DAR Sports: The 2023-2024 NBA Season Preview, Vol. 1
By Jeff Axel
This offseason started off slow but became very eventful the week before training camp with 2 game changing trades. In this article we’ll discuss each team, the players and coaches that they’ve acquired and the win-loss prediction.
-The Hawks looked impressive when Quinn Snyder took over for Nate McMillian in February of this year. Dejounte Murray and Trae Young started to gel better and their younger players started to get put in better positions and gained confidence. A lot hinges on if Jalen Johnson, AJ Griffin and Oneya Okongwu take another step. With John Collins being in Utah now this gives Johnson an opportunity and he has intriguing versatility with his athleticism and shooting. Okongwu plays with great energy and with Capela getting older he could potentially get into the starting lineup. Bogdanovic and Saddiq Bey are quality bench players that provide great shooting and shot creation. I’m expecting another 25 PPG/10 APG type season from Trae Young. I’m not sure if their offseason acquisitions will play heavy minutes as Wes Matthews and Patty Mills are older and not as productive as years past but I could see them being a 6th seed with a 44-38 record.
-The Celtics had a roster overhaul this summer after a disappointing end in the Conference Finals. Marcus Smart was sent to Memphis, Danilo Gallinari, and Mike Muscala were sent to Wizards, Grant Williams was sent to Dallas, with Robert Williams III and Malcolm Brogdon finally being sent to Portland. They got back Kristaps Portzingis who averaged 23 PPG, 8 RPG and 1.5 BPG was also the best pick and roll defender in the league, 2nd in the league in shooting percentage out of the post and shot 39% from 3 last year. He gives the Celtics a floor spacing option and a post up option along with rim protection. Also, with the Brogdon trade, the Celtics picked up Jrue Holiday. Getting an All-Star two way player at the point guard position that averaged 19/7/5 on 50% and 38% from 3 is an improvement from Marcus Smart. Jrue Holiday is better at defending quicker guards, can dribble penetrate and shoot better and can create his own shot and finish at a high rate that should hopefully stop the blown double digit leads and stagnant offense in the 4th quarter. Tatum needs to diversify his offense and not shoot as many 3 pointers as he claimed he worked out with Paul Pierce for a month in the summer and Jaylen needs to improve his handle and cut his turnovers down but this team has a high ceiling. The only question marks remain the front court depth behind Portzingis and Horford (they’ve signed Wenyen Gabriel and Neemias Queta) and the bench, although I believe Derrick White will be moved to the 6th man role and Payton Pritchard, Svi and Hauser will provide 3 point shooting off the bench. The wildcards are Oshae Brissett and Lamar Stevens as they’re athletic wings with an ability to cut to the basket, defend and crash rebounds. Charles Lee and Sam Cassell as veteran assistants instead of Udoka’s staff that left should make a difference as well. It’s time for Tatum and Brown to improve and take over as leaders for the Celtics to get over the hump. I'm expecting a 57-25 record and a deep playoff run.
-The Brooklyn Nets went through a lot of turmoil last season but some of the bright spots would be the play of Mikal Bridges (26 PPG/5 RPG) Spencer Dinwiddie (17 PPG/9 APG) and Cam Johnson (17 PPG and 5 RPG) in expanded roles. Nic Claxton also improved averaging 13 points with 9 rebounds and 2.5 blocks per game on 71% but this team had offensive issues post KD and Kyrie trades. Their leading scorers put up those numbers in a 27 game sample size and those numbers went down in the playoffs so now that they’re going to be gameplanned and studied we'll see how they produce. Lonnie Walker was a solid pickup to help with perimeter scoring and Dennis Smith Jr. had a nice bounce back season in Charlotte. He will gave them stability as a point guard distributing and defending last year. Darius Bazley and Trendon Watford give them frontcourt options that the team lacked last season. If Harry Giles is healthy that gives them more size behind Claxton as well. Clowney and Whitehead are their rookies who might make an impact early on as well. They won 11 games to barely hold onto the 6th seed after the KD trade and I don’t think they’ve done enough this summer to repeat getting that high of a seed. They’re probably going to be 38-44 and fighting for the 10th seed.
-Re-signing LaMelo Ball was smart as they field a fairly competitive team when he’s on the court (23 PPG/8 APG/6 RPG in 36 games last season)m The Hornets are expecting an immediate impact out of 2nd overall pick Brandon Miller to score and rebound at a high level. Terry Rozier will still likely contribute his 20 points per game and 3 point shooting and they get Miles Bridges and his 20 PPG back after his suspension stemming from his domestic violence issue. Re-signing PJ Washington was a quality move as well (16 PPG/5 RPG) and they still have Gordon Hayward (14/4/4). Both Nick Richards(8 PPG/6 RPG) and Mark Williams (9 PPG/7 RPG) are solid young centers as well. This team only added Frank Ntilkina in free agency and too many other teams in the Eastern Conference improved so in my opinion they’re going to be 34-48 and miss the play-in tournament completely. They’ll have some highlights though.
