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7 NBA overreactions after one game of the 2022-2023 season

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After one game of the NBA season, your favorite team either wins the championship or is on the verge of disaster. Typically, this is how fans feel when they wake up to see 1-0 or 0-1 next to their team in the standings. In reality, NBA teams are of course built to succeed or fail in an 82-game regular season, but that won’t stop us from making bold statements about what we saw in the season openers.

This list will not include anything related to the Milwaukee Bucks or the Los Angeles Clippers because they are the only two NBA teams that did not play in the first two days of the season. Coincidentally, that’s my NBA Finals prediction for this year. For everyone else, it’s time to let some heat fly.

That’s what we did after the first game of last season. Now it’s fun to look at those shots. Will this post age better this year? Let’s find out.

1. The Pelicans will make a deep playoff race in the West

The Pelicans looked simply incredible as they beat the Nets 130-108 in Brooklyn. One of our pre-season assessments was that Zion Williamson is ready for an All-NBA season, and that definitely looks like a strong call after one game. Williamson is back on the field after missing the entirety of last season and looked great in his first game. It’s very explosive on the way to the basket and has a very soft touch around the hoop. The number of players in the league who can stop him in one-on-one situations can be counted on one hand.

Pelicans are much more than just Zion. Brandon Ingram is a deadly half-court shooter whose game should be even more valuable in the playoffs. Herb Jones is already one of the best defensive wings in the league. CJ McCollum can still fill his place as a backfielder, and young players like Trey Murphy III and Jose Alvarado are succeeding in their roles.

I think the Pelicans could be one of the last four teams left in the 2023 NBA Playoffs when all is said and done.

2. Jazz needs to make some trades to be a real tank

The biggest surprise of the opening night was the Utah Jazz’s defeat of the Denver Nuggets 123-102. I predicted the Nuggets would win the most games in the NBA this year, and I also listed the Jazz as one of the teams that could be bad enough to draft French super-candidate Victor Wembanyama. How did this opening night upset actually happen?

The Jazz downsized their roster in the off-season by trading Donovan Mitchell, Rudy Gobert and Bojan Bogdanovic, but there are still many legitimate players on that roster. Collin Sexton scored 20 points, Lauri Markkanen 17 points and Malik Beasley 15 points after all three players were bought in the Mitchell/Gobert trades. Rookie center Walker Kessler also looked good with 12 points and 10 rebounds in his first game.

More trades are needed if Jazz is to maximize their lottery winning odds. Any competitor wishing to recover before the playoffs must make their first call to Utah. There is still some real talent in this roster.

3. Blazers finally added some beef to Dame’s side

Even in Damian Lillard’s best years, the Portland Trail Blazers have always had a serious lack of size, length and athleticism alongside their superstar guard. Portland sought to resolve this this summer by trading Jerami Grant, removing Gary Payton II from the Warriors and re-signing Josh Hart. While Payton was unable to take part in the opening game while recovering from abdominal surgery, the Blazers’ other additions looked outstanding in helping carry them to their opening night Sacramento Kings win.

Grant scored 5 to 23 points in 11, also made three-pointers, constantly fouled and added eight rebounds. Hart plays with a tremendous edge on defense, scoring in transitions, moving the ball, rebounding and doing all the little things teams need to win. Anyone who watched last year’s playoffs knows that GP2 will be a huge boost for defense.

The only concern for Portland? Lillard was kind of a pedestrian and finished with 20 points on 18-shots from 5, beating 8 in 3 outs. If Dame can still be one of the top 10 players in the league, Portland might finally have the right pieces around to make it back into the playoff mix.

4. Ben Simmons is broken

The last time we saw Ben Simmons on a ballpark, he was slamming consecutive dunks in the Eastern Conference Finals and suffering one of the craziest individual drops the NBA has ever seen. Simmons famously requested a trade and sat until he was traded to the Brooklyn Nets last season and was promptly pulled off the field due to a back injury when he was due to play. Simmons finally made his way back to an NBA court in the Nets’ season opener, and he definitely looked like a man who hadn’t played a competitive game in 17 months:

Simmons looked scared to attack the basket, probably because he didn’t want to be fouled (the night went 0 to 2 from the streak). He had no prayers to stay ahead of Zion Williamson on the defensive side. The Pelicans managed to completely ignore him at halftime, sending extra defensive attention to Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. Simmons also committed several unnecessary frustration fouls to get out of the game when Brooklyn could have used him.

It’s easy to forget that Simmons was named All-Star and First-Team All-Defensive in the season leading up to the playoff collapse. It wasn’t an encouraging start, but Simmons has plenty of time to improve.

5. DeMar DeRozan has a new All-NBA season

Your leading single game scorer in the NBA… DeMar DeRozan.

Many predicted DeRozan would fall after having the best season of his career at 32 with the Bulls last year. Good luck. As we said in our preseason reviews, DeRozan’s career year was no accident. He’s very talented as a mid-range scorer, very shrewd at coming to the foul line, and works too hard to regress as a quarterback. That’s what DeMar is like now, whether or not he’s made an All-NBA team again this season. As long as DeRozan still plays like a legitimate superstar, the Bulls have a chance against any team in the league.

6. The Suns will be fine

It’s been a tough few months for the Phoenix Suns after a shocking second-round playoff defeat against the Dallas Mavericks last year. This tweet actually says it all.

Losing to the Adelaide 36ers in the pre-season didn’t help either.

The Suns looked set to start this season with another disaster: the Mavs were 22 points ahead in the middle of the season opener. Somehow, somehow, the Suns fought back and won the match with a clutch kick from late Damion Lee. The core of the team that won 64 of the league’s best games last year is still in place and Monty Williams remains one of the best coaches in the league. It’s certainly possible that the Suns missed the championship window in the last two years, but this should still be one of the best teams in the West.

7. The Lakers will miss the playoffs again

LeBron James, Anthony Davis, and even Russell Westbrook played great for the Lakers in the season opener, but LA got nothing from their role players as they lost 123-109 to the Warriors. The Lakers still don’t have enough defense or shots around James and Davis. Even LeBron agrees.

Yes, the Warriors are a very tough opening night rival. Looking so good for Davis – we predicted a leap year for him – is the best thing that could happen for the Lakers. LeBron is still playing at a high enough level to be the top player on the championship team in the 20th season of his career.

The Lakers have done a terrible job putting their best players in a successful position. Maybe new head coach Darwin Ham will figure it out, but the roster structure hasn’t done him any favors.

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