Pre-season NBA power rankings

Pima Post

The NBA 2021-2022 season is set to start when the Nets and Lakers tip-off on Tuesday.

Although these two teams would be considered favorites to most, the NBA is seeing much more parity across the league. For example, the Milwaukee Bucks are coming off an NBA championship — having beat the Suns in the finals and the Nets, who didn’t have James Harden, in the Eastern Conference Finals. 

The Phoenix Suns, who came short to the Bucks in the NBA Finals, have kept the core group of players who helped them reach high levels of success last season and have added a veteran in JaVale McGee. With the dynamic guard partnership of Chris Paul and Devin Booker, the Suns have one of the elite backcourts in the NBA.

The Nets now have a unique situation to deal with where star Kyrie Irving is currently unwilling to take the vaccine, forcing him to miss any and all home games in Brooklyn until he does, and Nets GM Sean Marks is no longer tolerating the partial commitment. 

“We have decided Kyrie Irving will not play or practice with the team until he is eligible to be a full participant,” said Marks in a statement regarding the situation. “Kyrie has made a personal choice, and we respect his individual right to choose.”

Along with the uncertainty of Kyrie Irving’s return, many speculate how good Klay Thompson will be in his return to the Golden State Warriors after a season-ending torn achilles tendon prior to the 2020-2021 season.

With so much parity and speculation across the league, I decided to give my preseason NBA Power Rankings:

  1. Los Angeles Lakers

Any team with a healthy LeBron James and Anthony Davis is immediately a title contender. Add to that an L.A. native and Lakers fans in Russell Westbrook and you have a dangerous big three. However, the keyword there is healthy. Davis has missed over 20 regular season games in four of the last six seasons, playing just 36 last season. If they can stay healthy, an NBA Finals should be in reach.

  1. Milwaukee Bucks

Giannis Antetokounmpo is coming off one of the greatest NBA Finals performances we have ever seen, and he’s establishing himself as one of the best players in the world. Having a closer like Khris Middleton and another lockdown defender in Jrue Holiday makes the Bucks a team hardly anybody wants to matchup against. Losing a playoff veteran in P.J. Tucker hurts but new additions Rodney Hood and George Hill have been brought in. 

  1.  Phoenix Suns

The Phoenix Suns have managed to keep the same group of players while adding center JaVale McGee. Devin Booker will continue to add to his game, especially next to a leader like Chris Paul. Booker and Paul form one of the best backcourts in the NBA along with DeAndre Ayton, who looks to be more aggressive and efficient than ever. Ayton increased his Field Goal percentage from the 2019-2020 season to the 2020-2021 season by nearly 10%. 

  1. Brooklyn Nets

Brooklyn has one of the best big threes we’ve seen to date with Kevin Durant, James Harden and Kyrie Irving. Those three names alone make your team a championship contender but the uncertainty around Irving’s future has to be taken into consideration. As of now Kyrie is not practicing or playing with the Nets but if he does make a full-time return, Brooklyn would move up a couple spots.

  1. Denver Nuggets

Denver consistently proves to be one of the best teams out west with two-third place records and one-second place record over the last three seasons. Reigning MVP Nikola Jokic is the best passing big man of all time, consistently dishing out 7 or 8 assists a night while also reaching a season-high in points per game of 26.4 last season. With Jamal Murray out Michael Porter Jr. will be looked at to take a leap in his game, particularly in scoring, and Porter Jr. has the skill set to do it. If Murray comes back healthy and can contribute, the Nuggets may go further than you think.

  1. Miami Heat

According to the NBA’s GM survey, 47% of GMs believe the Miami Heat had the best offseason of any team in the league. Miami traded for Kyle Lowry and signed Victor Oladipo and P.J. Tucker to add to the squad of Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo, Duncan Robinson, Tyler Herro and the rest of the Heat team who made it to the NBA Finals in 2019-2020. Miami has a great balance of 3-point and midrange shooting, defense, aggression and leadership to add to the “Heat culture” built on hard work.

  1. Utah Jazz

With the best record in the NBA last season at 52-20, the Utah Jazz has shown it’s a contending team. Three-time Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert brings the defensive solidity while Donovan Mitchell lights up defensives with his scoring. The last three playoff series, Mitchell has posted scoring averages of 36.3 PPG versus Denver, 28.5 PPG vs. Memphis and 34.8 PPG versus LA Clippers. Eric Paschall, Rudy Gay and Hassan Whiteside have been added to help push Utah for more playoff success.

  1. Atlanta Hawks 

After hiring Nate McMillan last season, the Hawks improved drastically going 27-11 in the 38 regular-season games McMillan was in charge. The playoffs were no different for the Hawks, beating the New York Knicks in five games and the Philadelphia 76ers in seven which led to issues in the offseason between the 76ers organization and Ben Simmons. Trae Young’s scoring and playmaking ability and the young core of De’Andre Hunter, John Collins, Onyeka Okongwu, Cam Reddish and more make the Hawks a top team in the East now and for years to come.

  1. Philadelphia 76ers

Although Ben Simmons recently reported to Philadelphia, the question still remains: Will he play for the 76ers, and if he does, how long? With all that has happened between Simmons and the 76ers, it would be difficult to imagine he’s accepted back and continues with the team long term. Philly still has Joel Embiid, one of the best centers and a top player in the NBA, but he’s known to be injury prone, and if the 76ers don’t get a good player who fits well in return for Simmons, then the team may have a limit on how far they go in the playoffs.

  1. Dallas Mavericks

Luka Doncic was one of the best players in the NBA last season, averaging 27.7 points, 8.0 rebounds and 8.6 assists per game. Doncic’s surrounding cast is where questions need to be asked, does he have enough help to make the extra push? Kristaps Porzingis has not improved much after his ACL tear and continues to have injury problems, having only played 57 and 43 games over the last two seasons. New additions Reggie Bullock, Sterling Brown and Frank Ntilikina don’t bring the immediate impact Dallas needs.

Other Pima Post reporters included their rankings for the season:

Troy Hutchison

  1. Los Angeles Lakers 
  2. Milwaukee Bucks 
  3. Phoenix Suns 
  4. Miami Heat 
  5. Brooklyn Nets 
  6. Utah Jazz 
  7. Philadelphia 76ers 
  8. Denver Nuggets 
  9. New York Knicks 
  10. Atlanta Hawks 

Javier Dosamantes

  1. Milwaukee Bucks
  2. Los Angeles Lakers
  3. Phoenix Suns
  4. Brooklyn Nets
  5. Denver Nuggets
  6. Utah Jazz
  7. Dallas Mavericks
  8. Philadelphia 76ers
  9. Miami Heat
  10. Atlanta Hawks

Joshua Shaver

  1. Los Angeles Lakers
  2. Milwaukee Bucks
  3. Brooklyn Nets
  4. Miami Heat
  5. Denver Nuggets
  6. Philadelphia 76ers
  7. Atlanta Hawks
  8. Utah Jazz
  9. Golden State Warriors
  10. Phoenix Suns