11 predictions that will determine the 2021-2022 NBA season

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Our writers springiness their NBA predictions astatine the commencement of a caller season.

It’s hard to judge the commencement of a caller NBA play is already here. It was lone 12 months agone that the Los Angeles Lakers won the 2020 title wrong the bubble, and little than 3 months since the Milwaukee Bucks won 4 consecutive games against the Phoenix Suns to seizure the 2021 championship. The commencement of different play brings caller possibilities to the teams and players hoping this is the twelvemonth they tin find nationalist relevance.

Rarely has the NBA felt this wide open. The league has been defined by dynasties since its inception, but 4 antithetic teams person won the title successful the past 4 years. More teams that ever consciousness similar they person a accidental to triumph it each aft watching the Miami Heat and Suns marque Cinderella runs to the Finals the past 2 years. We could spot a tract with much morganatic contenders than immoderate successful caller memory.

To people the commencement of a caller season, SB Nation asked its web of contributors to reply a fewer questions to foretell the season. Picks are being made by writers Sabreena Merchant of Clips Nation, Brady Klopfer of Golden State of Mind, Christian Rivas of Silver Screen and Roll, Marina Drab and Leo Tochterman of Sactown Royalty, Paul Hudrick of Liberty Ballers, and Sydney Umeri, Jacolby Hart, and Ricky O’Donnell of SBNation.com.

1. Who volition beryllium this year’s biggest astonishment team?

Sabreena: The Wolves. With the ownership modulation and a caller caput of hoops operations, it feels similar this is the twelvemonth that Minnesota yet figures it retired oregon the beforehand bureau blows up the team. And since a “surprise” for the Wolves would lone necessitate them to marque the play-in, I’m betting connected the former. Karl-Anthony Towns should beryllium backmost to his All-Star level after a twelvemonth from hell. The Wolves were a top-10 discourtesy erstwhile Chris Finch came around, and forgive me, I americium buying their antiaircraft betterment during the preseason. There is excessively overmuch endowment connected this squad for Minnesota not to marque a jump.

Ricky: The Chicago Bulls. The Bulls turned implicit astir their full roster, going from 1 of the youngest teams successful the league to 1 present stocked with proven veterans. Zach LaVine became an All-Star for the archetypal clip past season, and should proceed to turn arsenic 1 of the champion scoring guards successful the game. Lonzo Ball is simply a cleanable acceptable adjacent to LaVine successful the backcourt and volition assistance foodstuff Chicago’s modulation attack. Nikola Vucevic and DeMar DeRozan volition beryllium focal points for what should beryllium a top-10 offense. Billy Donovan’s defenses are historically supra average. While Chicago is mostly being pegged arsenic a play-in team, I deliberation they tin marque a tally astatine a top-five effect successful the East.

Brady: The Toronto Raptors. Sure, it was an atrocious 2020-21 for Toronto, and yeah, the champion subordinate successful franchise past is staying successful Florida aft the team’s impermanent relocation. But Pascal Siakam should bounce backmost to All-Star form, and OG Anunoby and Fred VanVleet are exceptional players. Nick Nurse is 1 of the league’s apical coaches, Chris Boucher provides the accidental to rotation retired immoderate genuinely funky lineups, and Scottie Barnes looks acceptable to lend from time one. They won’t beryllium competing for a title, but they’ll beryllium solidly successful the playoffs, alternatively than connected the extracurricular looking successful again.

Sydney: The Heat, but lone if they tin enactment healthy. It’s unusual to deliberation that we were talking astir the Heat being title contenders conscionable 2 seasons agone due to the fact that their show successful 2021 near nary hint of that. They dealt with truthful galore injuries, and by the clip they faced the Bucks successful the playoffs, it looked similar they were acceptable to rotation over. Well, I refused to judge they’re washed. With Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo, Tyler Herro, and their newest seasoned edition, Kyle Lowry, I consciousness similar the Heat volition astonishment america with a playoff tally this postseason.

Colb: The Chicago Bulls. It feels a small unusual to telephone the Bulls a astonishment aft each of their offseason acquisitions, but this squad has the cleanable equilibrium of veterans and young players with upside to spell with their prima Zach LaVine. After adding Lonzo Ball, Demar DeRozan and Alex Caruso this squad should extremity up being 1 5 champion teams successful the East and rather perchance the astir amusive squad successful the full NBA.

Christian: The Golden State Warriors. I get that astir radical deliberation they’re going to beryllium good, but I deliberation they person the endowment to beryllium “best squad successful the NBA good.” That’s not adjacent taking into relationship Klay Thompson’s eventual return, oregon the anticipation of them going all-in for an All-Star, oregon a breakout play from 1 of their young players; I simply similar the pieces they person now. A lot.

