The NBA is a league that has been dominated by the Golden State Warriors in recent years, but there are still plenty of teams with potential to compete for the title.
The nba 2021 power rankings is a list of the top teams in the NBA after free agency.
What has changed in the NBA since the draft and free agency?
The greatest surprise came on draft night, when the Los Angeles Lakers snatched former MVP Russell Westbrook from the Washington Wizards. The Lakers would subsequently add Carmelo Anthony and Dwight Howard to the mix, becoming the league’s newest superstar Big Three of Westbrook, LeBron James, and Anthony Davis.
Kyle Lowry, who signed a sign-and-trade agreement with the Toronto Raptors to join the Miami Heat, and DeMar DeRozan, who signed a sign-and-trade deal with the San Antonio Spurs to join the Chicago Bulls, were two of the biggest names to switch clubs during free agency. (The Bulls also acquired Lonzo Ball from the New Orleans Pelicans in a separate deal.)
The reigning champion Milwaukee Bucks kept their roster largely intact, but 3-and-D forward P.J. Tucker was traded to Miami, while the New York Knicks added Bronx native Kemba Walker to a team-friendly contract after the Oklahoma City Thunder bought him out.
What does this mean for the other 30 clubs, and how much of a shakeup can we expect after the NBA Finals?
Note: Our panel (ESPN’s Tim Bontemps, Nick Friedell, Andrew Lopez, Dave McMenamin, Kevin Pelton, and Royce Young) ranked teams based on where they believe they belong going into next season. William Hill’s Caesars Sportsbook has 2022 title odds.
MORE: Here are the games we’re looking forward to seeing next season.
1. The Brooklyn Nets have a 48-24 record in 2020-21. Title chances for 2022: +225 2nd place in the post-Finals standings
If the Nets’ only summer goal had been to get healthy, they may have been able to win the Eastern Conference next season. The Nets may have had the greatest summer in the league, with impact signings Patty Mills and James Johnson, Blake Griffin’s re-signing, and Kevin Durant’s re-commitment to their future. — Youthful
2. Milwaukee Bucks: 46-26 in 2020-21. Title chances in 2022: +800 1st place in the post-Finals standings
The Bucks made some minor changes in free agency after winning their first championship in 50 years, letting P.J. Tucker leave but bringing back George Hill and dealing for Grayson Allen. The Nets are the clear favorites to win the East and the championship, but the Bucks are a close second in both categories. Meanwhile, does Giannis Antetokounmpo have new heights to achieve now that the burden of breaking through and winning a championship has been lifted? — Best wishes
3. Los Angeles Lakers: 42-30 in 2020-21. Title chances in 2022: +400 4th place in the post-Finals standings
Following the offseason acquisitions of Russell Westbrook, Dwight Howard, and Carmelo Anthony, there have been two extreme schools of thought in assessing the Lakers for next season: Some see them as an exceptional group of talent with six future Hall of Famers, while others see them as a squad approaching its expiry date due to their average age of 31.8 years. McMenamin, McMenamin, McMenamin, Mc
4. The Phoenix Suns have a 51-21 record in 2020-21. +1500 to win the championship in 2022. 3rd place in the post-Finals standings
The most significant move made by the Phoenix Suns this summer was the signing of Chris Paul to a four-year, $120 million contract that will expire when he turns 40. Paul was a key player in Phoenix’s run to the NBA Finals last season, and he now has a chance to do it again. Cameron Payne, Frank Kaminsky, and Abdel Nader were all re-signed by Phoenix from last year’s Finals team. They brought in center JaVale McGee and point guard Elfrid Payton, as well as swapping guard Jevon Carter for Landry Shamet. Lopez’s words
5. The Utah Jazz have a 52-20 record during the 2020-21 season. +1500 to win the championship in 2022. 6th place in the post-Finals standings
The Jazz generally maintained the course after their dismal second-round loss despite having the best regular-season record in the NBA. While experimenting with the second unit, Utah re-signed All-Star point guard Mike Conley, which was a necessary move. Derrick Favors and Georges Niang, who were reserves in the frontcourt, have been replaced by Rudy Gay, a combination player, and Hassan Whiteside, a center. The Jazz are hoping for better outcomes in the playoffs with a bit more scoring punch in reserve and better health for Conley and Donovan Mitchell than we saw this spring. Pelton’s words
