The 2021-2022 NBA season is almost here, with about 2 months left before the kick-off. This season is one of the most highly anticipated in recent times because there are a ton of storylines to follow across both conferences. The Brooklyn Nets have the most talented Big Three in NBA history while the Los Angeles Lakers acquired former MVP, Russell Westbrook, to add to their championship roster.
Otherwise, teams such as the Heat, Bulls, and Knicks have all improved while rebuilding squads such as the Detroit Pistons and Houston Rockets have two very talented rookies to showcase. Without further ado, here are the power rankings heading into the 2022 season.
30. Orlando Magic
The Magic will likely have the worst record in the NBA this offseason. They did well by drafting Jalen Suggs to be a cornerstone alongside Jonothan Isaac, but the rest of the team needs work. Orlando did a massive roster dump when they let go of Nikola Vucevic, Aaron Gordon, and Evan Fournier last year and they got Suggs as a result. Tanking the season could result in the Magic grabbing another high-draft pick for their rebuilding plans.
29. Oklahoma City Thunder
Oklahoma City are in a no-nonsense tanking mode, accumulating picks and trading assets whenever they can. It seems they are sold on Shai Gilgeous-Alexander becoming their franchise star for now, and will probably lose games as they continue to stockpile draft picks for the upcoming draft. The Thunder will likely have one of the worst records in the league and they do not mind that.
28. Detroit Pistons
Cade Cunningham will be the star for Detroit all year as the brightest spot on a rebuilding squad. The days of Andre Drummond and Blake Griffin are no more, and the Pistons will hope that prospects Saddiq Bey and Kyllian Hayes start developing into bonafide starters. Until then, it will be the Cunningham show in a postseason-less year.
27. Houston Rockets
Like Cunningham with Detroit, Jalen Green will be the story of the season for the Rockets. Houston have Christian Wood returning so that duo could be exciting to watch next season, and young guns like Jae’Sean Tate, Kevin Porter Jr, and Kenyon Martin Jr could continue their development. It is doubtful that the Rockets will be able to trade John Wall because of his albatross contract, but things are picking up in Houston.
26. San Antonio Spurs
The DeMar DeRozan era is finally over in San Antonio, and the Spurs can finally focus their efforts on a rebuild. Nobody knows when Gregg Popovich will call it quits on a Hall of Fame career because even he will openly admit that this team will not be winning a championship anytime soon. The Spurs will be one of the lower-seeded teams in the league in 2022, and that could finally motivate the franchise to tank.
25. Minnesota Timberwolves
Minnesota held the 3rd worst seed in the West last season and could be at risk of falling there again. The Timberwolves have Karl-Anthony Towns and Anthony Edwards, two star players with exceptional talent. But where does Minnesota go from there? The roster have some pieces in Malik Beasley and D’Angelo Russell, but both of those players should be on the trading block to help the squad over the long term.
24. Cleveland Cavaliers
Nobody expects much of the Cleveland Cavaliers, although there are some exciting storylines to follow. How will the team pair Jarrett Allen with No. 3 overall pick Evan Mobley? Will the squad trade Collin Sexton? Will Darius Garland develop into an All-Star? These are all questions that will be answered this season as the Cavaliers continue to build for the future.
23. Washington Wizards
The Wizards traded Russell Westbrook for Kyle Kuzma, Montrezl Harrell, and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope this offseason which could improve the team’s depth. Bradley Beal is one of the best scorers in the NBA, but he desperately needs help. If Kuzma and Harrell return to their best form, Washington could sneak up in the East for a playoff seeding. But overall, Washington will be battling for playoff seeding in a rather competitive Eastern Conference.
22. Sacramento Kings
As long as the Kings have De’Aaron Fox on the roster, there is hope for optimism. But that does not mean Sacramento will be guaranteed to make the playoffs this year, and they could be at risk of missing it completely. Sacramento have a lot of moving parts such as Buddy Hield, so this season could be a year of determining the direction of the team through trades.