Leo: The Wizards. Getting escaped of Russell Westbrook for aggregate Lakers relation players hurts the crippled to crippled ceiling of the Wizards but definite arsenic hellhole should marque them a overmuch much accordant squad passim the season. Spencer Dinwiddie is going to beryllium a much dependable beingness from crippled to crippled than Russ was and should beryllium a bully acceptable adjacent to Bradley Beal They person 10 oregon 11 legit rotation guys this play and should comfortably spell implicit their projected 33.5 Las Vegas triumph total. Also, it seems similar Beal is contented successful Washington for now, truthful I deliberation they clasp onto him for the play which helps this prediction.

Marina: The Chicago Bulls. Their offseason overhaul should wage dividends, peculiarly their investments successful Alex Caruso and Lonzo Ball, some of whoam are criminally underrated connected some ends of the floor. Zach Lavine volition person to assimilate to the new-look Bulls, but having erstwhile All-Stars successful Demar DeRozan and Nikola Vucevic should springiness this squad the imaginable to catapult to the apical of the Eastern Conference.

Paul: Boston Celtics. It pains maine to constitute that. But Boston has 2 of the champion young wings successful hoops successful Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown and a perennial Defensive Player of the Year campaigner successful Marcus Smart. As a longtime Philadelphia sports fan, I person zero uncertainty that Al Horford and Josh Richardson are going to beryllium large for Boston due to the fact that of people they volition be. They could decorativeness 3rd oregon 4th successful the East.

Charlotte Hornets v Miami HeatPhoto by Mark Brown/Getty Images

2. Name a subordinate who volition beryllium a archetypal clip All-Star this season.

Ricky: LaMelo Ball. Ball was a rookie sensation past year, and should found himself arsenic a morganatic prima this year. The All-Star Game is besides ever amended with originative passers, and there’s nary 1 amended successful that respect than Ball. This should beryllium the archetypal of galore All-Star games for him.

Colb: Darius Garland. The starting constituent defender for the Cleveland Cavaliers is the champion subordinate that cipher is talking astir close now. He averaged 17 points and 6 assists for the Cavs portion shooting 39.5% from 3 past season, and he’s conscionable scratching the aboveground of the subordinate helium tin become. He’s besides my prime to triumph Most Improved Player, and everyone volition cognize who helium is aft this season.

Leo: De’Aaron Fox. This whitethorn beryllium a implicit homer of a pick, but Fox enactment up legit All-Star numbers past season, and would person astir apt made it had the Kings been average. This year, I deliberation the Kings are person to mean and Fox makes different leap and is yet fixed nationalist recognition.

Marina: It’s De’Aaron Fox. The clip is present for Fox to marque his All-Star ascension, and coming disconnected a vocation year, determination truly look to beryllium nary signs of stopping.

Paul: Ja Morant oregon Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. Yes, I’m cheating. Both of them can’t marque it successful the loaded West, but 1 of them will. They’re 2 of the astir breathtaking young guards successful the crippled and it volition beryllium the archetypal of galore for either guy. I mightiness conscionable prime some guys each twelvemonth until they interruption through.

Brady: I deliberation LaMelo Ball is the evident prime present (though his member is simply a bully sleeper prime ... no, not LiAngelo), but I’ll connection up thing somewhat much bold: CJ McCollum. The slithery McCollum spent galore years not being arsenic adjacent to All-Star presumption arsenic galore nationalist pundits would person you believe, but helium took a genuine leap a twelvemonth agone earlier injuries truncated his season. McCollum averaged a career-best 23.1 points per game, portion shooting 40.2% from three-point scope connected 8.9 attempts per game, by acold the highest measurement of his career. The soiled concealed astir McCollum for years had been that, contempt his aesthetically-pleasing crippled and large PPG numbers, helium usually scored with below-average efficiency; that changed a twelvemonth agone with a bully 57.7% true-shooting percentage

Christian: De’Aaron Fox. Fox is coming disconnected of a play successful which helium averaged 25.2 points, 7.2 assists, 3.5 rebounds and 1.5 steals per game. That’s truly good, and had the Sacramento Kings been conscionable a small spot better, helium apt would person been an All-Star past year. Fortunately for Fox, the Kings whitethorn just be bully capable this twelvemonth for Fox to marque his archetypal All-Star experience.

Sabreena: OG Anunoby. Anunoby was softly awesome adjacent arsenic the Raptors play went down successful flames past year. He’s going to person a batch of opportunities to enactment up stats, particularly with Pascal Siakam retired to commencement the season, and Anunoby has managed to consistently amended his ratio adjacent arsenic his usage has accrued since his rookie year. There are spots to beryllium had successful the Eastern Conference, and if Toronto is hovering astir .500 erstwhile the rosters are selected, Anunoby has a chance.

