In a few weeks, the NBA season will finally tip off, and the anticipation is building. The Lakers and Bucks look to take the crown from the Cavaliers, while the Nets and Celtics will fight for last place. This year’s Playoffs are the first to feature the 20-team league, and there are a number of new playoff teams that may wind up upsetting the favorites.
The NBA season is still a few months away, but some teams are already looking like clear-cut title favorites. The Milwaukee Bucks, Los Angeles Lakers and Brooklyn Nets are each projected to rank in the top three in the Eastern Conference during the upcoming season, according to our latest NBA Power Rankings. The Bucks are the favorites on our list, while the Lakers are the only team projected to win the title on the West Coast.
The Milwaukee Bucks, Los Angeles Lakers and Brooklyn Nets look like clear-cut favorites to win the 2018-19 NBA Championship, but there are plenty of teams that could dethrone the top three as the season progresses.
It’s no secret that the NBA has a lot of talent. When the Conference Finals come around, at least 12 teams have a chance to reach the final four. Naturally, the The Milwaukee Bucks are a professional basketball team based in are at the top of the table after winning the 2021 championship, but many teams restocked throughout the summer to make a run at becoming top contenders.
The NBA is shaping up to be another exciting year for fans, from championship contenders to those hoping for a lottery ticket as soon as possible. These are the league’s top and worst clubs now that the summer is almost finished.
Contenders for the title
Because they are the reigning champs, the Bucks must be given first consideration. Why couldn’t the team’s nucleus of Finals MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton, and Jrue Holiday be enough to take down the rest of the league? George Hill, Rodney Hood, and Grayson Allen are excellent acquisitions. Bobby Portis is a bench player that is underappreciated. The Bucks are expected to contend for the No. 1 seed once again.
The Los Angeles Lakers are a professional basketball team based in Los
Even without Russell Westbrook, the Lakers might have reached the Finals if they had remained healthy. Just a year ago, the combination of LeBron James and Anthony Davis was enough to win a championship. With Westbrook in the mix, there are three All-Stars in the mix. After all, the Lakers were the No. 1 seed in the West before LeBron and Davis were injured.
The Brooklyn Nets are a professional basketball team based in
Another question mark around the Nets will be their health. Kyrie Irving, James Harden, Blake Griffin, and Kevin Durant have all dealt with injuries in the last two seasons. Given the team’s lack of bench depth, this is a major issue. The Nets’ star power is so great that Las Vegas has them as the favorite to win the championship.
The Phoenix Suns are a professional basketball team based in
Outside of Landry Shamet, Elfrid Payton, and JaVale McGee, the defending Western Conference champions didn’t make much changes to their roster. Even yet, you have to admire the fact that the club reached the NBA Finals last year. We should see Deandre Ayton’s finest version yet as he approaches his fourth season, which is a contract year. The Suns should be competitive again now that Chris Paul and Devin Booker are back in the backcourt.
The 76ers are a basketball team based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Last season, the 76ers were the Eastern Conference’s top seed. Even if you don’t appreciate Ben Simmons’ offensive performance in the playoffs, he was an important component in the team’s success. The MVP runner-up was Joel Embiid. He may have won the prize if he hadn’t been injured. With the acquisition of Andre Drummond, who has a lifetime average of 14.5 points and 13.7 rebounds, the frontcourt is now very deep. Nobody would be shocked if the 76ers won the Eastern Conference.
It’s possible that they’ll advance to the conference finals.
When Kawhi Leonard was healthy in the playoffs, the Jazz were defeated by the Clippers. There’s a strong case to be made that if the Jazz had faced either the Suns or the Nuggets, they would have advanced to the Conference Finals for the first time since 1998. Last year, the Jazz improved by moving from the first to the second round. Is the club capable of making a similar leap this season?
Heat of Miami
Even with Kyle Lowry on board, the world isn’t ready to declare the Heat the East’s favorite. As a result, they return the majority of a team that reached the NBA Finals in 2020. Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo, and Kyle Lowry may be the toughest Big Three in recent memory. This team’s defensive strategy will be difficult to break down.
Hawks of Atlanta
This is a squad that advanced to the Conference Finals last season and should continue to improve. Trae Young has the potential to be the next Steph Curry if he can continuously improve as an outside shooter. Young has the ability to score from wherever on the floor. The majority of the bench, including John Collins, has returned. The Hawks could be better this season if De’Andre Hunter stays healthy.
