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The 7th Annual 100% Accurate Canis Hoopus Opening Night Predictions

The Wolves enter the world of high expectations for the first time in a long time Monday evening when they open the 2022-23 season. How does it pan out? The Canis Hoopus staff discusses.

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Minnesota Timberwolves 2022 Media Day Photo by Jordan Johnson/NBAE via Getty Images

As the Minnesota Timberwolves embark on their 33rd season as an NBA franchise, they enter the world of the relative unknown; the expectations of a sustainable contender. While that expectation is in the air among fans, a greater one lingers; for the seventh consecutive year, the team of basketball-watching bloggers at Canis Hoopus will predict the road ahead with unmatched least we would like to think.

Before we all get on the roller coaster of emotion that will be the 2022-23 season, we took a pass a predicting a few storylines of the season.

Los Angeles Clippers v Minnesota Timberwolves Photo by David Berding/Getty Images

2022-23 Wolves Predictions

You play to win the game: Will the Wolves eclipse their O/U win total of 48.5? (line provided by DraftKings Sportsbook)

Yes - Jack Borman

The Wolves have one of the most internally respected coaches in the league in Chris Finch. I trust he’ll optimize the immense talent available to him, position this team with home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs, and finish with the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference at 58-24. The easiest schedule in the NBA will play a huge role here, too.

Yes - Leo Sun

Look, I went two for six in last year’s predictions, but that’s what happens when your takes are as hot as your last name. I was one of two people who mashed the under (S/O John!) last season, but I was more than happy to eat crow. Though I’m going with the over, I predicted a 49-33 record on Canis Pulsus and I’m sticking with it. I say, slightly underwhelm in the regular season, and slightly overwhelm in the postseason!

Yes - Mike Kenyanya

The Wolves' win record will not start with a 4. That’s right! 50-32

Yes - Tyler Metcalf

Optimism is such an uncomfortable feeling when it comes to the Timberwolves, but how can you not be excited about this team? Who knows what the playoffs will look like, but this team should be a monster in the regular season.

Yes - Mike O’Hagan

I see I’m the fifth “yes” in a row. That makes me nervous, but I am fairly confident that the Wolves are a 50-win quality regular season team — barring poor health. The impending leaps from Anthony Edwards and Jaden McDaniels aside, Karl-Anthony Towns has basically been a walking elite regular-season offense, and Rudy Gobert has been a walking elite regular-season defense. If those two play a normal amount of games, this will go over.

Yes - Gabe Schneider

Health is a huge part of this, of course, so if the Wolves stay relatively healthy throughout the season, 50 wins is absolutely achievable. If relatively healthy, there’s no doubt Finch can lead this group to at least 50-32.

Yes - Mitchell Hansen

Let’s keep the “yes” train rolling. Obviously, health will play a key factor in the Wolves hitting the over on the 46.5 win total, but if they are able to stay relatively healthy throughout the year it should happen. There is too much talent on the roster this season, and a team that finished with 46 wins in 2021-22 will improve that total this year while crossing the 50-win mark.

Yes - Aidan Berg

I’m going over for a few reasons. One, the West will have at least four teams tanking for Victor Wembanyama and at least two in the Wolves’ division in the Oklahoma City Thunder and Utah Jazz. Two, Minnesota’s schedule is front-loaded with bad teams, games they can win on talent alone while this new group gels. However, I don’t expect them to smash the number: 49-33.

Metropolitans 92 v G League Ignite Photo by Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images

Yes - Brendan Hedtke

I think this is a pretty easy yes. The Wolves are a better team than last season on both sides of the ball. They are deeper than they were last season and they’ve started to build winning habits. Injuries could derail anything, but we can’t predict that.

Yes - John Meyer

This has to be the first unanimous OVER in the history of this column.

You know expectations have really shifted when we’re all confidently talking about 50+ wins but that’s what happens when the new POBO, Tim Connelly, went all in this summer on Rudy Gobert. This is probably the deepest roster in franchise history and while they’ll likely need to iron out some early kinks that come along with the twin towers approach, they’re built to roll through the regular season with a mixture of All-Stars, proven vets, burgeoning U25 talent, and an excellent head coach in Finchy.

Yes - Andrew Carlson

I’m pretty close on this one, just because I think 48 wins is almost dead on the number.