Brooklyn Nets v Philadelphia 76ersPhoto by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

3. Who is your MVP pick?

Brady: Luka Dončić. The MVP coronation came a interaction excessively aboriginal for the 22 twelvemonth aged past season, but present he’s ready. The West is wide unfastened betwixt injuries to Kawhi Leonard, Jamal Murray, and Klay Thompson, and the Lakers being … that … truthful the Mavs person a accidental to emergence adjacent the apical of the standings. Their champion accidental to get determination is by letting Dončić person the state afforded to James Harden successful his Houston days; if Jason Kidd provides that, springiness Luka the trophy close now.

Sabreena: Giannis Antetokounmpo. Did we not conscionable spot what this antheral did connected a hobbled genu during the Finals? The Bucks inactive person a stacked roster, the playoff unit is gone, and incredibly, Giannis is inactive lone 26, which means helium should beryllium getting better.

Sydney: Joel Embiid. Last play we watched him decorativeness with easiness astir the rim, sound down mid-range jumpers without a problem, and gully respective fouls, getting him to the enactment astatine a complaint that made him 5th successful the league for escaped propulsion attempts. The large antheral has game, and if helium tin enactment steadfast and connected the level for the regular season, I deliberation the MVP rubric is his to lose.

Ricky: James Harden. Kevin Durant is mostly considered the champion subordinate successful the world, but it’s important to retrieve helium lone played 35 games past year. If Kyrie Irving is going to beryllium sidelined the full play due to the fact that helium won’t get the vaccine, the load of creating discourtesy for the Nets volition mostly autumn connected Harden. Harden has won this grant before, and finished successful the apical 3 of balloting 4 different times. I deliberation helium has 1 much MVP tally successful him.

Christian: Joel Embiid. Nikola Jokic astir apt would person inactive won MVP past play adjacent if Embiid didn’t get hurt, but helium looked similar the runaway favourite for the archetypal fractional of the 2020-21 season, and if he’s arsenic pissed astir the full Ben Simmons concern arsenic I deliberation helium is, he’ll beryllium among the favorites again this season.

Paul: Joel Embiid. It’s a homer pick, but Embiid conscionable seems antithetic this year. Before past play helium seemed to mature pursuing the commencement of his son, Arthur. Throughout grooming campy and the preseason it appears he’s grown adjacent more. He besides looks leaner than helium has successful years. We each waited for The Process to go a perennial MVP candidate. I deliberation we’re here.

Colb: James Harden. If Kyrie Irving is going to beryllium sidelined for the full year, oregon adjacent a ample information of it, that conscionable means much opportunities for James Harden to enactment up brainsick stats for 1 of the 2 champion team’s successful the Eastern Conference. Harden has won an MVP already but, if Kyrie is out, I judge it volition beryllium intolerable to contradict the interaction helium has connected the Brooklyn Nets this season.

Leo: Giannis.

Marina: Kevin Durant.

4. Who is your Rookie of the Year pick?

Houston Rockets v Toronto RaptorsPhoto by Mark Blinch/NBAE via Getty Images

Marina: Scottie Barnes has the imaginable to bring the Toronto Raptors up a notch this season. Whether they spell afloat vessel oregon vie for a play-in spot is to beryllium determined, but there’s nary crushed wherefore Barnes can’t propulsion disconnected a Rookie of the Year run extracurricular of the accustomed suspects successful Jalen Green and Cade Cunningham. He’ll beryllium a contributor close distant for this squad.

Sydney: Jalen Green is my prime for Rookie of the Year. The No. 2 wide draught prime has specified a precocious upside and is connected a squad that could usage his scoring ability. He gave america a glimpse of what they could look similar during summertime league, and portion summertime league is not the aforesaid happening arsenic the regular season, I consciousness similar he’ll deed his stride good earlier midseason and amusement america wherefore each the hype astir him from mediate schoolhouse until present is warranted.

Ricky: Jalen Green. Post-season awards often spell to the subordinate who scores the most, and nary 1 is simply a amended scorer successful this rookie people than the No. 2 wide pick. The Rockets are going to beryllium atrocious and volition apt beryllium successful for different precocious lottery prime a twelvemonth from now, but Green looks similar a foundational portion arsenic a three-level bucket-getter with elite burst.

Brady: Well idiosyncratic has to beryllium a contrarian, truthful I’ll accidental ... nah, who americium I kidding, it’s Jalen Green. Picking a Rookie of the Year requires toeing the enactment betwixt who volition play the champion basketball, and who volition person the astir opportunity. Green fits that compromise perfectly. He looked adjacent to NBA acceptable astatine Summer League, and his tallness (6’6”) volition assistance screen immoderate weaknesses. He has an NBA assemblage already, and is joining 1 of the worst teams successful the league — with John Wall not playing. The Rockets volition beryllium awful, but Green volition get ample playing clip and marque the astir of it.

Colb: I’m noticing a signifier present but it’s Jalen Green. Green has the imaginable to beryllium 1 of the champion scorers successful the full NBA astatine immoderate constituent successful his career, and he’ll person plentifulness of opportunities to enactment up gaudy scoring numbers connected a horrible team.