6. Philadelphia 76ers: 49-23 in 2020-21. +1600 to win the championship in 2022. 5th place in the post-Finals standings
When it comes to the 76ers, just one thing is on everyone’s mind: what will happen with Ben Simmons. Daryl Morey, the president of basketball operations for the Philadelphia 76ers, has shown throughout his career that he would not trade a player for less than what he believes he is worth, and he will not make a deal just to make a trade. So long as a certain All-NBA point guard in Portland stays unsigned, Simmons is expected to stay in Philadelphia, which could lead to a lot of discomfort when training camp begins next month. — Best wishes
7. Denver Nuggets: 47-25 in 2020-21. Title chances in 2022: +2500 7th place in the post-Finals standings
The Nuggets will bring back nine of the ten players that saw at least 50 minutes of action in the 2021 playoffs as soon as Austin Rivers officially re-signs, switching away one experienced forward (Jeff Green) for another (Paul Millsap). Of course, the most important addition for Denver will be the return of point guard Jamal Murray from an ACL injury he sustained last April, just when the Nuggets were establishing themselves as Western Conference contenders. Murray and MVP Nikola Jokic will lead a core that will be difficult to defeat in the playoffs if Murray is near 100 percent. Pelton’s words
8. Miami Heat’s record in 2020-21 is 40-32. Title chances in 2022: +2500 11th place in the post-Finals standings
Kyle Lowry, P.J. Tucker, and Markieff Morris have joined a group of players who have long prided themselves on being mentally and physically tougher than the competition. Behind Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo, the three should fit in well. In a playoff series, the Heat have the kind of squad that would be difficult to deal with. The issue is whether the veteran-laden squad will be able to get there in good enough shape to make a long run. Friedell’s words
9. Atlanta Hawks, 41-31 in 2020-21. Title chances in 2022: +4000 8th place in the post-Finals standings
Following their run to the conference finals last season, the Hawks have locked up John Collins with a five-year, $125 million contract. They acquired Delon Wright in a three-way deal with the Kings and the Celtics, but Jalen Johnson and Sharife Cooper were selected in the draft. In summer league, Johnson led the Hawks in scoring and rebounding, averaging 19 points and 9.5 rebounds per game. Cooper, who was drafted 48th overall, averaged 14.8 points and 7.3 assists per game. Lopez’s words
10. Los Angeles Clippers: 47-25 in 2020-21. Title chances in 2022: +2000 9th place in the post-Finals standings
Despite being restricted in what they could offer both players, the Clippers were able to re-sign crucial postseason performers Nicolas Batum and Reggie Jackson in free agency. The most significant change will be at point guard, where they have parted ways with Patrick Beverley and Rajon Rondo in order to reintroduce Eric Bledsoe to the position where he began his career. Regardless, Kawhi Leonard’s ability to recover from surgery on his partly torn ACL in time for the playoffs will determine the Clippers’ season. Despite the Clippers’ victory against the Jazz without Leonard, his absence in the conference finals demonstrated the team’s hard ceiling. Pelton’s words
11. 2022 championship odds: +3000 Dallas Mavericks 2020-21 record: 42-30 Post-Finals ranking: 10
Rewind to the conclusion of last season, when the Mavs seemed to be on the verge of disbanding, with the franchise’s infrastructure shifting as head coach Rick Carlisle and general manager Donnie Nelson departed, as well as Luka Doncic’s apparent dissatisfaction with personnel. All of that remains the same, although the Mavs did sign Doncic to a max contract, hired Jason Kidd as coach and Nico Harrison as general manager, and made one notable roster move by adding sharpshooter Reggie Bullock. The Mavs are a club with a spotlight on them because of Doncic’s star power, and with a slightly improved roster and a slew of concerns, things may rapidly change if they get out to a bad start. — Youthful
12. Golden State Warriors: 39-33 in 2020-21. Title chances in 2022: +1000 12th place in the post-Finals standings
The NBA season 2021-22 begins in October with two star-studded doubleheaders on ESPN.