There’s no doubt the west is going to be better this year, and we have no idea how many tanking teams the Wolves will run into that aren’t already in the Victor Wembanyama sweepstakes. I want to be able to see a little more from Karl-Anthony Towns and Rudy Gobert as well before I start chatting about the big 5-0 on a consistent basis. The other obvious thing needed here is a relatively clean bill of health, something looking back I took for granted last season relative to previous. However, the team will certainly be buoyed by an easy early schedule while still trying to work the kinks out on a brand new team. Over it is.

Yes - Calif Poncy

I believe that Minnesota will eclipse this number a lot earlier than many expect.

While teams like Denver, Portland, Golden State, the Clippers, and many others will probably be better than they were last season. Despite that fact, many of these teams are older and will probably rest a lot of their stars to stay fresh come the playoffs in a treacherous west, while teams like the Wolves and the Grizzlies are filled with young talent who is hungry to go deep in the postseason. The addition of Rudy Gobert also significantly raises the floor of the Wolves, and with assumed development from Anthony Edwards, I think the sky is the limit for Minnesota this REGULAR SEASON.

Brooklyn Nets v Minnesota Timberwolves Photo by Jordan Johnson/NBAE via Getty Images

Do you foresee the “Twin City Towers” duo working? If so, how long will it take?

Yes, but be patient - Jack Borman

There’s too much talent and too much experience in the locker room between Towns, Gobert and Finch; they all possess exceptionally bright basketball minds and understand what it will take to make this experiment work on both ends of the floor. How long is a better question; both players missed most of training camp and only played in one preseason game together. I expect it to take roughly 30 games for the two of them to fully find a rhythm together.

Yes - Leo Sun

I see their development like a bell curve, for better or worse. Given that they’ll probably play 24 minutes or less together before the season begins, it’ll obviously take a handful of games for them to play together before getting their chemistry on point. That said, when it works, it’s going to be a beautiful yin and yang pairing. I do think eventually the shine will wear off though. I don’t necessarily mean during the 2023 postseason, but in season two or three together of this experiment.

Yes - Mike Kenyanya

Only until it doesn’t. Once everything is clicking, this pairing will wreak havoc and will be very successful. But like we’ve seen with many other phenomena in this league, people will figure it out. NBA coaches are talented and will move around the Xs and Os. This won’t result in irrelevance but just a “come back to earth” moment. And that’s why the playoffs are the true test of any team. Anyone can beat anyone one time. Can you do it 4 times?

Yes - Tyler Metcalf

The way I think about it is simply just substituting Jarred Vanderbilt for Rudy Gobert, and it’s a massive upgrade. I love what Vanderbilt brought last season, but Gobert’s size, rim protection rebounding, vertical spacing, and hands are a clear improvement. There will likely be a learning curve as they figure it out defensively, but I think the offensive fit will be surprisingly seamless.

Yes - Gabe Schneider

Assuming KAT will be able to adjust to a new role on defense, I’m confident that it will work (playoffs, too). Unless KAT starts to seriously struggle defensively (which I don’t think is likely), I think the offense will simply be too talented to really stall out. Jaden McDaniels struggling from beyond the arc would make things a bit more complicated, though. A concern of mine is this team’s ability to effectively switch between drop coverage (Gobert at the 5) and the “flying around” style (KAT at the 5) during games.

Minnesota Timberwolves v Utah Jazz Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images

Yes - Mitchell Hansen

Anytime you add an All-Star talent such as Rudy Gobert, it’s going to add to a team in some form. When pairing a post presence like Gobert alongside a stretch big like Karl-Anthony Towns, that duo will feed off each other and will help each other take their games to the next level while leading the Wolves to a top-five finish in the Western Conference. This duo will take some time to gel, but once they do, they will be a headache for opposing defenses to deal with on a nightly basis.

Yes - Aidan Berg

It kind of depends on what your definition of “working” is. I think Minnesota will be better than last year and that Towns and Gobert will be the team’s best players, which can only qualify as a “yes.” I also think Towns will have the most impactful defensive season of his career; Gobert’s presence will motivate him to be hyperactive, and just the presence of two 7-footers who care should form an imposing defense. I have my questions about the offensive spacing (how many times do we expect KAT to whip a fastball off Gobert’s hands from five feet away?), but I trust Finch and the talent of the stars to have it humming by midseason.

