NBA power rankings: Now that the 2021-22 season has ended, it’s time to look at where all 30 teams stand heading into the draft and free agency.
The Golden State Warriors are coming off their fourth championship in eight years. Back east, the Boston Celtics look like legit contenders moving forward after falling to Golden State. There’s also a ton of other intriguing teams in each conference.
Without further ado, here are our updated NBA power rankings following the recently-completed 2022 NBA Draft.
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30. Houston Rockets
Another lost season in Houston just came to an end. However, there’s some positivity for this organization moving forward. The No. 2 pick last summer, Jalen Green is coming off a 27-game span to end the season that saw him average north of 21 points on 40% shooting from distance.
General manager Rafael Stone then aced the draft by adding our No. 1 prospect Jabari Smith at three as well as two other solid first-round picks in Tari Eason and TyTy Washington. Despite having traded Christian Wood earlier in the young offseason, Houston’s future looks bright.
29. Orlando Magic
Despite finishing with 60 losses, the Magic have some hope moving forward. That comes in the form of youngsters Cole Anthony, Franz Wagner and Jalen Suggs. With No. 1 pick Paolo Banchero in the mix, things could be looking up in Orlando.
28. Oklahoma City Thunder
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and stud 2021 lottery pick Josh Giddey look like a potentially awesome tandem moving forward. Unfortunately, it did not lead to team-wide success to close up the 2021-22 season with both SGA and Giddey sidelined. OKC did make sure to add a ton of talent in the draft, starting with No. 2 pick Chet Holmgren. SGA, Giddey and Holmgren seem to be a nice trio moving forward.
27. Indiana Pacers
Reason for optimism in Indiana with Tyrese Haliburton now part of a backcourt that includes stud youngster Chris Duarte. Nothing really happened in regards to seeing what these two can offer together with Duarte finding himself injury plagued through the final first half of his rookie season. The larger offseason question is whether Indiana will move off veterans Myles Turner and Malcolm Brogdon to begin its full-scale rebuild after losing their final 10 regular-season games. Ouch!
26. Detroit Pistons
The Pistons remained a bottom-four team in our NBA power rankings throughout the 2021-22 season. That’s no longer the case due to the struggles of teams behind it to close up the regular season. Still having lost 59 games, the Pistons are not near contention. The good news? Cade Cunningham looks like a franchise cornerstone.
General manager Troy Weaver also did a good job in trading Jerami Grant while adding potential studs in that of first-round picks Jaden Ivey and Jalen Duren. With a ton of cap room, look for the Pistons to ascend our NBA power rankings as they continue to add talent this summer.
25. Sacramento Kings
Well, that was foolish. Sacramento’s decision to trade stud young point guard Tyrese Haliburton as a way to compete for a play-in spot did not end too swimmingly with the team posting an 9-17 record. The end result? Sacramento missed out on the postseason for the 16th consecutive season. The Kings that overthought it and selected Keegan Murray with the fourth pick, creating a questionable roster dynamic for first-year head coach Mike Brown. Ouch!
24. Portland Trail Blazers
For Portland, the 2021-22 season was defined by Damian Lillard’s injury issues and general manager Joe Cronin righting the wrongs of the previous brass. It concluded with Portland losing 11 consecutive games by a total of 245 points. Cronin did beging the offseason by adding stud forwaard Jerami Grant in a trade on the cheap. That could be a nice start to a summer of transition in the Pacific Northwest.
23. New York Knicks
One season after earning a surprise playoff appearance, the Knicks are coming off a brutal performance. Star forward Julius Randle could force his way from the Big Apple. Meanwhile, there’s no plans for New York’s brass to add a big-name player this offseason. Back to the drawing board for this fledgling organization.
22. Washington Wizards
With Bradley Beal lost for the season, things did not go swimmingly down the stretch. Washington opened up with a 13-7 mark, only to finish 12 games under .500. With Bradley Beal slated to hit free agency, it’s going to be interesting to see how things go this summer. For now, Washington remains a bottom third team in our NBA power rankings.
