2022-23 Kia Season Preview

Trending Topics: Who are the 3 best teams on paper in the West?

Assessing the top rosters in the Western Conference before all 30 teams begin play next month.

Relive the 2021-22 season, which culminated in an NBA title for the Golden State Warriors.

As the 2022-23 season draws near, our writers will weigh in on some intriguing topics around the league.


Who are the 3 best teams on paper in the West?


Steve Aschburner:

  1. Golden State Warriors
  2. Memphis Grizzlies
  3. Phoenix Suns

Why would the Warriors be less of a favorite to repeat, considering how well they married their twin trajectories — developing young guys, heeding the championship appetites of their core — to achieve their triumph in June? Young guys such as Jordan Poole, Jonathan Kuminga and presumably James Wiseman can reliably help the old heads Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green. Memphis might be the hungriest team in the NBA, though, with a small-market chip on their shoulders, tough young pieces throughout, and the league’s most electric player, Ja Morant. And I’m not convinced the Phoenix Suns can’t splice their 2021 postseason to their mature performance of last season. If the Deandre Ayton wrangling didn’t damage their chemistry, they still — on paper — impress me as repeat Finals customers, once removed.


Brian Martin: 

  1. Golden State Warriors
  2. Phoenix Suns
  3. LA Clippers

Golden State’s four-ring trio of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green is back for another run. The Warriors have the young talent — Jordan Poole’s follow-up to a breakout season, the continued development of Moses Moody, Jonathan Kuminga and James Wiseman — to not only complement the core, but keep this title contention window open. Despite an ugly loss to Dallas in Game 7 of the Western Conference semifinals, don’t forget that Phoenix won eight more games than any team last season. Yes, Chris Paul is 37, but the rest of the core — Deandre Ayton (24), Devin Booker (25), Mikal Bridges (26) and Cam Johnson (26) — is young. That embarrassing loss to end last season can either break a team or fuel them to redemption. The phrase “if he’s healthy” is permanently attached to Kawhi Leonard’s name when projecting the Clippers this season. If he’s healthy, LA boasts one of the deepest and most talented rosters in the league. On paper, LA edges out Denver and its two “if he’s healthy” players: Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr.


Mark Medina:

  1. Golden State Warriors
  2. LA Clippers
  3. Memphis Grizzlies

The Warriors have the right ingredients to defend their NBA championship. They have All-Star caliber players that are in their prime and fully healthy (Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and Andrew Wiggins). They have a proven coach that can handle stars and role players (Steve Kerr). They have promising young players equipped for bigger roles (Jordan Poole, Jonathan Kuminga and James Wiseman). The Clippers could disrupt the Warriors’ plans, though. Kawhi Leonard will return after missing last season and part of the 2021 playoffs because of a torn ACL in his right knee. Paul George is expected to be fully healthy. And the Clippers have kept most of their key rotation players (Nicolas Batum, Amir Coffey and Ivica Zubac) while adding veteran point guard John Wall. The Grizzlies have enough youth and talent to build on last season’s second-round appearance. But they will have to wait their turn for another season.

The Clippers could make a return to the top of the West standings.


Shaun Powell:

  1. LA Clippers
  2. Golden State Warriors
  3. Denver Nuggets

This is oh so dangerous to conclude that the Clippers, still waiting to justify the Kawhi Leonard-Paul George tandem, are suddenly going to put it all together and also thwart the defending-champion Warriors. John Wall — the X of all X-factors — will have a say-so in the matter. It’s not often when a defending champion returns with a higher ceiling than the previous season, but such is the case with the Warriors if only because James Wiseman will return and Jordan Poole will likely have another gear left (and he’ll be playing for a contract). If Denver can be more than respectable without Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. — as was the case last season — what about when they return? Nikola Jokic could use the help. And newcomer Kentavious Caldwell-Pope will bring championship experience, big-shot making and perimeter defense.


John Schuhmann:

  1. Golden State Warriors
  2. LA Clippers
  3. Phoenix Suns

If you were to look at the fifth- and eighth-best players in each rotation, the Clippers might not be in the top three. But success in this league is driven by the very top of the roster, and the Clippers have two of the best two-way wings in the league. Speaking of the very top of the roster, the Warriors have, arguably, the most impactful offensive player and the most impactful defensive player in the league. Those two are surrounded by championship experience and some young guys with room to grow. The Suns were, by a wide margin, the best regular season team last year, finishing in the top five in both offensive and defensive efficiency. They have a really good top six and they’re getting big man Dario Saric back from injury.


Michael C. Wright:

  1. Golden State Warriors
  2. LA Clippers
  3. Phoenix Suns

The reigning champs showed resilience working through early growing pains last season to peak at just the right time. The loss of players such as Otto Porter Jr. and Gary Payton II might hurt some, but the additions of JaMychal Green and Donte DiVincenzo should offset that somewhat, along with some of the club’s younger players taking more prominent roles this upcoming season. Let’s also remember that Klay Thompson should be even better after easing into last season coming off major injuries. All that said, it seems like we’re sleeping on the Clippers, though. And that’s a mistake because the duo of Kawhi Leonard and Paul George will be hell to deal with along with newcomer John Wall, who seems poised to return to the explosive player we were accustomed to watching. The Suns come into this season with virtually the same squad that nearly captured a title in 2020-21 but with a renewed sense of urgency after last season’s shocking loss to Dallas in the semifinals. Expect to see a laser-focused Phoenix group in 2022-23.


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