The 2023 NBA season is set to begin on Tuesday October 24. With an extremely talented draft class, 30 teams are set to compete for an NBA Championship. With several off season moves by various teams, the Denver Nuggets will look to defend their title. For the next 82 games, we will give you the odds, statistics and our best predictions for the 2023 Most Valuable Player, Most Improved, Rookie of the Year, and more. Let's take a look at the books and discuss which team is most likely to win a title this season. Can the Denver Nuggets run it back? Will Jokic win back-to-back MVPs? Here's some information to know:
We may come from different cities and we may root for different teams, but one thing we'll always have in common: EVERYONE'S GAME 🏀— NBA (@NBA) October 6, 2023
The NBA is BACK on Tuesday, 10/24! #KiaTipOff23 pic.twitter.com/YRlxApyWhK
Most Valuable Player
Nikola Jokic, Denver Nuggets: +450
Ready for the regular season 🃏— Denver Nuggets (@nuggets) October 20, 2023
25 PTS / 14 REB / 8 AST / 1 STL pic.twitter.com/lpDNUa0H32
2022-2023 Season Stats :PPG: 24.5 | FG: 63.2 % | 3 PT: 38.3 % | FT: 82.2% | REB: 11.8 | AST: 9.8 | STL: 1.3 | BLK:0.7
Nikola Jokic certainly had himself a season last year. Falling just short of his third MVP title, the big man led the Denver Nuggets to their first Championship title in franchise history. The Joker had an incredible season, in which some would say he was deserving of the award. Looking to win the MVP award for the third time in four seasons, Jokic led the league in triple doubles, and player impact estimate. The first player with 2000 points, 1000 rebounds, and 500 assists in a season (2022), the Joker averaged career highs in field goal percentage (62.3 percent), and assists.
Named Finals MVP, for Jokic to win again, he simply needs to play his game. In his Prime, No. 15 is one of the most dominant Centers in the league, next to Embiid. The favorite to win it all, the Nuggets star will have to rely on the health of his teammates, which has been a past issue. Although the Nuggets regressed slightly in their roster, Nikola Jokic should have plenty of talent around him, including Jamaal Murray, Michael Porter Jr., and Aaron Gordon. Given he hasn't played less than 69 games in his eight-year career, Jokic is a prime candidate for MVP this season.
Luka Dončić, Dallas Mavericks: +500
Magic from the first 🪄 pic.twitter.com/06Fz2hUgcJ— Dallas Mavericks (@dallasmavs) October 10, 2023
2022-2023 Season Stats: PPG: 32.4 | FG: 49.6% | 3 PT: 34.2 % | FT: 74.2% | REB: 8.6 | AST: 8 | STL: 1.4 | BLK:0.5
Never having won the NBA Most Valuable Player Award, Luka Dončić remains one of the most prolific point guards in the league. With the addition of Kyrie Irving, and several key pieces, Dončić's chances of MVP may decrease. In his first full season with Irving, we will see if Dončić gravitates more on than off ball. With Kyrie resigning with Dallas, the world is waiting to see the full chemistry between him and Dončic, especially with two ball dominant guards. That in itself is a huge factor in determining whether he is capable of the award.
Averaging a career high 32.4 points last season, Dončić shot a career best 49.6 percent from the field, and recorded 1.4 steals a game. Extremely talented, and one of the best in the game, the health of No. 77 remains an issue. Having missed the 2022-2023 playoffs, Dončić has yet to play a full season, averaging 66 games played his five-year career. Just one game above the threshold to be considered for awards, he hasn't played over 70 games since the 2018-2019 season.
Through 66 games played last season, Dončić finished second in points, behind Embiid, and fourth in field goals made per game (11.1).
Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks: +550
Thanks for coming out and see you Thursday! pic.twitter.com/FqxtP98lQQ— Milwaukee Bucks (@Bucks) October 22, 2023
2022-2023 Season Stats : PPG: 31.1 | FG: 55.3 % | 3 PT: 27.5 % | FT: 64.5 % | REB: 11.8 | AST: 5.7 | STL: 0.8 | BLK:0.8
Giannis Antetokounmpo, the "Greek Freak" remains one of the best players currently in the NBA. More than just a scorer, Antetokounmpo was named All-NBA First Team, alongside Luka Dončić, Joel Embiid, Jayson Tatum and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.
