The 2022-23 NBA training camp is officially underway. While some players were permitted to report to their team’s facilities on September 24 — Warriors, Wizards, Hawks, and Bucks — everyone had to be in training camp yesterday. I will try to answer some of the biggest questions heading into the first week of preseason games.
How Big is the Mess In Boston?
There is a lot of stink surrounding the Celtics, and none of it is the players. The Ime Udoka situation is putting the players through “ hell,” according to Jayson Tatum, Marcus Smart, and Jaylen Brown. Udoka, who guided the C’s to the NBA Finals in his first season as head coach, has been suspended for the entire season due to violating organization policy.
Joe Mazzulla is being thrown “into the fire” as Boston is one of the favorites to represent the Eastern Conference in the NBA Finals this year. I always like to see young guys getting a chance to become head coach.
However, I believe with the C’s high expectations, and since the Celtics didn’t play well until the second half of the season under Udoka, they probably would have been better off going with a veteran NBA coach. The Celtics are reportedly looking into bringing in a veteran NBA assistant coach to help Mazzulla – one rumor is the C’s are interested in bringing back Jay Larranaga, who is currently with the Clippers.
Boston also has frontcourt depth issues with Danilo Gallinari (knee) out for the season and Robert Williams(knee) expected to be out til January. The injuries mean that Grant Williams, coming off a career season, will likely see between 25-30 minutes a game as the first big off the bench. While Willams has grown offensively each of his three NBA seasons, he is just too limited on that end to be a major contributor on a nightly basis.
Journeyman Luke Kornet is expected to be Al Horford’s primary backup. However, the Celtics have three open roster spots – although they likely keep one spot available for the time being – with Noah Vonleh and Luka Samanic being among six players competing for the jobs. Denzel Valentine, Justin Jackson, Jake Layman, and Broderic Thomas are the others on training camp deals with hopes of making the squad.
I expect at least one of the following to earn a spot, Samanic, Jackson, Vonleh, or Layman. Valentine is also very versatile, so he has a legitimate shot of sticking with the C’s. Boston also has former Los Angeles Clipper first-round draft pick Mfiondu Kabengele on a two-way contract.
Is There a Battle For Starting Point Guard in Chicago with Lonzo Ball out indefinitely?
Ball will not be ready for the season opener after undergoing another knee surgery as he has not fully recovered from his other procedure that ended his 2021-22 NBA campaign prematurely, so the Bulls will need to replace his production. Doing this will be difficult, but Chicago does not need to make a trade for a starting point guard since the Bulls have enough depth in-house to survive until Ball returns.
Alex Caruso may make the most sense to join Zach LaVine, DeMar DeRozan, and Nikola Vucevic in the Bulls’ starting lineup due to his ball-handling, passing, grittiness, and defensive prowess. Ayo Dosunmu –who started 40 NBA games last season – 36-year-old Goran Dragic, and Coby White are other viable short-term options though each will get time, whether starting or coming off the bench.
Is Depth A Problem For The Grizzlies’ frontcourt with Jaren Jackson and Danny Green Out Til At least January?
Memphis is coming off its second-best campaign in franchise history, and the Grizzlies have high expectations for this season. But the Griz will likely be without Jackson (foot surgery and Green (ACL and MCL) until at least January.
Jackson, who has aspirations to be DPOY, is an essential part of the franchise. Meanwhile, Green was expected to bring experience, versatility, toughness, and 3-point shooting off the bench for the Griz. While Memphis could ultimately decide to trade for Phoenix’s Jae Crowder, the Grizzlies have enough depth and talent to maintain the status quo.
The Grizzlies will likely figure out their starter and rotation during training camp. There is expected to be major competition for the starting and backup jobs, with Dillon Brooks, Brandon Clarke, Ziaire Williams, Xavier Tillman, David Roddy, Santi Aldama, and Jake LaRavia among the candidates. I expect Clarke or Williams to ultimately win the starting power forward job with Brooks remaining at the 3.
I believe that Tillman will be Steven Adams’ primary NBA backup. However, Aldama is expected to see plenty of time at the 4 and 5.
The Griz have 16 players under contract, so they will have to make some sort of move before the start of the regular season. Third-year pro Killian Tillie is reportedly the player most likely to be cut.
Other Questions That Need Answers
What will the Thunder do at center with Chet Holmgren being sidelined the entire Season?
Will any of the remaining NBA free agents, such as LaMarcus Aldridge, Carmelo Anthony, DeMarcus Cousins, Jeremy, Hassan Whiteside, Blake Griffin, Eric Bledsoe, or Ben McLemore, find a job this season?