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The NBA season is a week away and everyone and their parents are excited. This was one of the wildest off-seasons for the NBA media and fans predicting where players would go and what draft picks would be momentum changers for teams. One positive from this many players have come off an injury or done intense training to change their physique, and are healthy and hungry for the 2022-23 season.
Hungry is the best interpretation for these teams too. Golden State Warriors won their sixth NBA title during the 2021-22 season after proving they can win won without the help of Kevin Durant. Boston also proved themselves to be Finals contenders after taking down big names during their playoffs run. But these teams have their right to be “title contenders” or at least make a deep playoff run.
1: New Orleans Pelicans
Though they were eliminated in the first round by the Phoenix Suns, they also took them to a six games series and showed the NBA that they’re playoff potential. This young team has a lot then going for them, especially since this off-season, everything has been going uphill.
They acquired CJ McCollum from Portland and automatically fit well with the team. Bradon Ingram played great since his trade from the lakers, averaging 22 points, 5 assists, and 6 rebounds in the regular season and 27 points 6, assists, and 6 rebounds in the playoffs.
But the biggest upgrade for this team is that their star 2019 #1 draft pick, Zion Williamson, has lost weight and looks like the Zion of the Duke’s days. Projected to be at least 300lbs last season and slimming down to 284lbs, Zion himself said he’s faster than he used to be. “I feel like I’m at my best right now, I’m moving faster, jumping higher. I just, feel great.”
2: Los Angeles Clippers
The closest the Clippers came to the NBA finals was the 2019 western conference finals. Here’s the catch, even without Kawhi Leonard for most of that series, the Clippers stayed competitive. Paul George averaged a double-double with 28 points, 10 rebounds, and 5 assists and Reggie Jackson was a reliable second option with his 20 points, 3 assists, and 4 rebounds.
However, that same team did not make it far the next season, being eliminated in the play-in tournament. Now imagine that 2021 team but with a healthy Kawhi and a newly picked-up John Wall. With those two players and the addition of Norman Powell, the Clippers are contenders in the West and the NBA once again.
3: Chicago Bulls
This has been the best season the bulls have had in a short time. From being first in the East for a few months to have two players go to the NBA all-star game. Capping it off by making the playoffs since Chicago had Dwayne Wade, Jimmy Butler, and Rajan Rondo on the team.
Demar DeRozan averaged 27 points, 5 rebounds, and 4 assists and Zach Lavine averaged 24 points, 4 assists, and 4 rebounds. With Zach coming back from knee surgery over this off-season, he looks forward to playing at full strength. They have also added two veterans in Gordan Dragic and Andre Drummond to their roster. The squad may have been first-round exits, but it doesn’t deny the fact that Chicago is a playoff-caliber team.
4: Los Angeles Lakers
The Lakers have been on a roller coaster ride the past few years as an organization.
They were able to acquire Lebron and didn’t make the playoffs that season. When that didn’t work the Lakers traded for Anthony Davis and won the Finals the following season. Next, the Lakers acquired Dennis Schroder and Montrezl Harrell, but Anthony Davis got injured and got eliminated in the first round. Then this past season, they acquired Russell Westbrook and didn’t even make the play-in tournament.
The good news is that Lebron is still at peak form for a player his age. Anthony Davis is healthy and Westbrook looks to prove others wrong and now they have Patrick Beverly. The bad news? Everything comes crashing down, and the Lakers might be ridiculed for not making any big changes.
5: Brooklyn Nets
It has been a weird post and off-season for Nets fans. They were fan favorites to win the finals, but then Kyrie’s covid situation prohibited him from playing any home games. This led to James Harden going to the 76ers for Ben Simmons, who was going on with his controversy.
The Nets made the playoffs thru the play-in tournament but got swept by the Boston Celtics in 4 games. This became even more hectic when trade rumors for KD and Kyrie got NBA fans in a cold sweat about where the stars would be heading.
Luckily for the Nets and the whole NBA in general, Durant and Kyrie will stay in Brooklyn. They will both play another season with their current team.
The player NBA fans will be looking at is Ben Simmons. Not only with the constant pressure of media cause of his playoff performance against the Atlanta Hawks in 2021, he but hasn’t been on the court since his back surgery. Steve Nash, Head coach of the Nets, said the process will be long for Simmons but is assured that he’ll get his groove back.
Durant says that Ben should get some reps in to get the feel of the game back. ” He knows we trust him, but getting reps should be on his mind. “You can work out and train all you want, but there is nothing like playing under the lights”.
Written By Daylontie Jasper
YahooNews: Bulls hope to keep climbing in East with more time to gel; by Andrew Seligman
ESPN: Nets say Ben Simmons needs time to regain confidence, rhythm; by Nick Friedell
Fanside: Duke basketball: Zion Williamson’s weight could cost him a lot of money
NBA.com: Suns vs Clippers Western Conference Finals
Featured and Inset Image Courtesy of Eric Drost’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License