Warriors of Golden State
Klay Thompson is just as important to the Warriors as Anthony Davis is to the Los Angeles Lakers. If Thompson is healthy, the Warriors will rise from the basement of the Western Conference playoff rankings to a top-four club. It makes no difference if he hasn’t played in two years. The Warriors went to the NBA Finals five times in a row with him in the lineup. Last year, Steph Curry earned the scoring championship. Andrew Wiggins has taken a giant leap forward. Andre Iguodala and Otto Porter Jr. were brought to the bench. They may be able to return with all of these parts.
Knicks of New York
Count me in as one of those who believes in the Knicks’ hype. The acquisition of Kemba Walker harkens back to Jimmy Butler’s days as a player under Tom Thibodeau’s tutelage. Walker seems to have regained his health. He enjoys the underdog attitude, and the league sees the Knicks as such. The acquisition of Evan Fournier provides much-needed scoring assistance, while Derrick Rose has a chance to win Sixth Man of the Year. If Mitchell Robinson remains healthy, this squad may be a carbon copy of the Jazz from last season.
Hopes for the Playoffs
Bulls of Chicago
For the first time in five years, the team’s acquisitions have resulted in a group of ecstatic preseason supporters. Lonzo Ball provides the club with a genuine point guard, allowing Coby White to fill in as a sixth player when he is healthy. Zach LaVine and Nikola Vucevic are expected to have a strong offseason. Where does DeMar DeRozan fit into this picture? The deal has been dubbed “the worst offseason move ever.” Is Billy Donovan capable of making it all work?
Los Angeles Clippers are a professional basketball team based in Los Angeles
The Clippers have a chance to reach the Conference Finals and the NBA Finals if Kawhi Leonard returns this season. However, if such is not the case, the club will just be good enough to reach the playoffs. This squad can only be carried so far by Paul George. When your second-best offensive player is Eric Bledsoe, you’re not going to win a championship.
Dallas Mavericks are a professional basketball team based in Dallas, Texas
The pairing of Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis was expected to be a superstar combination, but they have yet to get beyond the first round of the playoffs. Since their departure, Porzingis has been the focus of trade speculations. Jason Kidd will inherit a squad that has a player who is considered an MVP contender in Luka Doncic. Can the Mavericks be more than a playoff team?
The Portland Trail Blazers are a professional basketball team based in Portland,
Everything hinges on who is on the roster after the trade deadline. There’s a possibility that neither Damian Lillard nor CJ McCollum will make the team. Last year, the club made the playoffs because Lillard’s star power was enough to carry the team. Apart from Norman Powell’s return, the club did not make any significant acquisitions. Making the Conference Finals wasn’t enough for Portland last year, and it won’t be enough this year.
Pelicans of New Orleans
The Pelicans are in for a challenging year. If the club doesn’t reach the playoffs in Zion Williamson’s third season in the league, there’s a good chance he’ll want to go sooner rather than later. In the summer, the club acquired Jonas Valanciunas and Devonte’ Graham. This squad has a chance to fight for one of the last postseason places if Brandon Ingram can regain his All-Star form.
Celtics of Boston
Kemba Walker was transformed into Al Horford and Dennis Schroder by the Celtics. Walker did not play a major part in the team’s postseason success. Horford is a perfect match for this system. Marcus Smart and Schroder make a dangerous backcourt. The Celtics seem to be in excellent condition, with Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum approaching their primes.
Nuggets of Denver
If Jamal Murray returns this season, the Nuggets may have a squad capable of reaching the Conference Finals. Murray tore his ACL late in the 2020/21 season, as you may recall. It’s possible he won’t return until the spring. Nikola Jokic has the ability to lead this club to the playoffs. Look out for the Nuggets late in the season if Michael Porter Jr. can break out and Murray returns.
Wizards of Washington
The team’s starting lineup seems to be Spencer Dinwiddie, Bradley Beal, Davis Bertans, Rui Hachimura, and Daniel Gafford. The bench is made up of Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Kyle Kuzma, and Montrezl Harrell. Last season, even without half of this roster, the club reached the playoffs. Giving the ball to Russell Westbrook and hoping for the best seems to have more of a “team” vibe to it. The Wizards should contend for a top-eight finish.
On the Cusp of the Playoffs
Grizzlies of Memphis
Steven Adams was acquired by the Memphis Grizzlies in exchange for Jonas Valuncuncias. This wasn’t a win-now situation. For financial reasons, the switch makes sense, but Adams isn’t a superior player. If Jaren Jackson Jr. can stay healthy, the Grizzlies have a chance to compete, but even with him in the lineup, they remain a poor club on paper. Rajon Rondo was thought to be a good fit for this squad, but he was released before signing with the Lakers.