Three years removed from winning an NBA Championship, Milwaukee conceded to the Miami Heat 4-1 in last year's Eastern Conference Semifinals. With Giannis mainly hurt for the series, along with injuries to Khris Middleton, the Bucks gave Antetokounmpo an early Christmas present. The acquisition of veteran Damian Lillard should provide tremendous spacing for Giannis, making them a top duo in the league.
Lillard and Antetokounmpo have the capability to dominate the pick and roll, and Damian Lillard will give Giannis a healthy, consistent option to pass out to. Although unclear if the addition will help or hurt his stats, Giannis should create opportunities for Dame. With Lillard taking attention away from Antetokounmpo, I expect a monumental shift on offense for the big man. Haven't played over 70 games since the 2018-2019 season, Antetokounmpo has mainly spent the offseason healing a knee injury.
Coming off a career season in points per game (31.1), No. 34 has a real shot of winning MVP, and has averaged a double-double the past six seasons.
Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers: +650
2022-2023 Season Stats :PPG: 33.1 | FG: 85.7 % | 3 PT: 33 % | FT: 85.7% | REB: 10.2 | AST: 4.2 | STL: 1 | BLK: 1.7
Joel Embiid is the reigning 2022-2023 NBA MVP, his first in his seven-year career. One of the most dominant big men in the game, Embiid averaged highs in minutes played (34.6), three-throw percentage (85.7), points (33.1), and field goal percentage (54.8). As dominant as he is inside, Embiid is a true center, who can stretch the floor, remaining a threat beyond the perimeter. One of the best defensive threats in the league, No. 21 finished with over 1.7 blocks and one steal per game.
If you recall, Embiid finished the season on a tear, including a 52-point performance against the Boston Celtics towards the end of the season. With the fourth best odds to win the award, Embiid finds himself yet again in the middle of a disheveled franchise. Having dealt with a similar issue prior with Ben Simmons, Sixers guard James Harden has requested a trade out of Philadelphia. His absence from training camp primarily leaves Maxey and Embiid as the core pieces of the team.
While he's managed to stay healthy the last two seasons, Embiid hasn't played over 68 games in his entire career. Deemed healthy, the big man will have the task of carrying the 76ers while they fill the Harden void under new coach Nick Nurse.
Jayson Tatum, Boston Celtics: +800
Defense➡️Offense pic.twitter.com/bMwyMkqIum— Boston Celtics (@celtics) October 19, 2023
2022-2023 Season Stats :PPG: 30.1 | FG: 36.6 % | 3 PT: 35 % | FT: 85.4 % | REB: 8.8 | AST: 4.6 | STL: 1.1 | BLK:0.7
After six seasons under his belt, it seems as though it's championship or bust for Jayson Tatum and the Celtics, am I right? On a fully loaded roster, Tatum averaged career highs in points (30.1), assists (4.6), rebounds (8.8), and minutes played (36.9). Although it seems like a long shot, Tatum is entering the prime of his career, alongside Jaylen Brown. Appearing in nine straight playoffs, the Boston Celtics have high expectations this season, and also for Tatum.
As well as Tatum performed with Brown in the lineup, Brad Stevens acquired Kristaps Porzingis, and Jrue Holiday, among others. Knowing what it takes to sacrifice to win, it's unclear if the additions to the Celtics roster will hinder Tatum's MVP case. We've seen Tatum elevate his game, and rise to the top, although his shot selection can improve. One of the healthier candidates, No.0 has played over 70 games in two straight seasons.
Fully healthy, can Jayson Tatum lead the Celtics to their first banner since the 08 season? If so, it may take sacrifice from all players to achieve their championship goals.
Dark horse candidate: Shai Gilgeous Alexander: +1600
Our Prediction: Nikola Jokic: +450
Rookie of the Year
Victor Wembanyama, San Antonio Spurs: -125
Back in June, Victor Wembanyama was selected first overall by the San Antonio Spurs. Considered the biggest generational talent since LeBron James, Wembanyama hasn't disappointed in the preseason. Standing at 7' 4, Wemby is incredibly athletic for his size, and can stretch the floor, shooting from long range. With a shaky summer league debut, the French sensation has lived up to the hype ever since, giving fans a glimmer of hope post Duncan and Ginobili era.
