Jackson Lauber ‘25
Golden State Warriors
Following their championship in mid June, the Warriors did not make major acquisitions in the offseason, opting to focus on retaining their current stars and maintaining their health. Despite this, the Warriors lost key rotational players Otto Porter and Gary Payton II, with the hope that free agency pickup Donte DiVincenzo can soften the blow of their departures. However, the big question that still looms is whether their young players can really take the next step to superstardom, with the spotlight on Poole, Kuminga, and Wiseman. At full strength, the Warriors are certainly contenders for another championship, but with the departure of some key rotational players, the Warriors will need consistent performance from their young guys. I predict that their floor will be the Western Conference Semifinals, and their ceiling the NBA Finals. But can the Warriors’ young players take the next step?
The Celtics fell short of their goal in the 2022 Finals, falling to the Warriors in six games. They then made moves in the offseason, acquiring Malcom Brogdon without having to make significant sacrifices, as well as adding a great shooter in Danilo Gallinari (who, unfortunately, will miss the season with a torn ACL). But the Celtics struggled with injuries in 2021, especially in the playoffs, and will be starting the season without a couple pieces. But, with their roster mostly healthy and fully built out, the Celtics look to be dangerous in 2022. The C’s are now headed by former assistant Joe Mazzulla following the suspension of head coach Ime Udoka. Joe Mazulla seems primed to take the next step, having an all-time head coaching record of 43-17 while at Division II Fairmont State. The team seemingly has the players to win a championship, but with some questions at the head coach position, they’re a little more unpredictable than they were a month ago. They’ll make the playoffs and could win it all, but how much of an impact will Ime Udoka’s absence have on the Celtics?
Miami is looking to take the next step and win the Finals, something they have not done since 2013 with LeBron James and Co. Miami has maintained its core of Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo, and Kyle Lowry while shifting around other rotational players in moves to hopefully improve their team. With the departure of PJ Tucker, Coach Spoelstra is looking to develop first-round-pick Nikola Jovic into a key player for the Heat. They are a young team, and they have maintained their most important pieces while looking towards the future with a quality draft pick. The Heat seem poised to contend, but their stars will have to be at their best. They should make the playoffs and could go all the way to the Eastern Conference Finals, but only if their core performs at an elite level consistently.
The Mavericks often looked like a one-man-show in 2021, with Luka Dončić outperforming everyone on the court and carrying his team to victory. However, with Luka injured in the playoffs, it became clear who the Mavs No. 2 man was: Jalen Brunson. With Brunson’s departure in the 2022 offseason, the Mavs look yet again to Luka to take their team beyond expectations, but it seems that the Mavs will need someone to emerge from their roster as a star, or they’ll need to get Luka some help. They should make the Play-In Tournament, but I don’t expect them to make it past the Western Conference Semifinals.
The Grizzlies surpassed preseason expectations in 2021, entering the playoffs as a two-seed and played well in the postseason. However, the Grizzlies lost veteran rotational players in Kyle Anderson and De’Anthony Melton, with seemingly no big offseason moves to counteract these losses. The Grizzlies drafted well, but it is now up to their staff to develop their picks into solid rotational players. If Ja Morant can’t stay healthy and if Jaren Jackson Jr. can’t consistently excel, the Grizz may just take a step back in 2022, even though they had a strong 2021 season.
Milwuakee did not perform to the level that they expected in the postseason, despite making it to the conference semifinals. Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jrue Holiday were able to take the Bucks to seven games against the Celtics without Khris Middleton, a lethal scorer and the Bucks’ number two guy. Milwaukee looks to take a large step forward with a healthy team and no key losses in the offseason, but it’ll be hard to do that without Middleton. He’ll need to stay healthy.
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