We are now less than a month away from the 2022-23 NBA season, which means it’s once again time for my annual preseason articles. I’m tipping off my preseason triad with my award predictions. Just like last year, I’ll list my top five favorites (and a few honorable mentions) before giving my winner for each major award. Let’s get started!
Sixth Man of the Year
Honorable Mentions: Bogdan Bogdanovic, Bobby Portis Jr., Kelly Oubre Jr., Jordan Clarkson
(With a Jae Crowder trade coming soon, Cam Johnson will probably be starting this year.)
The Memphis Grizzlies were 20-5 without Ja Morant last season, and a big reason for that is their backup one, Tyus Jones. While he won’t wow you with flashy dimes, Tyus is an excellent floor general because he rarely turns the ball over. He can always be relied on to make good decisions with the ball and that’s a crucial point guard skill.
LeVert struggled some in a lesser role when he joined the Cavaliers at the trade deadline. He is best with the ball in his hands creating for himself and he didn’t consistently get that opportunity with the Cavs. Now that Donovan Mitchell has filled the starting shooting guard slot, LeVert should flourish as a microwave sixth man.
The reigning 6MOY, Herro won the title in 2022 while leading his team in shot attempts per game. A bench player rarely gets that big of a role, especially for a contending team, so he had an easy route to the award. If he comes off the pine once again this season, he will be in the running to go back-to-back.
A full season of Klay Thompson means 2022 young breakout star Jordan Poole will be moved to the bench. That means Golden State will be throwing Poole parties for opposing seconds units all year long. Poole is a crafty and confident bucket which will make him a serious case for an award that usually goes to the bench player who scores the most.
In order to keep the best defense in the league together, Boston has opted to keep Marcus Smart, Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, Al Horford, and Robert Williams as their starters. This leaves new addition Malcolm Brogdon in a bench role, making a Celtics team coming off a Finals appearance even scarier. Brogdon is a top sixty player when he manages to stay healthy and should contend for 6MOY if he does just that this year.
2022-23 6MOY: Jordan Poole
Most Improved Player
Honorable Mentions: Kevin Porter Jr., Devin Vassell, Onyeka Okongwu, Precious Achiuwa, Jaden McDaniels, Talen Horton-Tucker
After a sensational 2022 playoff run, Brunson has a lot of hype around what he can do in New York. Some even think he’ll make the All-Star game. While that might be a little overboard, Brunson will have a big year if he can pick up where he left off in the postseason.
Wendell Carter Jr.
Moving on from former All-Star center Nikola Vucevic in 2021 gave Orlando a new star big in Wendell Carter. He’s very versatile and skilled for a player of his size as he can score from all three levels, pass, and defend. I can see him reaching near top fifty status this season and being named a MIP finalist.
Wendell’s teammate Markelle Fultz impressed big-time in just 18 games in 2021-22, and in a full season, he’s due to make a big jump. While the former first-overall pick will probably never live up to his pre-draft expectations, he is going to be a good starter for a long time.
Landing in Indiana at the deadline last season allowed Haliburton to put his floor generalship and highly efficient scoring on full display. He’ll be given the keys to the offense this year and put himself in All-Star conversations which will make him a favorite for MIP.
For the second season in a row, the Spurs have a legitimate MIP contender. Last year it was Dejounte Murray, and this time it’s Keldon Johnson. Keldon already made big strides in 2021-22, specifically as a shooter, and now with Dejounte gone, he’ll be able to continue to develop as the top dog in San Antonio.
2022-23 MIP: Tyrese Haliburton
Rookie of the Year
Honorable Mentions: Jalen Williams, Tari Eason, Jaden Hardy, Jalen Duren, Johnny Davis, Jeremy Sochan, Ochai Agbaji
(Chet Holmgren will be out for the whole season otherwise he would be in my top five)
The Kings were criticized on social media for this pick, but I think it was the right move. Keegan Murray is a less clunky fit next to De’Aaron Fox than Jaden Ivey would be. Murray is pretty similar to his new frontcourt mate Harrison Barnes, a do-it-all forward who can slide into any lineup. Sacramento is looking like they could be sneaky good this season and Murray will be a big part of that.
