NBA Power Rankings 2021-22

Samir Jamdar ‘23

With the NBA back in full swing, teams are starting to gear up for the long regular season ahead. How do the top 10 teams stack up against each other going into the regular season? Will there be a new champion? Let’s take an in-depth look at which teams are the favorites to win it all. 


1. Brooklyn Nets

The Brooklyn Nets are once again contenders to win the championship. With the exception of the loss of Spencer Dinwiddie in free agency, Brooklyn bolstered an already elite roster.   Nash and the Nets front office were able to land veterans Paul Millsap, LaMarcus Aldridge, and Patty Mills. Along with the big three of Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant, and James Harden, the Nets appear to be one of the favorites to win the championship.


 2. Milwaukee Bucks

The Bucks are coming off a championship season fueled by their star players, Khris Middleton and Giannis Antetokoumpo. Giannis Antentokoumpo, last year’s finals MVP,  continues to display his world-class talent as he and the Bucks organization gear up to make another championship run. In addition to Giannis, Jrue Holiday also emerged as an elite dual threat player that was instrumental in Milwaukee’s playoff run. The Bucks are expected to defend their title, but over the off-season they lost some of their key players. For example, the 2021 midseason addition, P.J. Tucker was utilized as a tenacious on-ball defender, but he signed with the Miami Heat this past offseason. While the Bucks are a solid team on both sides of the ball, they may struggle due to the overwhelming star power of the Nets and the Lakers. 


3. Los Angeles Lakers

Last year, the Lakers fell to the Western Conference champions, the Phoenix Suns, in six games. They were plagued by injury and their stars, Lebron James and Anthony Davis, were unable to play at their best down the stretch. This offseason, the Lakers added some more stars to their team, with the likes of Russell Westbrook and Carmelo Anthony which propels them into championship contention.  While Westbrook is a key part of the Lakers offense, the Lakers were forced to get rid of some of their more experienced veterans such as Kentavious Caldwell Pope, Kyle Kuzma, and Montrezl Harrel. However, Vogel and the Lakers front office did an excellent job at filling those voids by bringing veterans such as Trevor Ariza, Wayne Ellington, and Dwight Howard. 


4. Phoenix Suns

Phoenix’s NBA Finals trip last season fell short of the ultimate goal, but there was very little turnover in the desert. It should not take much for Head Coach Monty Williams to get his team to buy in. Landry Shamet and Elfrid Payton join a Suns backcourt that lost a little bit of depth (Jevon Carter, Torrey Craig, E’Twaun Moore, Langston Galloway) and will look to acclimate themselves with Chris Paul’s “Point God” ways as quickly as possible. Furthermore, in Phoenix’s playoff run, Devin Booker quickly established himself as a force to be reckoned with. Throughout the playoffs, Booker averaged 27.3 points per game, 5.6 assists, and 4.5 rebounds [1].


5. Utah Jazz

Most of the Jazz’s rotation remains intact, with all of the starting lineup and the top two finishers in Sixth Man of the Year voting (Jordan Clarkson and Joe Ingles) returning to Salt Lake City. With an offense built around high-powered three point shooters in All-Star Donovan Mitchell, Mike Conley, and Bojan Bogdanović, with a defense led by perennial Defensive Player of the Year candidate Rudy Gobert, Utah is looking to expand its success beyond the regular season. This hope can be attributed to an upgraded bench, with additions of Rudy Gay, Hassan Whiteside, and Eric Paschall. It will be interesting to see how much Head Coach Quin Snyder tinkers with Gay as a center in small-ball lineups, which wasn’t an option with last season’s personnel. 


6. Denver Nuggets

Perhaps no reigning MVP has flown further under the radar than Nikola Jokić. While the Nuggets will need another MVP-like season from Jokić to contend, Denver’s chances of being a top-four team in the West likely rest on Michael Porter Jr.’s shoulders. With Jamal Murray out for an extended period of time due to a torn ACL suffered in April, Porter will have to continue his ascension. He averaged 19.3 points and 7.3 rebounds as a starter last season and is capable of averaging a double-double while shooting 45% from 3 this past season [1]. 


7. Miami Heat

Kyle Lowry, P.J. Tucker and Markieff Morris figure to fit in nicely alongside Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo and the rest of a proud Miami team that comes into the season with championship expectations. The question for Head Coach Erik Spoelstra is how quickly all these pieces can come together, and how much the veteran core needs to be paced for the grind of an 82-game season. A big key will be determining how much of an impact Victor Oladipo is going to have during the season while he continues to rehab from a quad injury. In the meantime, Miami’s roster full of sharpshooters and defenders will hope to hold down the fort before hopefully gearing up for a long playoff run.


8. Boston Celtics

Everyone knows the Celtics will go as far as Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown take them. That being said, the preseason will see three intriguing arrivals in Boston: Ime Udoka, who replaces Brad Stevens as the team’s head coach, and guards Dennis Schröder and Josh Richardson, both of whom are looking to bounce back from disappointing seasons. Following an injury plague season in which Jaylen Brown missed the playoffs, and Boston was quickly eliminated in the first round, the Celtics look to return to the Eastern Conference Finals for the fourth time in six years, building upon its Tatum and Brown core.


9. Golden State Warriors

Klay Thompson’s rehab and ability to get back on the floor close to his old All-Star self is the key to any major success the Warriors have this season. But as Steve Kerr & Co. wait for the former All-Star to get healthy, the key for the Warriors will be the development of lottery picks Jonathan Kuminga and Moses Moody, while hoping that 2020 No. 2 overall pick James Wiseman can take another step in his own development as he continues to recover from a meniscus tear that ended his season early and will sideline him for the opening of this season. Steph Curry will continue to do mind-blowing Steph Curry like things as long as he is healthy, but as last year showed, Golden State will need more production out of its roster outside of Curry for Golden State to reach its ceiling.


10. Los Angeles Clippers

With Kawhi Leonard out for possibly a good chunk of this season while he makes his way back from a partially torn ACL, the Clippers will try to maintain their playoff standing until he returns. Paul George is poised for a big season after lifting the Clippers to the Western Conference finals with Leonard out. Reggie Jackson will look to sustain his playoff-level performance while the Clippers take a closer look at younger players like Terance Mann and Luke Kennard and new additions Eric Bledsoe, Justise Winslow, Keon Johnson, Jason Preston and Brandon Boston.