Teams Looking to Emerge in the 2022-23 NBA season

Jaree Abney, Contributor

After a wild NBA offseason, teams are eager to roll out their new-look squads with the season underway.

Bottom-of-the-barrel teams look to jump from mediocre to playoff contenders. As the season tips off this evening, below are four teams ready to make a giant leap this year.

Sacramento Kings

It’s been a long sixteen years since the Sacramento Kings last saw action in the postseason. The Kings currently have the longest active playoff drought in American sports. Despite their underwhelming recent history, things are looking more optimistic than ever this year in Sactown.

Under new head coach Mike Brown and franchise stars De’Aaron Fox and Domantas Sabonis, the Kings have a bright future ahead of them. The potential of their fourth overall pick in this year’s draft, Keegan Murray, has Kings fans singing his praises heading into the year.

In four Las Vegas summer league games in July, Murray won summer league MVP, averaging 23.3 points and 7.3 rebounds on 40-percent shooting from beyond the arc. The Kings also brought in two solid role players in guards Malik Monk and Kevin Huerter that can help ease the scoring stresses of Fox, Sabonis and Murray.

The promise of this Kings roster, which Fox declared as “the most talented roster” he’s played on since being drafted by the franchise in 2017, is higher than it’s been since the early 2000s. Be on the lookout for Sacramento to potentially make noise in the West as they push for a play-in spot.

Cleveland Cavaliers

The post-LeBron era has not been easy for the Cavaliers as they have missed the playoffs every year since 2018. After having their first season over .500 since their 2018 finals run, the Cavs look to make the playoffs this year after missing the postseason in the play-in tournament last year.

With the emergence of their two first-time All-Stars Darius Garland and Jarrett Allen, the Cavs were already taking a step in the right direction.

In August, Cleveland made the move of the summer as they added three-time All-Star guard Donovan Mitchell. The former Jazz star is fresh off a year in which he averaged 26 points per game on 45-percent shooting from the field, leading Utah to the fifth seed in the West.

These talents combined with emerging superstar and 2022 Rookie of the Year candidate Evan Mobley should put Cleveland over the top this year, making them serious playoff contenders.

Minnesota Timberwolves

Last season the Minnesota Timberwolves returned to the playoffs after a four-year drought, winning 46 games and securing the seventh seed in the playoff race. After losing to the Memphis Grizzlies in the first round of the playoffs, the Timberwolves made moves to compete for their first NBA title.

Minnesota general manager Tim Connelly made a win-now move by trading a total of four first-round picks and five players for three-time Defensive Player of the Year winner Rudy Gobert.

The blockbuster move pairs Gobert with All-NBA talent Karl Anthony-Towns, giving the Timberwolves the most dynamic frontcourt in the league. Gobert provides elite rim protection and rebounding while Towns provides the ability to space the floor, shooting above 40% from behind the three-point line.

Add those elements to emerging superstar Anthony Edwards and former All-Star D’Angelo Russell being the primary ball handlers, and the Timberwolves have all the ingredients to change the culture in Minnesota.

New Orleans Pelicans

Following their first playoff appearance since 2018, the Pelicans look to piece together the final stages of their rebuild since trading Anthony Davis.

The Pelicans were able to push the No. 1 seeded Phoenix Suns to six games without their franchise player, Zion Williamson. Last season, the Pelicans were +7.2 points per 100 possessions when CJ McCollum, Brandon Ingram, and Herb Jones took the floor together.

A year ago, Williamson was one of the most efficient scorers in the league when he was healthy. In 2021, the former No. 1 pick averaged 27 points and 7.2 rebounds per game on 61-percent shooting, while starting in the 2021 All-Star game.

These factors coupled with a bench that features the likes of Jose Alvarado, Trey Murphy III, Larry Nance Jr. and first-round selection Dyson Daniels, the Pelicans have the brightest future in the league. If this team can stay healthy, expect them to be a top-five team in the West.