21. San Antonio Spurs
After missing out on the postseason the previous two seasons (a first in franchise history), San Antonio fell to New Orleans in the play-in tournament. It’s a testament to Gregg Popovich’s ability as a head coach. Instead of rebuilding, it looks like the Spurs want to retool. With first rounders such as Jeremy Sochan, Malaki Branham and Blake Wesley in the mix, that has started.
The question now is whether the Spurs actually trade star Dejounte Murray. That would set them back.
20. Charlotte Hornets
The inconsistent Hornets have moves to make this offseason if they want to be seen as legit conference title contenders moving forward. Losing in the play-in tournament adds another layer to this. A team that’s going to build around LaMelo Ball moving forward needs to find the right pieces behind him this summer. They also need to find a new head coach after Kenny Atkinson backed out.
19. Cleveland Cavaliers
Injuries and inconsistency plagued Cleveland big time towards the end of an otherwise surprising season. That included two consecutive losses in the play-in tournament. With that said, the future is bright with young All-Stars Darius Garland and Jarrett Allen as well as stud young big man Evan Mobley.
18. Los Angeles Lakers
Just pathetic. Absolutely brutal. A clown show. However way we want to explain this past season’s iteration of the Lakers, it’s just not working. The Lakers lost 30 of their final 42 after starting the season 21-19. Missing the play-in tournament has Los Angeles preparing for a surprisingly quiet offseason under new head coach Darvin Ham.
17. Atlanta Hawks
A surprise trip to the Eastern Conference Finals in 2020-21 gave in to reality for the inconsistent Hawks this past season. That included an ugly five-game series loss to the Miami Heat in the first round in which Trae Young was bottled up to the tune of 15.4 points per game on 32% shooting. General manager Travis Schlenk has some major work to do this summer if the Hawks are going to return to contention.
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16. New Orleans Pelicans
New Orleans was over .500 after posting a 1-12 record to open the season. All of this came with C.J. McCollum having played well after his trade from Portland. After earning a spot in the play-in tournament, New Orleans shockingly took the Phoenix Suns to six games in the first round of the NBA Playoffs. Brandon Ingram’s star grew big time. If Zion Williamson is able to stay 100% healthy, this team could be a force in 2022-23.
15. Utah Jazz
The Jazz are likely headed for a summer of change after yet another premature playoff exit. Prior to falling to the Mavericks in the first round, Utah posted a 22-23 record after a stellar start to the campaign. There’s now a further rift between All-Stars Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert with the latter potentially set to be traded. The resignation of long-time head coach Quin Snyder also changes the dynamics here.
14. Toronto Raptors
Is there any question Nick Nurse is one of the best coaches in the NBA? Toronto opened the season with a pedestrian 23-23 record, only to find itself boasting an 25-11 record in its final 36 regular season games. After falling down 3-0 to the Philadelphia 76ers in the first round, Toronto made that a series by winning two consecutive before falling in Game 6. The trio of Fred VanVleet, Pascal Siakam and Rookie of the Year Scottie Barnes is legit.
13. Chicago Bulls
The injury to Lonzo Ball impacted Chicago this past season. It posted a 23-12 record with him in action, only to 23-24 once he went down with a knee injury. All of this culminated in a first-round playoff series loss to the Milwaukee Bucks that wasn’t all-too competitive. The core group is in place for this team to succeed assuming Zach LaVine returns in free agency.
12. Minnesota Timberwolves
Minnesota gave the Memphis Grizzlies a mighty scare in the first round. That included holding a 10-point lead in the fourth quarter of Game 6. Unfortunately, Karl-Anthony Towns’ inconsistency coupled with some questionable defense led to some unfinished business. One now has to wonder whether Towns will be traded in order for Minnesota to hand this team over to Anthony Edwards.