Leo: Jalen Green. He’s going to beryllium getting a ton of shots and points connected a Rockets squad that is astatine the bottommost of the West. The grant typically goes to the feline who finishes with a operation of the astir points per crippled arsenic good arsenic the astir item moments, and Green is definite to person both.

Paul: A steadfast Cade Cunningham would’ve been the pick, but with the uncertainty surrounding his ankle injury, I’ll spell Jalen Green. Green should person the shot successful his hands a ton and people a batch of points for the Rockets. If defence matters —it typically doesn’t — a sneaky prime mightiness Davion Mitchell.

Christian: Austin Reaves. Just kidding — it’s Jalen Green’s to suffer ... to Austin Reaves.

Golden State Warriors v Los Angeles LakersPhoto by Adam Pantozzi/NBAE via Getty Images

5. Will the Lakers commercialized for Russell Westbrook look genius oregon foolish astatine the extremity of the season?

Colb: “Genius” is simply a spot beardown but the determination is going to enactment retired well. Trading for Russell Westbrook, alternatively of Buddy Hield, was decidedly a high-risk/high-reward determination by the Lakers. Westbrook gives the Lakers idiosyncratic connected the roster without the past sanction “James” that tin make opportunities for others and that’s what they needed desperately past season. Westbrook is simply a precise polarizing player, for each affirmative there’s a antagonistic to spell on with it, but LeBron and Anthony Davis volition much than apt screen up for thing antagonistic Westbrook brings with him.

Brady: Foolish. The Westbrook experimentation whitethorn play good successful the regular season, but it’s been a agelong clip since 1 of his teams experienced postseason success, and that’s not a coincidence. When the playoff game-planning comes, teams travel the blueprint that the Warriors acceptable erstwhile facing Tony Allen successful 2015: conscionable don’t defender the subordinate who doesn’t sprout well, and inquire him to chuck up mediocre shots. Westbrook’s fatal flaw is simply a willingness to oblige successful that scenario, and the Lakers — particularly if Anthony Davis repeats his atrocious three-point shooting show from past twelvemonth — volition find themselves wishing LeBron were surrounded by less-decorated players who could marque unfastened threes.

Leo: During the regular play it volition look similar a coagulated trade, arsenic Russ volition beryllium a coagulated innings eater and bring a changeless effort crippled successful and crippled out. By the clip the playoffs rotation astir and teams are sagging 10 feet disconnected of Russ, it won’t look arsenic smart.

Marina: As the past fewer seasons person shown, Russ isn’t poised to marque a seamless commencement connected a caller team. With that aside, I deliberation travel playoffs Westbrook alongside LeBron James and Anthony Davis volition beryllium a unit to beryllium reckoned with. Health is imperative for this team, truthful arsenic agelong arsenic their ‘Big 3’ tin enactment connected the court, the commercialized should cheque the genius container travel the extremity of season.

Paul: I’m conflicted. My archetypal thought is I don’t deliberation it volition work, but is it foolish? It was apt worthy taking a changeable alternatively of moving it backmost with the aforesaid squad that was bounced successful the archetypal circular past season. Westbrook volition beryllium rejuvenated playing successful L.A. with LeBron, but vigor has ne'er been an contented with Russ. Will helium sprout good capable to springiness James and AD the abstraction they need? We’ll see.

Ricky: I’m going to accidental determination successful the middle. The Lakers look similar the champion squad successful the West coming into the season, and their quality to get determination mostly rests connected the wellness of LeBron James and Anthony Davis. The Lakers are championship-or-bust each twelvemonth with LeBron, and portion I deliberation they tin get to the Finals, they wouldn’t beryllium my prime to triumph it all. Westbrook should beryllium fantabulous successful the regular play — we’ll foretell a 2nd fractional surge for him — but his shot-happy attack to discourtesy whitethorn get aged heavy successful the playoffs.

Sydney: It’s pugnacious to tell. I deliberation determination volition beryllium galore times passim the play erstwhile the Lakers and their fans volition wonderment what they got themselves into bringing Westbrook connected board. He volition inevitably instrumentality distant immoderate of LeBron’s moments to shine, but I besides deliberation Westbrook volition bash what helium does best, and that is beryllium productive. The antheral leads the NBA’s all-time triple-double list, and I’m definite helium has galore much games similar that near successful his tank. In the end, the positives helium brings to the franchise volition outweigh the negatives, and I deliberation the Lakers volition beryllium gladsome they traded for him.

Christian: “Genius” successful the consciousness that he’ll beryllium much invaluable than the pieces they gave up? Sure! “Genius” successful the consciousness that he’ll abruptly beryllium a much invaluable than he’s been successful caller years and assistance the Lakers get backmost to the Finals? Probably not, but anyone that “no” with assurance hasn’t asked themselves the quintessential question erstwhile it comes to Westbrook: “why not?”

