Sports writer Joe Liddicot previews the upcoming 2021/2 NBA season, as well as offering his overall predictions

Written by Joe Liddicot
Hi, I'm Joe, a Second Year Political Science and International Relations student studying here at UoB. I have a passion for sport, especially football and basketball, playing and watching them both obsessively.
Published
Last updated

The NBA Preseason tipped off with an appealing tie between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Brooklyn Nets, two standout favourites for this season’s championship. Though no stars – apart from Anthony Davis’ eleven minute cameo – featured in the game, it nonetheless sparked considerable excitement for the season ahead as the Nets emerged from the Staples Center victorious.

Ordinarily this time of the season is characterised by quiet anticipation for the upcoming campaign, though this year is different as a result of the Ben Simmons trade saga that has waged on far longer than anybody expected. The three-time all star is still under contract with the Philadelphia 76ers, but has refused to train or communicate with the franchise all summer, and is now facing hefty fines as a result. The Australian is forcefully demanding a trade, though no franchise has yet been able to match the 76ers asking price for their former number one pick. The most likely destinations for Simmons look to be Minnesota or Portland, two teams who could use his defensive versatility and impressive playmaking, however as of yet neither team has put together a worthy package for the star, and the 76ers ostensibly aren’t willing to budge, and so the drama shows no sign of reaching its denouement. 

On the court, Philadelphia could still be considered a title contender if they get the Simmons trade right, though there are numerous franchises in the East who look poised to steal the number one seed away from them should they make any mistake. 

The East

Until recently considered far weaker than the Western conference, the East has improved dramatically in recent years, primarily thanks to Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Big 3 of the Brooklyn Nets. While new challengers are emerging too: the Atlanta Hawks, for instance, beat the 76ers and the New York Knicks to reach the Eastern Conference Finals last year, cementing their status as a dark horse for winning the East, led by the exceptional Trae Young and his youthful supporting cast.

Until recently considered far weaker than the Western conference, the East has improved dramatically in recent years

The aforereferenced Milwaukee Bucks will of course be in contention: the reigning champions haven’t made any noteworthy changes since last season and will be looking to repeat their successes. A team built around a strong defense is always hard to beat in the playoffs, as goes the adage “defense wins championships”, making the Bucks a formidable challenge for even the most talented of rosters.

However, the most talented of rosters is exactly what the Brooklyn Nets possess. With 44 All-star appearances between them – the third most of all time – Brooklyn must be favourites to emerge from the East, barring an injury disaster. The Achilles heel to the roster may be its distinct lack of defensive prowess on the court, but for spectators this weakness makes the thought of a potential series against the Bucks all the more tantalising.

The ‘team to watch’ in the East has to be the new-look Chicago Bulls, who have retooled through the addition of Demar Derozan, Lonzo Ball and Alex Caruso during this offseason; bolstering a squad already strengthened by a mid-season trade last year that saw Nikola Vucevic join Zach Lavine in the Windy City. Chicago finally has a franchise to be excited about again, as they should.

The ‘team to watch’ in the East has to be the new-look Chicago Bulls

The West

The Western conference is painfully hard to predict, from top to bottom. The depth of quality in the West far outweighs that in the East and although the current champion is from the Eastern Conference, it’s evident that the West still reigns supreme in terms of overall quality.

Both LA teams will once again fancy their chances of raising the Larry O’Brien trophy in 2022, especially the Lakers, who have augmented their squad with veteran talent to surround superstars Lebron James and Anthony Davis. The roster now has the most ever combined all-star appearances with 57 between them, albeit 17 of those can be attributed to Lebron James. The question for the Lakers undoubtedly concerns their lack of shooters, the addition of Russell Westbrook is no doubt exciting, but can he adapt his ball-dominant, drive to the rim playstyle to mesh with Lebron James’ similar traits.

Both LA teams will once again fancy their chances of raising the Larry O’Brien trophy in 2022

Similarly to the Bucks, the Clippers have kept their core players and will be looking to attack the forthcoming campaign with a similar roster to the last. They have made shrewd moves such as acquiring Justise Winslow and Eric Bledsoe in a trade, as well as drafting promising shooting guard Keon Johnson at number 21 in the draft. Will this be enough for the Clippers to go all the way this year? It seems unlikely considering the quality that other teams have added over the summer.

The Jazz, Suns, Nuggets and Warriors all also hope to be crowned champions of the Western conference come next Summer, and the competitiveness of the conference will surely enthrall fans throughout the regular season and even more so in the playoffs.

The reasons to be excited about the upcoming NBA season are plentiful, with new rookies, new-look teams, trade-sagas and even new balls. When tipoff for the new season finally arrives on the 19th of October, basketball fans worldwide will surely be anticipating it with child-like enthusiasm. 

Below, I give my prediction for the final standings of each conference and, bravely, suggest who I think will win it all this time around.*

 

Eastern Conference

Western Conference

1

Milwaukee Bucks

Los Angeles Lakers

2

Brooklyn Nets**

Phoenix Suns

3

Miami Heat

Los Angeles Clippers

4

Philadelphia 76ers

Utah Jazz

5

Chicago Bulls

Golden State Warriors

6

Atlanta Hawks

Denver Nuggets

7

New York Knicks

Dallas Mavericks

8

Charlotte Hornets

Portland Trailblazers

9

Boston Celtics

New Orleans Pelicans

10

Washington Wizards

Memphis Grizzlies

11

Indiana Pacers

Sacramento Kings

12

Toronto Raptors

San Antonio Spurs

13

Detroit Pistons

Minnesota Timberwolves

14

Cleveland Cavaliers

Houston Rockets

15

Orlando Magic

Oklahoma City Thunder

 

*Assuming every team is injury-free, which inevitably won’t be the case

** Predicted eventual winners


Like this? Check out more from Redbrick Sport:

Manny Pacquiao Retires From Boxing

Page to Face Lima in MMA Rematch Bout

Where does 2021 Leave Novak Djokovic?

Comments