Biggest Questions for the 2022-2023 NBA Season

As the 2022-2023 National Basketball Association (NBA) season gets underway, The Maroon-News looks at the biggest questions and storylines that can shape the year.

Can Russell Westbrook Adjust? 

Anywhere small forward LeBron James goes, winning is supposed to follow, right? James’s tenure with the Los Angeles Lakers has been a rocky road. After winning the pandemic-shortened 2020 NBA Championship, the Lakers have not made it past the first round of the playoffs. The addition of former MVP Russell Westbrook was supposed to bring the Lakers to new heights. Yet, the Lakers seem to be drowning. Now, with new head coach Darvin Ham, Los Angeles looks to get back to winning with a new formula: bringing Westbrook off the bench. 

When Westbrook, James and power forward Anthony Davis are on the floor together, the Lakers lack perimeter shooting. James, despite approaching the NBA all-time points record, is a pass-first player. Adding defensive guard Patrick Beverley into the mix has only decreased the shooting James needs to be surrounded by. Westbrook will need to put his ego – and his feuds – aside to make the Lakers successful. Coming off the bench can be the next big leap to prolong his near hall-of-fame career if he’s up for the challenge. 

Will Ben Simmons Lift Brooklyn? 

The Brooklyn Nets have been through the wringer this past year. After trading all of their draft capital for James Harden in January 2021, Harden wanted out by New Year’s Day 2022. In return for Harden, the Nets received former first-overall pick Ben Simmons. Simmons, who can not shoot outside of the key, is a point guard in a forward’s body. Surrounded by some of the best perimeter shooters in the world, this team is built for Simmons to thrive — as long as he can stay on the court. Simmons has not played in an NBA game since the 2021 playoffs, where former head coach Doc Rivers threw Simmons under the bus, blaming him for the Sixers’ early exit. Simmons then took the entire 2021-2022 season off, nursing injuries and improving his mental health. Now, Simmons seems primed for a back-bounce season where, instead of being pressured to shoot threes, Simmons can do the two things he does best: run in transition and play lockdown defense. If head coach Steve Nash does not try to fit the Ben Simmons square peg into the shooting round hole, the Nets could be a contender to come out of the Eastern Conference. 

Will the Warriors Move Past the Punch?

Yes, the Golden State Warriors did just win the NBA Finals. Yes, they do have the best shooter on the planet in Stephen Curry. Yes, they did just extend two pieces of their young core, forward Andrew Wiggins and guard Jordan Poole, to long-term deals. However, the large cloud of the practice punch forward Draymond Green threw at Poole looms over the Warriors’ title defense. While the young players get played, the mainstays of Golden State – Green and guard Klay Thomson – await new deals. The Warriors’ payroll and luxury tax for the 2023-24 season is currently set to be $483 million. The hardest thing in modern sports is keeping a good team together. If the Warriors can look past the punches and the finances and focus on the basketball, Golden State should be able to contend for another title. 

Will the Cavaliers Regret Rushing the Rebuild? 

Rebuilding after LeBron leaves is no small task. But, the Cavaliers have done everything right. The young nucleus of guard Darius Garland, forward Evan Mobley and center Jarrett Allen pushed Cleveland all the way to the play-in tournament this past season. After one year of minor success, the Cavs thought the next big leap would need to be an all-star. So they went out and traded for guard Donovan Mitchell. Was it too soon for an all-star? The East is as competitive as ever. The Celtics, Heat, Nets, Bucks and Sixers are all looking to contend for the title. Are the Cavs pushing into that discussion? Is Mitchell the right star to mesh with their core? The Cavs looked to make a splash this offseason, and maybe it will pan out.