Predicting the Best NBA Offenses Ahead of 2022-23 Season

Greg Swartz@@CavsGregBRFeatured Columnist IVSeptember 26, 2022

Predicting the Best NBA Offenses Ahead of 2022-23 Season

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    DENVER, CO - MARCH 15 : Michael Porter Jr. #1 of the Denver Nuggets and Nikola Jokic #15 of the Denver Nuggets talk to Jamal Murray #27 of the Denver Nuggets during the game against the Indiana Pacers on March 15, 2021 at the Ball Arena in Denver, Colorado. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2021 NBAE (Photo by Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images)
    Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images

    At no time in NBA history have offenses been more dynamic than they are now, with the past two seasons producing the highest ratings (112.0 or higher) since data collection expanded in the 1973-74 season.

    Some of last year's best teams have only added to their scoring attack, either via trade, free agency, the draft or simply getting some key players back from injury.

    While there will be no shortage of high-octane offenses in 2022-23, these five teams should be the best the NBA offers.

5. Milwaukee Bucks

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    MILWAUKEE, WI - MARCH 9: Giannis Antetokounmpo #34 of the Milwaukee Bucks high fives Jrue Holiday #21 of the Milwaukee Bucks and Khris Middleton #22 of the Milwaukee Bucks during the game against the Atlanta Hawks on March 9, 2022 at the Fiserv Forum Center in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2022 NBAE (Photo by Gary Dineen/NBAE via Getty Images).
    Gary Dineen/NBAE via Getty Images

    2021-22 Final Ranking: No. 3, 114.3 rating

    The Bucks didn't shake up the roster or add a dynamic scorer or playmaker this offseason, and they didn't need to, either.

    This group is a well-oiled machine that has the chemistry, experience and talent to generate points with ease, led by the most unstoppable player in the NBA.

    Giannis Antetokounmpo's 29.9 points per game were second overall last season, as Milwaukee can use its superstar in the pick-and-roll, posting up, in transition or taking defenders off the dribble. Antetokounmpo is the league's most dominant player when he gets near the basket, averaging an NBA-high 13.2 points per game in the restricted area last season on 76.6 percent shooting.

    Khris Middleton has become the perfect second-option while Jrue Holiday, who normally draws attention for his defensive efforts, put up 18.3 points and 6.8 assists while shooting a career-high 41.4 percent from three last season.

    There's plenty of offensive support to go around, from Brook Lopez and Grayson Allen's floor-spacing to Bobby Portis thriving as this team's sixth man. Pat Connaughton, rookie MarJon Beauchamp and free-agent addition Joe Ingles (when he returns from a torn ACL) will all provide shot-making off the bench as well.

    Milwaukee has finished in the top-5 offenses in both seasons since Holiday was acquired via trade, with 2022-23 making it three years in a row.

4. New Orleans Pelicans

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    NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA - MARCH 27: Zion Williamson #1 of the New Orleans Pelicans and Brandon Ingram #14 react during a game at the Smoothie King Center on March 27, 2021 in New Orleans, Louisiana. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)
    Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

    2021-22 Final Ranking: 19th, 111.2 rating

    The highest risers on this list, the Pelicans will be much-improved this season for obvious reasons.

    Before getting to Zion Williamson, it's important to note just how much of a difference CJ McCollum made following his trade from the Portland Trail Blazers.

    With McCollum operating as a full-time ball-handler for the first time in his career, the Pelicans went from one of the worst scoring units in the NBA to a top-10 team. For the 26 games he was at the Pelicans last season, McCollum averaged 24.3 points and 5.8 assists whilst shooting 49.3 percent overall and 39.4 percent from three.

    With Williamson back and Brandon Ingram coming off a monster playoff series against the Phoenix Suns (27.0 points, 6.2 assists, 40.7 percent from three), McCollum becomes the third-best offensive option on a now loaded Pelicans team.

    Of course, as good as McCollum and Ingram will be, a healthy Williamson is a different kind of monster.

    The 22-year-old was the NBA's eighth-leading scorer the last time we saw him (27.0 points per game) and of the top 63 scorers overall, was the only one to shoot above 60.0 percent.

    His 18.0 points per game in the restricted area easily outpaced Giannis Antetokoumpo's 14.6 to lead the NBA. This will also be the most spacing Williamson will have to work with now that he's sharing the floor next to Jonas Valanciunas (36.1 percent from three on 158 total attempts last season) instead of Steven Adams.

    Mix in some talented passers and shotmakers like Devonte' Graham, Jose Alvarado, Trey Murphy III, Larry Nance Jr., Jaxson Hayes and rookie Dyson Daniels and this Pelicans team is going to run teams out of the gym on a nightly basis.

3. Atlanta Hawks

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    Atlanta Hawks' Trae Young (11) drives past San Antonio Spurs' Dejounte Murray during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Wednesday, Nov. 24, 2021, in San Antonio. (AP Photo/Darren Abate)
    AP Photo/Darren Abate

    2021-22 Final Ranking: No. 2, 115.4 rating

    The Utah Jazz was the only team that finished with a better offense than these Hawks last season. It's probably safe to say that won't happen again.