11. Dallas Mavericks
The emergence of Jalen Brunson had Dallas looking like a legit title contender moving forward. Luka Doncic’s brilliance in the playoffs was something else. Now that the Mavericks have added star big man Christian Wood in a trade, things are looking up. Of course, that’s reliant on Brunson returning in free agency.
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10. Brooklyn Nets
Even with Ben Simmons still to make his debut, the pairing of Irving and Kevin Durant is more than enough to compete back east. Unfortunately, these Nets were swept in the first round by Boston and looked anything like contenders. E
ntering the summer, there’s questions surrounding the core group. That includes Mr. Simmons. Meanwhile, it’s no longer a foregone conclusion Kyrie Irving returns. If not, Kevin Durant could force his way from Brooklyn. Talk about a potential disaster. But for now, this is a top-10 team.
9. Philadelphia 76ers
These 76ers looked like world beaters in the first three games of the Raptors series, only to lose two consecutive before a blowout Game 6 win. They then fell to the Miami Heat in the Eastern Confernce semifinals. It’s now led to speculation that front office head Daryl Morey will look to pull off a blockbuster trade to find another star with Joel Embiid and James Harden. For now, the team added a defensive presence in a draft-day trade.
8. Denver Nuggets
It’s actually pretty insane what Nikola Jokic did to propel Denver without both Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. in the mix. He played at an absolutely elite clip en route to leading Denver to 48 regular-season wins. Even after losing to the Golden State Warriors in the first round, these Nuggets are set up to succeed moving forward as long as Murray and Porter Jr. return healthy.
7. Memphis Grizzlies
The injury to Ja Morant impacted these Grizzlies in their playoff loss to the Warriors. In no way should that be seen as a bad thing. Memphis won the second-most regular-season games. Morant and Jaren Jackson Jr. represent a tremendous yung duo. But in order for Memphis to ascend our NBA Power rankings, it simply just needs to add more proven talent.
6. Los Angeles Clippers
The Clippers’ season came to a conclusion in the play-in tournament with a loss to the New Orleans Pelicans. Said game was defined by Paul George being out to COVID-19. This was the culmination of a season that saw Kawhi Leonard sit out due to a torn ACL and included George himself missing substantial time to injury. At 100%, the Clippers are title contenders. It’s that simple.
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5. Miami Heat
When fully healthy and clicking on all cylinders, these Heat will continue to be legit conference title contenders. Jimmy Butler remains one of the best all-around players in the game. Miami simply needs to find more help behind Butler after its loss to the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference Finals. Will Pat Riley and Co. provide that during the summer?
4. Phoenix Suns
Phoenix was actually put to the brink by New Orleans in the first round. No one had that series going six games. It was a precursor to this team struggling in its conference semifinals loss to the Dallas Mavericks. Despite winning the most games in the regular season, there’s certainly some questions here. Will Deandre Ayton return? Is Chris Paul too old to be a major cog for a championship contender?
3. Boston Celtics
Defense. Defense. More defense. Since an ugly 19-21 start to the season, Boston won 35 of 41. First-year head coach Ime Udoka then led the Celtics through a tough Eastern Conference before falling to the Warriors in the NBA Finals. Despite struggles in said series, Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown proved they can be top players on a contending team. It’s now up to Boston to improve its supporting cast this summer.
2. Milwaukee Bucks
Despite some inconsistencies this past season, Milwaukee finished up the regular year with 51 wins and as the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference. It then dominated the Chicago Bulls in Round 1 before falling to the Boston Celtics in the conference semifinals. Giannis Antetokounmpo just couldn’t do it all with fellow All-Star Khris Middleton sidelined to injury. Regardless, a healthy iteration of these Bucks is among the best teams in the NBA.
1. Golden State Warriors
Four NBA championships in eight years. Stephen Curry playing elite basketball at the age of 34. A great mix of proven championship players and youngsters. There’s a reason why the Warriors are defending champs. Barring something unforeseen this summer, they’ll continue to sit atop our NBA power rankings.
This article was originally published on Sportsnaut.com and is republished here with permission.