Philadelphia 76ers v Atlanta Hawks - Game SixPhoto by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

6. Will Ben Simmons extremity the play successful Philadelphia?

Paul: No. I volition accidental I’m leaning much towards the thought that Simmons volition play for the Sixers again since he’s reported to the team. But I person to ideate that Rich Paul volition inactive beryllium pushing for a commercialized down the scenes. There has to beryllium 1 prima subordinate connected different squad that gets pissed disconnected betwixt present and the commercialized deadline, right? Daryl Morey is banking connected it and volition beryllium acceptable to pounce.

Christian: No. The infinitesimal that 1 of his rumored suitors sees their vessel sinking, they’re going to telephone Daryl Morey and springiness him adjacent to the benignant of bundle helium was asking for. That, oregon the concern is goin to truthful toxic that they’re forced to extremity their nonrecreational narration connected less-than-ideal presumption for some parties. Either way, there’s nary accidental helium finishes the play successful Philadelphia.

Sabreena: Yes. I predicted that Simmons would extremity past play successful Houston, however, truthful instrumentality that with a atom of salt. The 76ers are excessively stubborn to relent connected a commercialized package, and they’re apt emboldened to support him present that they won the warfare of attrition connected Simmons’ holdout. Once Philadelphia starts winning immoderate games — and they should, fixed however well-built this roster is for the regular play — it volition beryllium easier to hide the awkwardness of this summer.

Ricky: Yes. Trying to foretell Simmons’ aboriginal is simply a fool’s errand, but it definite seems similar the 76ers are nary person to trading him contiguous than they were astatine the extremity of past season. Given the full deficiency of fume astir Simmons commercialized rumors to this point, I’ll instrumentality the apt unpopular presumption and accidental he’ll inactive beryllium successful Philly astatine the extremity of this play earlier a commercialized successful the summer.

Sydney: Yes, simply due to the fact that the terms that the Sixers privation to merchantability Ben for is acold much than galore franchises are consenting to pay. We’ve spent a full offseason anticipating wherever helium mightiness extremity up, and yet he’s inactive connected their roster. Whatever statement Simmons, Klutch Sports, and the 76ers came to volition astir apt beryllium bully capable to enactment the Simmons saga connected clasp for a while, oregon astatine slightest a season, earlier we perceive rumblings of a Ben Simmons commercialized again.

Marina: Absolutely not.

Leo: No. I deliberation Simmons does the James Harden determination from past play wherever helium plays the opening of the play but helium pouts and is capable of a civilization occupation for the Sixers that they person to commercialized him successful December oregon so.

Colb: Yes. Unless a squad gets hopeless and meets the 76ers asking terms successful a trade, he’ll beryllium successful Philadelphia until adjacent play astatine least.

Brady: Yes. Simmons reporting to Philly — and aboriginal astatine that — tells america a fewer things: a commercialized isn’t imminent; helium doesn’t privation to suffer crippled checks; and helium knows that being disconnected the tribunal is hurting his value. He’ll person nary prime but to play if helium wants to support his worth up, but the Sixers are improbable to get a commercialized haul that tempts them. Daryl Morey and Doc Rivers volition stake connected a palmy play being capable to support Simmons around, and the 2 sides volition revisit things adjacent offseason.

Milwaukee Bucks v Brooklyn Nets - Game TwoPhoto by Steven Ryan/Getty Images

7. Are the Nets inactive the favourite to triumph the title if they don’t person Kyrie Irving?

Sydney: Yes. Kyrie is good, and the thought of the large 3 was exciting, but radical don’t springiness the remainder of the Brooklyn Nets roster credit. They are a deep. As a whole, the squad knows what it’s similar to lone person 2 of their large 3 successful cardinal games, and honestly, it’s worked retired fine. The biggest interest is what that could look similar precocious successful the play if injuries travel into play, but we’re hoping for the best. With Harden and Durant, the Nets title dreams are inactive alive. Kyrie volition beryllium missed, but his lack isn’t capable to derail the Nets from being the favourite this year.

Colb: No. The Brooklyn Nets could perfectly inactive triumph a title without Kyrie Irving. Kevin Durant and James Harden are 2 of the 7 champion players successful the NBA. However, if Kyrie does not play this play I judge the Lakers go the favorites to triumph it each and the Milwaukee Bucks chances to marque consecutive NBA Finals summation dramatically.

Ricky: Yes. The Nets would beryllium an overwhelming favourite with Irving, and their borderline for mistake definite gets smaller without him. Injuries are the Nets’ biggest concern. If 1 of James Harden oregon Kevin Durant is constricted successful the playoffs, the Nets volition apt beryllium successful large occupation against an improved harvest of Eastern Conference contenders. With Harden and Durant some astatine afloat power, though, the Nets person the astir violative endowment successful the league and capable defence to triumph games. The roadworthy to a title is simply a batch much treacherous without Kyrie, but Brooklyn inactive has the 1-2 punch to get it done.

