2021-22 NBA Season Preview

Our one-stop-shop for an NBA season preview in great detail and depth

I’m not a big “hot take” guy. Mostly, hot takes are fueled by the desire to come out as a contrarian, to stir the pot. If my predictions go against the grain, it’s just a product of us calling it as we see it.

Predictions are, as I am learning, important for the sake of accountability. We can look at and see exactly where we missed on our prognostications, what didn’t pan out the way we expected and use that as the starting point for where to dive into improvement. As such, we’ll publish our preseason predictions in full.

If you haven’t gotten the chance to view any of our team-by-team previews, please check those out for more detail and context in each situation. Click on the link of each team to see their individual preview.

Eastern Conference:

  1. Brooklyn Nets: 62-20

  2. Milwaukee Bucks: 56-26

  3. Chicago Bulls: 52-30

  4. Philadelphia 76ers: 49-33

  5. Miami Heat: 49-33

  6. Atlanta Hawks: 48-34

  7. Boston Celtics: 43-39

  8. Indiana Pacers: 42-40

  9. New York Knicks: 42-40

  10. Charlotte Hornets: 35-47

  11. Toronto Raptors: 35-47

  12. Washington Wizards: 32-50

  13. Cleveland Cavaliers: 25-57

  14. Detroit Pistons: 23-59

  15. Orlando Magic: 19-63

Western Conference:

  1. Los Angeles Lakers: 59-23

  2. Utah Jazz: 57-25

  3. Golden State Warriors: 51-31

  4. Denver Nuggets: 51-31

  5. Phoenix Suns: 50-32

  6. Dallas Mavericks: 48-34

  7. Los Angeles Clippers: 43-39

  8. Minnesota Timberwolves: 40-42

  9. Memphis Grizzlies: 40-42

  10. Portland Trail Blazers: 40-42

  11. New Orleans Pelicans: 39-43

  12. San Antonio Spurs: 33-49

  13. Sacramento Kings: 32-50

  14. Houston Rockets: 22-60

  15. Oklahoma City Thunder: 13-69

Playoff Predictions

Eastern Conference Finals: Brooklyn Nets over Milwaukee Bucks
Western Conference Finals: LA Lakers over Golden State Warriors
NBA Finals Prediction: Nets over Lakers in 6

Awards

In our awards section, we’ll dive into our predictions for the major hardware that gets handed out at the end of the season, with a brief explanation for why they are our preseason favorite to win.

MVP: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks - Giannis is a competitor who doesn’t coast or take nights off. While everyone is expecting the Bucks to slow down and take a breath during the regular season, the Greek Freak isn’t wired that way. More of an offensive emphasis, as well as the validation that comes from finally winning an NBA Championship, should lead Giannis to another dominant season.

Defensive Player of the Year: Draymond Green, Golden State Warriors - The Warriors defense had no business being as good as it was last year. Their success then speaks to what Draymond is capable of, a defensive savant who has somehow been overlooked for his dominance on that end of the floor. A healthy, or at least more intriguing, Warriors team will be thrust back into the national spotlight, giving Draymond the chance to claim another DPOY award.

Rookie of the Year: Jalen Green, Houston Rockets - Nothing against Cade Cunningham, our top player from the 2021 crop, but the laissez faire nature of the Houston Rockets offense will give Green a great deal of leash to play with. He’ll be the focal point of their offense from day one and have his shot-making translate. Plus, if there’s any time that playing for the G-League Ignite can pay dividends, it is in preparation for earlier impact in the NBA.

6th Man of the Year: Tyler Herro, Miami Heat - Frankly, there are only five players on the Heat who can score. Herro, likely to come off the bench behind Kyle Lowry and Duncan Robinson, can fill that combo guard role. He’ll have to create a bit like Goran Dragic at times, shoot like Robinson at others and be a steadying presence for the second unit. The award is highly linked with scoring success, and Herro should have it in year three.

