The NBA is experiencing some of its best basketball in years, with the Warriors dominating and LeBron James making a triumphant return. The Cavs are also having their best season since LBJ’s departure, but they have yet to top Golden State.
The “nba power rankings 2021” is a weekly article that ranks the NBA teams. The ranking system is based on win-loss record, current streak, and recent performance.
The league’s health and safety regulations continue to be a source of worry. Trae Young, Luka Doncic, and Kevin Durant were among the players who sat out their teams’ Christmas Day games, while James Harden and Giannis Antetokounmpo returned for Saturday’s slate of games.
The Milwaukee Bucks defeated the Boston Celtics, while Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors defeated the Phoenix Suns in the championship game. On the last Saturday of the season, Harden and the Brooklyn Nets defeated LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers.
Our NBA analysts go down each team’s New Year’s resolutions in the last Power Rankings of 2021. How can the league’s finest teams, the Warriors and Suns, improve even more? As a part-time player, can Kyrie Irving help the Nets? Is it possible for the Bucks’ Big Three to remain healthy? Will James and the Lakers be able to maintain their consistency in the new year?
What about the clubs vying for a playoff spot? Before the deadline, who needs to add a player? In 2022, all 30 teams may improve in the following areas.
Note: Throughout the regular season, our panel (Tim Bontemps, Jamal Collier, Nick Friedell, Andrew Lopez, Tim MacMahon, Dave McMenamin, and Ohm Youngmisuk) will rank all 30 teams from top to bottom, determining which teams are currently playing the best basketball and which teams are most likely to win the championship.
The Golden State Warriors had a 27-6 record in 2021-22. Previous position: 2
Steve Kerr and his teammates don’t seem to be concerned after defeating the Suns on Christmas Day. The goal for this team in the second half of the season is to stay healthy and keep the momentum going. In the near term, this means releasing Andrew Wiggins, Damion Lee, Jordan Poole, and Moses Moody from health and safety standards, as well as returning Klay Thompson (ACL and Achilles rehab) and James Wiseman (meniscus rehab) in the coming weeks. Friedell’s words
2. Phoenix Suns: 26-6 in 2021-22. 1st place previously
It’s difficult to see much room for improvement with a team that has the NBA’s second-best winning percentage. However, the Suns are in the bottom five in the league in terms of second-chance points per game (10.6) and offensive rebounds per game (24th). Of course, when you’re third in the league in scoring and second in field-goal percentage, those things are easier to cope with. Lopez’s words
3. Brooklyn Nets: 22-9 in 2021-22. 3rd place before.
Despite the fact that Kyrie Irving was welcomed back to Brooklyn, his quick enrollment into the NBA’s health and safety regulations has caused his formal return to the floor to be postponed. With their championship hopes, the Nets will aim to manage a genuinely unusual circumstance in which they must include a part-time player in their lineup. Irving is still unable to participate in games in New York City owing to the city’s vaccination policy. — Best wishes
4. Utah Jazz: 23-9 in 2021-22. Previous position: 4
Utah might benefit from an athletic winger to help with some of the perimeter defensive concerns that derailed their playoff run last season. According to insiders, the Jazz held trade talks with Joe Ingles throughout the summer. Ingles (on an expiring $14 million deal) and a future first-round pick may pique trade interest, but doing so would require Utah to give up a key role player who is integral to the team’s culture. MacMahon (MacMahon)
Milwaukee Bucks had a 22-13 record in 2021-22. Previous position: 5
The Bucks aren’t dominating the regular season like they have in the past, but they haven’t been entirely whole for the most of the season. Milwaukee must be encouraged, though, since they are 13-2 this season when their Big Three — Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton, and Jrue Holiday — all start. The Bucks’ major goal for 2021 should be to keep them healthy so they can defend their title. Collier’s
6. Chicago Bulls: 20-10 in 2021-22. Previous position: 6