Favored the win the MVP at -125 odds, it's hard to fade that here. I will go ahead and make a bold prediction Wembanyama could possibly be included in the MVP conversation. Surrounded by a young Spurs core led by Greg Popovich, Wembanyama is the best player in this draft class, by a mile. No. 1 is a player that will have an instant impact on both sides of the floor and has already show cased talents which question if he's even human. With an eight-foot wingspan, it's going to be nearly impossible for players to score over him on a nightly basis.
In four preseason games, Wemby is averaging 19.3 points, 4.8 rebounds, 2.8 blocks, and one steal. He's eight overall in the preseason rankings, leading all rookies.
Scoot Henderson, Portland Trailblazers : +240
The Portland Trailblazers stunned the NBA world when they drafted Scoot Henderson third overall from G-League Ignite. The apparent heir to Damian Lillard, Portland eventually traded their superstar to the Milwaukee Bucks. Henderson now joins a fun Blazers young core, and a crowded backcourt of Anfernee Simons and Shaedon Sharpe.
Henderson should slide into the starting role as point guard, although the acquisition of Malcom Brogdon may challenge him for minutes. With the departure of Lillard, Portland also gained center Deandre Ayton alongside Jerami Grant. The magnitude of the guard's role is unclear this year, especially with such young talent around him.
Out due to an injury in the Summer League, Henderson had underwhelming preseason. Averaging only 13.5 points per game, the point guard dished out more than 5 assists, and finished under 30 percent from three. Notorious for his explosiveness, Henderson should get plenty of attacks to the basket.
Chet Holmgren, Oklahoma City Thunder: +280
Center Chet Holmgren stands at 7 foot 1 and was drafted 2nd overall in 2022 draft by the Oklahoma City Thunder. This is a crucial time for Holmgren, who was out for the entire 2022-2023 season due to a Lisfranc injury on his right foot. Much like Wembanyama, Holmgren has an extremely versatile skill set, especially for his size.
Holmgren will join a young, talented Thunder team, led by Shai Gilgeous Alexander, Josh Giddey, and Jalen Williams among others. Ready to make an immediate impact, Holmgren impressed in preseason, especially against Wembanyama. There's no doubt Holmgren will join a Thunder team that desperately needs a big man who can defend. In four preseason games, the center averaged 16.3 points, 5 rebounds, and 2 blocks.
Seen going head-to-head against Wemby, the league should be in for a real treat with Holmgren. As much as I love Holmgren as a Rookie of the Year Candidate, SGA is my dark horse MVP winner, and will be scoring a majority for the Thunder. I believe it will take a few years for Holmgren to truly showcase all of his capabilities.
Dark horse candidate: Cam Whitmore: +2500
Our Prediction: Victor Wembanyama: -120
Most Improved Player
Mikal Bridges, Brooklyn Nets: +800
Mikal Bridges finishes the BEAUTIFUL fastbreak 😤pic.twitter.com/qUVIZ5BzHZ— Nets Nation (@NetsNationCP) October 19, 2023
Brooklyn Nets forward Mikal Bridges is the overwhelming favorite to win most improved player after he was included in the Kevin Durant trade. A lockdown defender, Bridges finished the season with 20.1 points, 4.4 rebounds, 3.3 assists, and 1.6 steals per game. After spending his first five seasons in Phoenix, the forward exploded in 27 games with the Brooklyn Nets. No. 1 averaged 26.1 points, 2.7 assists, 1 steal, and 4.5 rebounds with his new team. Effective from long range, Bridges showed large production in such a short amount of time. With one day until tip off, Bridges is expected to be focal point of this team and is expected to take away the award.
Tyrese Maxey, Philadelphia 76ers: +1000
TYR3S3. pic.twitter.com/8xCZ4gcYpN— Philadelphia 76ers (@sixers) October 21, 2023
Tyrese Maxey seems to have the full green light by the Philadelphia 76ers organization. Under new coach Nick Nurse, the 76ers refused to include Maxey in any trade negotiations. With a disgruntled James Harden, Maxey will be left carrying this team, along with Joel Embiid. That's if Harden is traded, he's technically still a member of the 76ers. Truly a rising star in the NBA, Maxey averaged career highs in points (20.3), and three-point percentage (43.4).