    Atlanta needed Dejounte Murray more for his defensive talents, although adding an All-Star guard who averaged 21.1 points, 8.3 rebounds and 9.2 assists while only turning the ball over 2.6 times a game should only beef up this scoring attack even more.

    Everything revolved around Trae Young last season, for better or worse.

    The Hawks had an offensive rating of 119.3 (93rd percentile) when Young was in the game last season compared to just a 109.4 rating (28th percentile) when he sat. The addition of Murray gives Atlanta the ability to stagger their two elite playmakers, making sure the offense never grinds to a halt.

    While Murray has never been a great three-point shooter (33.0 percent for his career), the Hawks should be good enough overall to cover for him, as they ranked 2nd in efficiency (37.4 percent) last season. Young was also one of the NBA's best catch-and-shoot three-point makers last year (48.1 percent) and should only get more opportunities with Murray serving as a primarily ball-handler for stretches.

    With a versatile third scoring option in John Collins, a pick-and-roll rim runner in Clint Capela and De'Andre Hunter coming off a strong playoff series against the Miami Heat (21.2 points, 61.4 percent on twos, 46.2 percent on threes), this isn't just a two-man show in Atlanta, either.

    If Bogdan Bogdanovic looks like a Sixth Man of the Year candidate and young players like Onyeka Okongwu, Jalen Johnson and AJ Griffin are all hitting shots, this offense should be even better than the one that finished second overall a year ago.

2. Brooklyn Nets

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    Brooklyn Nets' Kyrie Irving, right, and Kevin Durant during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Indiana Pacers at the Barclays Center, Sunday, Apr. 10, 2022, in New York. The Nets defeated the Pacers 134-126. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
    AP Photo/Seth Wenig

    2021-22 Final Ranking: No. 10, 113.2 rating

    Don't let last season's ranking fool you. If Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving are on the floor, Brooklyn's offense may be the NBA's very best.

    The Nets had an offensive rating of 124.8 in 1,096 total possessions with both star players on the court last year, ranking in the 98th percentile overall. Even this eye-popping number has room for growth, as Brooklyn only got 14 games out of Joe Harris due to a pair of ankle surgeries and has yet to integrate Ben Simmons' playmaking ability.

    Simmons is one of the best shot creators for others in the NBA, an ideal third star to put alongside Durant and Irving. The 6'11" point guard generated 18.6 points per game off his assists alone in 2020-21, the 11th-highest mark in the league. He's also incredibly tough to stop on the open floor with his size and athleticism, making 61.6 percent of his transition shot attempts.

    Even outside of Durant and Irving, this roster is loaded with shooters Simmons can kick the ball out to.

    Seth Curry and Harris rank No. 3 and 4 on the NBA's all-time efficiency leaderboard at 43.9 percent for their careers, while newcomers like Royce O'Neale and T.J. Warren are proven shot-makers as well. If second-year guard Cam Thomas continues his development, he could be another lethal bucket-getter off the bench.

    Lineups with Simmons as a playmaking center while surrounded by Durant, Irving and a pair of shooters could set offensive records.

    While there are naturally some chemistry and availability concerns with this group, there's absolutely no stopping Brooklyn's offense when everyone is on the floor.

1. Denver Nuggets

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    DENVER, CO - FEBRUARY 12: Michael Porter Jr. #1, Jamal Murray #27, and Nikola Jokic #15 of the Denver Nuggets look on during the game against the Oklahoma City Thunder on February 12, 2021 at the Ball Arena in Denver, Colorado. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2021 NBAE (Photo by Bart Young/NBAE via Getty Images)
    Bart Young/NBAE via Getty Images

    2021-22 Final Ranking: No. 6, 113.8 rating

    In a year where one could pull 100 different stats to tell why Nikola Jokic was the deserving MVP winner, the fact that he single-handedly carried Denver to a top-six offense with nine bad games of Michael Porter Jr. and no Jamal Murray may be the craziest of all.

    Jokic is the best offensive player in the NBA, as no one can match his combination of three-level scoring, passing and rebounding.

    Averages of 26.8 points, 12.3 rebounds, 8.1 assists and shooting marks of 62.9 percent from two, 36.3 percent from three and 83.9 percent from the free-throw line over the past two seasons have made Jokic the perfect player to build an offense around.

    With Murray and Porter back this season, no team will have an easier time scoring the ball.

    With Jokic, Murray and Porter all on the floor in 2020-21, Denver had an offensive rating of 126.6, ranking in the 99th percentile and even besting Brooklyn Nets lineups with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving last year.

    Trading for Kentavious Caldwell-Pope adds a 42.0 percent catch-and-shoot marksman to the backcourt and new-signed Bruce Brown can be a pick-and-roll weapon who made a career-high 40.4 percent of his threes last season.

    Add in a potential leap from second-year guard Bones Hyland, the do-it-all play of Aaron Gordon and upside from first-round picks like Christian Braun and Peyton Watson, and Denver's now-healthy offense is ready to jump all the way to No. 1 in the rankings.

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