Even for die-hard fans of the NBA, it is often stated that the season doesn’t truly begin until Christmas. At that juncture of the campaign, teams have had around two months to settle in, and have had a chance to try out a few things to learn what works and what doesn’t.
As the holiday season fast approaches, we’ll look at five presents that the NBA has given fans so far.
Orlando Magic Big Lineup
In the last 15 or so years, the hot trend in the league has been going smaller. Taller players have been phased out in favor of shorter options who can switch pick and rolls on defense and facilitate offensive possessions on the other end. It has caused teams to think twice about adding too much size to their roster.
The Magic don’t seem to care too much about the direction of the NBA and are instead collecting talent regardless of stature. To make things more interesting, head coach Jamahl Mosley has not been hesitant to play three or four players 6’9 or taller on the court together. It hasn’t been uncommon to see Wendell Carter Jr., Paolo Banchero, Mo Bamba and Franz Wagner on the court together.
They’ve even given Bol Bol a chance to play this year, who has spent most of his early career languishing on the bench. The Magic probably aren’t going to make the playoffs this year, but it sure has been fun watching them zig while everyone else zags.
Better Than Advertised Teams
With the prize of potential superstar Victor Wembanyama looming in the 2023 NBA Draft, there were a lot of teams that were predicted to include less than stellar players in their lineup. This would give them a better chance to land the first overall pick next spring as the losses continued to pile up.
However, for two NBA franchises, things haven’t quite been as bad as expected. The Utah Jazz was expected to be one of the league’s worst teams, having traded away Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert in the offseason. They were replaced by younger, unproven players who weren’t expected to lead Utah to victories.
Instead, the Jazz have been a surprise team that has won games and been in contention almost every night they suit up.
The San Antonio Spurs have thrown NBA betting enthusiasts for a loop. They parted ways with All-Star Dejounte Murray in order to let their younger players get more exposure – Keldon Johnson and Devin Vassell both appear to be taking the next steps in their career as a result.
Boston Taking No Prisoners
Even though the Celtics weren’t favored to defeat the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals last year, the loss still stung. Boston had a 2-1 series lead after the first three games, only to fall in six games after Stephen Curry stepped up in a big way. They were so close to winning it all, and this year, they appear to be locked in on that objective.
Despite controversy and injuries, the Celtics appear to be on a mission in 2022-2023. They’re playing hard for new head coach Joe Mazzulla, who has been a stabilizing presence on the bench after the Ime Udoka scandal erupted in September. The team appears deep enough to withstand injuries, as they’ve gotten off to a great start without the services of Robert Williams or Danilo Gallinari.
Certain teams kind of coast during the regular season on their way to the playoffs, but Boston appears to be serious about sending a message this year.
Sacramento In the Playoff Mix
It has been a very long time since the Kings made the NBA playoffs. Sacramento lost in the first round of 2006 NBA playoffs against the Spurs. To give readers an idea of how long ago that was; George W. Bush was the U.S. president at the time, the first iPhone had not yet come out, and Twitter had only been around for a few months.
With all that being said, the 2022-2023 version of the Kings looks to be dedicated to ending that streak. They made a big swing at the trade deadline last year, bringing in talented big man Domantas Sabonis from the Indiana Pacers. He’s been great in his time with the Kings, providing them with a deft scoring touch down low as well as the ability to set his teammates up.
Even though the Kings’ front office was laughed at for trading Tyrese Halliburton, they’ve restocked their roster with a lot of depth. They should be in contention through the spring.
A Relatively Healthy Zion Williamson
Before Wembanyama was the apple of NBA eyes, Zion Williamson was they can’t miss, once in a generation type prospect. When he’s been on the floor, he has delivered to the tune of 25 points, nearly seven rebounds and over three assists per game. It’s hard to argue with that type of production.
However, he hasn’t been able to play a lot in his four-year NBA career, which has led to serious questions about his durability. He missed all of last year with a foot injury, and it was fair to wonder whether Williamson would have the same bounce upon his return.
So far, the former Duke star has been tremendous, both from an availability standpoint and an effectiveness lens. Hopefully for New Orleans Pelicans fans and basketball enthusiasts, Williamson will continue to build on his strong start to the season.