5 bold predictions for the 2021-22 NBA season: Russell Westbrook to take on the Lakers; The Bulls are the four seeds in the East

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After the first full offseason since before the COVID-19 pandemic, the NBA is finally back and will celebrate its 75th anniversary when the Milwaukee Bucks and Brooklyn Nets face off in Game 1 of the season on Tuesday.

As the 2021-22 campaign approaches, there is no shortage of scenarios to watch out for – from new head coaches in Boston, Indiana and Dallas to players joining new teams like Kyle Lowry with the Heat and Russell Westbrook with the Lakers. However, this article will focus on the most important and boldest predictions before all the action begins. From a Western Conference team ending a long playoff drought, to a former Eastern Conference powerhouse returning to relevance.

Here are five bold predictions for the 2021-22 NBA season.

1. Westbrook to adapt his game with the Lakers

One of the biggest storylines of the season is how the Lakers will fare after pulling the trigger on a roster-redesign move that won them Russell Westbrook. There are legitimate reasons to be concerned about his place on this team, with his ineffective shooting numbers being one of the reasons. There’s also the question of how he and LeBron James will coexist on the pitch together, as we’ve gotten used to James being a forward with the Lakers.

While I’m not saying it won’t be a rough start, given that it takes time for a new partnership to properly ground itself, I don’t think it will be a miserable season for Westbrook in LA as he will learn. to adapt his game to better suit the Lakers. Instead of seeing Westbrook hoist more than 20 shot attempts per game, I think instead we’ll see him more than ever used off the ball, and when he orchestrates the attack, it won’t be for hoisting ineffective mid-range jumpers. .

Imagine a possession like this for the Lakers, and instead of James Harden throwing the alley-oop, it’s LeBron:

Or a situation where Westbrook performs a pick-and-roll with LeBron James, either as a ball handler or as a screen passer. Although the Rockets ran it sparingly with Westbrook and Harden, when they did, it was a tough possession to fight, like this:

While the issue of having two dominant ball handlers in James and Westbrook is viewed as negative, given that Westbrook is more efficient with the ball in his hands, I think it will allow the Lakers to get creative with sets. offensive between these two. As long as Westbrook is willing to adjust to play in a different way than he’s usually used to, I think this partnership could work in favor of Westbrook and the Lakers.

2. The bulls will secure a place in the top four in the East

Chicago are a tough team to assess at the start of the season after all of their offseason moves. On paper, the Bulls have three All-Stars in Zach LaVine, DeMar DeRozan and Nikola Vucevic, which generally means they have to be considered one of the best teams in their conference. However, the moves to acquire DeRozan and Lonzo Ball were met with slight excitement as many wondered how all of these players would fit in.

The Bulls answered some of those questions in the preseason with a 4-0 record. Granted, it’s preseason, so there’s always the potential to read too much into things, but the worry about how LaVine and DeRozan – two players dominating the ball – would handle not having the ball in their hands so much because of Ball’s presence wasn’t much of a problem in preseason.

While LaVine was more used to operating with the ball in his hands at all times, he seemed comfortable in exhibition matches moving without the ball, going around off-ball screens and getting his points in a different way than that of dribbling. He was also preparing screens for DeRozan to release him, showing that these two players can still score points without raising the ball to the ground.

It might seem hard to think the Bulls will go from missing the playoffs completely over the past four years, to finishing in the top four in the East with a field advantage, but this team’s success in the pre -season shows it can be better than people project it.

Chicago finished with the third best offensive score (111.1) in preseason, first in defense (91.3), the latter being a huge concern for this team early in the season, and they finished third in assists per game (28), showing the great ball movement this team is capable of. I might be drinking too much of the preseason punch, but I think there’s a scenario where the Bulls surprise a lot of people and finish way higher than their preseason projections.

3. Heat will reach the Eastern Conference final

It may not be this bold of a prediction, considering we’re only a year away from the time the Heat made it to the NBA Finals. However, they don’t get the recognition they deserve ahead of the season. Last year Miami had to contend with a sizable COVID-19 outbreak, a shortened offseason after playing in the final, and the absence of their best player in Jimmy Butler for a while. By the time the playoffs rolled around, Miami was gassed and looked nothing like the team beating their opponents in the bubble.