Wednesday, October 20th, 7:30 p.m. ET, Celtics at. Knicks 10 p.m. ET, Nuggets vs. Suns
Friday, October 22nd, 7:30 p.m. ET, Nets at. 76ers 10 p.m. ET, Suns vs. Lakers
Jonathan Kuminga and Moses Moody, second-year center James Wiseman, and third-year guard Jordan Poole make up the Warriors’ youthful core, which they must hope improves as they assess whether it can assist Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green sooner rather than later. The Warriors acquired veterans Andre Iguodala, Otto Porter Jr., and Nemanja Bjelica to try to shore up a bench that was thin last season, but all eyes will be on Thompson’s return to form after missing two seasons due to ACL and Achilles ailments. Friedell’s words
The Boston Celtics had a 36-36 record in 2020-21. Title chances in 2022: +5000 13th place in the post-Finals standings
The Celtics effectively traded Kemba Walker and Evan Fournier for Al Horford, Dennis Schroder, and Josh Richardson, preferring financial freedom and a more balanced team over retaining their two top free agents. It’s an intriguing conundrum for new Celtics coach Ime Udoka to solve, since the team still believes they haven’t done enough to improve much beyond their seventh-place result last season. — Best wishes
The New York Knicks had a 41-31 record in 2020-21. +8000 title odds in 2022 No. 14 in the post-Finals standings
After struggling offensively in their first-round defeat to the Atlanta Hawks, the Knicks acquired free agents Kemba Walker and Evan Fournier to try to improve that aspect of their squad. New York also re-signed Alec Burks, Nerlens Noel, and Derrick Rose, as well as selecting Miles McBride and Quentin Grimes in the draft. It’s only taken a couple of decades, but the Knicks have pulled together strong back-to-back offseasons, and they should be in the thick of the Eastern Conference playoff race once again. — Best wishes
The Portland Trail Blazers had a 42-30 record in 2020-21. Title chances in 2022: +6000 16th place in the post-Finals standings
If the Blazers were under any pressure to improve as a result of the Damian Lillard issue, their summer may not have helped much. The majority of their acquisitions were low-level free agents (Cody Zeller, Ben McLemore, Tony Snell), with Norman Powell’s re-signing being the most significant. The Blazers are counting on a coaching change, internal roster growth, and improved health to help them return to the top tier of the Western Conference. — Youthful
Memphis Grizzlies are 16th in the NBA with a 38-34 record in 2020-21. Title chances for 2022: +10000 15th place in the post-Finals standings
The Grizzlies made smart summer changes as they naturally grew around a nucleus of Ja Morant, a now-healthy Jarvis Jackson Jr., and Dillon Brooks. Steven Adams seems to have always been a Grizzly, and trading Patrick Beverley for 22-year-old Jarrett Culver is a wise move to potentially discover a hidden talent who bursts out with the perfect fit. They moved up in the draft to take Ziaire Williams at No. 10 overall, giving their backcourt additional explosiveness. The Grizzlies are on the right track and have something to build on following their play-in run to the eighth seed last season. — Youthful
Charlotte Hornets had a 33-39 record in 2020-21. +15000 to win the championship in 2022. 18th place in the post-Finals standings
With the acquisition of free agency Kelly Oubre Jr. and the addition of draft selections James Bouknight and Kai Jones, Charlotte added to its youthful core. The Hornets have enough young players in place to go over the hump and back into the playoffs, as shown by Terry Rozier’s four-year, $97 million contract deal. Behind Rookie of the Year point guard LaMelo Ball, this team has the potential to be one of the most fascinating in the league. Friedell’s words
18. Indiana Pacers 2020-21 season record: 34-38 2022 championship odds: +1000 Post-Finals ranking: 17
Rick Carlisle will return to Indiana with a Pacers team that hasn’t changed much from the previous season. Indiana signed Torrey Craig to a two-year contract in free agency, but no other veterans were brought in. They parted ways with Doug McDermott (Spurs) and Aaron Holiday (Wizards), but T.J. Watt was welcomed back. McConnell. They also acquired Chris Duarte with the 13th overall selection in the draft and Isaiah Jackson of Kentucky through trade. Duarte scored 18.3 points per game in four summer league games, shooting 48.3 percent from beyond the arc. Jackson blocked 15 shots in five summer league games. Lopez’s words