Most Improved Player: Anthony Edwards, Minnesota Timberwolves - We all know Ant can score. He was drafted first overall with an insane amount of physical and offensive talent. But Edwards is showing promise of figuring out just how to play and use those gifts during the preseason. He’s much better at attacking off the bounce and not settling for tough pull-ups. He is a consistent, positionally sound help defender, and that goes a long way in letting his athleticism carry production towards an above-average defender. Look for Edwards to average 25 points, 3 assists and be talked about as a legitimate superstar by year’s end.

Coach of the Year: Billy Donovan, Chicago Bulls - Kind of a cop-out award that usually goes to some coach who just so happens to lead a more talented team than he did previously, Donovan should garner heavy consideration for the award if the Bulls scrounge together a league-average offensive attack. Donovan has a track record of leading overachieving defenses, which not only would catapult the Bulls close to 50 wins but give him significant recognition.

All-NBA First Team
Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors
Luka Doncic, Dallas Mavericks
Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks
Kevin Durant, Brooklyn Nets
Nikola Jokic, Denver Nuggets

All-NBA Second Team
James Harden, Brooklyn Nets
Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers
Paul George, Los Angeles Clippers
LeBron James, Los Angeles Lakers
Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers

All-NBA Third Team
Donovan Mitchell, Utah Jazz
Devin Booker, Phoenix Suns
Jayson Tatum, Boston Celtics
Zion Williamson, New Orleans Pelicans
Rudy Gobert, Utah Jazz

All-Defense First Team
Jrue Holiday, Milwaukee Bucks
Dejounte Murray, San Antonio Spurs
Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks
Draymond Green, Golden State Warriors
Rudy Gobert, Utah Jazz

All-Defense Second Team
Marcus Smart, Boston Celtics
Mikal Bridges, Phoenix Suns
OG Anunoby, Toronto Raptors
Bam Adebayo, Miami Heat
Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers

All-Rookie First Team
Jalen Green, Houston Rockets
Davion Mitchell, Sacramento Kings
Cade Cunningham, Detroit Pistons
Scottie Barnes, Toronto Raptors
Evan Mobley, Cleveland Cavaliers

All-Rookie Second Team
Josh Giddey, Oklahoma City Thunder
Jalen Suggs, Orlando Magic
Chris Duarte, Indiana Pacers
Trey Murphy III, New Orleans Pelicans
Alperen Sengun, Houston Rockets

Other Random Predictions

First coach fired: Luke Walton, Sacramento Kings - Walton’s roster lacks defensive aptitude, but the level of disorganization on that end is indicative that he doesn’t have control of the locker room. With plenty of unhappy soliders and rising expectations to win in battle, Walton is a likely fall guy.

Ben Simmons finishes the year with: Minnesota Timberwolves. The only team we can safely bet on right now, the Timberwolves have expressed interest and are known to make aggressive decisions to revamp their roster. If they can get Simmons, Edwards and Towns together, it’s an opportunity the Wolves simply cannot pass up.

Other player most likely to be traded: Terrence Ross, Orlando Magic - The timetables simply don’t match up with the remainder of Ross’ contract and the Magic. They’ll cash out on the scoring wing, a player who can help several franchises off the bench in the postseason.

Biggest All-Star Snub: De’Aaron Fox, Sacramento Kings - I mean, this has to come from the West, right? There are so many good guards there (Lillard, Steph, Westbrook, Doncic, Mitchell, Booker, CP3) that not everyone can make it. By virtue of playing in the smallest market and on the worst team, Fox will slip through the cracks yet again, even in a year when Jamal Murray will miss most of the start of the season and Klay Thompson isn’t fully healthy.

Top Pick in 2022 NBA Draft: Jalen Hardy, G-League Ignite - By March rolls around and the NBA tank race is on full display, there will be two prospects who have emerged as top-tier guys: Paolo Banchero of Duke and Hardy from the Ignite. The tantalizing nature of Hardy’s four-level scoring (yes, he has range to the logo) should give him the nod, and the success of Jalen Green acclimating to the NBA makes the Ignite prospect a safer bet.