Brady: No, but it’s comic to deliberation astir however overmuch antithetic the communicative would beryllium if Kevin Durant and James Harden — arguably 2 top-five players — linked up organically, alternatively of already existing with Kyrie Irving, lone for Brooklyn to suffer 1 portion of the triumvirate. The headlines surrounding Brooklyn are justifiably pessimistic, but they inactive person Kevin Freaking Durant and James Freaking Harden (and yes, those are their ineligible names). But being top-heavy with a deficiency of extent usually comes backmost to wound teams successful the playoffs, and portion I’d emotion to judge successful Blake Griffin and LaMarcus Aldridge … I don’t. Brooklyn’s borderline for mistake is excessively slim erstwhile you see however injury-prone they are, and however atrocious their defence is apt to be.

Christian: Going with the presumption that they would beryllium the favorites with Kyrie Irving (which I don’t needfully hold with), past yes, I deliberation they’d inactive beryllium the favorites. Irving’s a large player, but I don’t deliberation he’ll beryllium the quality successful the Nets winning the title and not — I couldn’t accidental the aforesaid astir Kevin Durant oregon James Harden if they got injured.

Sabreena: Yes, but I similar Milwaukee’s chances a batch amended erstwhile determination is 1 little perimeter superstar for Jrue Holiday to person to guard.

Paul: Yes. In KD and Harden the Nets inactive diagnostic 2 of the top violative players to ever locomotion the earth. Sean Marks picking up Patty Mills looks prescient. Mills is not Kyrie, but he’s a precise bully defender that tin and volition accommodate his crippled to prima players. The questions volition travel connected the antiaircraft end, but they could really conscionable outscore everybody.

Marina: It’s hard to stake against KD erstwhile he’s astatine the apical of his game, but I tin spot the Milwaukee Bucks sneaking successful for a back-to-back tally successful the NBA Finals. Despite being 1 shoe-length distant from the ECF, Brooklyn struggled with Irving being retired of the lineup successful their bid vs. Milwaukee. I’ll springiness the Bucks the borderline successful this one, but Brooklyn is inactive caput and shoulders supra the remainder of the East, adjacent without Irving.

Leo: It becomes a tougher question without Kyrie, but I inactive deliberation a steadfast Nets squad should beryllium considered the favorite. Last twelvemonth they astir apt would person gotten by the Bucks if they had astatine slightest 2 of their 3 superstars healthy. Harden and Durant are 2 of the 5 champion violative players successful the league inactive and the Nets person capable extent and shooting to get done the East without Irving successful my opinion.

Atlanta Hawks v Miami HeatPhoto by Mark Brown/Getty Images

8. Which of these Eastern Conference teams finishes with the champion record: Hawks, 76ers, Heat, Knicks, Bulls, Celtics?

Marina: Atlanta. Trae Young is continuing to ascend, and portion anterior to the Ben Simmons saga I’d thin toward Philly, there’s existent imaginable for the Hawks to make connected past year’s Cinderella run.

Brady: The Heat. Yes, 2020-21 was a disappointing twelvemonth for Miami, but the Heat inactive person a halfway that took them to the NBA Finals past October, and present they’ve added Kyle Lowry to it. A defence with Lowry, Jimmy Butler, and Bam Adebayo is 1 nary 1 wants to face; an discourtesy with those 3 surrounded by sharpshooters Duncan Robinson and Tyler Herro should beryllium capable to enactment up crooked numbers. Victor Oladipo could beryllium 1 of the season’s biggest X-factors, and Erik Spoelstra remains arguably the champion manager successful the league.

Ricky: Hawks. Atlanta was 1 of the champion teams successful the league past play aft Nate McMillan took implicit arsenic caput manager connected March 1. I don’t deliberation their playoff tally was a fluke. Trae Young is nearing superstar status, and seasoned teammates similar Clint Capela, Bogdan Bogdanović, and Danillo Gallinari marque his beingness a batch easier. I’m excited to spot what 3 young players — DeAndre Hunter, Cam Reddish, and Onyeka Okongwu — tin bash to get the Hawks to the adjacent level.

Christian: The squad with Kyle Lowry and Jimmy Butler — ever prime the squad with Kyle Lowry and Jimmy Butler.

Sydney: As a long-time Hawks fan, my bosom is telling maine they’ll extremity up with the amended record, but truthful are the stats. The Hawks are afloat reloaded, with overmuch of the squad backmost and a fewer caller and talented editions. Also, for the archetypal clip successful a while, they person acquisition connected their side. With Trae Young heading into twelvemonth four, John Collins and Bogdan Bogdanović heading into twelvemonth five, and Clint Capela and Danillo Gallinari arsenic veterans, I afloat judge they’ll person the champion grounds erstwhile it’s each said and done.

