The 2021-22 NBA season ended with the Golden State Warriors triumphing over the Boston Celtics to win the title. Golden State was healthy for the first time since Kevin Durant left and got right back to success. The core players throughout their dynasty, Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green, showed up while new players like Andrew Wiggins and Jordan Poole emerged.
However, it won’t be an easy path back as the NBA talent level is very high. Young teams are on the rise, while other teams will have star players returning from injury as they prepare to bounce back.
This NBA offseason has seen a ton of moves around the league, with some teams improving their roster to become contenders. Teams have made trades and signings to get their rosters competitive, and it is setting up a historically great season.
With that said, we will dive into specific teams and how it will be difficult for the Warriors to repeat.
While there are a few teams in the midst of a rebuild, a majority of the league wants to contend. Some teams that made the biggest moves include the Atlanta Hawks, Cleveland Cavaliers, and Minnesota Timberwolves.
Atlanta acquired star guard Dejounte Murray in a trade with the San Antonio Spurs, forming a star-studded backcourt. Trae Young led the Hawks to the Conference Finals two seasons ago and have now paired him with an all-around guard that plays well defensively. This will be a great complement to his game, and the Hawks could get back to being a dangerous team in the Eastern Conference.
Another team that could become a contender in the East is the Cavs. Cleveland has built a great young core in the post-LeBron era, with Darius Garland, Evan Mobley, and Jarrett Allen. They were aggressive this offseason, leading to a deal being struck with the Utah Jazz for three-time All-Star guard Donovan Mitchell. Cleveland didn’t have to give up any of their starters from last season in the deal. They will be a team to watch out for in East, especially if their wing Isaac Okoro takes a jump.
Out west, the Timberwolves acquired star center Rudy Gobert after making it to the postseason. They gave up a ton, with multiple role players as well as a plethora of first-round picks. Nevertheless, Gobert will help Minnesota improve immediately around Karl Anthony Towns and Anthony Edwards. Towns will slide down to the power forward position, which creates a two-big lineup, which is rare in the modern NBA. The three-time Defensive Player of the Year award winner Gobert will complement Towns well with rim protection, as he is a more offensive player. It will be interesting to see how they defend the perimeter, but they should improve regardless.
These teams’ aggressiveness in the offseason will pay dividends next season. Will alter how well the Warriors will do? Only time will tell.
Another thing to look out for this season is young teams that are improving. These teams may not be contenders, but they could compete for a spot in the play-in tournament and possibly challenge the Warriors.
The Sacramento Kings are a team that could be much improved after acquiring Domantas Sabonis at the deadline last season and adding depth this offseason. Rookie Keegan Murray will be very helpful as well as free agent Malik Monk and Kevin Huerter, who was acquired via trade. They should make a run at a lower seed in the Western Conference.
Other teams that could fight for a play-in spot include the Houston Rockets, Oklahoma City Thunder, Detroit Pistons, Charlotte Hornets, and Orlando Magic. These teams have young talent that could break out and help them make a push for the playoffs.
While they won’t be championship contenders, they have the potential to step up significantly.
Teams that will bounce back
Another reason the NBA season will be competitive is teams that could bounce back. There are multiple teams that could be legitimate contenders this season.
One of those teams is the Brooklyn Nets. Brooklyn had an eventful offseason, with rumors swirling about Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant being on the move. However, they never came true, and the Nets will have one of the best rosters in basketball. Ben Simmons has yet to play for them but should be an excellent fit around the star duo. If they can get their chemistry right, the Nets will be a true title contender this season.
Another team that could return to being a contender is the Los Angeles Clippers. Kawhi Leonard missed all of last season but is set to return. Leonard and Paul George are a superstar duo and hard to stop when on the court together. If Los Angeles can stay healthy, they will have a shot at winning the championship.
While the Los Angeles Lakers were a major disappointment last season, they could make a run. A healthy LeBron James and Anthony Davis won a championship back in 2020, and it is not impossible that it can happen again. They may end up moving on from Russell Westbrook, but the rest of the supporting cast of role players is younger and better fits for LA this season.
A team that is not getting a ton of coverage is the Denver Nuggets. The Nuggets have the back-to-back MVP in Nikola Jokic and were in the Conference Finals in 2020. With Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. coming back, they could win the title.
The New Orleans Pelicans made it to the playoffs but were eliminated in six games. They did this without their best player, Zion Williamson, who missed the entire season. Williamson’s return could make them a top team out West.
These five teams could see major improvement next season and be amongst the best teams in the league.
There are also established contenders like the Warriors. These teams include the Milwaukee Bucks, Miami Heat, Boston Celtics, and Philadelphia 76ers out East and out West; the Phoenix Suns and Memphis Grizzlies had the best seasons besides the Warriors.
Milwaukee might have won the championship if Khris Middleton didn’t get injured in the playoffs. Staying healthy, led by Giannis Antetokounmpo, will be the key for the next season.
The Heat were involved in rumors of trading for a third star but ended up keeping a similar roster. Still, Miami has a shot at winning, with a Finals appearance in 2020 and the Conference Finals this season.
The Celtics are coming off an NBA Finals appearance and upgraded the roster this offseason. They traded for point guard Malcolm Brogdon, who will be a true point guard for them. Boston is in a position to be right back in contention.
The 76ers will also be a formidable opponent, as they have James Harden and Joel Embiid. The supporting cast was upgraded in the offseason, with P.J. Tucker and other role players. They will be another threat out East.
In the West, the Suns should be good again with Chris Paul, Devin Booker, and Deandre Ayton. Despite the drama and an early 2022 playoff exit, they should be ready for another run at the Finals.
The Grizzlies had a breakout season and should have similar results next season. Ja Morant and the young core are only improving, and more playoff experience will be beneficial to the group.
Other teams that could potentially make a push include the Dallas Mavericks, Toronto Raptors, and Chicago Bulls. However, it seems unlikely that they would be able to make a title run without making any more moves.
Golden State is going to have a tough time repeating with this highly talented NBA. The 2022-23 season could end up being the most competitive ever.
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