Yes - Brendan Hedtke

I think both players complement each other’s skill sets very well. Will they be the number-one duo in the league? No. But, they will work together well enough to push this Wolves team towards success that 12-year-old me could only dream of. It might take a while to get the full grasp of what these two will look like - and they’ll forever evolve as teammates - but the fruits of their collective labor should be apparent during the opening stretch of the season.

An argument for no - John Meyer

I do think Towns/Gobert will work quite well because each is a force of nature on one end of the floor and great players usually make things work out. Since everyone has already said ‘yes’ let’s make the case for why this partnership won’t pan out. First, it doesn’t fit in the pace and space small-ball era, and this dinosaur duo will get run off the court by fast, quick, elite shooting, switchable lineups. KAT won’t be able to defend on the perimeter like the Wolves and Towns believe he can, and they’ll get roasted in defensive transition with two centers.

The spacing on offense is going to be more jacked up than anyone envisioned, forcing a lot more lineups with the two apart—and if they don’t play a lot together, then the duo isn’t really truly working. With Rudy in the paint and hanging around the rim, Towns’ scoring will decrease; he will grow frustrated with fewer post touches. The multiple defensive schemes, depending on lineup combinations, will confuse half the roster and the defense will never come together as a top 5 group. Just an argument, though!

Yes (but it will take time) - Andrew Carlson

Bouncing off my previous thought about getting padded by the early schedule of underwhelming and tanking teams, those games will absolutely necessary. The Wolves are just not used to running with as good of a screener as Rudy, and the way he plays offense in being a dive, rim-running big that loves to seal is going to take time to get used to in being able to distribute him the ball. The main ball handlers on the roster just haven’t had that in awhile. KAT doesn’t do it, and that’s why Rudy was brought in; to complement him.

The other thing that scares me right away is KAT getting out in rotation, frankly. He showed last year he can get out on the perimeter and play at the level of the screen at a pretty high level, but getting more into a defensive flow and having a wing-type role defensively is going to be interesting to watch. He doesn’t move super fluid and can have heavy feet at times. His struggles in Thibs’ system as a rim protector came from decision-making and not reading plays correctly. Things like this will take a substantial amount of games for the team to figure out and make appropriate adjustments. The good news? The Wolves have the best rim protector this decade hanging out behind them.

2022 NBA Playoffs - Minnesota Timberwolves v Memphis Grizzlies Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images

Excuse Me?

Droppin’ Dimes

D’Angelo Russell leads the league in assists per game (11.0). Russell is wrongly tabbed as a score-first point guard. While yes, he takes some less than stellar shots, he makes an even greater number of high-level playmaking reads with impressive passes to match. This offense should lead the NBA in scoring once again; and if that happens, Russell will play a huge role as a guy getting everyone involved, from Gobert in the pick-and-roll to Towns spotting up, to a cutting Ant, or to McDaniels on the lob. — JB

Slo Mo Averages Mo Minutes than McDaniels

Nothing against Big Mac and his continuing ascension to stardom. I truly believe there is no denying the absolute force that he is on defense and is becoming on offense. That said, McDaniels will likely be playing the majority of his minutes at the small forward position, leaving him to guard some of the shiftier players in the league. Instead of stalking players from the weak side and sniping them from at the rim, he may find himself in foul trouble more than ever before. That means human Swiss army knife, Kyle Anderson, will come in to pick up the pieces. His basketball IQ and versatility will allow him to substitute as a defensive specialist for Jaden, an effective utility big for KAT, or even a primary ballhandler for D’Lo or Ant. I see Anderson averaging closer to 28 minutes with McDaniels at 27. — LS

Bryn It On Minnesota Repeats in Utah

We’re going back-to-back, baby! Zach LaVine did it in the dunk contest and now KAT has a chance to do it in the Three-Point Contest. Three-point specialist master Bryn Forbes will accompany KAT during All-Star weekend in Salt Lake City after shooting north of 43% from distance halfway through the season (Forbes shot 45.2% on 8+ attempts per game in the Bucks championship season). The finals will be a Minnesota Matchup: KAT vs. Forbes. Towns will put up an admirable 28 in the final round, but Forbes will go to the Brynstar Depths to set a record 38 points, missing just a single moneyball. — LS

