2021-22 NBA Season Predictions

Alexander Bingham, Sports Editor

The 2021 National Basketball Association (NBA) season is set to tip off on October 19th. Here are my predictions for the top four teams in each conference:

Eastern Conference 1st Seed: Brooklyn Nets

Even with the untimely injuries of James Harden and Kyrie Irving in last year’s playoffs, the Nets came inches away from knocking out the Milwaukee Bucks in the second round. If the trio of Kevin Durant, Harden, and Irving can stay healthy (and out of trouble with vaccine rules), it’s hard to see anybody beating the Nets in a seven- game series.

Eastern Conference 2nd Seed: Milwaukee Bucks

What a championship run it was for Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks last July. With every major piece from last season returning aside from P.J. Tucker, Milwaukee is looking to defend their throne against what looks to be a stronger Eastern Conference this year.

Eastern Conference 3rd Seed: Boston Celtics

If you watched any of Boston’s tumultuous 2020 season, it was clear the team had a lack of chemistry and that was exacerbated due to frequent injuries and positive COVID-19 tests. After general manager Danny Ainge resigned, former coach Brad Stevens got to work in reshaping the Celtics’ roster around Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. With a new head coach in Ime Udoka, as well as a more complete bench, the Celtics have the potential to be a contender with Tatum and Brown further cementing themselves as superstars in the league.

Eastern Conference 4th Seed: Miami Heat

After a surprise run to the finals in the 2020 play-off bubble, the magic disappeared for Jimmy Butler and Miami as they got swept by the ultimate champion Bucks in the first round last year. Miami certainly got better over the offseason however, as veterans Kyle Lowry and P.J. Tucker joined the duo of Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo. Still, this aging roster will likely remain a step behind the juggernauts in the Eastern Conference.

Western Conference 1st Seed: Los Angeles Lakers

Adding Russell Westbrook to Lebron James and Anthony Davis was certainly a surprising move, but it immediately makes the Lakers a favorite in the Western Conference. There may be some concern over the age of this roster and the fit between the teams superstars, but these were mostly alleviated when Los Angeles acquired a bevy of solid shooting and bench options in the offseason.

Western Conference 2nd Seed: Utah Jazz

After finishing last year with the league’s best record, there is little doubt this Utah squad will finish atop the standings once again. The additions of Hassan Whiteside, Rudy Gay, and Eric Pachall only add more depth to this team.

Western Conference 3rd Seed: Phoenix Suns

Despite a finals appearance last year, there is reason to expect regression from Phoenix as they were one of the most injury-free teams last season. With Chris Paul entering his age-36 season, the Suns still have the potential to win the finals, but their playoff window with their current roster is closing.

Western Conference 4th Seed: Denver Nuggets

The Nuggets’ success this year will depend on how point guard Jamal Murray returns from tearing his ACL. Regardless, Denver still has a roster featuring the reigning MVP, Nikola Jokic, plus one of last year’s most improved players in Michael Porter Jr., and a solid bench unit that should keep the Nuggets in the Western Conference hunt.

This piece also appears in our October 2021 print edition.