engaged Ben Simmons would be icing on the cake, and Brooklyn definitely doesn’t have the depth that Philadelphia does. But as much as I’d like to push James Harden and Joel Embiid through to their first NBA Finals together, something just always seems to go wrong for those two players.
Western Conference
Photo: AP Photo/Matt York

#1 Phoenix Suns over #2 Golden State Warriors in six games

  • The Golden State Warriors dominated their way to another NBA Finals win last postseason, and are a significant threat to win it all again in 2023. But Devin Booker, Chris Paul, and the Phoenix Suns still have unfinished business after appearing in the Finals two seasons prior. The Suns overcome Golden State in six games, with the Warriors not quite firing on all cylinders as they have in years past.

NBA Finals

Photo: Marca
Brooklyn Nets Vs. Phoenix Suns

This potential NBA Finals matchup would be star-studded, featuring two superstars (Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant) who have gotten it done for other teams attempting to bring a championship to Brooklyn, and on the other side, young star Devin Booker and wily veteran Chris Paul gunning for a Phoenix Suns title after appearing and losing in the 2021 NBA Finals against the Milwaukee Bucks.

The Brooklyn Nets obviously will need to play great basketball to overcome the likes of Milwaukee and Philadelphia. But even as the Eastern Conference winner, the Nets are not a perfect team: they’re too top-heavy, relying on Durant and Irving, and don’t have a strong enough bench.

On the other hand, while Brooklyn’s top two players may be better than Phoenix’s, the Suns starting five is better from top to bottom: with Mikal Bridges, Cameron Johnson, and Deandre Ayton supporting Paul and Booker. Bench pieces like Cameron Payne, Landry Shamet, Jock Landale, and Bismack Biyombo round out a deep roster, filled with players who can fulfill specific roles.

Is it possible for Durant and Irving, or heck, Durant himself to put the team on his back and will the Brooklyn Nets to an NBA Finals win? Absolutely, in today’s NBA. But over the course of a seven-game series, I don’t think the Nets stars can play enough hero ball to keep up with a solid Suns team.

Suns win 2023 NBA Finals in six games, Chris Paul wins Finals MVP

Previous Predictions: How did these hold up?




More By Me

Header Photo Credits (L-R): Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports, Kate Frese / NBAE / Getty Images

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