Fantasy Basketball 2022-23: 15 bold predictions for the new NBA season

By Gabe Allen, RotoWire

Special to Yahoo Sports

The exhibitions are over and the NBA regular season has finally arrived. One of the more enjoyable thought exercises one can undertake during the preseason is making bold predictions. The goal isn’t necessarily to get everything entirely correct, but instead to go with your gut, have some fun, and perhaps figure out who you want to draft (if you haven’t already drafted) or trade for in the process. I don’t expect each of the following things to happen in real life. However, I feel confident there’s a universe out there, somewhere, in which everything I’m envisioning comes to fruition. Without further ado, here are 15 saucy predictions for the 2022-23 fantasy basketball season.

1. Zion Williamson will lead the league in scoring. Behind 60-plus-percent shooting from the field and improved free-throw shooting, Williamson is going to be simply unstoppable offensively, turning in 32.3 points per game.

2. Sophomore forward Herbert Jones will lead the league in steals and make an All-Defensive Team. Having averaged 1.7 steals and 0.8 blocks in 29.9 minutes per game for the Pelicans last season, Jones is a rare bird, as precious few players enter the league as elite defenders. He'll match up with the opposing team's best player (excluding true centers) and make life difficult for them every second he's on the floor.

[Still time to get in on the fun this fantasy hoops season: Create or join a league now!]

3. Stephen Curry will surpass his own record for 3-pointers made in a season. He averaged a career-high 5.3 threes per game in 2020-21 but came up short in terms of totals since he played 16 fewer contests than in 2015-16. Fresh off his flame-throwing Finals performance, Curry will build off that and seemingly re-enter his prime.

4. A trio of Warriors (Curry, Jordan Poole and Klay Thompson) will finish with the three highest free-throw shooting percentages in the league. Poole and Curry were the top two finishers last season. As such, this only qualifies as a bold prediction because Thompson has yet to finish inside the top three in this category during his career.

5. Tre Jones will finish in the top five in assists per game. On a Spurs team that's mostly lacking when it comes to players who can get teammates a good look, Jones will carry a sizable load as a playmaker and shine bright in the set-up man role, handing out eight-plus dimes per night.

6. Jakob Poeltl will lead the league in rebounds. He averaged career highs of 9.3 boards in 29.0 minutes per game — or 11.6 boards per 36 minutes — last season. Without Dejounte Murray, who brought down 8.3 boards per game last season, Poeltl will feast on the glass and grab about 15 rebounds per night.

7. Nikola Jokic will lead the league in assists while averaging a triple-double. For the first time since Wilt Chamberlain did it in 1967-68, a center will dish more dimes than anyone else.

8. Jrue Holiday will rank inside the top 20 in fantasy value in both points and category leagues. With Khris Middleton (wrist) sidelined for at least the first few weeks of the season, Holiday is going to help Giannis Antetokounmpo guide the Bucks toward the top of the standings and earn a long-overdue second career All-Star nod.

9. Jalen Duren will not only be the best value pick among rookies in fantasy; he will also win the real Rookie of the Year award behind averages of a double-double and a couple of blocks per game. Detroit's big-man rotation isn't much to write home about and early-season injuries will force Duren into more minutes, during which time he will earn the starting gig.

10. Meanwhile, the second-best value pick among rookies will be Tari Eason, who will outplay fantasy sleeper Alperen Sengun after the All-Star break. Sengun will still be a stud who stuffs the stat sheet on a nightly basis, but Eason will be the breakout player as the season progresses.

11. Joel Embiid will lead the league in blocks per game. With the Sixers possessing plenty of offensive firepower, we will see Embiid shift more of his focus to the defensive end. Although Embiid hasn't averaged two blocks or more once in the last five years, his rookie campaign — in which he swatted a career-high 2.5 blocks in a career-low 25.4 minutes per game — offers a reminder of what he's capable of on that end of the floor.

12. Onyeka Okongwu will lead the league in field-goal percentage. He didn't finish that far below the league leader from last year (Rudy Gobert, 71.3%), though Okongwu didn't attempt enough shots to qualify. Whether Clint Capela enjoys a healthy season or not, Okongwu will break out to some extent this season. He's a force to be reckoned with inside and will receive lots of lobs from Trae Young.

13. Behind improved free-throw shooting and averages of 30 points, 10 boards and 10 dimes, Luka Doncic will snatch the MVP award, both in fantasy and reality. The ball will be in Doncic's hands even more than before, and he will carve up opposing defenses left and right.

14. Jalen Brunson will be a top-40 fantasy player and first-time All-Star behind averages of 20 points and seven dimes per game on excellent efficiency. He will prove that the flashes he showed in the playoffs were no fluke.

15. Isaiah Jackson will finish in the top 75. Furthermore, following the All-Star break, he will be a top-50 contributor. His per-minute contributions were absurd last year, and as the year goes on, the Pacers will be feeding him more and more playing time, especially when veteran center Myles Turner gets traded right before the deadline.