-Unfortunately Lonzo Ball is projected to be out for the entire season for a second year in a row. The Bulls point guard situation is what will hold them back from making the playoffs in my opinion. They re-signed Vucevic this off-season (18 PPG/11 RPG), while Demar Derozan (24/5/5) and Zach Lavine (25/4/4) continue to be one of the highest scoring duos in the league, but their off-season was relatively tame considering the holes they have. Torrey Craig is a high energy role player that will likely help and Jevon Carter is a strong defender with an improving 3 point shot but him, Coby White, Caruso and Ayo isn’t a guard rotation that exudes a lot of confidence. A lot of the Bulls projection depends on if Patrick Williams can take another step and produce better than 10 PPG and 4 RPG. In my opinion, the best this team can do is a play in spot and a 40-42 record but I’m inclined to take the under on them getting 40 wins.
-The Cavs had an impressive regular season and a disappointing playoff first round exit to the knicks. Picking up Max Strus, Niang and drafting Emoni Bates should help out with their perimeter scoring on the wings that they were lacking last season. Donovan Mitchell had a strong regular season (28/4/4) and co-existed with Garland pretty well (22 PPG/8 APG). A lot hinges on if Evan Mobley (16 PPG/9 RPG) takes another step as well. He’s a versatile defender and solid rebounder but if he can become more aggressive and physical on both ends and continues to expand his range that gives the Cavaliers another wrinkle to defend offensively. I’m expecting a 45-37 and top 5 season but they need to play at a faster pace to maximize their talent.
-This is a critical season for Jason Kidd as they had a disappointing ending to last year being the 11th seed after a Conference Finals appearance. They have a full off-season to try and get Luka and Kyrie to mesh together (27/6/5 for Kyrie, 32/9/8 for Luka), drafted an athletic front court player in Derrick Lively who should help with interior defense, as well as a lob threat and rebounding and added some veterans in free agency. Grant Williams could potentially be a Dorian Finney Smih replacement as he’s a solid defender and can hit 3 pointers, Derrick Jones Jr. gives them an additional defender and slasher while Richaun Holmes is a good high energy front court player as well. Seth Curry gives them good perimeter shooting and if Jaden Hardy and Josh Green can improve, the Mavericks have young wing high energy players that can become quality role players. Tim Hardaway Jr. is probably still going to be the 3rd option so while this team will probably have one of the highest scoring duo’s in the league with Luka and Kyrie, I don’t see this team getting higher than a 5th or 6th seed and a 44-38 record at best. In my opinion, they don’t have enough offensive firepower.
-The defending champions lost Bruce Brown and Jeff Green who were quality role players but the Nuggets still have their core together. The Murray/Jokic pick and roll is still hard to stop and Michael Porter Jr. still has another step to take as far as consistency and diversity on offense. Aaron Gordon has a good inside and outside mix and the Nuggets do a good job of moving the ball, defending and attacking the mismatch. Nikola Jokic’s versatility, skill and pace of the game is unmatched and he’ll likely have another MVP caliber season. I’m expecting Christian Braun to improve and carve out a consistent role and I’m expecting Peyton Watson to improve and take another step into a contributor. He has intriguing athleticism and plays with good energy. The Nuggets will be a 56 win team, top seed and will be in the Conference Finals minimum.
-The Pistons had a rough year with the worst record in the league last season because Cade Cunningham was out for the season. With coach Monty Williams, I’m expecting an improvement with this team. Cunningham is a quality scorer(17/5/5 his rookie season) that can get to his spots and being 6'8, he can see over the defense and distribute. Jaden Ivey (16 PPG and 5 APG) and Bojan Bogdanovic (22 PPG) will give the Pistons wing scoring. They also acquired Monte Morris and Joe Harris this offseason to help with distributing and floor spacing. Ausur Thompson will likely be an immediate impact player on both ends. Defensively he plays with high energy and has strong court vision. Jalen Duren is the best front court player on this roster especially with rebounding (9 PPG/9 RPG his rookie season) and they’re deep in the front court getting contributions from Isaiah Stewart (11 PPG/8 RPG), Bagley and James Wiseman who could potentially be at a make it or break it season. I’m expecting a double digit win improvement from last season from 17-65 to 31-51.