Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic (15) controls the ball against...

Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic (15) controls the ball against New York Knicks guard Alec Burks (18) during the third quarter at Madison Square Garden on Dec 4, 2021.  Credit: Brad Penner

Recent weeks have shown that timing on predictions matters. If we had tried this a month ago, we might have wondered if the Nets would have Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving in place.

We’d have put faith in the Boston Celtics’ leadership under Ime Udoka and praised the expected contributions of Danilo Gallinari. And we might have talked about the leadership of Draymond Green influencing Jordan Poole.

Things happen.

So maybe we’d like to wait even longer, but with the season beginning this week, here’s a guess at what the 2022-23 NBA season might bring.

MOST VALUABLE PLAYER: It takes a village, or at least a team, to make this happen — the award will go to a player from a team that finishes in the top four in its conference. So let’s guess that in the East, that means Milwaukee, Boston, Philadelphia and the Nets; in the West, it means Golden State, Phoenix, the Clippers and Denver. It’s tiring by now, but the Nuggets’ Nikola Jokic has put together amazing campaigns — and a jump in the standings with a healthy cast around him could lead to a third straight MVP for him. NIKOLA JOKIC.

ROOKIE OF THE YEAR: There was a clear tier in the draft with the top three plotted out in some order, even if the final pick might have surprised. But with that top pick, Paolo Banchero has emerged as the favorite — playing impressively in preseason with a team in need of him to put up numbers. But we’ll go to Sacramento with the fourth overall pick, left out of the conversation with Banchero, Chet Holmgren and Jabari Smith. KEEGAN MURRAY

MOST IMPROVED PLAYER: I’d put this one in the hands of the doctors and trainers. A year ago at this time, Zion Williamson looked as if his career might be in doubt. He was idled by injury again, and videos and photos appeared of him with alarming added weight. But the Pelicans put their trust in him, he did the same for the team and now, maybe, he’s healthy enough to play a nearly full season. That would put him in front for this award, ahead of Tyrese Maxey and Anthony Edwards. ZION WILLIAMSON.

COACH OF THE YEAR: Speaking of health, if — big if — Kawhi Leonard and Paul George are healthy and back to form, the Los Angeles Clippers can make a big jump this season. And if they do, expect the praise that has long followed the coach to an award that he’s been in the mix for in years past. TY LUE.



1. Milwaukee Bucks

2. Boston Celtics

3. Philadelphia 76ers

4. Miami Heat

5. Nets

6. Toronto Raptors

7. Cleveland Cavaliers

8. Atlanta Hawks

9. Knicks

10. Chicago Bulls

11. Charlotte Hornets

12. Washington Wizards

13. Detroit Pistons

14. Indiana Pacers

15. Orlando Magic


Bucks over 76ers. Too many questions for Celtics even with the experience of last year’s run. The Nets could always implode.


Golden State over Nuggets. Golden State has another run in it with depth and balance.


Bucks over Golden State.

Too much Giannis



1. Golden State

2. Denver Nuggets

3. Los Angeles Clippers

4. Phoenix Suns

5. Memphis Grizzlies

6. Dallas Mavericks

7. New Orleans Pelicans

8. Minnesota T-Wolves

9. Los Angeles Lakers

10. Sacramento Kings

11. Portland Trail Blazers

12. Utah Jazz

13. Houston Rockets

14. San Antonio Spurs

15. Oklahoma City Thunder