The Chicago Bulls had a 31-41 record in 2020-21. +8000 title odds in 2022 23rd place in the post-Finals standings
Chicago had one of the most intriguing offseasons in the league, acquiring DeMar DeRozan, Lonzo Ball, and Alex Caruso, as well as second-round selection Ayo Dosunmu from Illinois. With Zach LaVine’s free agency looming next summer, it’ll be interesting to watch how the newcomers mesh with LaVine and All-Star center Nikola Vucevic. The Bulls created headlines this summer, but it’s unclear if the team’s all-in gamble will pay out in the playoffs. Friedell’s words
Toronto Raptors had a 27-45 record in 2020-21. Title chances for 2022: +10000 19th place in the post-Finals standings
The signing-and-trade of Kyle Lowry to the Miami Heat at the outset of free agency officially marked the end of the Raptors’ golden era. However, Toronto will hope to be a force in the Eastern Conference with to a youthful core of Pascal Siakam, Fred VanVleet, and OG Anunoby. The selection of Scottie Barnes over Jalen Suggs with the fourth overall pick, though, will hang over Toronto for years to come. As a consequence, the destinies of those two athletes will be intertwined in the future. — Best wishes
The Washington Wizards had a 34-38 record in 2020-21. +15000 to win the championship in 2022. 20th place in the post-Finals standings
The majority of the NBA’s big-name free agents have already signed contracts, but the offseason is still in full swing, and we’ve got all the details right here.
• Pelton: Analyzing every offseason move • Lowe: Offseason winners and losers • Pelton: Analyzing every offseason move What league insiders have to say about the upcoming offseason Looking forward to free agency in 2022
Russell Westbrook was traded to the Lakers for three valuable players (Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Montrezl Harrell, and Kyle Kuzma), and the deal was expanded to bring back Spencer Dinwiddie and Aaron Holiday as point guard replacements. The Wizards are still likely to be fighting for a play-in spot in the Eastern Conference’s deep third tier, but pairing Dinwiddie with Bradley Beal (both 28) in the backcourt gives Washington a path forward — assuming Beal, who is set to become an unrestricted free agent next summer, signs an extension or returns in free agency. Pelton’s words
22. 2020-21 record: 31-41 2022 championship odds: +10000 Post-Finals ranking: 21
Willie Green’s roster will be a bit different from Stan Van Gundy’s from previous season. In a sign-and-trade, the Pelicans traded Lonzo Ball for Tomas Satoransky and Garrett Temple. In a separate sign-and-trade transaction, they replaced Ball with Devonte’ Graham of Charlotte. Jonas Valanciunas will be the Pelicans’ new center, and rookie forward Trey Murphy will compete for playing time. If anything comes up in the autumn, New Orleans has the option to make another move or two before the season starts. Lopez’s words
San Antonio Spurs had a 33-39 record in 2020-21. Title chances in 2022: +25000 22nd place in the post-Finals standings
San Antonio had a turbulent offseason, with many key players departing. In exchange for Thaddeus Young and Al-Farouq Aminu, DeMar DeRozan was traded to the Bulls. Rudy Gay (Utah), Patty Mills (Brooklyn), Trey Lyles (Detroit), and Gorgui Dieng (Atlanta) are among the players that have signed elsewhere. In a sign-and-trade with the Pacers, the Spurs added shooting in Doug McDermott, and took a risk on big man Zach Collins in the hopes that he can stay healthy at this stage in his career. The young movement in San Antonio seems to be gaining traction. Lopez’s words
Sacramento Kings had a 31-41 record in 2020-21. Title chances in 2022: +25000 24th place in the post-Finals standings
From winning the NCAA title at Baylor to being voted co-MVP of the Las Vegas Summer League, Davion Mitchell has done it all. In the meanwhile, the Kings selected the defensive dynamo with the ninth overall selection. He’ll be joining a group of guards that currently includes De’Aaron Fox, Tyrese Haliburton, and Buddy Hield. Sacramento’s biggest concern is its frontcourt output, where new big man Tristan Thompson will join Marvin Bagley III and Richaun Holmes in the rotation. McMenamin, McMenamin, McMenamin, Mc
