The Golden State Warriors won the 2022 NBA Championship, their fourth title in eight years. They will have a strong roster once again as they look to defend their championship, but they will be challenged by several teams.
This is as wide open as the race for a championship has been for a long time. Several teams can make legitimate cases as being the favorites to win the championship this season as there is a ton of parity in the league this season.
But, there are still a few teams that are ahead of the rest of the league by a tier or two. Which teams are in the best position to win a championship? Here are four teams best equipped to contend for a title in 2023 and two dark horse teams as well.
The LA Clippers are returning with a vengeance this season. After making the Western Conference Finals in 2021, they are looking to build upon that now that they are healthy once again. Kawhi Leonard missed the entire 2021-22 campaign and Paul George played in only 31 games.
Behind their two All-Stars, the Clippers have arguably the deepest, most talented roster in the NBA. Robert Covington, Norman Powell, Marcus Morris Sr., Ivica Zubac, Terance Mann, Luke Kennard, Reggie Jackson, John Wall, Brandon Boston Jr., Amir Coffey and Niclas Batum can be rotation players on virtually any team in the NBA. Add in the excellent coaching of Tyronn Lue and this team can do some damage.
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Depth is a necessity if you want to make a deep run in the postseason and the Clippers have that in spades. Add in the coaching advantage they have over most teams and it is easy to see why they are equipped to contend.
The Philadelphia 76ers made a blockbuster trade ahead of the 2022 deadline acquiring James Harden from the Brooklyn Nets for a package that included Ben Simmons. Harden did not live up to expectations as the running mate for Joel Embiid, but now that he is healthy, they are a dangerous duo.
Add in the emerging Tyrese Maxey and the 76ers have one of the best offensive trios in the NBA. It doesn’t get much better than Tobias Harris as a fourth option and Daryl Morey did a good job of filling holes and upgrading the depth of the roster in the offseason.
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This is the Houston Rockets-East, as P.J. Tucker, Danuel House Jr. and Montrezl Harrell all re-joined Harden and Morey in the City of Brotherly Love. De’Anthony Melton is an underrated pickup to shore up the backcourt and Doc Rivers is as experienced as they come at head coach.
Golden State Warriors
The defending champions have to make the list as most well-equipped to contend for a title the following season.
As long as the trio of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green are in the lineup and being coached by Steve Kerr, this is a team that is capable of contending for the Larry O’Brien Trophy. They have an excellent program in place and it will be the next man up this season.
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Their young core of Jonathan Kuminga, James Wiseman and Moses Moody will be playing bigger roles this season with Otto Porter Jr. and Gary Payton II leaving in free agency. That is risky, as they have yet to prove they can handle rotation minutes for a contending team, but they are a very talented trio.
The defending Eastern Conference champion Boston Celtics are once again equipped to make a run to the NBA Finals. They have an excellent young duo in Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown that the roster has been built around. With players of that caliber, they have a chance to make noise in every series as they are tough to stop.
The supporting cast is also very strong with Marcus Smart, Al Horford, Derrick White and the newly acquired Malcolm Brogdon. The health of Robert Williams III is key, as he could be sidelined until January. Danilo Gallinari is also sidelined as he tore his ACL during EuroBasket with Italy.
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The incident with head coach Ime Udoka is another obstacle to overcome, but it occurred in the offseason, giving interim head coach Joe Mazzulla a chance to implement his stuff in training camp. This is still a deep, talented team that knows what it takes to be one of the last teams standing.
Eastern Conference Dark Horse – Cleveland Cavaliers
The Cleveland Cavaliers were one of the most surprising teams of the 2021-22 season. They won the most games in a season without LeBron James on the roster since the 1996-97 season, going 44-38.
This offseason, they made a huge splash by acquiring Donovan Mitchell from the Utah Jazz. With Mitchell in the mix, the Cavaliers now have one of the best quartets along with Darius Garland, Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen.
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That is a championship core in the making. Mitchell and Garland are an elite offensive duo that can carry the team. In the postseason, you need players that can go and get a basket in half-court settings and both are more than capable.
Neither are known as great defenders, but that can change as they don’t have to exert as much energy offensively with such a talented backcourt mate.
Even if they struggle, Mobley and Allen are more than capable of holding down the defense. The only thing the Cavaliers are really missing is a wing to complement those four. Look for them to try and swing a trade during the season, as upgrading at small forward would push them up another tier in the conference.
Western Conference Dark Horse – New Orleans Pelicans
The run that the New Orleans Pelicans went on at the end of the 2021-22 season to even qualify for the postseason was impressive.
They finished the regular season strong and then defeated the San Antonio Spurs and LA Clippers in the NBA Play-In Tournament. That earned them the 8th seed in the Western Conference and they gave the Phoenix Suns all they could handle.
This is an up-and-coming squad that had Brandon Ingram and CJ McCollum carrying the squad last season and now they will be adding Zion Williamson to the mix.
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That is an excellent trio and the Pelicans have a great supporting cast highlighted by Jonas Valanciunas, Herb Jones, Trey Murphy III, Larry Nance Jr., Devonte’ Graham, Jose Alvarado, Jaxson Hayes. Rookie Dyson Daniels could factor into the mix with his skill set and potential as well.
Willie Green did an excellent job navigating a poor start last season and keeping his team together. If they can have everyone remain healthy, they could be this season’s version of the Memphis Grizzlies.