B/R NBA Staff Predicts Scoring Champion, Major Stat Leaders for 2022-23 Season

Bleacher Report NBA StaffSeptember 16, 2022

B/R NBA Staff Predicts Scoring Champion, Major Stat Leaders for 2022-23 Season

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    Stephen Curry (Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images)

    Football’s back, the leaves are changing, summer blockbuster season is over and the 2022-23 NBA campaign starts in just over a month.

    Yes, you read that right. With the exception of a few more potential trades—here’s looking at you, Utah Jazz and Los Angeles Lakers—the 2022 offseason is pretty much wrapped up.

    As we get ready for the NBA's return, it’s time to start predicting how the season will play out.

    The subject of today’s predictions are the individual players. More specifically, we’re going to break down who’ll lead the way in a number of statistical categories.

    In each instance, we’ll give you an ironclad, irrefutable reason why we picked those players. (All of them will assuredly prove correct by the end of the year.)

Scoring Champion: Giannis Antetokounmpo

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    Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images

    Each of the top three on last season's scoring leaderboard—Joel Embiid, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Luka Doncic—feel like solid contenders for the 2022-23 scoring title. (Trae Young was tied with Luka, but Dejounte Murray's arrival in Atlanta should take him out of this running.)

    Prior to James Harden's arrival to Philadelphia in February, Embiid averaged 29.6 points and shot 49.5 percent from the field. From that point forward, he averaged 32.6 points on 50.8 percent shooting.

    Philadelphia 76ers team president Daryl Morey added multiple kickout options for Harden this offseason, though. That and Tyrese Maxey’s continued ascent seems like it could keep Embiid below 30 points per game.

    As for Luka, another year of seasoning suggests he should be better, but there may be more mouths to feed in Dallas, too. Jalen Brunson is gone, but Christian Wood, JaVale McGee (both acquired this offseason) and Tim Hardaway Jr. (back from injury) will need their touches.

    That leaves Giannis. He’s also on a loaded squad, but his primary scoring help is all post-prime (or at least close to it), while he’s still just 27 and likely entering the season with some added motivation. With Nikola Jokic winning the last two MVPs, the Milwaukee Bucks losing in the second round and Greece falling short of the EuroBasket semifinals, Giannis should be hungry.

    Andy Bailey

Most 3-Pointers: Stephen Curry

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    Adam Pantozzi/NBAE via Getty Images

    Picking Stephen Curry to lead the NBA in made threes is like predicting the sun to rise tomorrow. The 34-year-old has led the league in this category in seven different seasons and is the active, regular-season and playoff leader for career threes made.

    The best shooter in league history missed 18 games last season and still bested second-place finisher Buddy Hield by 23 total threes. That was with Hield suiting up for 81 contests.

    The only player who's topped Curry over the past decade in a season where he's played more than 51 games is James Harden in 2018-19 (378 to 354). Even that took Harden averaging a league-high 36.1 points and 13.2 three-point attempts per game.

    With Harden now serving as a secondary shot-taker on the Philadelphia 76ers, Curry shouldn't worry about him stealing back the long-range crown.

    Players like Hield, Trae Young, Fred VanVleet and Desmond Bane may give him a run, but Curry will take home his eighth career three-point title.

    Greg Swartz

Rebounds Per Game: Domantas Sabonis

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    Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images

    Bold predictions might command the lion’s share of attention. But if you’re aiming for accuracy, then reliable, safe choices are the way to go.

    Domantas Sabonis is one of two players to average at least 12 rebounds in each of the past three seasons. The other, Rudy Gobert, just joined a frontcourt with Karl-Anthony Towns, who has a career average of 11.3 rebounds per game.

    The other players with two such seasons over that stretch are: Clint Capela, who just logged his fewest minutes in four seasons; and Andre Drummond, who’s about to backup former All-Star Nikola Vucevic in Chicago.

    Sabonis may not have the highest ceiling as a glass-cleaner—though even that’s debatable—but he arguably offers the highest floor. Sacramento’s frontcourt is all his, and no one on the Kings is a major threat to swipe away rebounds.

    Look for him to up his nightly board allotment into the 13-to-14 range and snag his first-ever rebound title.

    Zach Buckley

Assists Per Game: Chris Paul

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    Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images

    This isn’t a very controversial prediction.

    Chris Paul secured his fifth assist title last season. As he enters his age-37 campaign, it feels like a little more reliance on his young, talented supporting cast is almost a given.

    With Devin Booker, Deandre Ayton, Mikal Bridges and Cameron Johnson all nearing or entering their primes, each might want another look or two per game. They have one of the greatest point guards of all time to feed them.

