About a quarter into the 2022-23 NBA season, the league has been nothing short of entertaining. It appears that balance has been somewhat restored in the NBA. Although there are a few favorites, as it stands, a multitude of teams looks like they could win the NBA Championship in April.
At this point, the offseason is almost invisible to the rearview mirror. However, we are not too far down the road to backtrack and revisit some of the predictions that were made by the media before the opening tip.
In the absence of NBA action, the offseason becomes a time when basketball fans pay the most attention to sports media. With players and teams on recess, the fanbase becomes meticulously attentive toward the media’s thoughts on trade rumors, assessments of team performances from the season prior, and of course, attempts to forecast what the upcoming season has in store.
But journalists and broadcast personalities do not have a crystal ball or the gift of foresight. They are simply equipped with knowledge of the game and a platform to share educated guesses. That being said, they could be wrong more times than right. From the fair ones to the blatantly ridiculous, here are some of the predictions from the summer and beginning of the NBA season that have been, or are on the verge of being disproved this season.
Kendrick Perkins: Anthony Davis for MVP
Let’s get something straight, Kendrick Perkins is not the most reliable basketball analyst out there. How he got a seat on ESPN is one of the biggest mysteries in basketball. But as it turns out, it is not just fans who question Perkins’ takes, even he has retracted his own opinions.
In an episode of First Take in September, Perkins declared Anthony Davis to be his MVP front-runner. Just two days later, Perkins attempted to undo his statement and alluded to the fact that the eight-time All-Star does not have good pieces around him, therefore affecting his MVP candidacy.
Although he was utterly ridiculed by Stephen A. Smith for not standing his ground, Perkins was right to take back what he said. While Davis has been playing really well, and the Lakers look like they could potentially turn their season around, a handful of players around the league are ahead of him in the MVP race including Jayson Tatum, Luka Dončić, and Nikola Jokić. Upon his return to the court, Davis has flourished into being the centerpiece of a Laker team that has been symbolized by LeBron James. Davis is not an MVP quite yet. But if he stays healthy and the Lakers continue to improve, do not be surprised if he gets crowned within the next two seasons.
The Ringer: Ben Simmons will lead the league in assists
The Ringer is one of the fastest-growing sports websites. The site founded by Bill Simmons covers a variety of stories in entertainment and sports, including the NBA. During the offseason, the website released its season predictions, which included award winners and stat leaders. Among the predictions was Ben Simmons leading the league in assists.
After a long and dramatic hiatus, fans anxiously awaited Simmons’ return like a dog waiting for its owner to get home. Simmons was one of the few factors in the puzzle that was the Brooklyn Nets over the summer. So when the team announced his debut in Brooklyn, fans saw a ray of sunlight break through the cloud hovering over the Barclays Center. Some knew that he would take a while to get in stride after a long period of inactivity. On the other hand, others expected the Ben Simmons that came out of LSU to rise from the ashes.
To be fair, The Ringer’s prediction was not a farfetched idea to begin with. While Simmons is not the most gifted shooter, his passing ability is undeniable. However, his performances so far this season have been up and down. Simmons is currently 47th in total assists, and is yet to break the top 50 in assists-per-game, while his teammates Kevin Durant and Royce O’Neal are ranked 28th and 39th respectively. Simmons has plenty of catching up to do, and it is hard to lead the league in a statistic when you’re doing worse than your teammates.
NBC Sports: Rudy Gobert for Defensive Player of the Year
The Minnesota experiment was one of the more eye-catching moves during the past off-season. In an attempt to make their squad stronger, the Timberwolves acquired Rudy Gobert from the Utah Jazz and formed a big-man tandem with Karl-Anthony Towns. With three All-Star selections, Gobert is a consistent performer and a force in the paint. Relocating him to Minnesota was promising and many expected the Frenchman to thrive individually and with his new team. With those expectations, NBC Sports predicted that Gobert would be this season’s Defensive Player of the Year.
However, the Timberwolves’ season has been subpar, to say the least. Currently 11th in the Western Conference, the team has had moments when they looked impressive but failed to find the consistency needed to collect wins.
As for Gobert, the season has not lived up to how it was advertised when his trade became official. While his rebounding has been consistent in most games, his productivity in other defensive aspects has not been the same as his previous seasons in Utah. The race for Defensive Player of the Year at this point is still close, and Gobert is far from being scratched off. However, he has some tough competition in the likes of Bam Adebayo, Brook Lopez, Evan Mobley, and front-runner Giannis Antetokounmpo. It is a little early to tell, with three-quarters of the season yet to be played, but Gobert has to pick up the pace to make his place more definitive.
Bleacher Report: Lakers Will Trade Westbrook
To be clear, It was not just Bleacher Report. Plenty of outlets, publications, and websites–including Hoops Habit, predicted that Russell Westbrook was getting shipped out of Los Angeles in exchange for shooters and role players after suffering his worst season in the league. It was hard not to think that way when a decorated player who was advertised to be the missing piece for the Lakers’ success brought nothing but a disappointment to the city of angels. To add to that, the Lakers signed his old nemesis, Patrick Beverley. Everybody thought that the organization was foreshadowing his exit, guilty as charged.
As mentioned above, the Lakers have found some control over their season after a disastrous start. It looks like they could at least make the season respectable and part of that has been Westbrook’s willingness to embrace a new role. Westbrook is a former MVP, the all-time leader in triple-doubles, and one of the most athletic players to have graced the basketball court. So going from that to becoming the sixth man for a losing team sounds like quite a decline. However, coming off the bench has helped Westbrook find his stride again. He is playing more freely, looks happier on the court, and is regaining fans’ respect.
While trades are one of the most unpredictable things about the NBA and other sports, Westbrook might not be leaving Los Angeles any time soon. We thought he would be gone by now, but he has found comfort, success, and his place in the Lakers roster, even if it is not in the starting lineup.