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NBA predictions 2021-22: Final standings, playoff projections, awards, NBA Finals pick


The 2021-22 NBA season is upon us and it is time to get out the crystal ball and look forward to what the seventy fifth Anniversary season can have in retailer.

10 of Sporting News’ NBA writers and editors weighed in with their season predictions.

MORE: ​Ranking the best NBA players entering 2021-22 season

For particular person awards, voters had been requested to submit a prime three for every award with 5 factors awarded for a first-place vote, three factors for a second-place vote and one level for a third-place vote.

Let’s dive into the outcomes:

MVP: Giannis Antetokounmpo (39 factors)

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(Getty Images)

Will Giannis Antetokounmpo trip the momentum from the NBA Finals to a 3rd MVP award in 4 seasons? Our workers actually thinks so. More than half of our voters picked the Greek Freak whereas no different participant obtained greater than a single first-place vote. Should he carry house the {hardware}, Antetokounmpo would change into simply the tenth participant to win three MVPs. And to assume, he doesn’t flip 27 till December. It’s additionally price noting that none of our voters picked LeBron James to complete within the prime three.

Also receiving votes (factors): Stephen Curry (15), Kevin Durant (13), Nikola Jokic (12), Luka Doncic (8), James Harden (2), Joel Embiid (1)

Rookie of the Year: Jalen Green (36)

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(NBA Getty Images)

Typically, Rookie of the Year isn’t that onerous to peg. Whoever places up the most important stats wins the award, no matter crew report or function. Our panel likes Jalen Green who can have the brightest inexperienced gentle of any rookie on a Rockets crew firmly in full rebuild mode. 

Also receiving votes: Cade Cunningham (28), Jalen Suggs (14), Scottie Barnes (7), Josh Giddey (4), Alperen Sengun (1)

MORE: Possible milestones that can be reached during 2021-22 NBA season

Sixth Man of the Year: Patty Mills (26)

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(Getty)

The scenario in Brooklyn is … tenuous! When Mills signed with the Nets, after a decade in San Antonio, most figured he would slot in as the right veteran third guard off the bench behind James Harden and Kyrie Irving. With Irving’s standing in limbo, the stage is ready for a possible profession yr for Mills, who out of the blue seems to be like the one most necessary free-agent signing within the league.

Also receiving votes: Jordan Clarkson (14), Tyler Herro (10), Tyrese Haliburton (8), Kevin Huerter (7), Danilo Gallinari (5), Coby White (5), Bobby Portis (5), Jalen Brunson (4), Joe Ingles (3), Montrezl Harrell (3)

Coach of the Year: Steve Nash (27)

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(Getty Images)

It takes a particular even-keeled temperament to navigate Brooklyn’s locker room and simply as Nash pulled the strings as a Hall of Fame level guard, teaching the Nets would require a equally delicate contact. It’s championship or bust in Brooklyn, and but Nash’s job requires way over merely rolling out the ball to let Durant, Harden and Irving cook dinner. Throw within the departures of lead assistants Mike D’Antoni and Ime Udoka and the second-year coach can have his fingers full.

Also receiving votes: Eric Spoelstra (25), Michael Malone (15), Monty Williams (9), Steve Kerr (5), Ime Udoka (4), Tyronn Lue (4), Billy Donovan (1)

MORE: Ranking new NBA head coaches: Which team made the best move?

NBA Playoff Predictions

Eastern Conference playoff groups

1. Brooklyn Nets
2. Milwaukee Bucks
3. Miami Heat
4. Boston Celtics
5. Philadelphia 76ers
6. Atlanta Hawks
7. Indiana Pacers*
8. New York Knicks*
9. Chicago Bulls*
10. Toronto Raptors*

*play-in event

— Sure, Kyrie Irving’s scenario stays up within the air. But even with out Irving, Brooklyn struts into each recreation with maybe two of the 5 most devastating offensive playmakers of all-time witih Kevin Durant and James Harden. Brooklyn additionally has robust depth within the frontcourt with Blake Griffin, Paul Millsap, James Johnson and Nic Claxton to not point out long-time Spurs bench ace Patty Mills. 

— Will the Bucks take it straightforward within the common season following final yr’s run to the title? Will they go after the No. 1 seed so as to safe house court docket for a possible Game 7 showdown with the Nets? Even if Milwaukee takes its foot of the gasoline, it is laborious to think about a state of affairs outdoors of accidents by which the Bucks end any worse than third within the common season.

