The 2021-22 NBA season will begin on Oct. 19. Here’s a preview of each Western Conference team.
The Mavs fell short once again last season, losing to the Clippers in the opening round of the playoffs in seven games. Still, there are a lot of bright takeaways from the previous season. Luka Dončić continues to impress and figures to be in MVP conversation this year, and a healthy season from Kristaps Porziņģis should do wonders for Dallas.
The big storyline for the Nuggets will be how long they can weather the storm without Jamal Murray. Murray is the perfect Robin to reigning MVP Nikola Jokić, and they’ll need someone to step up in his absence. Maybe Michael Porter Jr.? He just signed a five-year, $207 million contract extension, so obviously Denver thinks so.
Golden State Warriors
The Warriors are back and healthy. Stephen Curry showed us all what we were missing with a remarkable 2021 campaign, and now the team welcomes back fellow All-Star Klay Thompson after a two-year absence. The Splash Brothers will certainly carry the load, but they’ll need contributions from others if this team wants to make a solid playoff run.
Rockets fans had a rough last year, to say the least. But this year, second overall pick Jalen Green, who spent 2021 in the G-League, will be making his NBA debut this season after scoring 17.9 points per game last season. He’ll be must-see TV for an otherwise bland team.
Los Angeles Clippers
This team will only go as far as Paul George can take them in 2022. With Kawhi Leonard set to miss at least the first couple months of the season, George will have to shoulder much of the load for the Clippers. Newly acquired Eric Bledsoe, along with veterans Serge Ibaka and Reggie Jackson, will help as well.
Los Angeles Lakers
If this was 2014, the Lakers may have a shot at going 82-0. With the recent signings of Dwight Howard, Trevor Ariza, Rajon Rondo, Carmelo Anthony and DeAndre Jordan, the Lakers are set to have a very old roster. But their big three of LeBron James, Anthony Davis and Russell Westbrook — the latter of whom was who was acquired via trade in August — is more than capable of leading the way.
It’ll once again be the Ja Morant show in Memphis. Morant had an impressive sophomore campaign in 2021, scoring 19.1 points per game while also averaging 7.4 assists per game. Morant taking another step forward, along with a healthy season from Jaren Jackson Jr., would be huge for this team in its attempt to return to the playoffs.
The T-wolves enter 2022 in an interesting spot. They have some great young pieces with Karl-Anthony Towns and Anthony Edwards, but also some question marks. Headlining that crew is D’Angelo Russell, who hasn’t reached the same level of play since making the All-Star team in 2019. Minnesota will need Russell to stay on the court in 2022.
New Orleans Pelicans
The Pelicans made some solid moves during this past offseason, and this year the team will be headlined by All-Stars Brandon Ingram and Zion Williamson. Ingram had another good year in 2021, while Williamson added a much-needed boost to both the offense and defense. A playoff run in the Western Conference is certainly difficult, but I think NOLA has the ability to surprise people in 2022.
Oklahoma City Thunder
Embrace. The. Tank. Oklahoma City has done an excellent job at selling veterans to amass a bunch of draft picks, but the Thunder are still a ways away from playoff contention. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander has proved himself as a budding star, but there isn’t much else for a team that will be near the bottom of the league in 2022.
Fresh off an NBA Finals appearance, the Suns will be looking to run it back with the same roster, headlined by their young stars Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton. It will be worth monitoring how much Chris Paul has left in the tank after a long postseason that saw him miss time due to a shoulder injury.
Portland Trail Blazers
The Blazers are once again running it back with the same core as they had in previous years, despite being unable to get past the Western Conference finals. At some point, you have to look in the mirror and ask yourself if this team can really win it all. Unless they retool the roster around Damian Lillard, I don’t think they can.
Free De’Aaron Fox. Please. The Kings have a loaded backcourt and drafted another point guard in the 2021 NBA Draft in Davion Mitchell when they should have drafted a big or wing to help out Fox. Fox showed us in 2021 that he is the real deal, but the rest of this roster is really puzzling.
San Antonio Spurs
After just missing the postseason, the Spurs now look primed for a rebuild. It’s weird to see a Gregg Popovich-led team rebuild, but there is simply not enough talent on this roster. Dejounte Murray headlines the group, but there isn’t much else to get excited about in San Antonio.
The Jazz had an impressive 2021 campaign, finishing with the first seed in the West before once again losing in the semifinals. While they could have another great regular season, I have a tough time believing that this team will suddenly figure out how to perform in the playoffs.