Colb: The Celtics. I hatred to rainfall connected the Atlanta emotion fest but Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum are the champion young helping duo successful hoops and some them volition beryllium steadfast this season. The Celtics brought backmost Al Horford, signed erstwhile 6th Man of the Year Dennis Schroder and gave Robert Williams a caller deal. The Celtics volition decorativeness arsenic a apical 4 effect successful the East this season.

Leo: The Hawks mightiness person the astir extent of immoderate squad successful the league, and for that crushed they are my pick. I’m heavy buying their precocious play tally and person conscionable loved astir each transaction they person made implicit the past calendar twelvemonth and I deliberation Nate McMillan is simply a beauteous established successful presumption of getting his teams to triumph regular play games.

Paul: Sixers. Another homer pick?! It really ties successful with maine picking Embiid for MVP. As agelong arsenic their franchise halfway is healthy, the Sixers person a chance. The Sixers got much shooting to situation him with and his progression successful beating treble teams continues. They’ll beryllium amended with Simmons oregon a suitable replacement, but they’ll ever beryllium beauteous damn bully with Embiid.

Los Angeles Lakers v Golden State WarriorsPhoto by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

9. Which of these Western Conference teams finishes with the champion record: Warriors, Mavericks, Trail Blazers, Nuggets?

Sabreena: The Warriors. They’re conscionable excessively hard to defender during the regular season, particularly present that they’re jacking up 55 threes per game. Steve Kerr said they’re going for wins this year, and if the excise the youngins from the rotation early, this squad has a accidental to beryllium beauteous formidable. Golden State can’t spend immoderate down years anymore; I ideate they play with much urgency than the remainder of this field.

Brady: The Nuggets. You could spell immoderate absorption with this answer, but I’m sticking with the squad that has been the champion implicit the past 2 seasons. Yes, the Nuggets are without Jamal Murray, and yes, that hurts. But Michael Porter Jr. should lone beryllium amended this year, and Aaron Gordon is present afloat integrated into the system. They’re arsenic heavy arsenic they are interesting, and there’s a batch of chemistry connected the roster. It’s hard to spot them winning a rubric without Murray, but they tin inactive person a sensational regular season.

Ricky: Mavericks. Luka Doncic is already 1 of the champion players successful the world, and keeps getting amended each year. I similar the offseason additions of bringing successful much helping defenders who tin abstraction the level successful Reggie Bullock and Sterling Brown. Kristaps Porzingis has a bounce backmost twelvemonth successful him, I think. Dallas’ part besides mightiness not person different supra .500 team. If Dallas gets a top-3 seed, Doncic is astir apt the MVP.

Sydney: The Nuggets. They were beauteous effectual past season, and with different twelvemonth nether their belts playing together, I deliberation Nikola Jokić, Aaron Gordon, and Michael Porter Jr. volition thrive. Also, they’ll get Jamal Murray backmost erstwhile he’s healthy, truthful I tin spot them having the champion grounds of the teams mentioned.

Colb: The Nuggets. Getting Jamal Murray backmost and adding him to the reigning MVP Nikola Jokic makes them 1 of the 3 champion teams successful the conference. The Warriors volition beryllium amended but we don’t cognize erstwhile Klay volition comeback oregon the benignant of subordinate he’ll beryllium erstwhile helium does. The Trailblazers are the worst squad of the four. Luka Doncic is simply a apical 10 subordinate successful the league but the Mavericks person questions. It’s the Nuggets.

Paul: Warriors. The affectional boost from yet getting Klay Thompson backmost volition beryllium big, adjacent if he’s not the subordinate we’ve travel to know. I cognize they missed retired connected the playoffs past season, but I person a hard clip betting against Steph and Draymond. I’m besides a large Jordan Poole fan. I deliberation helium takes different measurement guardant this season.

Christian: The Warriors. I’m telling you: they’re going to beryllium truthful good!

Marina: The Denver Nuggets. Reigning MVP Nikola Jokic has shown that helium tin successfully facilitate without the likes of Jamal Murray contempt their playoff flameout. More clip with Aaron Gordon and the maturation of Michael Porter Jr. should onshore this squad successful the precocious echelon of the West.

Leo: The Warriors are the champion of these teams successful my opinion. They person a ton of coagulated extent connected the helping present and person Jordan Poole who has looked similar a MIP campaigner this preseason. Plus getting Klay Thompson backmost steadfast sometime successful the mediate of the play should supply a large successful play boost to the team. Oh, and they besides person Steph Curry, the champion shooter of each clip and 1 of the champion players successful NBA history, who is inactive successful his prime.

Orlando Magic v New Orleans PelicansPhoto by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

10. Which projected non-playoff squad needs the No. 1 wide prime successful the 2022 NBA Draft the most?

Leo: The Spurs are a roster afloat of mid-level guys that would beryllium cleanable to situation a superstar with. Unfortunately for them, it’s hard to spot that superstar oregon adjacent prima contiguous connected their roster. It’s hard to ideate a Greg Popovich squad tanking a season, but for their agelong word wellness arsenic a franchise, getting the No. 1 prime successful the draught would spell a agelong way.

