If there’s a downtime in the NBA’s annual schedule, it’s early August. While we’re all sitting in a Kevin Durant-Kyrie Irving-Donovan Mitchell waiting pattern, all we can do now is start looking ahead with the information currently available. So I’m going to list the 10 players I’m most looking forward to watching in the 2022-23 season. They’re all for slightly different reasons, but they all have a major plot. Let’s go.
After playing just 85 games in his first three NBA seasons, Williamson was granted a five-year contract extension this summer that is guaranteed to pay him $193 million and could be worth up to $231 million. . There is a strong clause in the agreement. If Williamson’s body fat percentage plus weight exceeds 295, he could lose some of the guaranteed money, but that only triggers if the Pelicans waive him. If that happens, things will have gone completely off the rails.
For all intents and purposes, the Pelicans are about to pay a guy who fought mightily to stay on the field a crushing sum of coins over the next five years. They do this because when Williamson has been on the pitch, he was virtually unstoppable. His scoring efficiency swung between extraordinary and downright historic. His ability to descend to the left, often starting a beat before the take, when everyone knows that’s where he wants to go, is amazing. The second jumps aren’t much faster or more explosive than his.
Either way, we don’t need a reconnaissance report from Zion. It is awesome. And the Pelicans could be too if he plays 65-70 games. For me, he is the most intriguing player in the league before this season.
File it under the ledger “for obvious reasons”. Anticipation for Simmons’ presumed return to the field couldn’t be higher after last season’s drama. Above all, is he mentally ready to play? The Nets announced that Simmons could return at the end of their playoff series against the Celtics, but then scrapped that when they lost 3-0. Was it really just a physical problem?
I’m not sure anyone, even within the Nets, has a clear idea of what to expect from Simmons. If Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving stay in Brooklyn, that would seem like a great situation for Simmons, who wouldn’t have to be a primary creator/scorer and could focus on defense, transitioning, cutting/rolling, and creating. secondary. But does he have the courage to step into such a peripheral attacking role? So many questions.
If Simmons is in the field, everyone will be watching the start closely, and for me, I will support him. It’s strange for me to say that. I never particularly liked Simmons’ game and I, like most, hated the way he handled his Philadelphia exit. Back when everyone couldn’t help but rave about how unique he was, I couldn’t stand all the “I’m smarter than you” talk. Now that everyone thinks he might stink, especially in a playoff context, I flipped. Now I’m rooting for him. It’s weird, but a No. 1 overall pick on a max contract has actually become something of an underdog. I dig this.
If Murray adapts to Denver on opening night, it will be almost 18 months since he last played in an NBA game after tearing his ACL in April 2021. Personally, I can’t wait to see him play again. Murray may be one of the most electrifying players in the league, and if he’s right — and especially if Michael Porter Jr. is also healthy — the Nuggets will be a top title contender. But how long will it take Murray to get back on track? One thing Denver doesn’t have to worry about is continuity. Murray and Nikola Jokic should pretty much pick up where they left off in tandem.
There are a handful of super interesting rookies that we’ll all be watching closely, but to me, Holmgren is the most intriguing. If you’ve watched him in Summer League, you know his size-skill combination is weird. Will he resist the physicality? Are we paying too much attention to her slender figure as we did with Kevin Durant? Can’t wait to see Holmgren space the floor for SGA records and play on the passing of Josh Giddey. If it’s the kind of rim protector the experts say, it could be pretty special right away.
Edwards is on the cusp of stardom. There is no more breathtaking athlete in the league and the charisma with which he scores is intoxicating. This guy rightfully believes he’s unstoppable, and he might be right. Bring that 35% number to 3 points closer to the 40% he shot in the playoffs and we’ll be talking serious business. With the addition of Rudy Gobert, Minnesota starts. How great Edwards can be on a consistent basis, on both ends, will go a long way to what “it” means.
Lillard essentially took time off last season. He says he is healthy now. The Blazers have revamped their roster, including Jerami Grant and Gary Payton II, to provide Lillard With a bit of luck adequate defensive support. Still, the only way the Blazers can be even a halfway relevant player in the West is if Lillard becomes a superhero. We’ve seen him do it before. I bet he will use his powers again. Lillard is the closest thing to Stephen Curry. When it’s hot, you need to drop whatever you’re doing and tune in. And he’s going to be on a mission to be as hot as possible, as often as possible, this season.
Same deal as Lillard and Murray. It’s been a while since we’ve seen Leonard, who took all of last season to recover from a torn ACL. There’s the excitement of just watching him play again and whether he’ll ever be a top five player in the league. Of course it will be, at least on some nights. Yes, there’s a cumulative injury history at play here, but he’s still only 31. With Paul George back healthy and probably the deepest roster in the league, the Clippers are ready to jump to perhaps the top of the contender hierarchy.
This is the third year for Wiseman. His rookie season left a lot to be desired. He missed his second season. It’s time to see if all the hype the Warriors are throwing around about Wiseman’s supposedly limitless potential is even half justified. He won’t be Golden State’s starting center. That distinction goes to Kevon Looney. But he has to be a real contributor, at the very least.
The Warriors have a massive tax bill and potential contract extensions for Draymond Green, Andrew Wiggins and Jordan Poole. Don’t rule out that they make a trade to avoid one or even two of those long-term commitments, and Wiseman could certainly be included in such a trade depending on performance. Whether as a centerpiece moving forward or a central asset moving through a trade, there are plenty of eyes on Wiseman this season.
The Lakers, as currently constructed, and assuming LeBron James can still play as one of the best players in the league, have a chance to compete for a top-four seed: Davis must be a Super star. To begin with, he must stay on the field; he has only played 76 games over the past two seasons. Limit his minutes to five. That’s good until playoff time. But he must be excellent at four.
Defensively, he has to cover a lot. Offensively, it mostly comes down to his shooting. If he continues to shoot 3s, it can’t be at the 19% clip he recorded last season or even the 27% of 2020-21. Bubble Davis was an anomaly, but the guy started last season as the league’s worst shooter with over 150 attempts.
Davis ticked off his effectiveness on paper by attacking more in the post and on the edge, but I think there’s an element of preservation at play here. Hitting around the post all season is a lot to ask, especially in the two big lineups without shooting around the stars too much. The medium is the Davis Cushion. He may tend to settle for too much and disappear unnecessarily, but he has to live in that area quite often for practical purposes. There’s not much room for error on this Lakers team. Davis must always be excellent. Frankly, that applies whether the Lakers end up getting Kyrie Irving or not, obviously more if they don’t.
No one is quite ready to call Brown a superstar, but he’s not far off. He’s not so great that he can’t be included in trade talks, but at the same time he feels too good and too young to trade. It’s a very fine line that Boston walks considering moving him at the possible cost of alienating a fundamental star or abandoning a Brown-Tatum tandem too soon that could provide more than a decade of real conflict. But if they could have Kevin Durant? Hard not to think about it.
For me, Brown could make another leap this season. Whether that just makes him attractive enough for the Nets to lower their asking price on additional assets or have Boston officially close the door on his trade, who knows. But Brown has a superstar game. There are plenty of nights where he is the best player in Boston. I love watching him play, despite his (sometimes) nimble handling of the ball. To me, Brown is one of the toughest players in the league to rate. He’s right between All-Star and All-NBA. This season presents another batch of evidence that I can’t wait to review.