McDaniels Walks the Talk - Is Awarded to an All-Defense Team

Timberwolves fans are more than aware of McDaniels’ freakish defensive abilities. I think this is the year that the rest of the league at a large figures it out too. McDaniels and Edwards have made their commitment to defense well-known this off-season. The only thing that has held McDaniels back has been the incessant fouling. Now, with one of the best rim protectors in league history behind him, I think we see a lot less of the unnecessary hand-checking. McDaniels should have more confidence and freedom in knowing who is behind him, and that should result in some meaningful recognition. - TM

D-Loaded — Russell flourishes leading to free-agency bidding war

With Russell, potential is always lurking, and it keeps you around. It’s not just what we believe but what we’ve seen flashes of. While it’s worth noting that the beginning of his career wasn't the most stable, whose was? Ultimately, consistency is something he has to deliver, and this season he will. Russell is one of the most talented playmakers in the NBA. This roster has so many different weapons and he will flourish as the shot caller, and finally finish loading. Russell will be highly sought after as an unrestricted free agent this season and I honestly don’t know if he comes back to Minnesota.

Portland Trail Blazers v Minnesota Timberwolves Photo by Jordan Johnson/NBAE via Getty Images

Anthony Edwards makes the All-Star team

Making the ASG in the West is a lot harder than it sounds, but Ant has a lot going for him. For one, the team is going to be good and he is also very good at basketball. Good start. Aside from that, though, he is easily the most “popular” of the Wolves three potential All-Stars. If Edwards, Towns, and Gobert were all having similarly good seasons, I’d expect Edwards to get the nod over at least one of them. The biggest inhibitor here, aside from his own play, will be giving a team multiple All-Stars. — MO

Wolves end up a top-four team, send three to All-Star Game

Let’s get crazy! Minnesota will build upon a 46-win season a year ago and will reach the 50-win mark, which will be good enough for the team to finish in the top four of the Western Conference. The Wolves will have the homecourt advantage in the first round of the playoffs, advancing beyond the opening round for the first time since 2003-04. Along the way, Minnesota will also manage to send three players to the All-Star Game in a star-studded West, with Anthony Edwards being the top vote-getter on the team followed by Rudy Gobert and Karl-Anthony Towns. — MH

Minnesota enters hallowed ground, finishing top 10 in both offensive and defensive rating

Every year, a few well-balanced teams pull off the feat of finishing in the top 10 in both offensive and defensive rating. Every year, that group features true contenders who make deep playoff runs — the Celtics and Heat made the list last season, and the Bucks and Suns qualified on their way to the Finals the previous year. The Wolves are primed to reach the same level. Gobert is virtually a top-10 defense on his own; in the seven seasons he was the full-time starter in Utah, the Jazz only fell outside the top 10 in defensive rating once (12th in 2020). The offense, meanwhile, is coming off an eighth-place finish in 2022, upgraded the big man spot next to Towns with a player specially fit for Russell and should get steps forward from Edwards, McDaniels and possibly more. — AB

Scorching Offense - Wolves finish top 3 in offensive rating

This Wolves offense was great last season, finishing 7th in the league in offensive rating. I’m on the record stating that Rudy Gobert helps this offense more than he helps the defense. His screening will unlock new ways for Edwards, Towns, Russell & Co. to score. Couple that with a likely jump in efficiency and free throw attempts for Edwards, a more energized Towns, and the best version of D’Angelo Russell the league has ever seen, the Wolves will be battling for the best offense in the entire association. — BH

Brooklyn Nets v Minnesota Timberwolves Photo by David Berding/Getty Images

Jaylen Nowell finishes Top 3 in Sixth Man of the Year

Sixth man? We should call it the Great Bench Scorer On A Really Good Team Award instead. It’s no wonder why players like Jordan Poole, Christian Wood, Malcolm Brogdon, Jordan Clarkson, and Bones Hyland find themselves high on most odds lists to win 6MOY in 2022-23. Another lesser-known bucket supplier is doing big business in Minnesota, and he’s poised for a breakout contract year. Without Malik Beasley in the picture, coach Chris Finch has been talking up fourth-year combo scoring guard Jaylen Nowell all summer long in preparation for a large role off the bench. Tons of those Beasley shots should be redirected to Nowell, who has proven he’s ready for the larger workload. His Per 36 numbers a season ago already show a player that can score efficiently: 19.5 points on .475/.394/.783 shooting splits. If the Wolves win 50+ games, voters should recognize the biggest bench scorer on the club in Nowell. — JM