Marina: If the Oklahoma City Thunder don’t get the No. 1 wide prime travel adjacent summer, they’ll enactment successful hoops purgatory for the adjacent 100 years. Their efforts to vessel person been truthful blaring the past 2 seasons; it’s honestly awesome that they haven’t done it yet. OKC is wasting Shai Gilegous-Alexander’s potential, and an accidental to draught No. 1 wide mightiness springiness him the exit to articulation a competitory squad that helium deserves.

Ricky: I garbage to accidental the Thunder for this question due to the fact that they person nary involvement successful trying to win. Instead, I’ll spell with the Kings, a squad that is earnestly hoping it’s not successful the lottery again. Sacramento hasn’t made the playoffs since 2006, and someway they’ve ne'er landed the No. 1 pick. If they don’t marque it this year, I’d emotion to spot them yet get a ace astatine the apical prime successful the draft.

Sydney: I hold with Ricky. The Kings request the archetypal wide prime successful 2022. It’s been a agelong clip coming for them, and getting the No. 1 prime is what they request to crook their franchise around.

Sabreena: The Magic. There are truthful galore players I similar connected Orlando who volition astir apt ne'er beryllium All-Stars. But Paolo Banchero with the remainder of that unit is pretty, beauteous intriguing.

Colb: The Cleveland Cavaliers. I cognize what you’re thinking, “The Cavs got the archetypal prime similar a cardinal times successful a row!” and you’re not wrong! With that said, the Cavs request the archetypal wide prime to yet marque it retired of the lottery for good. They’ve got amusive young players successful Darius Garland, Collin Sexton and Isaac Okoro that we request to spot playing for thing meaningful.

Brady: In an perfect satellite I’d accidental the Kings, but they’re going to messiness it up regardless, which leaves america close backmost wherever we started. So alternatively I’ll accidental the Cavs. Yes, Cleveland has drafted Darius Garland and Evan Mobley successful caller years, and that provides crushed for optimism. But does anyone truly deliberation that’s a title core? The Cavs person gotten precise fortunate successful the draught implicit the past 2 decades, landing LeBron James and Kyrie Irving. They besides watched some permission successful heartbreaking fashion, and present they’re near with Kevin Love acting similar the spoiled kid who is upset they didn’t get much day presents, Collin Sexton seeming to person his days successful The Land limited, and … Ricky Rubio? Give them a No. 1 prime and things tin get interesting. Otherwise they’re bound for the usual: a heaping sheet of mediocrity, with a broadside crockery of heartbreak.

Paul: Orlando Magic. I emotion Jalen Suggs. I’ll emotion it adjacent much if the Magic stink and they tin get him a moving mate with the No. 1 wide prime adjacent year.

Christian: The New Orleans Pelicans. They’re 1 truly bully portion distant from pushing Zion Williamson’s inevitable departure from the enactment backmost a fewer years. As constructed, they’re going to stink.

Brooklyn Nets v Philadelphia 76ersPhoto by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

11. Give america your Finals prediction: teams, winner, and fig of games.

Ricky: Nets implicit Lakers successful five. Yes, it’s boring, but it besides feels similar the astir apt outcome. My backup prime is the Hawks implicit the Nuggets if you privation thing much fun.

Sydney: Nets implicit Lakers successful six.

Colb: The Los Angeles Lakers decision the Brooklyn Nets successful a hard fought, but wildly entertaining, 7 crippled series.

Brady: Heat implicit Suns, 7 games. Yes, this is somewhat outlandish pick. But I already stake connected the Lakers failing, I don’t expect Kawhi Leonard oregon Jamal Murray to instrumentality this season, I don’t spot the Jazz oregon Jason Kidd, and I request to spot it to judge it with Klay Thompson and the Warriors. That leaves the Suns successful the West. The Nets consciousness similar a ticking clip weaponry successful the East, and I can’t foretell an NBA Finals rematch with the Bucks. So we’re near with thing unconventional.

Christian: The Lakers implicit the Bucks successful six games.

Marina: My prediction: the NBA Finals volition beryllium a six-game bid betwixt the Los Angeles Lakers and the Milwaukee Bucks, with the Bucks going back-to-back and winning it all.

Leo: Nets successful six implicit the Lakers. Super boring and chalky, but it truly seems similar some of these teams are connected a collision people to play successful The Finals this season.

Paul: Nets implicit Suns successful six. Brooklyn’s firepower is excessively overmuch for immoderate squad successful the East. I deliberation radical are benignant of discrediting what Phoenix did past season, but I emotion its roster, manager and squad makeup. With that said, the Suns won’t beryllium capable to bent with the Nets.

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