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Up Next: The most promising teams in the NBA

The race for the 2023 Title is on
The race for the 2023 title is on

The 2022-2023 NBA season is under way, and there are some teams making big โ€“ and perhaps surprising โ€“ strides. Here are the top four up-and-coming teams with the most potential to become perrenial title contenders for years to come. But the question remains: Can they capitalize on their promising players?

Cleveland Cavaliers

Cleveland Cavaliers point guard Darius Garland
Cleveland Cavaliers point guard Darius Garland

You've probably heard the hype surrounding the Cleveland Cavaliers (15-9), who are propelled by the one-two punch of guards Donovan Mitchell and Darius Garland.

They also have the NBA's tallest frontcourt right now. With size and scoring ability, the Cavs are poised to make a run at the NBA title this year. But not everyone is completely sold on this team, with most observers picking Milwaukee, Boston and Philadelphia to be the favorites among Eastern Conference teams.

So, it will probably be a while before Cleveland gets a real shot at coming out of the East, but for now don't sleep on Cleveland. As long as the chemistry between Mitchell and Garland stays rock solid, this backcourt looks frightening for any opposing team.

The issue currently has to do with Cleveland's aging veteran power forward Kevin Love. He won a ring in 2016 as part of the dynamic Cleveland team that had Kyrie Irving and LeBron James. The trio launched the famous 3-1 comeback against the Golden State Warriors in the 2016 NBA Finals. However, Father Time comes knocking on everyone's door, and he's at Love's doorstep.

The Cavs don't seem to have a stable replacement for Love, who is 34 and was last an All-Star in 2017-18. It will all depend on when he chooses to retire and if they can acquire a veteran power forward or a draftee with potential.

The biggest thing the Cavs will need to do in order to be a formidable presence in the East in the coming years is add a veteran with playoff experience. But for now, it should be exciting to see what this squad can achieve this year.

New Orleans Pelicans

New Orleans Pelicans forward Brandon Ingram
New Orleans Pelicans forward Brandon Ingram

By putting together a solid core with Brandon Ingram and CJ McCollum around Zion Williamson, New Orleans (15-8) has a roster with enough depth to support Williamson. All three are averaging between 17.4 and 23.6 points per game this season, and the pressure of scoring is no longer squarely on Williamson's shoulders.

The team looks like it could be McCollum's best shot at an NBA title.

Center Jonas Valanciunas is a stable and reliable prescene whose value to this team hasn't gone unnoticed. He's averaging close to a double-double with 13.4 points and 9.0 rebounds per game and maintaining a solid 23.0 minutes per game.

For now, it looks like New Orleans will have time to gel and build chemistry. This team could surprise as the fourth seed when playoff time comes. But with the Grizzlies, Warriors, Mavs and Suns in the same conference, the Pelicans might have to wait a little bit to come out of the West.

But how long can the Pels afford to wait? McCollum is 31 with a history of ankle injuries from his tenure in Portland. Their starting small forward, Herbert Jones, will be a free agent in 2023.

Jones has been underperforming this season, putting up 10.6 ppg, 3.7 rpg and 2.1 assists per game. Jones is only 24 and in his second season and has some time to develop his game, but backup small forward Trey Murphy has been outperforming him in recent games.

For now, it looks like the small forward position in New Orleans is unresolved, but in 2023, Otto Porter Jr. and Kelly Oubre Jr. are both going to be free agents. Either could significantly boost New Orleans.

Sacramento Kings

Sacramento Kings
Sacramento Kings

Light! The! Beam!

Before the start of the season, envisioning a 13-9 start for the Kings seemed laughable. With a starting lineup of De'Aaron Fox (point guard), Kevin Hueter (shooting guard), Harrison Barnes (small forward), Keegan Murray (power forward) and Domantas Sabonis (center), Sacramento has been a pleasant surprise.

Scoring 153 points against the Brooklyn Nets? Sabonis and and Hueter both dropping 40 pieces at home? Phenomenal. Astounding.

The team looks poised to make a Cinderella run in the playoffs this year. Yes, it's early in the season, but with the Kings' chemistry and their average of 8.0 offensive rebounds per game makes any Sacramento fan excited for what's to come.

Fox or Sabonis should make the All-Star team with the way they're playing. Still, the West's top teams seem too dominant to let the Kings come out of the conference. But if the Kings are able to keep their players happy and break the tradition of making questionable front-office decisions, they could be a force to reckon with in the West.

Orlando Magic

Philadelphia 76ers vs. Orlando Magic
Philadelphia 76ers vs. Orlando Magic

Yup. The Magic.

Certainly, their 5-19 record leaves a lot to be desired, but there is so much potential in this team.

Cole Anthony, Wendell Carter Jr., Franz Wagner and Paolo Banchero are all averaging more than 14.9 ppg.

So, why are they 5-19? One word: inexperience.

The team is averaging 16.6 turnovers per game, with seven players averaging 2.0 or more per game. The team as a whole has a plus-minus of minus-5, a field-goal percentage of 47.1%, averaging about 10.5 3-pointers per game. Granted, those are not the best stats, but the young players are living up to expectations.

The best thing this team can do right now is continue to develop the chemistry between Banchero, Suggs and Anthony. If Orlando can keep these guys together, they can dominate the NBA.

Another problem? Bigs. The Magic's depth at the center position is so uncertain. Bol Bol and Mo Bamba have a consistent history of injuries. Orlando should look into acquiring reliable depth at the five. Myles Turner is a free agent in 2023 and would be a perfect fit for this team.

So, what do you think? Leave a comment.

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Edited by Joseph Schiefelbein
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