The eight favorites for the 2022-23 NBA ring

The 2022-23 NBA season begins, a new section of basketball that launches its marathon with the usual outcome: only one team can be champion when the 2023 Finals are over, at some point between June 9, the day of the fourth game, and June 18, when the seventh would be played. Looking for a king, with the occupant of the throne, the Golden State Warriors, on the hunt for what would be his fifth title in nine years, another magical step in a dynasty that definitely started in 2014with the arrival of Steve Kerr on the bench, and who signed a legendary chapter last year, when he definitively erased the hangover from the convulsive exit of Kevin Durant and converted two years without playoffs (2020 and 2021) after five Finals in a row (2015 -19) in the 2022 title, won in a plethoric Finals against the Celtics (turning a 1-2 into a 4-2) that definitively elevated, if necessary, Stephen Curry to the rank of the best ever, who finally added the Finals MVP award in his fourth ring.

A race begins that is always difficult to decipher, and more so with the franchises still on the starting grid. But, from the outset, you have to fundamentally consider eight teams, the champion and seven enemies who want their place. They are the eight main candidates for the 2022-23 NBA ring:

GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS

You have to start with the champion, with the certainty that if injuries don’t play tricks on you, will be there. Can’t think of anything else the alchemy that arises when Steve Kerr and that big three of legend formed by Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green. And the one who is going to join again, with a role more in the locker room than on the track, Andre Iguodala, another classic of the great dynasty of the San Francisco Bay. Chemistry, essential to understanding this project, has just passed a gigantic test with Draymond Green’s assault on Jordan Poole, the smooth a fine from the franchise to the power forward… and the multimillion-dollar extension to the shooting guard, in parallel to the zero interest, right now, in extending Green’s contract. Poole and Wiggins are already essential, also Kevon Looney. There are sensitive casualties (Otto Porter, Gary Payton Jr) because nor in the Warriors there is money for everyone, but the room for growth is significant thanks to a very promising young core: beyond the aforementioned Poole, Jonathan Kuminga, James Wiseman and Moses Moody. Two more workers arrive for the rotation: Donte DiVincenzo and JaMychal Green.

Boston Celtics

The Celtics were very close to ring 18, the first since 2008, when they defeated the Lakers in the Finals. After a rocky start to the season, they regrouped at the premiere of Ime Udoka on the bench (and Brad Stevens in office) and they were, surely, the best team in the second half of the season, with a wild defense, from which they win titles, and an attack that was found in the gear of its referents, led by an already mature Jayson Tatum. In playoffs, green they outscored the Nets, Bucks and Heat and went on to lead 1-2 in the Finals, with home court advantage in their pocket. In the fourth game they were ahead in the last quarter and they sighted a 1-3… that vanished, with the title. The Warriors won that game and the next two and left the Celtics without a prize who, without melancholy, reinforced their rotation with a great signing, Malcolm Brogdon, and a veteran like Danilo Gallinari. Everything was going smoothly… but things have gotten much worse. First, Gallinari suffered a serious knee injury which was followed another step through the operating room of (fundamental) center Robert Williams, who will not be on the slopes, at the earliest, until Christmas. And then, of course, came the Udoka scandal, set aside for breaking the internal discipline of a franchise from which he has not yet been fired but to which no one believes he will return. Without a coach, the Celtics decided to put themselves in the hands of Joe Mazzulla, until now an assistant and only 34 years old. This will have to maintain the union of a changing room sometimes complicated and in which Jaylen Brown knows he spent the summer involved in potential Kevin Durant trade packages. Despite all this turmoil, the cardinal points of the Celtics are still there, and the reasons to trust that their squad can be champions remain. We will see how it affects everything else.

MILWAUKEE BUCKS

For many, the great favorite to the ring. The 2021 champion was preparing to defend his throne in the playoffs when his options were totally diminished by a knee injury to Khris Middleton, the great squire (alongside Jrue Holiday) by Giannis Antetokounmpo. Even so, the push of the Greek led the Celtics to seven agonizing games in the Eastern semifinals, a physical punishment that the Garden (added to another beating with the Miami Heat) accused later in the fight for the championship, against the Warriors. The Bucks are ready to go all out again with their hard core intact: Mike Budenholzer on the bench, the big three (Giannis, Middleton, Jrue) and a batch of sidekicks headed by another classic, Brook Lopez, and followed by Bobby Portis, Pat Connaughton, George Hill, Wesley Matthews, Serge Ibaka… Joined by Joe Ingles, a veteran who He arrives after suffering a serious knee injury.

LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS

Difficult to know where these Clippers who last season lost in the play in twice, against the Timberwolves and (on his track) the Pelicans. But of course he was a valley yearwithout a Kawhi Leonard who did not play the entire course due to his knee injury in the 2021 playoffs. He is the year 4 of the project that Kawhi heads with Paul George, a section with the first Conference final (2021) in the history of the franchise… but nothing more. Very little for what was expected but, yes, two years in a row marked by injuries after the unmitigated failure of the Florida bubble, in 2020. Now, the Clippers start with a team that a priori He has everything to be the great alternative to the Warriors in the West and a candidate for the title as strong as any. A squad of endless depth, with a great coach like Tyronn Lue and two superstars like Kawhi and George whose physique, in both delicate cases, depends on the options of a project that lacks nothing: Reggie Jackson, Marcus Morris, Ivica Zubac, John Wall, Norman Powell, Robert Covington, Luke Kennard, Terance Mann…

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Brooklyn Nets

Other wild card, a team almost identical distance from being a clear favorite for the title and again becoming a disaster, a caricature. What seemed incredible has happened: after the disaster of last season, in which everything went wrong and the outcome was a donut (4-0) against the Celtics in the first round of the playoffs, Steve Nash is still on the bench, Kevin Durant continues after requesting the transfer, spending the summer waiting and withdrawing his request because no one came close to the price it cost to get him, and Kyrie Irving also continues despite the rumors that linked him to the Lakers and not having reached a contract extension agreement. As in the case of the Clippers, a project of two super stars forged in 2019 is running out of opportunitiesso we’ll see how it goes this time chemistry exam. To add trouble, and curiosity, but also many sports possibilities, Ben Simmons return after a year in white and will play his first NBA minutes with a different shirt than the Sixers. Shooters like Joe Harris, Seth Curry and Patty Mills, workers like Nic Claxton and Royce O’Neale, a scorer like TJ Warren… The Nets have everything to aspire to the title. It’s a matter of seeing if they take for grantedthis time.

PHOENIX SUNS

How much do you have to believe in these Suns? In theory, the talent to do great things follows there. But at the same time, the feeling that the great opportunity has already passed is the atmospheric key to the start of the course for Arizona, who last season won 64 games (64-18), the best mark in their history, and entered the playoffs as favorites after falling short of the title a year earlier, when they went 2-0 in the Finals against the Bucks but lost the next four games (2-4, title for Giannis Antetokounmpo and his). In the playoffs, the Suns sank in a way that is hard to explain. They suffered more than necessary in the first round against the Pelicans and they let themselves come back from 2-0 and 3-2 against Luka Doncic and the Mavericks, which to top it off swept them outrageously (27-57 at halftime) in the seventh game, in Phoenix. Since then, owner Robert Sarver has forced the franchise up for sale due to the toxic office culture scandal, a starter like Jae Crowder is out of the team and waiting to be traded, and center Deandre Ayton has come back with a long face after the Suns played cat and mouse with his extension and ended up matching the formal offer from the Pacers. And Chris Paul will be 38 years old in May (in the middle of the playoffs, in theory). With those coordinates, few improvements in sports, a rotation with doubts but a hard core who is still intact (Paul, Devin Booker, Mikal Bridges, Ayton), everyone can decide how much they believe in these Suns who had Kevin Durant in their sights, who liked the idea of ​​going to play in the desert, but they didn’t really go to for him.

PHILADELPHIA 76ERS

it’s their turn to the Sixers, who have not reached an Eastern final since 2001, when they won the Conference and lost in the fight for the ring against the Lakers. His last title dates back to 1983, too far for a historical franchise who is best known among young fans for the processhis years of tanking industrialized, than for its glory days. In recent years they have gone through that Eastern final Celtics, Bucks, Heat, Raptors, Cavaliers… and even the Hawks, precisely at the expense of the Sixers, in 2021. The key is to see how he is physically, and in terms of will to win when the moment of truth arrives, a James Harden who has turned 33 this summer. Joel Embiid (he will be 29 in March) will once again go for the MVP that has eluded him the last two seasons (second behind Nikola Jokic) and, without Ben Simmons officially, Daryl Morey has made a tougher team, more suitable a priori for the playoffs (let’s see how Doc Rivers handles it…). PJ Tucker, Montrezl Harrell, Danuel House and De’Anthony Melton arrive and another step forward is expected from Tyrese Maxey, who left the aroma of a star last season. Add Tobias Harris, Korkmaz, Niang, Thybulle, Milton… The Sixers have the right to feel as much a favorite for the title as anyone. or cwell, almost

MIAMI HEAT

The Heat had a Game 7, on their court against the Celtics, to get into their second Finals in three years after their 2020 bubble loss to the Lakers. But they lost after failing to complete a tremendous comeback. The summer has been full of expectations… and few realities. Neither Kevin Durant nor Donovan Mitchell: there has not been major hunt in Florida and, in addition, PJ Tucker has gone to a direct rival, the Sixers. With doubts about Kyle Lowry’s form (in March, 37 years old) and the certainty that Jimmy Butler will go as far as he can, as always, the Heat have the internal growth of two star hopefuls: Bam Adebayo and a Tyler Herro who has already signed his player extension essential. It has to be. If they take a step forward and Victor Oladipo performs at a good level, the Heat will be tough, difficult to win and capable of going through rounds in the playoffs if the rivals show their shortcomings and show the jugular. That is usually the ideal terrain for Erik Spoelstra, who is still on a bench that he arrived at in 2008 and that is already impossible to imagine with another occupant.

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