The Bulls should try to strengthen their rotation for the playoffs now that they’ve established themselves as one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference. At the trade deadline, adding a solid bench player would help this squad reach its full potential this season. The bench, which ranks 29th in scoring in the NBA, could use some help, particularly in the frontcourt. The Bulls’ guard-heavy rotation off the bench consists of Alex Caruso, Ayo Dosunmu, Coby White, and Derrick Jones Jr. Collier’s
The Miami Heat had a 21-13 record in 2021-22. Previous position: 8
One of Miami’s main challenges, like that of so many other teams, is that it hasn’t established stability early in the season due to a variety of ailments. After missing a few weeks due to a tailbone injury, Jimmy Butler has returned. As he recovers from thumb surgery, Bam Adebayo is still out. Kyle Lowry has just begun to follow health and safety procedures. The Heat have the sort of proven experienced talent that no team wants to face in a postseason series if they are healthy. Friedell’s words
The Cleveland Cavaliers had a 20-13 record in 2021-22. Previous position: 7
Jarrett Allen could teach Evan Mobley some of his post skills, which the Cavs would love. As impressive as Mobley’s start to his career has been, as has the team’s unexpected success, the rookie center is shooting 47.4 percent from the field, while Allen, in his sixth season, is shooting an absurd 70.2 percent. Consider what would happen if Mobley follows that path. McMenamin, McMenamin, McMenamin, Mc
The Memphis Grizzlies had a 19-14 record in 2021-22. Previous position: 9
During Ja Morant’s 12-game absence due to a knee injury, the Grizzlies have outperformed expectations, putting themselves in fourth place in the Western Conference standings and reinforcing that position. The Grizzlies must find out how to keep their defensive success with Morant if they want to keep home-court advantage in the first round (116.1 points allowed per 100 possessions with him on the floor). It helps if Dillon Brooks is in good health. MacMahon (MacMahon)
The Philadelphia 76ers had a 17-16 record in 2021-22. Previous position: 12
The 76ers’ most important resolve may be to figure out what will happen with Ben Simmons between now and the NBA trade deadline. There may not be a greater issue in the NBA this season than whether the All-Star guard’s predicament in Philadelphia will be handled, and if superstar center Joel Embiid will get further aid to make a playoff run as a consequence. — Best wishes
The Denver Nuggets had a 16-16 record in 2021-22. Previous position: 11
Nikola Jokic, the reigning MVP, is shooting and rebounding better than last season, but he still doesn’t have Jamal Murray and has lost Michael Porter Jr. for the season. Murray’s comeback is questionable after an ACL tear in April. However, if Jokic can keep the Nuggets in the playoff race, Murray’s return will convert them into a formidable club that few would want to face in the postseason. Youngmisuk’s remark
12. The Los Angeles Clippers have a 17-16 record in 2021-22. Previous position: 10
The Clippers’ first concern is their health. They started the season without Kawhi Leonard, who is expected to return from ACL surgery soon. However, owing to a ruptured ligament in his shooting elbow, the Clippers will be without Paul George for at least the next month, if not longer. Reggie Jackson is still undergoing health and safety procedures, but Marcus Morris Sr. has been approved and is on his way back. Tyronn Lue shown last season that he can get more out of a supporting cast than most people believe. Now he must keep the Clippers in contention for a postseason berth until George and potentially Leonard return. Youngmisuk’s remark
The Charlotte Hornets had a 17-17 record in 2021-22. Previous position: 16
Warriors vs. Mavericks, 7:30 p.m.; Jazz vs. Nuggets, 10 p.m.
All timings are in Eastern Standard Time.
Charlotte’s defensive rating is 114.2, which is the lowest in the league. The Hornets are a youthful, intriguing team, but they will never develop into the sort of consistent playoff threat they intended to be entering this season until they can improve their defensive effort on a regular basis. Friedell’s words
The Los Angeles Lakers have a 16-18 record in 2021-22. Previous position: 13
The Lakers must find a way to be consistent. They’ve started 18 different lineups in their first 34 games, which is the most in the league. With Anthony Davis sidelined for at least another month, the Lakers will need to find a go-to combination centered on LeBron James and Russell Westbrook that they can stay with in order to avoid falling too far behind the West’s top four teams. McMenamin, McMenamin, McMenamin, Mc
The Washington Wizards had a 17-16 record in 2021-22. 14th place before.