Fast forward so far, and the Heat secured their No.1 free agency goal by bringing in veteran guard Kyle Lowry, added PJ Tucker fresh off a title with the Milwaukee Bucks and signed Duncan Robinson and Butler for contract extensions. Long story short, the Heat should be seen as a title contender after an unusual season.

Lowry will raise this team’s ceiling at both ends of the pitch with his defensive presence and leadership on offense. This will take some of the offensive workload off Butler’s shoulders, and we should see a more balanced attack with Lowry leading the show. Bam Adebayo will benefit from performing pick-and-rolls with Lowry, and Robinson will wait on the wings to sink 3s. Off the bench, the Heat will still have offensive spark plug Tyler Herro, who just finished a season where he averaged 15.1 points per night off the bench, and Tucker’s defensive presence to anchor the second. unity.

Oh, and then there’s Victor Oladipo, who if he’s able to reach even 80% of what he was when he was an All-Star in Indiana, then the Heat will have yet another two-way weapon. available to him. Miami has all the makings of a team capable of reaching the conference finals, and like last time, they’re underrated at the start of the season, which will only give them more fuel to prove that everyone else. world is wrong.

Jamal Murray’s absence to start the season means the Nuggets will have an offensive hole that Porter is capable of stepping in. Fresh out of a rookie maximum stretch, Porter is capable of averaging over 20 points per night after averaging 19 points last season. His versatility in attack makes him a difficult player to protect as well. He can ram groundstrokes at a ridiculous clip (44.5% last season), his size allows him to work his way into the paint and score effectively at the edge (77%), and he can also score effectively. from the mid-range (49 percent).

He’s dangerous in dribbling or in catch-and-shoot situations, and his athleticism makes him an alley-oop threat. He did it all as a third option for the Nuggets, taking just 13 shots per game. With Murray losing at least the first few months of the season, imagine what Porter could do as a No.2 option alongside reigning MVP Nikola Jokic.

It won’t be an easy task to make the All-Star Game in the busy Western Conference, but if Porter continues to grow and help the Nuggets win, the league will need to give him that recognition. There’s also an easier way for him to get away with Kawhi Leonard for most of the season, giving Porter a route to make him one of the forwards on the roster. After suffering a setback in his NBA career where a back injury kept him out for his entire rookie season, Porter is set to step up to All-Star status, and I won’t be surprised when that happens. will be performing this season.

5. The Kings will make the playoffs

Sacramento came incredibly close to making the play-in tournament a season ago, and while it was never smart to bet on the Kings, I have a ton of confidence in this young team as it approaches. of the season. The reason for this confidence lies in the talent of second-year goaltender Tyrese Haliburton and the low-key emergence of De’Aaron Fox. A backcourt of these two, while incredibly small and detrimental to defense, has the potential to be very dangerous on the attacking side of the ball.

Last season, Fox ran at an All-Star level, averaging 25.2 points, 7.2 assists and 3.5 rebounds, and remained one of the toughest guys to control when he attacks the rim. Haliburton was one of the best rookies a season ago, and with a promotion in the starting lineup he should only improve. But those two alone aren’t the only reason to be excited about Sacramento this season.

The Kings have spent the summer re-signing emerging tall man Richaun Holmes, who has just completed a career year (14.2 points, 8.3 rebounds, 1.6 blocks per game) and ranked in the 86th percentile. among all great men as a percentage of effective field goals (63.7 percent). His athleticism makes him the perfect big pick-and-roll for Fox, Haliburton and Buddy Hield, and he has also shown his ability to be effective at mid-distance.

Then there’s Hield, who despite all the rumors he wants to leave Sacramento, is still one of the best 3-point shooters in the league. When he catches fire from deep he’s capable of scoring 30 points, and while a three-guard lineup with him, Haliburton and Fox isn’t ideal from a defensive standpoint, he has the potential to put in a ton. points on the board for offense.

Offense certainly won’t be a problem for the Kings, and I didn’t even mention veteran forward Harrison Barnes, who was more reliable than ever for Sacramento last season, so I expect this team to do so. go up to the notice board. Defense will be an issue, just like a season ago, but the trade to Tristan Thompson gives the Kings a big body that can help limit points at the rim.

I’m not saying this team finishes in the top eight in the West, but I see a world in which Sacramento plays the play-in, surprises the No.7 or No.8 team with their powerful offense and secures the one of the last two places in the West.


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