Wolves See First Defensive Player of the Year in Franchise History

There were PLENTY of arguments made over the summer as to why the Gobert trade was bad. One of them outlined the decrease in Gobert’s defensive rating over the last three years as a form of decline. What is failed to mention in that take is the decrease in defensive skill and effort that took place around him in Utah as years went on. Donovan Mitchell built his pedigree on defense coming into the league and got worse guarding the perimeter. Joe Ingles didn’t get any younger, and as a matter of fact, got severely injured. Bojan Bogdanovic is not especially good on the perimeter, and Mike Conley got increasingly worse as well. If the Wolves find their way into the top 10, or top 5 for that matter in defensive rating, Gobert will have a large part, that’s not shocking. But just as much of that comes from how well McDaniels guards the perimeter, Edwards makes the two-way leap, and D’Angelo Russell can point guard the defense with KAT adjusting to rotating. I think most of that can happen at a high level, and a slight uptick in aid, can give Gobert a pathway to getting the crown back. — AC

Ant finishes top 5 in MVP voting

I may be thinking big here, but I won’t be talked off this until the ballot comes out. I think Minnesota is going to shock people with their regular performance, getting close to the franchise record of 58 wins set in 03-04, and winning right around the 55 mark. If that happens that almost locks the Wolves into a top 3 playoff spot, and Ant will have to have made the jump to true superstardom. With players like Giannis, Embiid, Jokic and many others currently in their primes, this is a tall task for Edwards who is still only 21 years old, but sometimes when players are generationally special they make it known early, and I think Ant will fall into that category this season.

San Antonio Spurs v Minnesota Timberwolves Photo by David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images

“Shot Clock Winding Down!”

  • Karl-Anthony Towns averages a triple-double over the course of at least one calendar month of the season. — JB
  • Chris Finch wins Coach of the Year and is emerges as a consistent answer among NBA media, players, and executives as one of the league’s three best coaches — JB
  • Anthony Edwards sets the franchise bar even higher, breaking Towns’ previous record of 60 points in a single game by flame-throwing his way to 64 points. — LS
  • Though he has another year on his contract after the 2022-2023 season, Jordan McLaughlin extension talks will become louder and louder as the season progresses. — LS
  • Rumors begin to swirl about a potential Kevin Garnett jersey retirement sometime in the 2023 calendar year. — LS
  • Anthony Edwards leads the team in scoring, is over 25 points per game, and makes his first All-Star game. - TM
  • It takes three to tango; a third party enters the Lore, Rodriguez ownership group to fulfill Glen Taylor’s hefty Venmo request — MK
  • Jaylen Nowell finishes the season averaging 15+ PPG and finishes top-3 in 6MOY voting. — MO
  • Jaden McDaniels silences all doubters, shoots 37% from three this season and makes an All-Defense team - GS
  • Minnesota features the NBA’s top-scoring offense for the second straight season, also leading the league in bench scoring after finishing eighth in that category in 2021-22. — MH
  • D’Angelo Russell averages at least eight assists per game and cracks the league’s top-eight in the metric. — AB
  • Rudy Gobert knocks down more than one corner three. — BH
  • Wolves will finish #1 in offensive rebounds per game. They finished sixth last season at 11.2/game; Memphis was first at 14.1. The starters will wreak havoc on the o-boards. — JM
  • Rudy Gobert breaks Naz Reid’s longstanding franchise record for 2-point field goal percentage in a season (currently 59.7%). Naz Reid. — AC
  • There will be an altercation on the court this year between Russell Westbrook and a member of the Wolves (betting favorites would be Karl-Anthony Towns or Jaden McDaniels) - Pat Bev de-escalates, or tries to involve D-Lo for no reason. —AC
  • Anthony Edwards cements his status as one of the league's best U-22 stars and makes All-NBA and All-Defense 2nd team. — CP
  • Minnesota finishes with the league's best defensive rating. —CP

