Return to the Hardwood: NBA 2021-22 Season Picks and Predictions
Every NBA season is filled with drama, and this upcoming season’s drama can significantly impact title contenders.
Its not new news that the status of Kyrie Irving is in peril as he refuses to get vaccinated. The Nets have said that they will not be extending Irving the extension they intended to before the end of this season and his current contract. The Nets are still the favorites to win the Title and still should be with Kyrie’s absence, as James Harden will take the reigns of the offense with KD operating as the main bucket getter. Acquisitions of Patty Mills, Paul Millsap, and the returns of Blake Griffin and Lamarcus Aldridge sure up the auxiliary rotation in Brooklyn. Health is still a determining factor of the success of this team as injuries have plagued the two remaining stars.
The Lakers reloaded their roster by bringing in Russell Westbrook, Melo, Deandre Jordan, Rondo, Kent Bazemore, Trevor Ariza, Dwight Howard and Kendrick Nunn. The play to bring in big names will ensure ticket sales stay at highs, but the fit of this roster is rather perplexing. Lebron James has had the most success when surrounded by shooters and the only above average shooter is Ariza, who hasnt put up such numbers in several years now. LBJs pairing with D-Wade worked in Miami while neither of them were shooters. Lebron is now shooting the best from 3 point land in his career so that will likely lead to a career high in 3PM and attempted. Russ and Bron both have the most success with the rock in their hands, so Lebron will likely continue the evolution of his individual game to make this roster most successful. Remember, it is not wise to bet against Lebron James.
Pacers to Make the Playoffs -150
This season’s Pacers team will include the returns of Myles Turner and TJ Warren who lock down the paint and bring scoring in bunches respectively. Last year’s team was riddled with injuries, with the two aforementioned players missed most of the season, along with Malcolm Brogdon and Domantas Sabonis both missing significant time. Caris Levert was an inseason acquisition and makes a rather impressive starting 5 in the Eastern Conference. The Pacers signed Rick Carlisle to coach the team. Carlisle is the best coach in the league that nobody talks about. He led an older team with Dirk, JKidd and company to beat the Miami Big 3 in their first year together and helped the Luka Doncic led Mavs to overachieve compared to what those rosters should have achieved. The Pacers have made the playoffs essentially every year except last and this is effectively their ceiling as franchise since the Malice in the Palace.
Bulls to Make the Playoffs -194
Adding Lonzo Ball, Demar Derozen and Alex Caruso to Zach Lavine and Niko Vucevic. This team has hype surrounding it after their stellar play in the preseason as its poised to be a very exciting offensive team. Defensively, not so much. The Bulls will run and gun their way to the playoffs in the bottom tier in the East and I’m shocked the odds arent above -250 for this play. They have enough talent to be a 6 or 7 seed after play-in games wrap up.
Grizzlies to Make the Play-in tournament -110
This young Grizzlies team will take a leap in individual and team success as Ja Morant has another year under his belt and will get a healthy Jeren Jackson Jr back for a full season. JJJ just signed a $100m deal and his availability this season will be huge for this team. This scrappy team does not have a flashy supporting cast in Dillon Brooks, Steven Adams, Kyle Anderson and DeAnthony Melton but their ability to play their roles in support of the two young stars will take this team to the playin tourney and possibly the playoffs.
Clint Capela to Lead the League in Rebounds +105
Rebounding has been his calling card since entering the league and it is his most crucial contribution to the Hawks. The rest of their rotation does not rebound well at all, leaving the boarding duties to Clint. He averaged just over 14 rebounds last season and is likely to see an increase in this stat.
Heat to win the East +1000
The Heat were derailed last season due to Jimmy Butler missing significant time due to COVID. Tyler Herro was a hero in helping them reach the Finals in the bubble and should bounce back from his sophomore slump. They added a lot of grit to their roster with the additions of Kyle Lowry, PJ Tucker and Markieff Morris. We know what you can get from Duncan Robinson and Bam Adebayo. Victor Oladipo figures to be a wild card as his recent injuries led to him signing for a $1.6m deal. This Heat team is stronger than the team that made the Finals and can make a run with the turmoil in Brooklyn and Philly.
Josh Giddey to win ROY +1600
This pick is a value play as there are many rookies with better odds to win this award. The 6th pick showed much promise and better ball skills than anticipated during the preseason. He will put up empty numbers for this OKC team that has no expectations of winning any time soon. Giddey’s ability to play on or off the ball, as his backcourt mate in Shai Gilgeous-Alexander can as well. This tandem will play well alongside one another and the lack of pressure to win will allow Giddey to put up numbers.
Bucks to Win the East and Lakers to Win the West +1080
As much as it pains me as a Nets fan, the smart play is to take the Bucks to win the East (+300 straight up). The turmoil in Brooklyn will likely be distracting to the players all season and the potential for injuries to the Nets’ stars is always there. Giannis and the Bucks will be motivated to repeat as NBA Champions as all players who win a title do not like the feeling of failing to reach that goal. The loss of PJ Tucker will be big, but they will get back Donte Devincenzo from injury and add Grayson Allen to this squad. The biggest factor will be Giannis taking leaps in his shooting. He showed much more confidence in taking threes and picking his spots to shoot from deep when him shooting was the smart decision. Having a full season alongside Jrue Holiday and Khris Middleton will be huge as this team seems to be the most consistent of the teams atop of the East.
The Western Conference is Wide open. The Lakers are +195 straight up to win the West and seem to have an easier path than years past. The Warriors can cause problems once Klay Tompson returns but his return is unknown. Denver and the Clippers are without Kawhi Leonard and Jamal Murray respectively. Teams can small-ball their way to getting Rudy Gobert off the court, which caused issues for Utah in last year’s playoffs. Portland hasnt upgraded the roster at all. Phoenix doesnt have enough auxiliary playmaking outside of CP3 and DBook. The Lakers are the top dogs in the West for a reason and we all know LeBron is particularly motivated to get his Banana Boat buddy Carmelo a ring. Having a longer postseason pays dividends for Lebron James teams, read they won the title the last time Lebron had a lot of rest. Having lots of experience across the roster will be helpful in winning the West. I mentioned earlier the makeup of this roster is funky, but having playmakers in Westbrook and Rondo will help lessen the load of Lebron. The biggest question for this team is their ability to play defense. Lebron always has the ability to lock in and do crazy things on that end of the court, but Coach Frank Vogel will need to coach up this team to reach close to the level of defensive prowess as their championship run.