The aforementioned Ivey is joining Cade Cunningham in Detroit to form a very promising backcourt of the future. He’s an explosive athlete who creates for himself and others and he won’t have too much responsibility early since he’ll be sharing the ball with Cade. The key for Ivey will be knocking down triples when he’s playing off the ball, as being effective as a one and a two will be important for him to fit next to Cade.
The first overall pick is the best player in this class in my opinion. His ability to score from the mid-range and pass at 6’10” is unique and he has number one option written all over him. Orlando has everything in place but that, so if Paolo lives up to the hype he will complete this Magic roster and probably win ROTY.
Jabari Smith Jr.
If Jabari Smith is as advertised, he will be a knockdown catch-and-shoot threat and defensive menace at the four spot from day one. His Summer League performance was worrying for some but usually Summer League isn’t telling of how well a rookie will play in the regular season so I’m not in that boat. I’m expecting a high-level rookie campaign from Jabari.
Rivaling Jabari Smith for the best shooter in this class is Bennedict Mathurin. His beautiful, high release allows him to connect on treys over defenders easily and he’s also a fantastic shooter on the move. He’ll be getting a lot of good looks with Tyrese Haliburton running the show which means he’ll have the numbers to be in the Rookie of the Year race.
2022-23 ROTY: Paolo Banchero
Defensive Player of the Year
Honorable Mentions: Marcus Smart, Jaren Jackson Jr., Mikal Bridges, Anthony Davis
Most of the usual suspects will be atop the DPOY race once again in 2022-23, including the best player in basketball. Giannis’s help-side defense remains remarkable and he will continue to dominate on that end.
Giannis’s teammate is the best guard defender in the association. His lateral movement and screen navigation are impeccable and it’s virtually impossible to beat him on a drive. Since Marcus Smart won last year I think it’s very possible another guard could win the award in 2023.
The three-time DPOY has joined a new team where he will have more defensive help than he did in Utah. Jaden McDaniels, Anthony Edwards, Kyle Anderson, and Taurean Prince form a solid perimeter unit that will relieve some pressure from Gobert to block everything. If the Wolves are good enough on D as a whole there’s a chance that Gobert ties the all-time record with four DPOYs.
Robert Williams III
The anchor of the best defense in the league, Robert Williams is entering just his fifth season and is already one of the best shot blockers in the association. His reach, timing, and 40” vertical allow him to swat almost anything put up near him. He may be at a disadvantage because he’ll miss time to start the year but an All-Defensive team is definitely in the cards for Rob Will.
After being in the running for the award for the last few seasons, it seems like Bam is due to finally take the crown. It’s rare that a big man is as versatile on D as he is. He’s my pick to win the award in 2023.
2022-23 DPOY: Bam Adebayo
Most Valuable Player
Honorable Mentions: Jayson Tatum, Kevin Durant, Devin Booker, Damian Lillard, Zion Williamson
Trae Young became one of the best offensive players in the NBA last year with his ballsy bucket-getting and phenomenal pick-and-roll play. The Hawks improved their roster this summer by acquiring All-Star guard Dejounte Murray and if they are up there with the best teams in the league then Trae has a shot at winning an MVP.
My pick for MVP in 2022, Giannis won’t need to earn any hardware this year to prove he’s the best player in the world. However, assuming he doesn’t get abducted by aliens he will still be firmly in the running.
The reigning back-to-back MVP will be at a disadvantage in the MVP race this year because of voter fatigue, but with the Nuggets fully healthy again you can’t count him out. Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. are returning and Denver at full strength is a legitimate contender. If the boys in Mile High City hit 60+ wins and Jokic is his usual self he might make history.
Embiid is coming off two runner-up campaigns and is now poised to finally get over the hump. The 76ers could take the first seed in the stacked East and Embiid will continue to be a dominant force which should be enough for him to finally get the trophy.
Luka-ball is one of the most exciting systems in the league today, and it’s worked well so far. They made it to the Conference Finals last year and now have a more talented cast around their young supernova. He’ll make the leap to become a cemented top-five player and be a top-five MVP candidate.
2022-23 MVP: Joel Embiid
Here are my All-League team predictions:
All-NBA First Team
All-NBA Second Team
All-NBA Third Team
All-Defensive First Team
All-Defensive Second Team
Jaren Jackson Jr.
Robert Williams III
All-Rookie First Team
Jabari Smith Jr.
All-Rookie Second Team