The. NBA. Is. Back.
Very few four word combinations in the English language sound much sweeter than hearing about the return of the National Basketball Association. Hoops junkies are all ready, and the drama of the summer was absolutely perfect, with the Simmonscenario still in a wait and see status.
1] Milwakuee Bucks
It’s rare for the defending champions not to be considered at the top slot in the following power rankings, namely when the franchise retains it’s key cogs while Donte DiVincenzo is expected to return. Throw in organic growth, and the Bucks should be the front runners to take down the ’22 title.
vs Nets, @ Heat, @ Spurs
2] Los Angeles Lakers
Despite a first round knock out, the Lakers made the moves required in order to put them as the favorites for the top slot in the Western Conference. The addition of Russell Westbrook will pay major dividends for a franchise that is led by LeBron James, who is nearing the end of his career, giving the decorated veteran an opportunity to take games off and be ready to go for the playoffs.
vs Warriors, vs Suns
3] Utah Jazz
Bouncing back from a disappointing performance in the playoffs, the Jazz are sure to bounce right back and put themselves among the Best in the West. Revamping the roster with additional depth, adding veterans Rudy Gay and Hassan Whiteside, while taking a flier on Eric Paschall.
vs Thunder, @ Kings
4] Phoenix Suns
Following a destiny filled run to the NBA Finals, the Suns will look to show that they are side that is worthy to compete for another year. Adding in a knock-down shooter in Landry Shamet and a solid backup center in Javele McGee, Phoenix will hope that father time hasn’t caught up to Chris Paul.
vs Nuggets, @ Lakers, vs Blazers*
5] Brooklyn Nets
Covidrama with Kyrie Irving puts the Nets in a precarious position, as the All-Star guard is slated to miss games until he either gives up his personal rights for the vaccine, or some sort of negotiation allows him to play. Brooklyn is still full of talent with Kevin Durant and James Harden leading a supporting cast, including Joe Harris, Blake Griffin, LaMarcus Aldridge and Patty Mills. Expect rookie Cameron Thomas to outplay his draft position.
@ Bucks, @ 76ers
6] Denver Nuggets
Any team that features The Joker, league’s reigning Most Valuable Player will be a threat game in, and game out during the regular season. Toss in spectacular depth until the return of one of the league’s most dynamic guards in Jamal Murray, and Denver could see themselves shooting up the rankings.
@ Suns, vs Spurs
7] Atlanta Hawks
After a spectacular run to the Eastern Conference Finals, the young Hawks have further loaded up on depth, to go with the organic growth expected from Trae Young to De’Andre Hunter. A full summer under the tutelage of Nate McMillan will have as positive an impact as possible.
vs Mavericks, @ Cavaliers
8] Miami Heat
Looking to bounce back after making the playoffs during the Orlando Bubble, the Heat made a splash by completing the long anticipated acquisition of Kyle Lowry to play alongside Tyler Herro, who believes he should be mentioned alongside Ja Morant, Trae Young and Luka Doncic. PJ Tucker should provide some added toughness, which any team with Jimmy Butler isn’t short on.
vs Bucks, @ Pacers
9] Los Angeles Clippers
Despite the injury of Kawhi Leonard, the Clippers closed out the series against the Utah Jazz, while fighting tooth and nail against the Suns. Toss in a summer of growth for Terance Mann and Ivica Zubac, a, hopefully healthy Serge Ibaka and further depth with a pair of high potential youngsters, and the Clippers could surprise some dies.
@ Warriors, vs Grizzlies
10] Golden State Warriors
Curry has looked nothing short of absolutely exceptional during the pre-season. Jordan Poole has played his part well, which is needed as Klay Thompson will be on the sidelines to start the campaign, while the return of Andre Iguodala should give the Warriors a nice boost.
@ Lakers, vs Clippers, @ Kings
11] Boston Celtics
Ime Udoka starts off his coaching career, replacing Brad Stevens who has taken over as the General Manager of the storied franchise. Boston has brought back a familiar face in Al Horford while Josh Richardson and Dennis Schroeder should bolster the guard rotation.
@ Knicks, vs Celtics, @ Rockets
12] Dallas Mavericks
Whatever your opinion on Dallas replacing Rick Carlisle with Jason Kidd is, it’s hard to bet against the unique Slovenian talent of one Luka Doncic. If they can get Kristaps Porzingis to buy into the system and accept his role as the second option, Dallas could have one of the league’s formidable duos.
@ Hawks, @ Raptors
13] Philadelphia 76ers
Nothing short of drama exists in the City of Brotherly Love, as Ben Simmons has made it as blatant as possible that he wishes to find a new franchise to play for, with a price tag that no one believes is worth matching. Still, the 76ers have one of the league’s premier big men in Joel Embiid, with a gifted scorer in Tobias Harris. It’ll be interesting to see if Doc Rivers can, finally, reign in his team.
@ Pelicans, vs Nets, @ Thunder
14] Chicago Bulls
Swinging and missing last season with the Nikola Vucevic addition, Chicago continued it’s aggressive mindset by surrounding Vucevic and Zach LaVine with Lonzo Ball and DeMar DeRozan, the Bulls are hoping to get into the post-season and make some noise.
