Two weeks ago
Oct 13, 2021

NBA 2021/22 season preview - Who will be NBA champions?

Who will be NBA champions?

NBA odds and predictions

NBA 2021/22 season format, teams, and schedule

Can the Milwaukee Bucks defend their title?

NBA 2021/22 season preview - Who will be NBA champions?

The NBA 2021/22 season begins on October 19. Ahead of the new campaign, here is all the information you need with regards to how the season will work, the favourites to win next year’s NBA Finals, and which other teams are worth watching.

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NBA 2021/22 season: Format, schedule, and teams

After both the 2019/20 and 2020/21 seasons were shortened as a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic, the NBA will resume with a full 82-game regular season for 2021/22. A total of 30 teams will compete, divided between the Eastern Conference (comprised of the Atlantic, Central, and Southeast divisions) and Western Conference (comprised of the Northwest, Pacific, and Southwest divisions).

The regular season will get underway on October 19 with the opening fixture, which is the Brooklyn Nets at the Milwaukee Bucks. The regular season will run until April 10, with the play-in tournament taking place between April 12 and 15. The playoffs will be held between April 16 and May 30, before the NBA Finals begin on June 2. The NBA Finals will finish no later than June 19, in the event that a seventh game is needed.

NBA 2021/22 season teams

Division

Teams

Atlantic Division

Boston Celtics, Brooklyn Nets, New York Knicks, Philadelphia 76ers, Toronto Raptors

Central Division

Chicago Bulls, Cleveland Cavaliers, Detroit Pistons, Indiana Pacers, Milwaukee Bucks

Southeast Division

Atlanta Hawks, Charlotte Hornets, Miami Heat, Orlando Magic, Washington Wizards

Northwest Division

Denver Nuggets, Minnesota Timberwolves, Oklahoma City Thunder, Portland Trail Blazers, Utah Jazz

Pacific Division

Golden State Warriors, LA Clippers, Los Angeles Lakers, Phoenix Suns, Sacramento Kings

Southwest Division

Dallas Mavericks, Houston Rockets, Memphis Grizzlies, New Orleans Pelicans, San Antonio Spurs

NBA 2021/22 season odds: Who are the NBA title favourites?

Team

Odds

2020/21 performance

Brooklyn Nets

3.260*

Conference semi-finals

Los Angeles Lakers

4.610*

First round

Milwaukee Bucks

8.770*

Winners

Golden State Warriors

14.070*

Play-in tournament

Phoenix Suns

16.620*

Runners-up

Utah Jazz

16.620*

Conference semi-finals

Denver Nuggets

23.310*

Conference semi-finals

Los Angeles Clippers

23.310*

Conference finals

The Brooklyn Nets (3.260*) currently lead the outright market to win the NBA Finals next year. Steve Nash’s team enjoyed the second-best record in the Eastern Conference last season before they were narrowly eliminated by eventual champions the Milwaukee Bucks in the conference semi-finals, courtesy of an overtime loss in Game 7. They have also commenced preseason in impressive fashion, picking up wins against both the Bucks and the Los Angeles Lakers.

Defending champions the Milwaukee Bucks are spearheaded by MVP candidate Giannis Antetokounmpo.

The Nets’ status as favourites heavily leans on their formidable trio of Kevin Durant, James Harden, and Kyrie Irving, and their chances will likely depend on the extent to which they can keep the three players fit. The trio shared just 202 minutes together on the court during the 2020/21 regular season, although that didn’t prohibit the Nets from recording a league-high offensive rating of 117.3 points per 100 possessions.

Nash can also call upon the likes of Blake Griffin, who was deservedly praised for his defensive efforts against Giannis Antetokounmpo during the playoffs, and LaMarcus Aldridge, who should serve as an experienced asset. On paper, the Nets have arguably the strongest team in the NBA, so provided nothing gets in the way of them fielding it, they appear palpably difficult to beat.

The Los Angeles Lakers’ (4.610*) first round exit last season was broadly rated as a disappointing defence of their title. They have responded by signing Russell Westbrook from the Washington Wizards, who joins the team following a campaign in which he averaged 22.2 points, 11.7 assists, and 11.5 rebounds per game. While questions have been raised as to how efficiently he will combine with Anthony Davis and LeBron James, his athleticism should enhance the Lakers’ physicality on the court.

Davis and James have concerns to alleviate themselves. Injuries reduced the former to just 36 appearances last season, from which he turned in his weakest stats since his early career, and the Lakers will be relying on him to produce a much more productive campaign this time round. Meanwhile, James will turn 37 years old in December and while he remains one of the best players in the NBA, the question remains as to whether he can maintain his supreme standards this late into his career.

Defending champions the Milwaukee Bucks (8.770*) look set for another encouraging campaign. They were consistently impressive during the playoffs last season, winning all but one of their series in six games or fewer, and they appear to be well-equipped to became the first NBA team to successfully defend their title since the Golden State Warriors achieved the feat in 2018.

Inevitably, Giannis Antetokounmpo will be key to their chances. The 26-year-old scored 30.2 points per game during last season’s playoffs and is firmly among the favourites to win this season’s Most Valuable Player award at 6.750*. With acquisitions including George Hill and Grayson Allen, the Bucks appear to be crafting a supporting cast who are unafraid of shooting at will, a strategy that has paid early dividends with the team recording the best three-point percentage during preseason (44.0%).

After featuring in the NBA Finals in five successive years between 2015 and 2019, the Golden State Warriors (14.070*) will be hoping to reach the playoffs for the first time in three seasons. Their last two campaigns have been underwhelming and injury-strewn, although that didn’t restrict star man Stephen Curry from becoming an MVP finalist last season after averaging a league-high 32.0 points per game.

Entering this season, their squad is finely tuned between experienced yet ageing stalwarts and young but raw talents. The Warriors have placed a lot of faith in draft acquisitions James Wiseman, Jonathan Kuminga, and Moses Moody, and the potentially difficult challenge for head coach Steve Kerr will be integrating them into the team while maintaining results. Wins in each of the Warriors’ first four preseason games indicates a promising start on this front.

NBA 2021/22 season: Teams to look out for

The Phoenix Suns (16.620*) massively exceeded expectations to reach the NBA Finals last season and are likely to be greeted with more respect from their opponents this time round. Head coach Monty Williams has a relatively young squad at his disposal, meaning it will be intriguing to watch if the likes of Devin Booker, Deandre Ayton, and Mikal Bridges can take their performances to another level and assert the Suns as consistent contenders.

The Utah Jazz (16.620*) were the best team during the regular season in 2020/21, winning 52 of 72 fixtures, before injuries curtailed their postseason campaign at the hands of the LA Clippers. Their squad appears to possess more proficiency and strength in depth this time round, although head coach Quin Snyder will need to devise a strategy to prevent opponents from restricting three-time Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert’s influence in big games.

The Philadelphia 76ers (24.290*) topped the Eastern Conference last season and gave a good account of themselves in their 4-3 conference semi-finals defeat to the Atlanta Hawks. While their preseason has been marred by Ben Simmons’ public declaration that he wants to leave, it appears increasingly likely that he will be on their roster this season. With MVP 2020/21 runner-up Joel Embiid and versatile defender Matisse Thybulle also in the team, a lengthy postseason run is by no means out of reach.

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Odds subject to change

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