As we approach the 2021-22 season, I can confidently say as an NBA fan… I’ve never been so excited about the state of the league.
There are six teams that of which have a genuine contending chance at the title… no not a punters chance, nor a sneaky late favourite if injuries go their way, but genuine championship contenders.
Brooklyn are a solid favourite who do not need any justification for this category. After being mere centimetres away (Shoutout KD’s Foot) from topping the eventual champions, with injuries that rendered them a shell of what they could have been, Brooklyn are going to come out with a vengeance. Led by debatably the best player on the planet with support players that could be leading their own team to the finals… the nets are going to be hard to beat.
In saying that, we’re still a little while away from being able to confidently say that a Lebron led team is going to lose 4 out of 7 games in any given playoff series, no matter how tough the competition. Troubled by injuries of their own, LA had a disappointing end to their ‘21 campaign but even then, I find it hard to believe Anthony Davis wont bounce back and even potentially even exceed the level of play that …. let’s face it, brought LA home a championship. The addition of Carmelo Anthony and Russell Westbrook could potentially be huge (Questionable outfits aside..) if either of them happens to find form at the right time. With Melo showing up in some crucial moments for the Blazers last season, and Westbrook being only a couple seasons removed from MVP Campaigns, it’s hard to say that these vets don’t have anything left to give. And I haven’t even mentioned Lebron…
The warriors are going to win it all. Yes, yes, I’m a Warrior’s fan, but hear me out. What Stephen Curry did in 2021 was nothing short of magnificent ... and there were absolutely no signs of it slowing down. I can talk about his unlimited range or his insane hot streaks that lasted weeks, but this just isn't news anymore if you've had your eyes open. Throw that in with the return of a man who can light you up for 37 in a quarter, along with a power forward who damn near led the league in assists as a former defensive player of the year, and you have something special. Still not convinced? Fine, but it’s going to be amazing to watch none the less.
MVP, MVP, Finals MVP… Just some of the fruits of Giannis' labour over the past three years. That dunk in the finals is pretty hard to forget too. These are accomplishments fit for a G.O.A.T resume yet some are still not convinced of his greatness. Say what you will about his play style, but the Milwaukee Bucks are now a city of champions because of it. Losing P.J. tucker in the offseason will unlikely prove insignificant, but the additions of George Hill and Grayson Allen might just make them even better than they were in the season that they won it all. They may not be the most talented roster, but make no mistake, every time this squad steps on the floor they’re going to have one of the best players in the world giving it his absolute all on both ends of the court. Knocking them off the hill won't be easy.
The Utah Jazz are an interesting team going into the next year. Even after finishing as the first seed of the western conference, I would argue that they have improved their roster with pickups of Whiteside, Gay and Paschall. They can all contribute positively to a team that worked like a well-oiled machine for 72 games. Although their success didn’t translate to the post-season as well as they would have liked, I’m almost taken away at how good Donovan Mitchell gets every year compared to the season prior, and I don’t think this year is going to be any different. Anchor that with a reigning defensive player of the year and some sharp-shooting support pieces, and you may just have a recipe for a healthy playoff run. Out of all the teams on this list, Utah may just be the team I believe in the least, but that doesn’t mean I don’t think it can happen.
Last, but utterly not least of the contenders is the Phoenix Suns. Devin Booker now has a taste of not only playoff basketball, but the NBA Finals and when you look at the astronomically high growth rate that we've seen from him since he's entered the league those no reason why he can’t go to another level, maybe as high as that of his late childhood hero. When you throw in the increasingly impressive Deandre Ayton who is excelling on the defensive end, and above the rim, along with Chris Paul who has shown that he can still compete effectively at the very highest level, the Suns could very well see themselves back on the highest stage, fighting for the Larry O'Brien by seasons end.
It isn't just the contenders that have me excited though. For starters, Luka Doncic might just be the first player to ever average a forty-point triple double. I might be kidding, but I wouldn’t rule it out as something that could happen. Another player to be on the lookout for is a fellow classmate of Luca’s, Trae Young. In his first playoff run he put on a show and just might have set a record for quickest time its ever taken for a player to become the leagues villain. He, along with (a very cashed up) John Collins and the rest of the squad will look to make some serious noise in this upcoming season. The last team I want to talk about is the Chicago Bulls. No, they might not be a contender or even a team to take seriously in the post-season, but I can promise you one thing… they are going to be AMAZING to watch. Think Chino Hills in 2016, but more polished. Lonzo Ball, Alex Caruso, DeMar DeRozan and Zach Lavine is one very fast break. The wins may not tally up, but I can promise you the highlights will.
All in all, there are six teams that I think can do some serious damage in the ’22 post season. Obviosuly some have higher chances then other's at being crowned champions on seasons end, but what we have learnt in recent years is that absolutely anything is impossible in the NBA, and I for one cannot wait!