Each Monday throughout the 2022-23 season, we’ll present The Five topics you need to know heading into a new week of NBA action.
1. Preseason wrap-up
Before we dive into the 82-course meal that is the NBA regular season, we had to have an appetizer and the preseason gave us just enough to whet our appetite over the past two weeks.
We got our first glimpses of some of the new-look rosters around the league, saw a number of marquee players return from injury, and got our first look at this year’s rookie class. And, of course, we got plenty of highlights, led by the always reliable source of Ja Morant.
The Sixers and Kings will hope to see their preseason success carry over to the regular season as both teams finished perfect at 4-0, with Sacramento outscoring opponents by a whopping 27.5 points per game. On the flip side, we saw the Bucks go winless in five preseason games and the Lakers go just 1-5.
>> Read more about the top takeaways from preseason here
2. Opening Night on Tuesday
As fun as Summer League and preseason were in giving us a taste of what’s to come, the real season begins on Tuesday with a TNT doubleheader. The teams that met in last year’s Finals — Boston and Golden State — will host their first game of the season against Philadelphia and Los Angeles, respectively.
In Boston, the Celtics will honor Bill Russell as they dedicate a new court with his No. 6 added to the paint of the parquet floor. Once the action gets underway, we’ll see the debut of Celtics’ interim coach Joe Mazzulla, who steps in for the suspended Ime Udoka to try to lead Boston to another deep playoff run.
In San Francisco, the Warriors will unveil their championship banner and collect their 2022 title rings before tipping off the season against the Lakers. LeBron James will also begin his chase of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s career scoring record in the season-opener, which the superstar could reach within 50 games.
>> Read more about opening night here
3. Notable debuts and returns
You could field an All-Star team with the number of players that missed either the majority or the entirety of last season altogether.
• Kawhi Leonard last played on June 14, 2021 (18 months)
• Ben Simmons last played on June 20, 2021 (18 months)
• Zion Williamson last played on May 4, 2021 (19 months)
• Jamal Murray last played on April 12, 2021 (20 months)
• John Wall last played on April 23, 2021 (20 months)
• Damian Lillard last played on Dec. 31, 2021 (10 months)
Tip-off week will mark the official return to the court for each of these All-Star players after each has missed the last year and a half of action, with the exception of Lillard.
Leonard and Wall join Paul George (who also missed 52 games last season) on a Clippers squad that has been billed as co-favorites in the West (along with Golden State) by the league’s general managers. If that squad can stay healthy, they have the talent to challenge anyone in the league.
Zion returns to a Pelicans squad that advanced through the Play-In Tournament last season and pushed the top-seeded Suns to six games in the first round. Since Zion last played, the Pelicans traded for CJ McCollum and drafted some young talent that has New Orleans poised as one of the top young teams in the league.
Murray and Michael Porter Jr. (who last played in November 2021) return for Denver eager to team back up with two-time reigning Kia MVP Nikola Jokic. Simmons was traded from Philadelphia to Brooklyn last season at the trade deadline but never suited up. How his game meshes with fellow All-Stars Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant will be fascinating to watch, especially early in the season.
The NBA is always better with Dame Time on the court. One of the best clutch shooters in the game was stifled by a nagging abdominal injury that finally required surgery. Now healthy, can Lillard lead the Blazers back to the postseason?
In addition to the All-Stars returning to the court, a new crop of young talent was added at the 2022 NBA Draft. Orlando selected Paolo Banchero with the first overall pick and he should get plenty of run with a Magic squad brimming with young talent. Unfortunately, we won’t see No. 2 pick Chet Holmgren with OKC this season as he suffered a season-ending injury during the summer.
Heading into the Draft, many had Jabari Smith penciled in at the top of their mock drafts, but he went to Houston at No. 3. The Kings selected Keegan Murray at No. 4 and he went on to win MVP honors at Summer League. The Pistons rounded out the top five picks by selecting guard Jaden Ivey to join last year’s top overall pick Cade Cunningham.
See below for a breakdown of where you can catch these young stars make their professional debuts this week on NBA League Pass.
New Team Debuts
We can’t forget about the ‘Same face in new places’ crew as a trio of All-Stars changed teams during the offseason. Entering a rebuilding project, the Jazz opted to trade both Rudy Gobert (to Minnesota) and Donovan Mitchell (to Cleveland). Meanwhile, in Atlanta, the Hawks added Dejounte Murray from San Antonio to pair with Trae Young in their backcourt.
We don’t have any homecoming games for these three stars in Week 1, but we’ll make sure to circle those dates for future editions of The Five.
