2022-23 NBA lookahead: Zion Williamson, Ben Simmons, Jamal Murray among 10 hottest players next season

If there’s ever been a dead time on the NBA calendar throughout the year, early August is that time. Since we’re all sitting in a Kevin Durant-Kyrie Irving-Donovan Mitchell contract pattern, all we can do right now is start looking ahead with the information currently available. So I’m going to list 10 players I’m happy to see in the 2022-23 season. They’re all for slightly different reasons, but they all have a big plot. Let’s go to it.

Having played in just 85 games during his first three seasons in the NBA, Williamson secured a five-year contract extension this summer that guarantees him a payout of $193 million and could be worth as much as $231 million. There is a weight requirement in the package. If Williamson’s body fat percentage plus his weight exceeds 295, he may lose a part of the guaranteed money, but this is only if the Pelican gives him up. If that happens, things will be completely derailed.

For all intents and purposes, the Pelicans are in a bind to pay the man who struggled so hard to stay in court for the next five years. They do it because when Williamson she has He was on the field almost unstoppable. His scoring proficiency shifted between the extraordinary and the frankly historical. His ability to go down the slope to the left, often starting to lap before the hunt, when everyone knows that’s where he wants to go, is strange. Second jumps don’t come faster or more explosive than his own.

Anyway, we don’t need a Zion survey report. It is a nice. And the Pelicans can also be if they play 65-70 games. For me, he is the most interesting player in the league this season.

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Put this under the ledger for “obvious reasons”. Expectation of Simmons’ supposed return to the field couldn’t be higher after the drama of last season. First of all, is he mentally prepared to play? The Nets quipped that Simmons could return at the end of the playoff series against the Celtics, but then called it off when they lost 3-0. Was it really just a physical problem?

I’m not sure anyone, even within the nets, has a solid understanding of what to expect from Simmons. If Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving stay in Brooklyn, it looks like a great pose for Simmons, who won’t have to be the main creator/scoreder and can focus on defending, moving, cutting/rolling and secondary creativity. But does he have the ability to commit to such a peripheral offensive role? So many questions.

If Simmons was on the field, everyone would be watching closely early on, and for me, I’d be rooting for him. This is strange for me to say. I never particularly liked Simmons and hated, like most others, the way he handled Philadelphia’s exit. Back when everyone couldn’t stop raving about how uniquely he was, I couldn’t stand all the “I’m smarter than you” talk. Now that everyone thought it might be some kind of stink, especially in the playoff setup, I flipped it. Now I’m rooting for him. It’s strange, but the first public pick of the max decade actually became a kind of underdog. I dig it.

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If Murray does fit in for Denver on opening night, it will be almost 18 months since he last played in an NBA game after tore his ACL in April of 2021. Personally, I can’t wait to watch him play again. Murray could be one of the league’s most exciting players, and if he’s right — and especially if Michael Porter Jr is healthy, too — the Nuggets will be a top-tier contender. But how long will Murray need to get back to speed? One thing not to worry about Denver is continuity. Murray and Nikola Jokic should pretty much pick up where they left off in tandem.

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There are a few interesting newbies we’ll all follow closely, but to me, Holmgren is the most interesting. If you watched him in the Summer League, you know that his skill-size combination is horrible. Will he hold on to the body? Are we making as much of his skinny frame as we did with Kevin Durant? I can’t wait to see Holmgren clear the floor for SGA drives and play pass Josh Giddey. If it’s the kind that tire protectors experts say, it can be very special right away.

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Edwards is on the cusp of stardom. There is no more breathtaking athlete in the league and the charisma with which he scores frightening results. This guy legitimately thinks he can’t be stopped, and he might be right. Let’s pump that 3-point figure at 35 percent close to the 40 percent he shot in the playoffs and we’ll talk about serious business. With the addition of Rudy Goubert, Minnesota is striving for it. How great Edwards can be on a consistent basis, on both ends, will go a long way toward what “he” means.

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He basically took Lillard last season. He says he is fine now. The Blazers rearranged their roster, specifically with Jerami Grant and Gary Payton II, to provide Lillard with hope Appropriate defensive support. However, the only way the Blazers could be a relevant player halfway in the West is for Lillard to become a superhero. We’ve seen him do that before. I bet he’ll use his powers again. Lillard is the closest thing there is to Stephen Curry. When it’s hot, you have to let go of everything you’re doing and adjust. And he’s going to be on a mission to be as hot as possible, as much as possible, this season.

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Same deal for Lillard and Murray. It’s been a while since we’ve seen Leonard, who took the entire last season to recover from a ruptured ACL. There is the excitement of simply watching him play again, and the question of whether he will still be one of the top five players in the league. It makes sense that it would be, at least on certain nights. Yes, there is a cumulative injury record playing here, but he is still only 31 years old. With Paul George back in good health and perhaps the deepest roster in the league, the Clippers are poised to jump perhaps to the top of the contender hierarchy.

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It’s Weizmann’s third year. His rookie season left much to be desired. He sat out his second season. It’s time to see if all the Warriors hype about Weizmann’s supposedly unlimited potential is justified halfway through. It won’t be Golden State’s starting center. This distinction goes to the chromatic kevon. But he needs to be a real contributor, to say the least.

The Warriors has a huge tax bill and potential contract extensions looming for Draymond Green, Andrew Wiggins and Jordan Poole. Don’t rule them out making a deal to avoid one or even two of those long-term obligations, and Wiseman could certainly be included in such a deal depending on the payoff. There is a lot of eyes on Wiseman this season, both as a key piece moving forward and as a central asset moving in the trade.

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The Lakers, as they are currently built, and assuming LeBron James can still play as one of the best players in the league, have one chance to compete for the top four seed: Davis should be a star. For starters, he has to stay on the field; He has played only 76 games over the past two seasons. Set a minute at five. That’s good until game time. But it should be great in all fours.

Defensively, he has to cover a lot. Offensively, it mostly comes down to being shot at. If he keeps shooting 3 seconds, he can’t be in the 19 percent clip he scored last season or even 27 percent from 2020-21. Bubble Davis was an anomaly, but the man started last season as the league’s worst shooter with over 150 attempts.

Davis bolstered his efficiency on paper by attacking at the post and on the edge more, but I think there’s an element of protection at play here. There’s a lot to ask about the post all season, especially in two big squads without a lot of photoshoot around the stars. The midrange is Davis’ pad. He can tend to settle down a lot and fade unnecessarily, but he needs to live a lot in this area for practical purposes. There is not much room for error in the Lakers. Davis always has to be awesome. Honestly, that goes for whether or not the Lakers end up getting Kyrie Irving, although it’s clearly more if they don’t.

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No one is quite ready to call Brown a superstar, but he’s not far off. It’s not too cool to be included in trading discussions, but at the same time it feels too cool, too small to actually trade. It’s a very fine line Boston walks by considering a transfer at the potential cost of sacking a founding star or capitulating too early on a Brown Tatum tandem that could offer more than a decade of genuine discord. But if they can get Kevin Durant? It’s hard not to think about that.

For me, Brown could take another leap this season. Whether that simply makes him attractive enough for the Nets to lower the asking price for the additional assets or makes Boston officially shut the door on dealing with him, who knows. But Brown has a super game. There are a lot of nights when he’s the best player in Boston. I love watching him play, despite dealing with a (sometimes) butter ball. For me, Brown is one of the toughest players in the league in terms of ratings. He’s right between the All-Star and All-NBA. This season offers another set of clues that I’m eager to consider.

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