    FiveThirtyEight’s projection model pegs Steve Nash and John Stockton as the best comparables for late-career CP3. Those two have the two best assist-per-game seasons of all time for players in an age-37 (or older) season.

    Expect Paul to challenge the 10.7 assists per game that Nash averaged in 2011-12 during his final season with the Phoenix Suns.


Blocks Per Game: Myles Turner

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    Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

    Since 2018-19, Myles Turner has appeared in only 225 of a possible 309 contests. Over that same stretch, he has blocked more shots than everyone other than Rudy Gobert, who has 41 more blocks (649 to 608) in 61 more games.

    No one else has even 500 rejections over that span, and only five other players have 400-plus blocks.

    Clearly, Turner is a top-shelf shot-swatter, but even that falls short of capturing the greatness of his rim protection. This sums it up better: He has two block titles in the past four seasons and would have added a third in 2021-22 had he played enough games to qualify, since his 2.8 rejections towered over Jaren Jackson Jr.’s “league-leading” 2.3.

    This pick should feel a bit risky, since Turner, an unrestricted free agent next summer, cracks the Association’s short list of logical trade candidates. Still, whether he spends the entire campaign in the Circle City or not, he’ll be anchoring someone’s defense and swatting shots at a league-best rate.


Steals Per Game: Herb Jones

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    Barry Gossage/NBAE via Getty Images

    Predicting a steals leader is difficult, as no player since Chris Paul in 2012-13 and 2013-14 has led the NBA in that category in back-to-back seasons.

    That doesn't bode well for last year's champion, Dejounte Murray, although he'll probably have to be near the top to keep the Atlanta Hawks playing at least league-average defense. No player has ever averaged less than 2.0 steals per game to lead the league, so we're looking for someone who can realistically reach that level.

    As a result, we're going to go with second-year guard/forward Herb Jones.

    One of the best rookie defenders the NBA has seen in years, Jones is an athletic 6'8" wing with a 7-foot wingspan. That size enables him to stick to nearly every position at all areas of the floor. He averaged 1.7 steals per game as a rookie, including 2.0 over his final 46 games.

    Jones will likely start for the Pelicans again this season even with Zion Williamson returning, as New Orleans needs his defense on a team loaded with offensive firepower. Jones is excellent at playing passing lanes, poking balls out in one-on-one matchups and even ripping it out of the hands of players trying to drive by him.

    With this team, Jones won't be expected to score. The 23-year-old can put all of his energy into defense, giving him an excellent shot at the steals title.


Advanced Stats

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    Jurij Kodrun/Getty Images

    Box plus/minus: Nikola Jokic

    According to Basketball Reference’s Daniel Myers, box-plus minus "is a basketball box score-based metric that estimates a basketball player’s contribution to the team when that player is on the court.” There are more modern variations on the adjusted plus-minus front, but BPM remains the most accessible and historically relevant since it tracks all the way back to the 1973-74 campaign.

    Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic has led the league in BPM in each of the last two seasons. He broke the single-season BPM record in 2021-22 and ranks second all-time in career BPM, trailing only Michael Jordan.

    The two-time reigning MVP thus feels like a safe bet to lead the way again.

    Jokic is one of the absolute best scorers, passers and rebounders in the world. He’s also a plus defender, and BPM loves his combination of contributions.

    True shooting percentage: Rudy Gobert

    Rudy Gobert’s career 67.1 true shooting percentage—which accounts for the added value of threes and free throws, unlike field-goal percentage—ranks first all-time. Considering that he just led the league with a 73.2 mark in 2021-22, he doesn’t appear to be slowing down.

    On a team with as much firepower as the Minnesota Timberwolves, who’ll start Karl-Anthony Towns, Anthony Edwards and D’Angelo Russell alongside Gobert, the overwhelming majority of Gobert’s attempts figure to be dunks and layups. His average distance from the hoop on shots might be even shorter than the 2.7 feet it was last season.

    That makes another 70-plus true shooting percentage well within reach.

    Usage percentage: Luka Doncic

    “Usage percentage is an estimate of the percentage of team plays used by a player while he was on the floor,” according to Basketball Reference. Traditionally, to “use” a possession, a player has to take a shot, draw a trip to the free-throw line or turn the ball over.

    With Jalen Brunson now a member of the New York Knicks (and his replacement, Christian Wood, being a big), Luka Doncic is going to total a ton of the above.

    He’s led the league in usage percentage in each of the last two seasons. If he had enough minutes to qualify for the all-time leaderboard, he’d be first (and almost two full points clear of second-place Michael Jordan).


    *Advanced stats courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com.


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