Seven NBA players who could shape the 2022-23 season
It’s October. Football season is in full swing, but the NBA is just around the corner. Who are the players who could change the league this season, whether it’s the title race, the trade market or the trajectory of their franchise? Here are seven of them as we begin our preview of the 2022-23 season:
- Can Christian Wood offer what Kristaps Porzingis can’t?
Porzingis was a reliable second option for Luka Doncic. But the Mavericks rightfully dumped him last season after proving he couldn’t stay on the floor, and he was disappointing when he was on it. This summer, the Mavs added Christian Wood and hope he can become everything Porzingis wanted him to be.
At 6-foot-9 with a 7-foot-3 wingspan, Wood can shoot, dribble, dunk and create block shots. Like KP, Wood never quite put it all together. But he’s never been in a better environment than the one he’s in now in Dallas. And he’s trending after a disastrous start to his career, which included his 10-win streak with the Sixers, a short stint in China and time in the G League.
Over the last two years with the Rockets, Wood averaged 19.1 points, 9.9 rebounds, 2.1 assists and one block per game while shooting 38.4 percent from 3. Wood originally signed there expecting to play with James Harden, but Harden pushed his way through. , and John Wall, another potential star backcourt partner, was banished. Instead, Kevin Porter Jr., Eric Gordon and Jalen Green passed him the ball in the pick-and-roll. Luka has improved greatly.
Wood shows a huge increase over Porzingis on the perimeter as a shooter. He’s more capable of handling the ball there, which could be one of his most important skills in Dallas. Luca cannot and does not handle all perimeter creation. Spencer Dinwiddie and Tim Hardaway Jr. Jalen Brunson will absorb some of the responsibilities, but the Mavs need something better balanced in the front court. Last season, Wood was one of just 17 bigs to log 200 isolation plays, and he ranked sixth in scoring efficiency, according to Second Spectrum. Wood shot 50.4 percent on those opportunities, which isn’t on par with the league’s best guards, but is pretty solid and higher than the 36 percent Porzingis posted last season.
Many in the NBA still think of Wood as a lazy player, a narrative that has permeated his entire career. The defense made too many mistakes. Too selfish in crime. Not a winning player. for sure There may be a dispute. But its year-on-year growth is undeniable. And the situation is important. Mavericks head coach Jason Kidd says Wood will start the season off the bench, but it doesn’t matter. JaVale McGee, who will get the nod at 5, is averaging 17 minutes per game in his career. Wood will play, and likely one final game—Luca as his point guard, with guaranteed minutes, in a contract year, on the winning team that picked him in the first round to acquire him. The Mavs swung and missed with Porzingi. But now they have a player waiting for what kind of opportunity he is. “I want to be an All-Star and I want to win,” Wood told me two years ago. He won’t get a better chance.
- Will a more aggressive Bam Adebayo emerge?
Bam Adebayo has averaged 18 points and five assists over the last three seasons. That’s pretty good, especially with one of the NBA’s top defensive talents. But Heat fans have always wanted more from him on offense—especially as a scorer.
This offseason, Pat Riley said he wants Adebayo to attempt at least 15 shots a game, and during Media Day, Adebayo said he wants “around 18 shots a game.” That would be a big jump from his average of 13 last season, but it’s certainly possible.
A good place to start for Miami is to put Bam in more positions to attack the basket. Another Spectrum tracking data says 128 players have logged at least 500 drives at the rim since 2019. Bam ranks 15th in scoring efficiency, but only logs three drives per game. For comparison, Giannis Antetokounmpo logs 7.5, and even Julius Randle averages 5.4. Just a handful more downhill attacks could get him more points in the paint or create more for teammates.
“We want him to be more aggressive, and he’s going to,” Jimmy Butler said of Bam at media day. Butler could also use a scoring assist. Kyle Lowry looked old in his first season with the Heat. Now at the age of 36, what does he have left? And after winning Sixth Man of the Year, Tyler Herro will have to take another leap and translate his success into the playoffs, especially after signing a four-year, $120 million extension. It’s a group effort, but they’re all perimeter-position players. Adebayo is a man, 6-foot-9 and 255 pounds, who is inconsistent across the court—at least in theory.