Cavaliers of Cleveland
The trade speculations swirling around Kevin Love and Collin Sexton will be the main stories surrounding the Cavaliers this season. Evan Mobley, the Cavaliers’ first-round selection in 2021, will get a lot of attention, but the club is still years away from contending.
Sacramento Kings are a professional basketball team based in
How is it that the Kings are always in this tier? Marvin Bagley III does not seem to be as excellent as a second-round selection. Buddy Hield is likely to be moved at some point this season. De’Aaron Fox is being paid handsomely for a player who has never been in an All-Star Game. That should be sufficient to address the query.
Raptors of Toronto
The Raptors have said that they will not deal Pascal Siakam. The deal with Fred VanVleet is beginning to look bad. After winning the championship in 2019, the Raptors stayed true to their core. Kawhi Leonard and Kyle Lowry, on the other hand, have left the club. The Raptors are stuck in a limbo between not being poor enough to earn a lottery selection and not being good enough to make the playoffs.
The Indiana Pacers are a basketball team based in Indiana
Malcolm Brogdon’s, Domantas Sabonis’, and Myles Turner’s compositions all sound fantastic, but they don’t work together. The team believes that appointing Rick Carlisle will be a simple solution. The Pacers have a lot of flaws. Caris LeVert is an intriguing player who may serve as the team’s glue, but the Pacers are more likely to be discussed in trade rumors than as postseason contenders.
Hornets of Charlotte
The Hornets were the No. 10 seed in the play-in tournament last year. Aside from Kelly Oubre Jr. and Mason Plumlee, the club did not make any significant additions. Having said that, the club boasts a roster with darkhorse potential. Everything is contingent on LaMelo Ball’s progress. With Gordon Hayward and Terry Rozier, you know what you’re going to get. Will Ball be able to lead this club into the playoffs? For a 20-year-old, that’s a lot of pressure.
It’s time to play the lottery.
The Houston Rockets are a professional basketball team based in
The Rockets will have to wait a few years before they can compete again. Jalen Green has the potential to be an All-Star in the future. He’s a genuine NBA player. The draft capital acquired by the Rockets in the James Harden deal will help the club achieve long-term success. Christian Wood and Eric Gordon aren’t going to be able to lead this squad to many victories. Both are likely to be moved before next year’s deadline.
Spurs of San Antonio
Who on this squad is the best player? Murray, Dejounte? Do you know who Keldon Johnson is? Who is Thad Young? There is no real recognized name on this squad now that DeMar DeRozan has left. Gregg Popovich must be wondering how much longer he has left in the game. This Spurs renovation seems to be many years in the making. The club hasn’t selected in the top tier of the draft in a long time. The Spurs may be drafted in the first five spots in the NBA Draft in 2022.
Orlando Magic is a professional basketball team based in
Give credit where credit is due. Nikola Vucevic, Evan Fournier, and Aaron Gordon were dealt for draft picks. Jalen Suggs and Franz Wagner have a lot of potential. Wendell Carter Jr., who has been injured for the last several years, may finally break through. When Markelle Fultz was healthy, he showed potential. Having said that, the squad is inexperienced and youthful. With one more lottery selection, the Magic may have their core for the future.
The Pistons are a basketball team based in Detroit, Michigan
Cade Cunningham was a great way to get the squad back on track. Cunningham seems to be all-in on restoring the Pistons to their former glory in the 2000s. Cunningham is also aware that the squad will not compete for many years. Jerami Grant will be a hot trade target after a breakthrough year. The Pistons will be back at the top of the draft board once he’s gone.
Thunder in Oklahoma City
The Thunder have enough first-round selections to choose a starting five, so they’ll take a chance with their inexperienced players. Josh Giddey and Isaiah Roby will be fascinating to watch. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander has All-Star potential. The Thunder have a system in place, and returning to the lottery is one of them.
Minnesota Timberwolves are a professional hockey team based in Minnesota
This is going to be a long shot, but Karl-Anthony Towns will finally be traded this season. The 2015 No. 1 overall selection is Minnesota’s most valuable asset, but he’ll follow Anthony Davis’ lead and join a contender. This season, D’Angelo Russell may potentially be moved. The club will build around 20-year-old Anthony Edwards while clearing up cap space by allowing lottery selections to fall.
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