— While its a pointy drop-off following the Brooklyn-Milwaukee duo, our workers could be very excessive on Miami with seven of our 10 voters choosing them to complete third within the convention. If you are searching for a crew to crash a possible Nets-Bucks ECF showdown, that is it. A serious query looming giant: which model of Tyler Herro exhibits up?

— The 76ers are maybe the single-biggest wild card. Remember, it was the 76ers — not the Bucks or Nets — who completed with the East’s greatest report final season. Will Ben Simmons play? What will Philly get again in the event that they commerce him? Can Joel Embiid keep wholesome? Lots of unknowns for the Sixers.

— Our workers is in every single place with the Hawks. Half see the Eastern Conference Finals run as an indication of issues to return. The different half sees it as a mirage and chalks it as much as an odd, considerably fluky season. Case in level? We have them ending sixth within the East but they start the yr sixth in our overall league-wide power rankings. Insert large shrug emoji.

Western Conference playoff groups

1. Los Angeles Lakers
2. Phoenix Suns
3. Utah Jazz
4. Denver Nuggets
5. LA Clippers
6. Dallas Mavericks
7. Golden State Warriors*
8. Portland Trail Blazers*
9. Memphis Grizzlies*
10. New Orleans Pelicans*

*play-in event

— The Lakers are prohibitive favorites to win the West. Does that imply they’re going to end with the perfect report? That 0-6 preseason report would recommend a convincing no. But LeBron James feels as motivated as ever to show skeptics incorrect coming into his nineteenth season. And for all of his warts, Russell Westbrook ought to take some appreciable strain of James and Anthony Davis.

— Like the Hawks within the Eastern Conference, the Suns are recieving essentially the most “was that real?” skepticism. Can Chris Paul keep wholesome? Will Devin Booker leap from All-Star to All-NBA performer? Will the Suns pay Deandre Ayton? Can Mikal Bridges — who the Suns did pay — emerge as a extra constant high-level contributor? Will JaVale McGee repair the evident frontcourt gap off the bench?

— There is not a crew with a bigger ceiling to flooring hole than the Golden State Warriors. Could they miss the playoffs? Yes. Could they emerge as a official contender to win the West? Absolutely. So a lot is driving on Klay Thompson who has not performed in two full seasons. Not solely is he recovering from a torn Achilles, but additionally a torn ACL courting again to the 2019 NBA Finals. What’s stopping groups from loading up on Stephen Curry and feeding him a constant food regimen of double and triple groups?

— This appears like a big season for the New Orleans Pelicans who’re as soon as once more struggling to piece collectively a roster round a generational expertise. The season hasn’t even began and but the Pelicans season is already beginning to slip given the shock damage to Zion Williamson who will miss the beginning of the season as he continues to recuperate from foot surgical procedure.

Eastern Conference champion: Brooklyn Nets

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(Getty Images)

Nine members of our 10-person panel picked the Nets to return out of the East with a lone holdout driving with the defending champion Bucks. Regardless of final yr’s title and Giannis Antetokounmpo’s ascent to legendary standing, the prevailing sentiment is that the Nets merely have an excessive amount of expertise.

But because the saying goes, the perfect capability is availability and the Nets are in the end banking on their star trio seeing the ground collectively come playoff time. The Bucks crew that hoisted the Larry O’Brien Trophy is a greater and extra seasoned crew than the one which actually inched by a banged-up Brooklyn squad in final yr’s playoffs.

Votes: Brooklyn 9, Milwaukee 1

Western Conference champion: Los Angeles Lakers

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(NBA Getty Images)

Welcome to the wild, wild West. The Suns could have emerged victorious from final yr’s battle of attrition however accidents to Anthony Davis, Kawhi Leonard, Jamal Murray, Klay Thompson and Mike Conley Jr. solid doubt on Phoenix’s lasting declare to the convention throne.

Though greater than half of our panel picked the Lakers to win the West, the prudent recommendation is to take a wait-and-see method. What if Leonard comes again and the Clippers as soon as once more seem like the category of the convention? What if Thompson’s return reignites Golden State? What if Murray bounces again from a torn ACL to offer Denver the NBA’s most full crew? The Lakers could also be favorites amid the uncertainty, however well being, an growing older roster and the combination of Russell Westbrook make them removed from a lock.

Votes: Lakers 6, Suns 2, Nuggets 1, Clippers 1

NBA Champion: Brooklyn Nets

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(Getty Images)

  • Miami LeBron vs Oklahoma City KD in 2012.
  • Cleveland LeBron vs Golden State KD in 2017 and 2018.
  • L.A. LeBron vs Brooklyn KD in 2022?

