The 2022-23 NBA season could be subtitled, The Year of the Return. Nine significant NBA players are on track to hit the court after prolonged absences. It was no laughing matter for the L.A. Clippers that they lost Kawhi Leonard (pictured below) for the entirety of last season. His return should not be underestimated or downplayed. Leonard is a two-time NBA Champion that was the Finals MVP twice, the Defensive Player of the Year twice, and an NBA All-Star five times. Leonard is 31 years-old. He will be joined in Clipper-land by John Wall, who has not played NBA hoop since April, 2021.

Meanwhile, in New Orleans, the Pelicans are eager to welcome Zion Williamson back to the mix. He has not played NBA basketball since early May, 2021. The Pelicans were awful at the start of last season, losing 12 of their first 13 games. They improved greatly after the addition of C.J. McCollum and they won 14 of their last 26 contests. The thought of a core-five of McCollum, Brandon Ingram, Herb Jones, Williamson and Jonas Valanciunas should send shivers down the spines of all the opposing Western Conference coaches.

Brooklyn anticipates the re-emergence of Ben Simmons. He last played in June 2021 for the Philadelphia 76'ers. Simmons' role with Brooklyn remains undetermined but on a team with likely starters, Kyrie Irving, Seth Curry, Joe Harris, and Kevin Durant, Simmons may find his niche as a small-ball pivot. T.J. Warren is also playing for Brooklyn this season after missing all of 2021-22. Warren has not played an NBA game since December 29th, 2020.

In Denver, the Nuggets should strike it rich with the expected restoration of both Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. Murray is returning from a torn ACL, suffered in April 2021. His shot creation skill will be a welcome sight for Nuggets fans. Porter Jr. started last season but it was obvious to anyone watching that he was not healthy. Continued back issues had MPJ looking like he was less mobile than late-career Larry Bird. Porter Jr. was finally shut down for the campaign on November 6th, 2021. Now, following back surgery, Porter Jr. is said to be healthy and ready to rip. His scorer’s mentality and shooting ability was sorely missed by Denver.

Collin Sexton (pictured below) appeared in just eleven games last season before being ruled out for the remainder. Now, a restricted free-agent coming off a major injury (torn meniscus, had surgery in November 2021), Sexton’s 2022-23 plans appear far from set in stone. He could return to Cleveland but his job as a starting guard appears to be in serious jeopardy with the emergence of Darius Garland, and the acquisition in early February of Caris LeVert.

Orlando will welcome the return of Jonathan Isaac who tore his ACL in August of 2020 in “The Bubble.” Isaac is a long defender that was averaging 2.3 blocked shots per game when he went down. He figures to be a main cog for the Magic.

And finally, in San Francisco, the Warriors should see a healthy dose of James Wiseman. He missed the entire 2021-22 season with a right knee injury. As a rookie, Wiseman averaged 11.5 points, and 5.8 rebounds per game. He was foul prone in that 2020-21 season, and he will have to show that he can defend without fouling so much. Wiseman played 79 minutes in Summer League (July 2022) and he looked good.

It will be good to see many players that played less than half of the 2021-22 season get back to a full slate of games in 2022-23. Among those players: Kyrie Irving, Damian Lillard, Paul George, Bradley Beal, Anthony Davis, Lonzo Ball, Victor Oladipo, Klay Thompson, Markelle Fultz, Dillon Brooks, Brook Lopez, Malcolm Brogdon, Patrick Williams, Joe Harris, Derrick Rose, Thomas Bryant, and Detroit sleeper Isaiah Livers.

- Bobby Gerould, August 24, 2022.