Houston Rockets v Indiana Pacers Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

General 2022-23 NBA Predictions

Bees Don’t Survive the Winter

The Charlotte Hornets, not any of the prime tanking candidates, finish with the NBA’s worst record. It has been an offseason to forget in Buzz City. They got blown out of 2022 Play-In game; fired James Borrego one year after extending his contract for several years; Montrezl Harrell got arrested for felony drug charges; hired Kenny Atkinson after a near two-month search, then he bailed on them and Hornets had to settle for re-hiring Steve Clifford; Miles Bridges accidentally posted a picture of himself drinking pink lemonade lean, before his arrest for felony domestic violence on the eve of free agency; they traded the 13th pick for a late first in 2023 and four seconds; made no real moves via free agency or trade; both 2022 picks suffer injuries and miss entire summers of development; went 0-5 in the preseason; LaMelo Ball sprained an ankle in preseason and will miss time to start the year; James Bouknight arrested for DUI — his third traffic stop since February. So, yeah. Not a lot going right in Charlotte. — JB

Benn is a 10 Mathurin Finishes as Rookie of the Year

It won’t be long before the 20-year-old Canadian is getting the starting nod for the tanking Indiana Pacers. Bennedict Mathurin is the real deal and will have plenty of opportunity to assert himself as the future running mate next to Tyrese Haliburton (Sorry, Buddy). What will catch the eyes of most people is his ability to efficiently score at all three levels with his chiseled frame, but what basketball nerds (and voting media members) will fall in love with is his defensive tenacity. — LS

Sacramento Kings Out-KANGZ Themselves

They will creep into the 10th seed and the city I grew up in will go wild. Vivek Ranadive already has the parade route thoroughly planned out. Though they will ultimately lose in game two of the play-in tournament, the masses will give them a pass out of pity for “breaking their postseason drought.” Emphasis on the “post” in the postseason — Not playoffs. However, only in a way the Kings know how to, they will continue their dance with the devil as the 11th-seeded Western Conference team will shoot up to the number one pick in the NBA draft lottery. That’s a 0.5% chance. KANGZ!!! — LS

Giannis wears the crown once again

I think the Clippers are the most talented team in the league, but I just have a hard time trusting a team whose stars have played so little over the past several seasons to hold up through what should be a gauntlet of a regular season and a long postseason run. There are plenty of other worthy challengers, but I still think the Bucks have the most answers (when healthy) to playoff problems for a couple of reasons, but they all come back to Giannis. It’s widely accepted now that he’s the best player in the NBA, and I expect that to show again this year this another historic playoff run. — MO

Luka wins MVP, nearly averages triple-double

With Dallas fully entrenched in the playoff mix, Luka Dončić will take home some hardware at the season’s end (well, sometime during the playoffs, actually). With Nikola Jokić likely out of the mix due to voter fatigue, Luka becomes a logical choice to earn Most Valuable Player. He’ll have a tough time fending off Giannis Antetokounmpo, Kevin Durant, and Joel Embiid, but I believe he will successfully do so. He’ll knock on the 30 PPG door while once again approaching the season-long triple-double average, leading the Mavericks to a top-6 finish in the West.

Bonus: Clippers win the title - GS

Unlikely NBA Finals matchup

Once again, let’s get crazy! While many view the Milwaukee Bucks, Boston Celtics, Golden State Warriors, and Los Angeles Clippers as favorites to reach and potentially win the title this season, the NBA Finals will feature an unlikely matchup to decide who is crowned the top team. Dallas makes a big move at the trade deadline to pair alongside Luka Dončić, who has an MVP-caliber season, boosting the Mavericks late in the regular season and throughout the playoffs. Dallas advances out of the West, meeting up with the Philadelphia 76ers who figure things out with James Harden and Joel Embiid to come out of the East to appear in the NBA Finals. With the championship series going a full seven games, Harden and Embiid end up hoisting the Larry O’Brien Trophy at the end of the year. — MH

