Basketball

Early 2022-23 NBA Hot Takes

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With all 30 NBA teams having crossed the 10% mark of games played, it’s time to analyze a few interesting early-season 2022-23 NBA hot takes from around the league.

Lets look at 5 teams, divided in three categories: Title Favorite, The New Contenders, Star-studded Tankers.

For reference, we will rely on some key metrics to evaluate these teams’ performances thus far. I will use as a comparison point how much these numbers influenced success or the lack of it in the 2021-2022 Season.

All 2022-2023 Season related stats were extracted on Basketball Reference prior to the games played on November 5th.

The Good NBA Hot Take Numbers

  • Net Rating
  • Defensive Rating
  • eFG% (Effective Field Goal %)
  • Opponents’ eFG% (Effective Field Goal %)
  • Defensive Rebounding %

Essentially, these were the categories that better reflected success in the previous NBA Season. The reigning Champs – Golden State Warriors – were Top 5 in all if those categories, while the runner-ups – Boston Celtics – were top 5 in three of those categories (Net Rating, Defensive Rating, Opponents’ eFG%) and top 10 in another (eFG%).

The Numbers for NBA Hot Take Doom

  • Net Rating
  • Offensive Rating
  • Defensive Rating
  • Opponents’ eFG% (Effective Field Goal %)
  • eFG% (Effective Field Goal %)
  • Rebounding %
  • Assist-to-Turnover ratio
  • Opponents’ 3-Point %

Teams that were bad in the above metrics were bad overall. Looking into each of those numbers across the NBA last season, the bottom 10% of the league in all of those lost over 50 games. Furthermore, the bottom 20% of Net Rating and Offensive Rating lost over 50 games.

In case you are new to advanced stats, you can find a pretty complete, yet objective, description of them in Basketball Reference’s Glossary.

NBA Hot Take 1 – Title Favorite

The Milwaukee Bucks are back to reclaim the Larry O’Brien Trophy. That’s right, that is my first hot-take. Without even playing a single minute with their Big 3 on the court the Bucks are by far the best team in the association.

At the time of this writing, they remain the solo undefeated team in the NBA prior to All-Star Khris Middleton having played this season. Even more impressive, they have the 5th highest SRS (Simple Rating System), which measures the quality of opponents each team has played.

Anchored by the leading MVP Candidate, Giannis Antetokounmpo, the Bucks are shinning brightly, regardless of going against mostly good teams in their 8 wins in as many games.

When looking into our aforementioned metrics that indicate success, the team is in the Top 5 in four of the five categories we defined:

  • 2nd in Net Rating
  • 1st in Defensive Rating
  • 1st in Opponents’ eFG%
  • 5th in Defensive Rebounding %

They also lead the league in Rebounds Per Game and in Fewest Points Allowed Per Game, coming 3rd in Blocks Per Game.

The rest of the NBA should really Fear The Deer even now while it is wounded, and it could be over for everyone else once they are playing at full-force.

NBA Hot Take 2 – The New Contenders

After discussing a recent Champion ready to get back to holding the trophy, it is time to analyze a couple of teams new to the contending scene.

The second hot-take is that the Cleveland Cavaliers and the New Orleans Pelicans have officially arrived.

Both have played elite competition – the Cavs being 1st in SRS and the Pelicans are 6th. While Cleveland holds the more impressive numbers and better record, NOLA managed to hold down the fort playing multiple games without their 2 best players. Both Zion Williamson – 2 games – and Brandon Ingram – 4 games – missed time due to injures. That makes the Pelicans contender status a bit warmer of a hot-take, but these two teams are for real!

Cavs

  • 1st in Net Rating
  • 2nd in Defensive Rating
  • 4th in Opponents’ eFG%
  • 6th in eFG%
  • 6th in Defensive Rebounding %

On top of those gaudy numbers, the Cavaliers are also 2nd in Points Allowed Per Game, 2nd in 3-Point %, 2nd in Bench Net Rating and 7th in Offensive Rating.

Pelicans

  • 6th in Net Rating
  • 10th in eFG%

While injuries have affected the Pels’ in the other main success related categories, even hobbled they managed to put out the 4th best Offensive Rating, fueled by being 4th in Points Scored in the Paint, 5th in 3-Point % and 5th in Assists Per Game, putting them all the way to 2nd in Points Scored Per Game. Their defense has potential to improve, considering their active hands put them at the top of the league in Deflections Per Game and at 4th in Steals Per Game.

Both of these teams have a talented and hungry young core, with the potential to have 3 All-Stars in each squad. They should only improve as the season progresses, if the stars align and they peak come Playoff time, they will make a LOT of noise.

NBA Hot Take 3 – Star-studded Tankers

After winning lowly 5 of their first 17 games combined and having already fired one head coach amongst them, it is officially time to panic for the Los Angeles Lakers and the Brooklyn Nets.

These are two teams with MVP level stars each surrounded by another two All-NBA level players. Regardless of that, the only big-market teams highlighted in this article are also the most disappointing ones. Whether it is controversy on the court in Hollywood or (mostly) off the court in the Big Apple, the overall product both franchises have put out is terrible.

Lakers

  • 26th in Net Rating
  • 29th in Offensive Rating
  • 29th in eFG% (Effective Field Goal %)
  • 26th in Rebounding %
  • 22nd in Assist-to-Turnover ratio

Nets

  • 19th in Net Rating
  • 27th in Defensive Rating
  • 16th in Opponents’ eFG% (Effective Field Goal %)
  • 30th in Rebounding %
  • 26th in Opponents’ 3-Point %

These two teams are really bad in rebounding the basketball, but that is about where their shortcomings are alike. While the Lakers have been historically bad on offense, the Nets are inept at the other end. Historically a good measure of a title contending team is being in the top 10 both on Offensive and Defensive Ratings. One thing these squads have in common is that they are way off in half of that equation.

Where they are both bad in offense and defense is in the Clutch Stats. These teams are in the bottom third of the league in eFG%, Opponents’ eFG% and Opponents’ 3-Point %. They both are in the bottom half of Offensive and Defensive Rating in the clutch.

If you are looking at the Draft for a reason to be hopeful, I have news for you: neither team owns their pick in the upcoming NBA Draft. In other words, tanking for Victor Wembanyama is not an option.

With their performances on the court looking worst than anyone could have imagined and no hope at striking gold in the Draft, this will be a very long season for these teams and their fanbases.

Let us know your favorite NBA Hot Takes in the comments below!

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Jay is a Basketball enthusiast, former Basketball player and coach, with experience in the game in the United States of America and in Brazil, at High School and College levels.

He is passionate about the history of the game, defense and strong team culture. He is also into analytics, which are a recurrent part of his articles.