September 27, 2022


If there’s a dead time on the NBA calendar all year, it’s early August. As we all sit in a Kevin Durant-Kyrie Irving-Donovan Mitchell holding pattern, all we can do right now is start looking forward with the information available. So I’ll list 10 players I’m most excited to watch in the 2022-23 season. They’re all for slightly different reasons, but they all have significant intrigue. Let’s get to it.

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After playing in just 85 games in his first three NBA seasons, Williamson received a five-year contract extension this summer that is guaranteed to pay him $193 million and could be worth as much as $231 million. There is an encumbrance clause in the agreement. If Williamson’s body fat percentage plus weight exceeds 295, he could lose a portion of the guaranteed money, but that’s only triggered if the Pelicans waive him. If that happens, things will be completely out of whack.

For all intents and purposes, the Pelicans are ready to pay a guy who has fought hard to stay on the floor an amount of money that will be crushed over the next five years. They do this because when Williamson he’s got he was on the field he was almost unstoppable. His scoring efficiency alternates between excellent and downright historic. His ability to go downhill going left, often starting a rhythm before the catch when everyone knows that’s where he wants to go, is uncanny. Second jumps don’t get much faster or more explosive than his.

Anyway, we don’t need a Zion scout report. Is wonderful. And the Pelicans could be the same if he plays 65-70 games. For me, he is the most interesting player in the league starting this season.

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File it under the “for obvious reasons” ledger. Anticipation for Simmons’ potential return to the court couldn’t be higher after last season’s drama. First and foremost, is he mentally ready to play? The Nets teased that Simmons could return at the end of the playoff series against the Celtics, but then scrapped that when they fell behind 3-0. Was it really just a physical problem?

I’m not sure anyone, even within the Nets, has a firm grasp on what to expect from Simmons. If Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving remain in Brooklyn, it would seem like a great situation for Simmons, who wouldn’t have to be a primary creator/scorer and could focus on defense, transition, cut/rolling and the secondary. creation. But does he have it in him to commit to such a peripheral attacking role? So many questions.

If Simmons is on the court, everyone will be watching closely at first and for me, I’ll be rooting for him. It’s weird for me to say. I’ve never really liked Simmons’ game and hated, like everyone else, the way he handled his exit from Philly. Back when everyone couldn’t stop raving about how uniquely great he was, I couldn’t stand the whole “I’m smarter than you” talk. Now that everyone thinks it might stink, especially in a playoff setting, I flipped it. Now I’m rooting for him. It’s strange, but the No. 1 overall pick on a max contract has really become an underdog. I dig it.

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If Murray suits up for Denver on opening night, it will have been nearly 18 months since he last played in an NBA game after tearing his ACL in April 2021. Personally, I can’t wait to watch him again. Murray might 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 title contenders. But how long will it take Murray to get back up to speed? One thing Denver doesn’t have to worry about is continuity. Murray and Nikola Jokic should pick up where they left off together.

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There are a handful of super interesting rookies that we’ll all be watching closely, but for me, Holmgren is the most intriguing. If you watched him in Summer League, you know his combination of size and skill is atrocious. Will it withstand the physicality? Are we making too much of his thin frame like we did with Kevin Durant? I can’t wait to see Holmgren space the floor for SGA drives and Josh Giddey’s passing game. If he’s the kind of rim protector the pundits say he is, he could become very special right away.

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Edwards is on the cusp of stardom. There is no more exciting athlete in the league and the charisma with which he scores is intoxicating. This legal guy thinks he’s unstoppable, and he might be right. Let’s get that 35 percent 3-point number closer to the 40 percent he shot in the playoffs and we’ll be serious. With the addition of Rudy Gobert, Minnesota does. How great Edwards can be on a consistent basis, on both ends, will go a long way toward what “it” means.

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Lillard essentially took last season off. He says he is healthy now. The Blazers revamped their roster, specifically with Jerami Grant and Gary Payton II, to offer Lillard hope adequate defensive support. However, the only way the Blazers can become even half as important a player in the West is if Lillard becomes a superhero. We’ve seen him do it before. I bet he gets his powers back. Lillard is the closest thing to Stephen Curry. When he’s hot, you have to drop everything you’re doing and tune in. And he’ll be on a mission to be as hot as possible, as often as possible, this season.

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Same deal with Lillard and Murray. It’s been a while since we’ve seen Leonard, who missed all of last season recovering from a torn ACL. There’s the excitement of just seeing him play again and the question of whether he’ll still be a top-five player in the league. It makes sense to be, at least on certain nights. Yes, there’s a cumulative injury history in the game here, but he’s still only 31 years old. With Paul George back healthy and possibly the deepest roster in the league, the Clippers are poised to perhaps reach the top of the contender hierarchy.

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This is Wiseman’s third year. His rookie season left a lot to be desired. It did its second season. It’s time to see if all this hype the Warriors are making 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 it has to be a real contributor, at least.

The Warriors have a huge tax bill and potential contract extensions for Draymond Green, Andrew Wiggins and Jordan Poole. Don’t rule out them making 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 key piece moving forward or a key asset in a trade, there are plenty of eyes on Wiseman this season.

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The Lakers, as currently constructed, and assuming LeBron James can still play like one of the league’s best players, have a chance to compete for a top-four player: Davis has to be a superstar. For starters, he needs to stay on the field. He has only played 76 games over the last two seasons. Limit his minutes to five. Never mind until playoff time. But he must be great on all fours.

Defensively he has a lot to cover. Offensively, it mostly comes down to his shooting. If he’s going to keep shooting 3s, it can’t be at the 19 percent clip he shot last season or even the 27 percent from 2020-21. Bubble Davis was an anomaly, but the guy started last season as literally the worst shooter in the league with over 150 attempts.

Davis has increased his effectiveness on paper by attacking the post and rim more, but I think there is a conservation element at play here. Hitting around the post all season is a lot to ask, especially in two big lineups without much shooting around the stars. The middle one is Davis’ pillow. He can tend to settle for it too much and fade unnecessarily, but he needs to live in this area quite often for practical purposes. There isn’t much room for error on this Lakers team. Davis should be consistently great. Honestly, that’s true whether or not the Lakers end up getting Kyrie Irving, though obviously more so if they don’t.

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No one is 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 discussions, but at the same time he feels too great and too young to really trade. It’s a very fine line Boston walks in considering moving him at the expense of alienating a foundational star or giving up too soon on a Brown-Tatum combination that could provide a decade-plus of true contention. But if they could get Kevin Durant? Hard not to think about it.

To me, Brown could make another jump this season. Whether that just makes him attractive enough for the Nets to lower their asking price to additional assets or makes Boston officially close the door on trading him, who knows. But Brown has superstar game. There are many nights he is Boston’s best player. I love watching him play, despite his (at times) butter finger ball handling. To me, Brown is one of the hardest players in the league to evaluate. He’s right between All-Star and All-NBA. This season presents another batch of evidence that I can’t wait to examine.





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