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And They’re off!
The 77th season of the NBA officially tips off on Tuesday. After a long off-season full of free-agency signings, blockbuster trades, and large extensions, let’s take a look at my top five teams heading into the season.
1. Golden State Warriors
2021-22 Record: 53-29, 3rd in West
Off-season Additions: Donte DiVencenzo, JaMychal Green
Off-season Losses: Gary Payton II, Otto Porter Jr.
As reigning NBA champions, the Warriors look primed for another deep playoff run this season. Highlighted by their Big Three in Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green, this lineup will cause problems for the rest of the league as long as they stay healthy. Adding a great two-way shooter in DiVencenzo creates more depth in the lineup and yet another deep ball threat for opponents to deal with. The Warriors also have three returning lottery picks in Wiseman, Moody, and Kuminga, who are looking to make the next step. This team has assets to stay contenders while also preserving a solid lineup for the future beyond the Big Three.
2. Boston Celtics
2021-22 Record: 51-31, 2nd in East
Off-season Additions: Malcolm Brogdon, Danilo Gallinari
Off-season Losses: Daniel Theis
Last season’s runner-up is looking to reign supreme for the 18th time in franchise history this season after falling just short last summer. The Celtics added Malcolm Brogdon this off-season, a great two-way point guard who will improve an already suffocating Boston defense. This team runs through the success of superstar Jayson Tatum, whose poor performance throughout the Finals became the main talking point for many. Jaylen Brown is looking to take another step forward after a great 2021-22 season, and if the chemistry between him and Tatum grows, even more, the Celtics should be favorites to finish best in the East.
3. Milwaukee Bucks
2021-22 Record: 51-31, 3rd in East
Off-season Additions: Joe Ingles
Off-season Losses: None
The Bucks return all five of their starters from the second half of the 2021-22 season, and with the leadership of Giannis Antetokounmpo, arguably the greatest player in the game today, they are poised to make another run for the top spot in the East. Milwaukee was able to take last year’s second-round playoff series against Boston to seven games without the help of all-star guard Khris Middleton. Although they are beginning to age, the trio of Antetokounmpo, Middleton, and Jrue Holiday will prove to be a tough matchup for any team around the NBA this season.
4. Los Angeles Clippers
2021-22 Record: 42-40, 9th in West
Off-season Additions: John Wall
Off-Season Losses: Isaiah Hartenstein
Last season definitely came as a disappointment for the Clippers. Losing superstar Kawhi Leonard to a torn ACL during the 2021 playoffs wasn’t easy, leaving him sidelined for the entirety of the 2021-22 season. However, the Clippers appear more ready than ever to take on the West adding veteran John Wall to the lineup. If LA can stay healthy this season, a lineup with Leonard and Wall, Paul George, other shooters, and long defenders should push the Clippers past competition in the West as they make a case for real contenders to make a deep run.
5. Philadelphia 76ers
2021-22 record: 51-31, 4th in East
Off-season Additions: P.J. Tucker, DeAnthony Melton, Montrezl Harrell
Off-season Losses: None
Philadelphia comes into the 2022-23 season as a legitimate title contender that is not getting enough attention. After a rather disappointing season that ended in the second round of the playoffs, the duo of Joel Embiid and James Harden look to grow their chemistry and contend with Boston and Milwaukee for an Eastern Conference title. Harden’s off-season training was made very public during NBA Media Day, stating that he lost “100 pounds” over the summer. Although it may be a stretch, Harden is definitely in much better shape than before and will be the key to determining how far this team can go.