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NBA: Five major talking points ahead of the new season

There’s no shortage of contenders coming into the 2022/23 NBA season, but there are huge issues facing most of them. 

The Boston Celtics have already drifted out of being favourites due to off-court issues, while new favourites the Golden State Warriors are facing issues of their own.

The Celtics have seen their head coach suspended for the season, while the Warriors are dealing with the fallout of an altercation between two of their own players in practice. On top of that, the Brooklyn Nets are always good for drama and this preseason has been no different.

However, those are all well-worn issues, so here are five other talking points as we eagerly await tip-off on Tuesday night.

WhatNBA Season 2022/23
WhereUSA and Canada
When18th October 2022 - June 2023
How to watchSky Sports, NBA Pass, bet365's Sports Live Streaming
OddsGS Warriors 6/1, MIL Bucks 13/2, BOS Celtics 13/2, LA Clippers 13/2, BKN Nets 7/1 

Were the Nuggets the real deal?

We’re over two years on from the LA Lakers winning the championship at Disney World in Orlando, but questions remain. The big outstanding one surrounding the Denver Nuggets, who lost out to the Lakers in the Western Conference finals that season.

That Nuggets run saw them win a thrilling series with the Utah Jazz and dump out an LA Clippers side who were preseason favourites that year. Jamal Murray was exceptional, posting 26.5 points per game in that play-off run. That was Michael Porter Jr’s rookie year and since then he’s become a key part of this team.

Both Murray and Porter Jr were injured last season, which helped Nikola Jokic’s case for a back-to-back MVP win, but dented their play-off run. With Jokic at his peak and the Nuggets’ second and third-best options returning, the 17/1 Nuggets look like outside title contenders if they pick up where they left off two years ago.

Could negativity collapse the Suns?

The Phoenix Suns made the Conference Finals last season after having the best record in the league. They followed that up by securing their 2018 number one draft pick Deandre Ayton to a huge new contract. In spite of that, the mood is low around the Suns going into this season.

Last year’s displays have the Suns at 4/1 to make it out of the West for the second time in three years. However, their embarrassing Game 7 loss to the Dallas Mavericks will likely leave a mark, especially as Ayton tried to depart for a terrible Indiana Pacers side in free agency.

On media day he did little to dispel the idea that he’s been kept in Phoenix reluctantly, while the decision to drop Jae Crowder from the starting line-up hasn’t gone well, with the Suns going 1-3 in preseason.

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How high can the Cavs climb?

The Cavs were almost the story of the season last year, pushing into the third seed in the East before an injury to Jarrett Allen hit them hard. Without him they slid to eighth and lost both play-in games, but that shouldn’t take away from an encouraging season.

The Cavs have since added Donovan Mitchell without losing the core which pushed them high in the East last season. The consensus seems to be that the Cavs can now kick on into the top six, but having already hit third before adding All-Star Mitchell, they might end up blowing those expectations out of the water.

Are the Raptors East sleepers?

The Toronto Raptors finished fifth in the East last season and that was in spite of a lot of factors. They played with basically a seven-man rotation for the season, bedding in rookie Scottie Barnes and second-year centre Precious Achiuwa.

With their young side gaining play-off experience and a couple of vets, the Raptors should be hyped up for this season. Despite that, the 2019 champions are 14/1 just to win the East. Given how Nick Nurse can squeeze everything he can out of a roster, the Raptors’ ceiling deserves to be a talking point right now.

Race is on for Wembanyama

Finally, one big issue which will dominate this season isn’t even NBA-related. Despite playing for Metropolitans 92 in the French league, Victor Wembanyama is the name on the lips of every NBA executive right now.

The 7ft 4 18-year-old showed he had a guard’s handle, a vet’s defensive nous and a brilliant three-point shot in two Las Vegas exhibition games this month. He’s seen as a unicorn and it’s hard to see any way he isn’t the top draft pick in 2023.

That leads to a race to the bottom, with NBA teams going out of their way to tank the season to earn that pick. The San Antonio Spurs, Jazz and Pacers are all going that way, while a case can be made for half-a-dozen more to join them.  

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