With the calendar turning to 2023 and the NBA season approaching its midway point, here are our second-half predictions.
1. The Lakers will make a trade, but pull the trigger too late for it to matter.
If you’d been tasked with guessing the Lakers’ two most likely problems heading into the season, it wouldn’t have been surprising if you’d landed on the lack of perimeter shooting, and the fact that Anthony Davis was likely to suffer an injury that keeps him shelved for significant time. Both those things have come to pass, with Los Angeles’s shooting dreadfully from deep, and Davis’s being out. I’d guess the Lakers will try something via the trade market at some point. But if they do, it’d almost be disappointing that they waited so long. —Chris Herring
2. The league will adopt a new CBA—without any drama.
We’ve had 11 years of labor peace since the nasty lockout of 2011. That streak isn’t ending now, despite whatever posturing you’ve heard about a “hard” salary cap and other obnoxious CBA verbiage. The fact is, the league is in fantastic shape, both competitively and financially, and it would be patently insane to risk a lockout (or strike) now, especially with a fat new media-rights deal on the horizon. Also, both the league (under commissioner Adam Silver) and the union (under executive director Tamika Tremaglio) are now led by diplomats, not pugilists. They’ll find a way to extend the current deal, with some notable changes they both want (e.g. abolishing the age limit). —Howard Beck
3. At least one team aggressively trades into losing.
The much-ballyhooed tank race happens. Just give it a little more time. The Jazz, Thunder, Raptors and Bulls are among the teams I’m watching closely. —Jeremy Woo
4. Karl-Anthony Towns will be traded.
It can’t happen until July 1 (due to CBA rules), but it’s going to happen, barring some miracle turnaround in Minneapolis. Towns has been the Timberwolves’ centerpiece for nearly eight seasons now. They’ve made the playoffs twice, and been bounced in the first round both times. The Rudy Gobert trade was supposed to fix things. It hasn’t. The Wolves can command a small ransom for KAT, and use the pieces to rebuild around Gobert and Anthony Edwards. —Beck
5. The Kings will make the playoffs!
I repeat: The Kings, that cursed franchise in California’s capital, will make the playoffs! In the NBA! This spring! I know, this doesn’t seem like a very ambitious prediction, with the Kings currently, firmly in playoff contention, but that ignores all the other moments of fleeting hopes and false promise since 2006 (their last time in the postseason). That record drought ends in April, even if it means getting in via the play-in round. Light the beam! —Beck
6a. The Grizzlies will come out of the West
As we look at the convoluted standings in the Western Conference, things have been highly strange. But one thing makes sense: The Grizzlies are showing that last year was anything but a fluke, sitting in first place despite a number of injuries. They’re a great bet to come out of the West if they’re healthy. —Herring
6b. No, the Clippers will win the West
With all due respect to every other would-be Western Conference contender, I’m buying-in on the Clippers. Everything is contingent on Kawhi Leonard’s knee holding up but if it does, this team won’t just beat everyone in the West—they might blow right through them. —Chris Mannix
6c. No, actually, the Nuggets will win the West—and the NBA Finals.
Nikola Jokić is playing at an MVP level for the third straight season, and the team finally has the requisite depth to win in the playoffs thanks to the returns of Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. In a season so far defined by parity, the Nuggets have the trump card in the Joker and will take advantage of a superteam vacuum at the top. —Rohan Nadkarni
7. Victor Wembanyama becomes the No. 1 pick in June.
For some reason I feel really good about this one. Not sure why. Just have a feeling this one is coming true. —Woo
8. The Pistons will win the top pick, and become an Eastern Conference power by 2025
It would make all too much sense if the Pistons grow strong again at the same time that the Celtics and Cavaliers are right near the top of the East. And that could be the reality if Detroit—without Cade Cunningham for the rest of the season, and giving plentiful reps to rookie Jaden Ivey and the suddenly improving Killian Hayes—lands the top pick. With Victor Wembanyama, the Motor City would have one of the most formidable young trios, and that’d be on top of Isaiah Stewart, Saddiq Bey (who’s come up in trade rumors) and Jalen Duren, the league’s youngest player and one who has an incredibly bright future. —Herring
9. Kyrie Irving will be a Laker (finally)
The Nets seem content (resigned?) to finish this season with their current core, including the perpetual distraction in the No. 11 jersey. But this is now an all-or-nothing campaign. Unless the Nets win it all, it’s hard to see them re-signing Irving next summer. It’s also hard to see much of a market for him, given his recent history. We do know LeBron James would welcome a reunion, though. —Beck
10. LeBron James will be traded
Let’s face it: James’s decision to extend his contract with the Lakers was a mistake. James doesn’t need the guaranteed cash and, in pushing his deal through ’23–24, limited his leverage. LA didn’t have the pieces to build a title contender around James and doesn’t have the flexibility (this season, anyway) to do anything with him. In an ideal world, the Lakers use the cap space created by Russell Westbrook’s exit next summer to sign Kyrie Irving or Draymond Green, flip a draft pick or two and vault back into contention next season. But if that doesn’t happen, can the Lakers really go into ’23 with James, Anthony Davis and whatever cast of castoffs they can assemble around them? Would James want to? Dealing James would take some chutzpah, but if LA whiffs on big-ticket items next offseason, is there really a better choice? —Mannix