A fourth installment of the sport’s two iconic superstars enjoying within the league’s two largest markets feels just like the summer time blockbuster occasion of the yr in ready. With apologies to the Bucks, that’s how we see this season enjoying out with nearly all of our panel choosing the Nets to win all of it.

Should LeBron and KD face off a fourth time, there’s a official case to be made that it turns into the NBA’s all-time best particular person rivalry, supplanting the likes of Magic vs Bird or Russell vs Wilt. A Nets win over the Lakers would additionally give Durant a 3-1 edge over LeBron on the most important stage, opening the door for numerous hours of unanswerable and unhinged debate.

Votes: Nets 8, Lakers 1, Bucks 1

MORE: How biggest trades, free agency signings impact rosters for every team

Five daring predictions

Going chalk is almost as enjoyable as calling your shot with a daring prediction. However unlikely, listed below are 5 daring predictions to look out for this season.

1) The Trail Blazers’ league-leading playoff streak involves an finish.

Last season, the Blazers simply slid by to earn the West’s sixth seed and keep away from the Play-In Tournament. With the quantity of groups within the West that acquired higher, particularly the Lakers and Warriors, I do not know if Portland did sufficient this offseason to be a top-six seed. This is notable seeing how the Blazers haven’t missed the playoffs since 2013; however in 2022, I see them ending between eighth and tenth and bowing out within the Play-In. Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum are nice, however they received’t be sufficient this yr.

— Gil McGregor (@GMcGregor21)

2) The Miami Heat will end with the No.1 seed within the Eastern Conference

While a lot of the noise within the East surrounds the Brooklyn Nets, Philadelphia 76ers and Milwaukee Bucks, the Miami Heat have quietly put collectively a roster able to taking it to any crew on any given evening. 

The additions of Kyle Lowry, P.J. Tucker and Markieff Morris, alongside Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo, Duncan Robinson and Tyler Herro give the Heat one of many strongest seven-man rotations and a terrific shot at common season success. Whether this may end in a deep playoff run is one other factor, however the Heat are going to win a whole lot of video games this season. 

— Benyam Kidane (@BenyamKidane)

3) Zion Williamson will lead the NBA in scoring 

Zion got here shut final season, ending eighth in scoring with a median of 27.0 factors on — anticipate it — 17.0 pictures per recreation. He’s already the most dominant paint scorer in the league and he says he labored on increasing his vary this offseason, which ought to terrify the rest of the league. He clearly wants to remain wholesome, however a barely higher model of the Zion we noticed final season might be sufficient to take house the scoring title.

— Scott Rafferty (@crabdribbles)

4) The Lakers will lead the NBA in technical fouls

Offseason additions Dwight Howard (16) and Russell Westbrook (14) had been among the many league leaders in technical fouls final season. LeBron James is rarely shy about voicing his complaints, and neither is Frank Vogel. Do you actually assume Rajon Rondo received’t get T’d up a number of instances? Yeah, followers sitting inside the STAPLES Center shall be listening to a whole lot of whistles.

— Jordan Greer (@jordangreer42)

5) Devin Booker will win 2021-22 NBA MVP

Let’s flip up the warmth just a little bit. Give me the 24-year-old Booker to win this yr’s MVP award. 

Coming off of a exceptional postseason debut, Booker shall be hungry to attempt to return to the NBA Finals stage and all indicators level to his continued enchancment as top-of-the-line younger gamers within the league. If the Suns earn the perfect report within the Western Conference and Booker performs on the identical stage we noticed within the 2021 playoffs, he’ll actually obtain consideration. The query would then change into: can he persuade voters he deserves the award greater than his backcourt mate Chris Paul?

— Kyle Irving (@KyleIrv_)

Odds to win 2021-22 NBA championship

Courtesy of FanDuel

TEAMODDS
Brooklyn Nets+250
Los Angeles Lakers+400
Milwaukee Bucks+650
Golden State Warriors+1200
Utah Jazz+1400
Phoenix Suns+1500
LA Clippers+1600
Philadelphia 76ers+2000
Denver Nuggets+2500
Miami Heat+2500
Dallas Mavericks+3000
Atlanta Hawks+4000
Boston Celtics+4800
Chicago Bulls+6000
Portland Trail Blazers+8000
Memphis Grizzlies+8500
New Orleans Pelicans+10000
Indiana Pacers+10000
New York Knicks+10000
Charlotte Hornets+13000
Toronto Raptors+13000
Washington Wizards+16000
Minnesota Timberwolves+21000
Sacramento Kings+24000
San Antonio Spurs+24000
Cleveland Cavaliers+25000
Detroit Pistons+25000
Houston Rockets+25000
Oklahoma City Thunder+25000
Orlando Magic+25000



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