21. Toronto Raptors
Toronto was a disaster last year, finishing with a 27-45 record and missing the playoffs. The biggest problem was the confrontation between Pascal Siakam and head coach Nick Nurse. Teams often have to decide who to get rid of first, and it seems that Siakam could be the one to be traded. Siakam is a bundle of talent as a 6’9” power forward, and the Raptors might start rebuilding since their franchise point guard Kyle Lowry left the team.
20. New Orleans Pelicans
Stan Van Gundy is out of New Orleans, and that could be a good thing for the Pelicans. Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram are two All-Stars on the squad, and they brought in Devonte’ Graham to replace the departed Lonzo Ball. Graham is a better shooter and scorer than Ball, but cannot replicate his playmaking or defensive skills. The Pelicans will likely not become a contender out of the blue, but watching Zion Williamson play will be one of the brightest spots for NBA fans.
19. Memphis Grizzlies
Ja Morant should continue his rise to become a superstar, and it could very well happen this upcoming season. The Grizzlies made the playoffs last year by defeating Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors in the play-in and will be looking to make the postseason again. Memphis is an up-and-coming team although they are at least a few years from becoming legitimate contenders in the West. Memphis should still look forward to getting Jaren Jackson Jr back to full health after he only played 11 games last year.
18. Indiana Pacers
Indiana should be a much better team this season with the return of Caris LeVert to full health. Domantas Sabonis is a bonafide All-Star big man, Malcolm Brogdon is a fringe All-Star, and there are some nice pieces like T.J. McConnell that can help this team make the playoffs. The Pacers are becoming known for their underdog status, and that could work in their favor under future Hall of Fame head coach Rick Carlisle.
17. Portland Trail Blazers
The Portland Trail Blazers season will be focused on Damian Lillard. The Trail Blazers must get past the first round because if they don’t, their franchise superstar could be out the door. Lillard has given his all for the Trail Blazers franchise and at 31 years old, the window of his prime is shutting. Portland still have talent in C.J. McCollum to play under new head coach Chauncey Billups, so the Trail Blazers could stun the West for a top-5 seed if they can get the job done on both ends of the floor.
16. Charlotte Hornets
Charlotte should see LaMelo Ball become even more comfortable in the NBA, although players have shown they struggle in their second season. With Ball on the squad, the Hornets will have a great offense, and the likes of Gordon Hayward could help. But losing Devonte’ Graham and Malik Monk could come back to bite them, and unless they make a trade for a star player, they will not be much of a threat in the East.
15. New York Knicks
The Knicks got better with Kemba Walker and Evan Fournier, and they have a solid group of players that could lead this team past the first round of the playoffs. That would be very exciting for Knicks fans who have gotten used to mediocrity over the past few years. But just like every season since 1973, the Knicks will not be winning a championship, and avoiding a first-round exit would be the best scenario for them.
14. Boston Celtics
The Celtics swapped Kemba Walker for Al Horford to save money, traded Tristan Thompson, and also lost Evan Fournier to the Knicks. Boston’s goal is to lure an All-Star with the extra cap space, which might happen next offseason rather than this one. As long as Boston fight for a top-5 seed in the East and focus on growing Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, they should be in a position to acquire a third star. For 2022, do not expect much from the Celtics.
13. Chicago Bulls
One of the biggest winners in the offseason, the Chicago Bulls have improved on both ends of the floor. DeMar DeRozan and Lonzo Ball bring athleticism, scoring, and defense to the core of Zach LaVine, Patrick Williams, and Nikola Vucevic. While the Bulls lack the big-name superstars that the other Eastern Conference contenders have, they have a great starting lineup to take them into the playoffs.
12. Dallas Mavericks
Thanks to Luka Doncic alone, the Mavericks will be a playoff team that nobody wants to face. The team locked up Tim Hardaway Jr and still need to decide what they want to do with Kristaps Porzingis, but the roster is quite good as currently constructed. Nobody fears the Mavericks as title contenders, but if Doncic can play like an MVP, anything can happen in terms of conference rankings.