The Wizards have surpassed expectations, even if they have cooled down after a torrid start, but there is still potential for improvement. They have to keep afloat while their star guard is out due to health and safety procedures. With Thomas Bryant still recovering from a ruptured ACL, Washington isn’t close to being fully functional. Due to personal issues, Rui Hachimura has yet to make his season debut, although he is getting closer. By February, Washington might be back to full strength, and if Beal continues to perform like he has the last two seasons, the Wizards can cement their spot among the East’s top five teams. Youngmisuk’s remark
Boston Celtics have a 16-17 record in 2021-22. 15th place before.
Since taking over as Celtics coach this summer, Ime Udoka has emphasized accelerating the tempo and encouraging ball movement. Despite this, Boston is currently rated 20th in pace and in the bottom 10 in both assists and potential assists per game, both of which contribute to the team’s 21st-ranked offense. — Best wishes
The Dallas Mavericks had a 15-17 record in 2021-22. Previous position: 17
Because the Mavs lack the resources necessary for rookie GM Nico Harrison to make big roster additions, the team will have to improve from within. Luka Doncic getting back into shape and resuming his All-NBA form would be a wonderful place to start. Dallas also needs Reggie Bullock and Tim Hardaway Jr. to break out of their season-long funks and shoot the three at rates that are closer to their career averages. MacMahon (MacMahon)
The Atlanta Hawks had a 15-17 record in 2021-22. Previous position: 18
Atlanta hasn’t been the greatest in transition defense this season, as ESPN’s Zach Lowe noted out on Friday. It has, nevertheless, excelled in shooting the long ball. The Hawks have the best 3-point shooting percentage in the NBA at 37.8%. Bogdan Bogdanovic is shooting 36.3 percent this season, which is above league average, and he is still 12th on the club among 3-point shooters. If the 3s continue to fall at that rate, Atlanta will have some leeway while it works to improve the defense. Lopez’s words
The Toronto Raptors have a 14-16 record in 2021-22. Previous position: 20
In terms of playing quick, athletic, and tiny, Toronto has lived up to its preseason defensive expectations. The Raptors are among the league’s worst five teams in terms of offensive rebounding, but they are among the top five in terms of forcing turnovers. The Raptors can move up from the middle of the pack in defense and make a run to return to the playoffs if they can improve the former and retain the latter. — Best wishes
Minnesota Timberwolves, 2021-22, 15-17, 2021-22, 2021-22, 2021-22, 2021-22, 2021-22, Previous position: 19
Minnesota seems to have a chance to qualify for the Western Conference play-in tournament this season, and the Timberwolves have a pair of rising studs in Karl-Anthony Towns and Anthony Edwards to develop around. The Wolves should be able to capitalize on Edwards’ continuous improvement and Towns’ quiet greatness in 2022, and they should continue to surround that combo with quality that compliments their skills. Collier’s
The New York Knicks had a 15-18 record in 2021-22. 22nd in the previous ranking
Coach Tom Thibodeau’s teams have a reputation for being tough on defense. That’s why it’s so surprising to see the Jets ranked 23rd in defensive rating practically halfway through the season. The Knicks have a lot of issues, but putting their defense in order would be a good place to start if they want to improve. — Best wishes
San Antonio Spurs had a 14-18 record in 2021-22. Previous position: 25
San Antonio ranks fourth in the league in terms of stopping opponents from making free throws, but it is also at the bottom in terms of getting to the line. Only Derrick White and Keldon Johnson are averaging at least three free throws per game for San Antonio. A few extra trips to the free throw line would go a long way toward helping the Spurs return to the playoffs after missing the previous two seasons (after making 22 in a row). Lopez’s words
The Indiana Pacers had a 14-20 record in 2021-22. Previous position: 23