@ Pistons, vs Pelicans, vs Pistons*
15] Portland Trail Blazers
A healthy Jusuf Nurkic is what Portland has been waiting for, while the addition of Larry Nance provides some much needed solid depth up front for a side that has a formidable trio of Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum and Norman Powell from the 1-3 spot.
vs Kings, vs Suns
16] New York Knicks
Mecca of basketball finally got to celebrate some victories on the court, as Julius Randle took the necessary steps to become a solid leader. With organic growth of RJ Barrett, Mitchell Robinson and Obi Toppin and the addition of Kemba Walker, New York should put themselves in good positioning to clinch a non-play in spot.
vs Celtics, @ Magic, vs Magic
17] Charlotte Hornets
Very few outside of LaVar and LaMelo Ball expected the youngest of the Ball Brothers to have the spectacular rookie campaign he did. Natural improvements teamed with the addition of Mason Plumlee and Kelly Oubre Jr., and the Hornets will continue their steep incline.
vs Pacers, @ Cavaliers, @ Nets
18] Memphis Grizzlies
Coming off a fresh extension for Jaren Jackson Jr., Memphis is going to be a tough out for any team in the league on any given night. Ja Morant has shown improvements during his first two seasons, which is expected to continue during his third year in the big league. Ziaire Williams is going to pay off for the side.
vs Cavaliers, @ Clippers, @ Pacers*
19] Indiana Pacers
Bringing back Rick Carlisle to provide stability on the bench was one of the league’s underrated moves of the shortened summer, however, injuries are a major concern in Hoosier land and will provide a difficult early hole to climb out of.
@ Hornets, @ Wizards, vs Heat*
20] Toronto Raptors
Going back to Toronto for home games will be a major relief, as Nick Nurse and his side spent the prior campaign playing their home games in Tampa Bay, Florida. Not having the services of Pascal Siakam and Chris Boucher to start the campaign wasn’t the way the Raptors wanted to come home too, namely after the departure of long term mainstay Kyle Lowry.
vs Wizards, @ Celtics, vs Mavericks*
21] San Antonio Spurs
Plenty of youth exist in San Antonio, not what is quite expected for Gregg Popovich during the twilight years of his coaching career. However, the future is bright for the Spurs, as Devin Vassell seems like a budding talent, while Derrick White and DeJounte Murray keep making improvements. If Zach Collins can remain healthy, it’ll give the Spurs what they need at the five spot.
vs Magic, @ Nuggets, vs Bucks*
22] New Orleans Pelicans
Replacing Loznzo Ball with Devonte Graham gives the Pelicans a spectacular fit with Brandon Ingram and Zion Williamson. Graham is a consistent threat from the range, while being a great off ball target, allowing Ingram to play “point-forward,” and giving Zion more space in the paint to work with.
vs 76ers, @ Bulls, @ Wolves*
23] Sacramento Kings
De’Aron Fox continues to be one of the most exciting young guards in the league, as he hopes to lead Sacramento back to its first playoff appearances in a decade and a half. Whether that ends up or not, will depend on the coaching prowess of Luke Walton.
@ Blazers, vs Jazz, vs Warriors
24] Washington Wizards
Bradley Beal gives the Wizards a shot on any given night, while Spencer Dinwiddie gives him a mate in the backcourt to help while Montrezl Harrell should have a bounce back campaign. How far Washington goes relies on the development and play of Davis Bertans, Kyle Kuzma, Deni Avidja and Rui Hachimura.
@ Raptors, vs Pacers
25] Minnesota T’Wolves
Karl Anthony-Towns is among the league’s elite big men, who is hoping to lead the Wolves to their first post season appearance in quite sometime along side on of his best friend’s in D’Angelo Russell. Patrick Beverley’s tenacity will bring out some needed fire.
vs Rockets, vs Pelicans
26] Oklahoma City Thunder
Unlimited first round selections have the Thunder with the brightest futures in the league. Throw in Shai Gilgeous-Alexander leading the way as the face of the franchise, with intriguing youth around him, like Alex Pokusevski, Darius Bazley and Josh Giddey, it’ll be a fun year in OKC, despite the lack of victories.
@ Jazz, @ Rockets, vs 76ers
27] Houston Rockets
Not even a year after trading away James Harden, the Rockets have retooled with plenty of high ceiling youth from Kevin Porter Jr. to the most recent second overall pick, the pride of Fresno, Jalen Green. To go with that two is a pair of SoCal kids in Josh Christopher and KJ Martin and a trio of veterans in Eric Gordon, Christian Wood and John Wall. Houston may not win very many games, but they will be in every single one.
@ T’Wolves, vs Thunder, vs Celtics
28] Cleveland Cavaliers
Sex-Land leads the way for the Cavaliers, who just added Evan Mobley with the third overall selection, providing with a front court piece for the future. Cleveland has too many questions to be expected to make an impact this coming year.
@ Grizzlies, vs Hornets, vs Hawks*
29] Orlando Magic
Orlando finally chose to stop being a treadmill team after dealing away Vucevic and Aaron Gordon, then snagged Jalen Suggs and Franz Wagner in the draft as they look towards the horizon.
@ Spurs, vs Knicks, @ Knicks
30] Detroit Pistons
Snagging Cade Cunningham with the top pick, Detroit has put themselves in a position to continue to battle for another top slot during the 22 NBA draft as the team is devoid of top notch talent. Cunningham missed the entirety of preseason, and while expected to return soon, it’ll be interesting to see the impact he has.
vs Bulls, @ Bulls