11. Philadelphia 76ers
Much of Philadelphia's season depends on what they do with Ben Simmons. If they keep him, the 76ers will still be a top-5 seed in the Eastern Conference because of Joel Embiid. But if the Sixers move Simmons for another superstar on the level of Bradley Beal or Damian Lillard, Philadelphia could finish in the top-2. It is wait-and-see for Philadelphia's season so far.
10. Los Angeles Clippers
The Clippers have fallen in the power rankings mainly due to the amount of time that Kawhi Leonard will probably miss. Leonard is expected back in March, which means the Clippers will need Paul George to play like an MVP to keep them fighting for a top-4 seed. George is entirely capable of doing that, and the late return of Kawhi could make the Clippers a dark horse for the Western Conference Finals.
9. Golden State Warriors
Facing Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green is always a problem for any team in the league. They are simply too proficient from three and also defensively to ignore as a trio, and the Warriors have some solid pieces around them as well. If Golden State keep the roster as is, they should be a top-4 seed in the Western Conference although a trade for another superstar could make them a direct threat for the #1 seed.
8. Atlanta Hawks
The Hawks have progressed nicely under the play of Trae Young and the spectacular coaching of Nate McMillan, and they should be an Eastern Conference Finals threat next year as well. It will be hard for Young to play better than he has the past 2 seasons although greater consistency in the postseason would help Atlanta take the next step up as contenders. The return of Cam Reddish and DeAndre Hunter could also boost this team’s title hopes.
7. Denver Nuggets
As long as the Nuggets have the reigning MVP in Nikola Jokic on their roster, they will be in the mix for the championship. Michael Porter Jr could blossom into an All-Star this season and Jokic could return to have another MVP caliber year.
Their entire season depends on the health of Jamal Murray because if their star point guard is healthy, Denver will be a big threat in the West.
6. Utah Jazz
The Utah Jazz finished with the best record in the NBA last year thanks to great coaching, Donovan Mitchell's arrival as a superstar, Rudy Gobert's defense, and Jordan Clarkson's scoring off the bench. Those things must play a role again this year because the other top teams in the league improved. People might be sleeping on Utah but they are gunning for a Western Conference Finals berth.
5. Miami Heat
The Miami Heat were in the Finals 2 years ago, but that may have been a fluke due to the inconsistencies of the "bubble". Next season, the Heat will be a real problem. Adding veterans Kyle Lowry and P.J. Tucker likely completed their starting lineup with Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo, and Duncan Robinson all returning. Much depends on Miami's health and the progress of Tyler Herro because those two things could boost Miami up the rankings.
4. Phoenix Suns
Everybody knew the Suns would be better last year with the acquisition of Chris Paul, but nobody expected them to make the Finals. Deandre Ayton, Mikal Bridges, and Devin Booker will most likely show more improvements on the court in 2022, and Paul's leadership will put them in the top-3 seed in the West. If injuries play a role for the other contenders, Phoenix can be in the Finals again.
3. Milwaukee Bucks
The Bucks are reigning NBA champions, and because of that, they will be a top-3 team in the league. Having a 2-time MVP in Giannis Antetokounmpo certainly helps their title chances next season as the returning Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday are full of confidence after adding a gold medal to their championship rings. Losing P.J. Tucker hurts, but the Bucks will be gunning for back-to-back titles.
2. Los Angeles Lakers
While the acquisition of Russell Westbrook may divide opinions, there is no denying the Lakers are the best team in the West on paper. LeBron James is 36 and going on 37, but he is still the best leader in the game. Anthony Davis needs to return to full health for the Lakers to compete, but extended rest might have done him good. Russell Westbrook, Carmelo Anthony, Dwight Howard, and Malik Monk among others are excellent signings for a team that have gone all-in for the chip.
1. Brooklyn Nets
If Brooklyn is healthy, there is no doubt who is the best team in the league. Kevin Durant is fresh off another successful Olympics where he was the standout player in the tournament. James Harden and Kyrie Irving are both top-10 players in the game when healthy and should be back to full speed. The team's acquisition of Patty Mills and improved team chemistry means the Nets are the team to beat next season.