This is a monumental opportunity for Maxey, who didn't receive a contract extension, and in the wake of Harden holding out. Now will be his time to shine and prove why he's one of the most elite shooters and rising stars in the league. For the most part, players typically play with a little bit more tenacity on contract years.
Jordan Poole, Washington Wizards: +1100
Jordan Poole finally got a fresh start, after a tumultuous time with the Golden State Warriors. Averaging over 20 points with the Warriors, Poole will join a Washington Wizards team, where he will be a starter. With various injuries to the Warriors, Poole was able to average over 24 points as a starter for Steve Kerr, which is extremely impressive. On a revamped Wizards roster, look for Poole to lead the way, with the departure of Bradley Beal. Not a finalist after filling for the injured Klay Thompson, look for Poole to lead this core, along with Kyle Kuzma.
Dark horse candidate: Desmond Bane
Our Prediction: Mikal Bridges
2023 NBA Championship
Boston Celtics: +400
2022-2023 Standings: 57-25 2nd in Eastern Conference
The Boston Celtics haven't won an NBA Championship since 2008 and have made nine straight postseason appearances. On Media Day, Boston Celtics Management mentioned they are all in on banner 18, and well beyond this season. After a heartbreaking game 7 loss to the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals, it was apparent Boston needed to reconstruct their lineup.
The Celtics eventually parted ways with Marcus Smart and Grant Williams and acquired Kristaps Porzingis and Jrue Holiday. Signing Jaylen Brown to a multiyear extension was crucial for the Celtics, as Brown and Jayson Taytum continue to grow alongside each other.
Head Coach Joe Mazzulla will now have a full season under his belt, after taking over the firing of Ime Udoka. With a very top-heavy roster, the Celtics will rotate between a double-big lineup, and a smaller lineup of Derrick White and Jrue Holiday. If the Celtics can stay healthy and develop chemistry, they have a real shot of winning it all.
Milwaukee Bucks: +400
2022-2023 Standings: 58-24, 1st in Eastern Conference
The Milwaukee Bucks finished first in the Eastern Conference, despite an injury riddled season. Giannis Antetokounmpo unfortunately suffered an injury in the Eastern Semifinals against the Miami Heat, in which they lost the series. With the acquisition of Damiam Lillard, the Bucks will receive a natural born scorer, in addition to Giannis and Khris Middleton. To me, the Bucks and the Celtics are the clear-cut favorites in the East, with both favored at +400 to win the NBA title.
Denver Nuggets: +550
2022-2023 Standings: 53-29, 1st in Western Conference
It's been a little over 130 days since the Denver Nuggets defeated the Miami Heat to win their first NBA Championship. For the most part, the Nuggets kept their core roster, with the exception of Bruce Brown. With an exceptional amount of talent in the West, Denver is likely to face either the Suns or Lakers, or possibly Warriors in the playoffs. As long as the Nuggets have Jokic and are healthy, I see them competing for another title this year.
Phoenix Suns: +650
2022-2023 Standings: 45-37, 4th in Western Conference
The Phoenix Suns vastly disappointed last year, after trading for Kevin Durant mid-season. After losing game 5 and 6 against Denver in the playoffs, it was apparent Phoenix needed to work on their chemistry. This offseason, the Suns decided to move on from veteran guard Chris Paul and acquired Bradley Beal from the Washington Wizards. Moving on from center Deandre Ayton, the Suns will challenge the Western Conference with a new big three. Given Devin Booker played with Chris Paul in the past, it will be interesting to see if he plays more off ball with Beal now in Phoenix.
With Jusuf Nurkic at center, will the Suns be able to keep up with Jokic in the west? In a top-heavy rotation, Phoenix is thin in depth. We've seen Kevin Durant play with superstars in the past, is this the year he finally gets his third championship?
Dark horse candidate: Los Angeles Lakers : +1200
Our Prediction: Boston Celtics (+400)
Sara Jane Gamelli is a full-time Sportswriter at Ballislife, and Sports Content Creator on Twitch and TikTok. She has a focus on the NBA, WNBA, NCAA Basketball, and the NFL. Sara Jane currently resides in Connecticut/NYC area with her Cat and Dog. SJ has her undergraduate degree from the University of Connecticut in Economics, with a minor in business administration.