The balance of power in the NBA has shifted from the Western Conference to the East in recent years.
While the Golden State Warriors emerged from the West to win the championship last year, the depth from top to bottom in the East makes it a fascinating prospect for the coming season. While the West is littered with sides that look set to tank, only the Indiana Pacers fit that bill in the East.
Meanwhile, there’s set to be a real Play-off chase this season with at least four championship contenders part of a nine-team group who are expecting to make the Play-offs. Of course, nine into eight won't go, while only one of those sides can make the NBA Finals next summer.
|NBA Season 2022/23
|USA and Canada
|October 18th 2022 - June 2023
|How to watch
|Sky Sports, NBA Pass, bet365's Sports Live Streaming
|BOS Celtics +700, GS Warriors +600, LA Clippers +700, MIL Bucks +650, BKN Nets +700
Just as there was at the end of last season, there’s a clear top-four in the Eastern Conference. The Miami Heat, Boston Celtics, Milwaukee Bucks and Philadelphia 76ers finished first to fourth last year and they’re all expected to contend again.
The Heat have gotten weaker since the Play-offs, with PJ Tucker joining the Sixers to close that gap. Off-court issues at the Boston Celtics saw the one-time title favourites slip to +700 fourth-favourites, clearing a path for the Bucks.
The 2021 champions went to four games against the Celtics in the Play-offs last term, despite missing their second-best player in Khris Middleton. Their only move has been to add the currently injured Joe Ingles, but the main attraction with the Bucks is Giannis Antetokounmpo. With the best player in the world on their roster, the Bucks are worthy favourites at +325 to win the Conference and return to the Finals.
The Brooklyn Nets arguably sit in a tier all of their own, given the different factors surrounding them. The intrigue around them has potentially gotten boring for some, but they remain a brilliant team on paper who are capable of completely falling apart.
Last season’s seventh-place finish is probably as bad as the Nets can really be. This time around they’ve got Kyrie Irving and Ben Simmons available, with Joe Harris back to fitness. As a supporting cast around Kevin Durant, it’s certainly contender-level.
However, Durant called for the coach and general manager to be sacked as part of his attempt to force an exit in the summer. The line from the team is that is all water under the bridge, but that seems like a tough issue to get past. Kyrie always has potential for distraction and Simmons suits up for his first NBA game since the Spring of 2021, leaving so many unknowns around the +700 shots for the title.
Below those five teams is another tier of contenders, who will be aiming to make the Play-offs at a minimum this term. The problem is that there are four of them, with one set to miss out.
The Atlanta Hawks and Cleveland Cavaliers are the standouts after pulling off two of the summer’s biggest moves. The Hawks went early to land Dejounte Murray, who is a brilliant backcourt partner for Trae Young. However, the Cavs are arguably the standout side after landing Donovan Mitchell. They went into the All-Star break in February in third, hanging in with the top sides until Jarrett Allen’s injury.
Having improved their side with Mitchell, the Cavs are an interesting outside option at +1200 to win the Eastern Conference. The Toronto Raptors and Chicago Bulls each finished in the top six last season, avoiding the Play-in tournament. However, with the Cavs and Nets looking stronger they are under pressure in the coming campaign.
Meanwhile, the Charlotte Hornets could slip after securing the final Play-in spot at the end of last season. Without Miles Bridges and with LaMelo Ball injured, the Hornets look vulnerable. The New York Knicks will expect to improve with Jalen Brunson added in the offseason, but the Detroit Pistons are interesting outsiders.
The Pistons have built a young team which started to click at the tail end of last season. They are +925 outsiders to make the Play-offs, but they could sneak into the Play-in if Cade Cunningham picks up where he left off last term.