Zion’s an MVP finalist; the Pelicans host and win a first-round playoff series

This is a lot to put on the seemingly fragile body of Zion Williamson, but people will only remember this if I’m right, anyway. The last time we saw Williamson, he was putting the finishing touches on a historically productive and efficient scoring season at the tender age of 20. In the intervening season that he missed due to injury, the Pelicans built one of the deepest teams in the league. They have Brandon Ingram and CJ McCollum as overqualified secondary scorers, a towering man in the middle in Jonas Valanciunas, and young bucks Herb Jones and Trey Murphy III ready to provide length and athleticism. If Zion can put together a reasonably healthy season — I know, a big ask — this team will be good. And we all know that the hype meter is in danger of shattering whenever Zion is involved. — AB

2022 NBA Playoffs - Memphis Grizzlies v Minnesota Timberwolves Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images

The Grizzlies find themselves in the Play-In tournament... and lose

I shouldn’t doubt the Grizzlies. I know that. They are one of the grittiest, hard-nosed teams in the league. They have a wealth of young talent and a group of guys that ride or die for each other. However, Jaren Jackson Jr. is going to miss a chunk of the season due to an injury and with the Wolves snagging Kyle Anderson from Memphis in free agency, I don’t think they have reliable enough depth at that position for it to not matter. Also, the Western Conference is going to be a gauntlet this season and every game will count. Missing Jackson and Anderson will hurt more than many think.

I also think it will be hard for both Ja Morant and Desmond Bane to reproduce what they did last season and one of them will have a down year, leading to more losses. — BH

Off-Court Issues turn to Regular Season Motivation (take notes, Thibs)

Maybe a bit facetious, but only joking takes the pain of 2018-19 away from me. But really - there seems to be this take circling around that the Draymond Green fiasco is building the Warriors’ death bed, and the Ime Udoka mess in Boston is going to severely hinder the Celtics this year. To me, that all falls back on leadership, and Brad Stevens/Steve Kerr are two of the best ones in the entire league. Their rosters are also chalked full of championship-level players.

The Celtics have the highest win total in the league and I still think they’ll hit it. They have a clear defense-first, double-big system when Robert Williams returns and in my opinion, the best personnel in the league overall. Regardless of coach, you win with great players (cough, Brooklyn, cough). Speaking on a similar situation, the Warriors have great everything. I think a wildly successful veteran group will find a way to sing kum ba yah and win a LOT of games...maybe even another Larry O’ Brien before Draymond Green ends up elsewhere. —AC

Utah and San Antonio battle for the worst record all season

To me, these two rosters are easily the two worst in the NBA. While some may want to throw OKC into the mix to have the league's worst record, I think their roster is to strong to do so, despite Sam Presti’s best efforts, not to mention Drake didn’t randomly pull up to a Spurs or Jazz game last season.

Both these teams have a real chance to finish sub-20 wins as they race to the bottom to put themselves in the best position to land the french phenom Victor Wembenyama. With San Antonio boasting a likely starting lineup of Tre Jones-Josh Primo-Jeremy Schoan-Keldon Johnson-Jakob Poeltl, I’d give the Washington Generals a chance to beat this team when they are starting a watered-down version of an already atrocious team come February. Utah isn’t much better, with Collin Sexton being the unquestioned leader of the team, sign them up for a rough season.

The tankfest that will occur this season will be absolutely revolting to the eyes of a basketball purist, but when the prizes at the bottom are Wembenyama and Scoot Henderson, it’s inevitably going to happen. —CP

Ja Morant wins the MVP award

While I hate to disagree with my guy Brendan Hedtke, I am all in on the Grizzlies this season. I think Ja Morant is a truly special player and if his jump shot continues to develop he can become one of the six or seven best players in the NBA as soon as this season. With growth also expected from contributors like Zaire Williams, Desmond Bane, and eventually Jaren Jackson Jr. when he gets back from injury, I expect a Grizz coming out party this upcoming season, and Morant will be right in the middle of it.

Morant will only improve on what was already a ridiculous season from him last year, and with the brewing Grizzlies-Warriors rivalry, mixed with the absence of JJJ, Ja has the narrative, and the established stardom, necessary to make a run at the MVP award. I am predicting a slew of young guys to join Embiid, Jokic, and Giannis atop MVP ballots this season, and while I believe players like Ant, Luka, and Jayson Tatum will have great seasons, I think the combination of Ja’s unique style of play and what I expect to be a very highly seeded Memphis team will be too much for the others to overcome. —CP