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The Pacers have constructed their team around the same group of players for years, but they haven’t been able to break through to challenge the conference’s top elite, and they are now on track to miss the playoffs this season. Finding a path for Indiana in 2022 should be critical. Is a roster shakeup on the horizon for the Pacers, or can they continue on track with the same core and hope to compete? Collier’s
The Portland Trail Blazers had a 13-19 record in 2021-22. Previous position: 21
Portland’s season is on the verge of collapse, thanks to the investigation into and subsequent sacking of general manager Neil Olshey, as well as trade rumors involving Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum. Since the Blazers are six games under.500, the franchise must determine whether to adjust the roster around Lillard or make major changes and rebuild. Alternatively, they may stay with what they’ve got and hope that rookie coach Chauncey Billups will help the squad regain its stride and make a postseason push. Youngmisuk’s remark
The New Orleans Pelicans had a 12-22 record in 2021-22. Previous position: 27
A healthy Zion Williamson would be a huge lift for a squad that seems to be getting its bearings. New Orleans is 9-5 in their last 14 games after a 3-16 start. Williamson had an injection in his foot on Dec. 15 and will be checked again in 4 to 6 weeks, according to the Pelicans. The addition of Williamson to the roster might aid the Pelicans’ bid for a play-in tournament berth. Lopez’s words
Sacramento Kings (2021-22) have a 13-21 record. Previous position: 24
The Kings need to improve their perimeter shooting. They are 24th in 3-point shooting and 24th in assists per game in the league. Of course, the statistics are related. In today’s game, when opponents are hyper-aware of the 3-point line, it requires clever spacing and accurate passing to create tremendous chances from deep. Tyrese Haliburton, who has more than ten assists in four consecutive games, might be the key to the Kings’ turnaround. McMenamin, McMenamin, McMenamin, Mc
The Oklahoma City Thunder are ranked 27th in the NBA with a 12-20 record in 2021-22. They were formerly ranked 28th.
Oklahoma City’s reconstruction is still in its early stages, but rookie Josh Giddey and 22-year-old Lu Dort, along with franchise cornerstone Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, seem to have established themselves as long-term essential components. So, even if it costs OKC a few victories this season, it makes sense to maintain providing Giddey, a brilliant passer, and Dort, a lockdown defender who has made enormous gains as a scorer, lots of opportunity to extend their wings offensively. MacMahon (MacMahon)
The Houston Rockets had a 10-23 record in 2021-22. Previous position: 26
The number two overall selection This season, Jalen Green’s growth is, and has always been, Houston’s main focus. Green’s return from a hamstring injury coincided with the Rockets’ rapid rush to competitiveness, but the largest influence was Houston’s switch to a small lineup, which should offer Green more room to operate now that he’s back. Green utilized his time out to improve the smoothness and speed of his shot release, which paid off in his comeback with a 20-point, 25-minute effort. MacMahon (MacMahon)
The Orlando Magic had a 7-27 record in 2021-22. Previous position: 29
Orlando is in desperate need of new talent. After rehabilitating knee injuries, it’s hoped that injured building blocks Markelle Fultz and Jonathan Isaac will return soon to offer a boost. Jalen Suggs, who is rehabbing from a thumb injury, is in the same boat. If all three players return and can assist the youthful bunch in finding some stability, the Magic’s lottery prospects for the spring might change. Friedell’s words
The Detroit Pistons had a 5-27 record in 2021-22. 30th in the previous ranking
In 2021, the Pistons struck gold by acquiring Cade Cunningham, the first overall selection in the draft, to kick-start their reconstruction. However, they still have the fewest victories in the NBA this season. Their main goal in 2022 should be to see some growth from their young players, as this will give them optimism that better days are coming for Detroit basketball. Collier’s
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