Good people, I’VE MISSED MY INTRODUCTION!
The NBA season has already begun! So, without further ado, allow me to get into my picks and predictions for this NBA season.
Most Improved Team: Chicago Bulls
Last season: 31-41, finished 11th in the East
I watched a lot of Bulls basketball last season. (they were a cover machine) Covering 61% on the road and 52% overall. The Bulls weren’t often favored in these games, what that shows me is they kept a lot of games close. Chicago also had one of the more productive offseason in the NBA. Adding Lonzo Ball, DeMar DeRozan, and Alex Caruso to a roster that includes Zach LeVine and Nikola Vucevic. This not only adds star power but depth to their roster as well. Now, ‘most improved’ doesn’t always mean playoffs or championships. But don’t be surprised if you see the Bulls sneak into the ‘play-in tournament’.
Poised for Regression: Phoenix Suns
Last Season: 51-21, finished 2nd in the West, Western Conference Champions, Lost in the Finals
Ok, I get it, this is a cheap one. Regression for the Suns would be anything short of winning the West again. But Unlike the East, the West is just too up in the air to say the Suns will definitely finish top 4. The West being so wide open last year is what saw teams like the Suns win the Conference and the Jazz enter the postseason as the 1 seed. Kawhi and the Clippers are still looking for their opportunity, Luka Dončić and the Mavs are a team on the rise, as are the Denver Nuggets. And, after all that, LeBron was held without a playoff series win last year, and the Lakers went out and added more firepower. So the Suns have a hard road in the west. Playoff team, certainly. But I don’t think they will have the same feel-good story they had last season.
Poised To Take The Next Step: Charlotte Hornets
Last Season: 33-39, finished 10th in the East, Lost play in game to Pacers
The Hornets were another feel-good story in the NBA last season. The Hornets occupied the number four spot at one point before injures to LaMelo Ball and Gordon Heyward derailed their season. They still managed to make the play-in game, however, losing to Indiana 144-117. This season marks the 20th anniversary of the Hornets’ last playoff series win. If they can stay healthy, the rebuild continues, and they finally will win a playoff series again in 2022.
Rookie Of the Year: Cade Cunningham
I got to see a lot of Cade Cunningham last year when we played for Oklahoma State. Again, gambling. Here’s a guy that had the ability to transform a team when he stepped onto the court. Will that transfer over to the NBA? The Pistons are still very much in rebuild mode, but adding Cade with the #1 overall pick was a sure-fire step in the right direction. Currently, oddsmakers have Jalen Green of the Rockets as the favorite for the top rookie prize, but Houston was just so abysmal last year. If that continues I don’t think Green will get as much recognition as he maybe well should. The Pistons were bad last year, but they weren’t Rockets-level bad. Any improvement this year will surely shine a light on Cunningham’s play-making ability.
Too Many Cooks: Los Angeles Lakers
Last Season: 42-30, Finished 7th in the West, Lost in 1st round to Suns
What didn’t the Lakers do this offseason? Well, they completely retooled their roster for one thing. I guess when you have the King, finishing 7th in the conference and losing in round 1 of the playoffs one year removed from a Championship is unacceptable. But did the Lakers address the crux of their issues last season? I’d argue no, they didn’t. The injury bug hit hard for LA last season, with LeBron and Anthony Davis missing significant portions of the season at varying times. Their marquee signing, Russel Westbrook, was at the expense of Kyle Kuzma, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, and Montrezl Harrell. Kuzma and Caldwell-Pope, you could argue kept the Lakers afloat with LeBron and AD down. They also lost Dennis Schröder their points per game leader in 2021 (again, that was also due to injuries to the aforementioned LeBron and AD). After the Westbrook trade, the Lakers filled out their roster with some big names, but aging talent. Trevor Ariza, DeAndre Jordan, and Carmelo Anthony to go with Rajon Rondo, and Dwight Howard. If LeBron and AD stay healthy all season, the Lakers are in the Western Finals easily, just from them alone. But should they miss too much time, and/or Westbrook doesn’t gel as much as hoped, then I think the Lakers will stumble. They have already lost too much on the defensive side of the ball.
Eastern Conference Champions: Miami Heat
Yeah, the sexy pick here is the Brooklyn Nets, followed by the Milwaukee Bucks. But I’m going with the sneaky pick here and saying the Miami Heat. 2 years removed from their surprise finals appearance where they lost to the Lakers, I think the Heat get back to the finals once again. They had too good of an offseason which builds on an already good team. Kyle Lowry was the big signing, a true point guard who fits perfectly into Miami’s system. They get even more elite shooting in Duncan Robinson, and up their defense with PJ Tucker, and if last year’s trade deadline acquisition of Victor Oladipo can stay healthy, also Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo. Lowry, Butler, Oladipo, and Adebayo. Forget Big 3 that’s a Big 4, what’s not to like about this Heat team? Especially in a conference that is not as wide open as it is out West. Outside of the Bucks and Nets, you have maybe the Sixers and a bunch of fringe teams like the Knicks, Hawks, or Celtics. Any of those three could finish 3 or 4th in the conference or miss the postseason entirely, and neither would shock me. I’ll go against the grain here and say Heat over the #1 seed Nets for a trip to the finals.
Western Conference Champions: Los Angeles Lakers
I know, too many cooks, injury woes, lacking defense blah blah, I know how to read my own articles. I rolled the dice in the East, I’m going to play the percentages in the West. It’s still Lebron, and he doesn’t miss championships in consecutive seasons all that often. No Kawhi puts the Clippers out, Suns poised to regress albeit slightly, Nuggets and Dallas could pull a Hawks like surprise and go on a run, but I don’t think they are there just yet. Utah will finish with the NBA’s best defense and the number 1 seed in the West. Don’t sleep on the Warriors, I think they sneak in as the 3 seed. And while you won’t get the NBA finals match up every analyst is predicting in the Lakers vs Nets. You will get the dream matchup of Curry vs LeBron again, but this time in the Wester Conference Finals.
2022 NBA Champions: The Miami Heat
I got this thing where I can’t get it out of my head that the Heat like to run things back for better or worse. They beat the Bucks in the Bubble in 2020 to advance to the Finals. One year later, they’re swept in the first round by those same Bucks who would go on to the Finals and win in 2021. The Heat lost to the Lakers in 2020, I think they run it back and beat them in 2022 and the Larry O returns to South Beach.
That’s my picks, the NBA season is here!
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