>> Read more about player movement with the ‘Who He Play For’ study guide
4. Marquee Matchups: National TV Games
In addition to the opening-night doubleheader mentioned earlier, here’s a quick look at the other spotlight games on ESPN and TNT this week.
New York at Memphis, 7:30 p.m. ET
There may not be a player in the league that is more “must see” than Ja Morant. He truly is a highlight reel in human form, but since the “Human Highlight Film” moniker is already taken by the legendary Dominique Wilkins, we have to come up with a nickname that embodies Morant’s game. I’m going to suggest “TikTok” because every time he steps on the court it’s a countdown until he unleashes his next viral moment.
Don’t miss Morant (or Obi Toppin, who had a sweet windmill dunk in the preseason himself) when the Grizzlies host the Knicks.
This is the first meeting between these teams since Game 7 of the Western Conference semifinals when the Mavericks ended the season of the top-seeded Suns in embarrassing fashion – leading by as many as 46 points and cruising to a 33-point win to advance to the West Finals. Can the Suns exact some revenge when they host Luka Doncic and the Mavs in the season opener?
Milwaukee at Philadelphia, 7:30 p.m. ET
This is a matchup of two of the top contenders in the Eastern Conference as both teams went 51-31 last season, but were eliminated in the second round of the playoffs. Both teams have championship aspirations and get a strong test against one another to start the season. Last season, Joel Embiid became the first center since Shaquille O’Neal to lead the league in scoring. How will he follow up in 2022-23?
Los Angeles Lakers at LA Clippers, 10 p.m. ET
The battle of Los Angeles gets underway Week 1 with the Lakers “hosting” the Clippers at Crypto.com Arena. The Clippers have swept the city series in each of the past two seasons and enter this matchup with a seven-game win streak against the Lakers. This is the opening game of the season for the Clippers, so it will be our first regular season look at Kawhi Leonard and John Wall in over a year and a half.
This is the first meeting between the Celtics and Heat since Game 7 of last year’s Eastern Conference finals, which saw the Heat nearly pull off a miracle comeback in the closing minutes, capped off by a go-ahead 3-point attempt by Jimmy Butler that came up just short as the Celtics held on to advance to the NBA Finals. These teams finished 1-2 in the East a season ago and both are primed for another strong run this season.
Denver at Golden State, 10 p.m. ET
This is the first national TV game for Jokic, Murray and Porter Jr. as they will all be on the court together to open the 2022-23 season. The Nuggets do so against a Warriors squad that eliminated them in five games in the first round of last year’s playoffs.
5. League Pass Games to Watch
Rookie debuts highlight Week 1 on NBA League Pass. Don’t forget you can access a seven-day free trial by signing up now.
The 2022-23 NBA League Pass schedule opens with a matchup between the two most recent No. 1 overall draft picks – Orlando’s Paolo Banchero and Detroit’s Cade Cunningham – in the first game of the season for both teams.
New Orleans at Brooklyn, 7:30 p.m. ET
For the first time in 18-plus months, we will see both New Orleans’ Zion Williamson and Brooklyn’s Ben Simmons as the Nets host the Pelicans in the season opener for both teams.
Cleveland at Toronto, 7:30 p.m. ET
We get our first regular season look at Donovan Mitchell with the Cleveland Cavaliers as he forms an All-Star backcourt with Darius Garland. This game also features the top two finishers in last year’s Rookie of the Year race: winner Scottie Barnes of Toronto and runner-up Evan Mobley of Cleveland.
Led by Grizzlies superstar Ja Morant, this game features plenty of young talented guards including Houston’s Kevin Porter Jr. and Jalen Green. The matchup also marks the second game of the season for Houston rookie Jabari Smith Jr.
Jazz at Timberwolves, 8 p.m. ET
Rudy Gobert does not have to wait long to face his former team when the Timberwolves host the Jazz in the opening week. This won’t be the homecoming game for Gobert (we’ll highlight that one down the line), but it’s always a game to circle anytime you face your former squad.
LA Clippers at Sacramento, 10 p.m. ET
This is the second game of the season for both teams but this may end up being the season debut of Keegan Murray, who is currently in health and safety protocols and could miss Sacramento’s season-opener on Wednesday.
Portland at Los Angeles Lakers, 3:30 p.m. ET
Damian Lillard has been one of the most durable players in the game, missing a total of just 38 games over his first nine seasons. But last season, an abdominal injury sidelined him for 53 games and robbed the NBA of Dame Time. But Lillard is back and he and the Blazers close out Week 1 in Los Angeles against LeBron, Anthony Davis and the Lakers.
>> For more games to watch on NBA League Pass for the rest of the 2022 calendar year, check out the League Pass Watch Guide