Minnesota Timberwolves are ranked 25th in the NHL with a 23-49 record in 2020-21. Title chances in 2022: +30000 25th place in the post-Finals standings
The Wolves are aiming to continue over their late-season success into the 2021-22 season. The Wolves have been competitive when the roster has been completed, and they have improved on both ends of the floor under coach Chris Finch. Their sole offseason move was to trade for Patrick Beverley, passing on Jarrett Culver, who was 22 years old at the time. It was a perplexing transaction on many levels. However, Beverley adds toughness and leadership to the Wolves, and if Anthony Edwards develops into a star, they may be a league-surprising club next season. — Youthful
The Detroit Pistons had a 20-52 record in 2020-21. Title chances in 2022: +50000 26th place in the post-Finals standings
Cade Cunningham, a 6-foot-7 point guard out of Oklahoma State, was selected first overall by Detroit, joining a lineup that also included Jerami Grant, a rising wing. The Pistons, though, still have a long way to go after finishing 20-52 last season. How quickly Saddiq Bey, Hamidou Diallo, Sekou Doumbouya, Killian Hayes, and Isaiah Stewart can establish their footing in the NBA will decide how quickly the Pistons can climb out of the basement and into the playoffs. McMenamin, McMenamin, McMenamin, Mc
The Cleveland Cavaliers had a 22-50 record in 2020-21. Title chances in 2022: +50000 Post-Finals ranking: 27
With the third overall selection, Cleveland selected Evan Mobley, a skilled 7-footer who the Cavs believe can play with big Jarrett Allen. Cleveland’s chances of returning to the postseason for the first time since LeBron James left town will be determined by the continued development of Collin Sexton, Darius Garland, and Isaac Okoro, as well as the team’s development of a defensive identity after finishing 25th in defensive efficiency last season. McMenamin, McMenamin, McMenamin, Mc
The Orlando Magic had a 21-51 record in 2020-21. Title chances in 2022: +50000 28th place in the post-Finals standings
Jalen Suggs’ selection by Orlando on draft night provided optimism to a team in urgent need of a new star to build around. As Markelle Fultz and Jonathan Isaac recover from severe knee injuries, the Magic are hoping that fellow rookie Franz Wagner can make an immediate impact. Suggs’ arrival has the potential to rekindle interest in a club that has been inactive for almost a decade. Veteran center Robin Lopez could serve as a good example for the younger players. Friedell’s words
The Houston Rockets had a 17-55 record in 2020-21. Title chances in 2022: +50000 30th place in the post-Finals standings
A good NBA draft has given Rockets supporters cause for optimism, even if it’s a long shot to be reflected in the standings this season. Houston needed some lottery luck to keep its own selection, which came in at No. 2 and produced Jalen Green, who was perhaps the best rookie at the NBA summer league in Las Vegas. The Rockets also acquired two additional first-round selections in Josh Christopher and Usman Garuba, as well as statistical standout Alperen Sengun at No. 16. In 2021-22, a young core will take its lumps in the hopes of becoming the next great Houston team. Pelton’s words
Oklahoma City Thunder, 30th, with a 22-50 record in 2020-21. Title chances in 2022: +50000 29th place in the post-Finals standings
In many respects, the Thunder’s summer didn’t go as planned, with their draft position coming in lower than expected and the chance to acquire two top-five choices vanishing when the Rockets’ pick remained in Houston. Then, five minutes into summer league, Josh Giddey, who was selected with the No. 6 selection, injured his ankle. To clear a roster snag, they signed Shai Gilgeous-Alexander to a max deal and bought out Kemba Walker’s contract. The Thunder are methodical and patient, dedicated to building their youthful squad, accumulating assets, and being ready to strike when fortune smiles on them. — Youthful
The bleacher report nba free agency is a statistical analysis of the NBA’s post-free agency power rankings.
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