The 2021-22 season is here and it’s time for the second edition of our 48 bold predictions feature.
Last season, we had some misses—the Clippers finishing with the No. 1 seed, the Wizards ending up with a top-5 seed, and Jahlil Okafor turning around his career in Detroit being chief among them.
Yet, we also had a fair amount of success. We accurately forecasted the Sixers’ rise to the top of the Eastern Conference standings and the fall of the Raptors during their stay in Tampa Bay. We correctly predicted the Magic (coming off a playoff appearance) drastically falling and trading away Nikola Vucevic and Aaron Gordon, the Rockets completely falling apart, and Zach LaVine making his first All-Star appearance.
If you are going to make predictions, you might as well go bold. Here are 48 bold predictions for the upcoming season:
1. Ben Simmons will remain in Philadelphia until at least January.
- Daryl Morey & Co remain patient despite whatever level of awkwardness there is in Philadelphia.
2. The Sixers fail to clinch a top-4 seed.
- Philadelphia has largely succeeded in the regular season during Joel Embiid‘s prime, taking home a pair of three seeds (2017-18; 2018-19) and a No. 1 seed in the East over the past four seasons. With uncertainty around the Simmons situation and then a likely transition period with new parts from an expected trade, the Sixers are at risk to buck that trend. PointsBet has their over-under at the 3.5 seed and it’s easy to see a scenario where this talented team slides in the standings akin to the Lakers of last season.
3. The Blazers win over 50 games and Damian Lillard is in the MVP conversation.
- Portland proves to be a deep team, giving Lillard enough to remain fully committed to the franchise through at least the remainder of the season.
4. The Clippers surprisingly stay ultra-competitive without Kawhi Leonard and Paul George is also in the MVP conversation.
- Los Angeles’ three-point shooting around PG13 helps the team secure the No. 6 seed and avoid the play-in tournament.
5. The Mavericks trade for Myles Turner before the deadline.
6. The Lakers trade for Collin Sexton.
- While Sexton has a reputation as an over-dribbler, he’s quietly turning into an efficient option off the ball. The Lakers have a lot of veterans who thrive with the ball in their hands and LeBron James will certainly do his best to make it all work. However, swapping Sexton for Kendrick Nunn and a 2027 unprotected first-round pick (Nunn isn’t eligible to be traded until November) is a shrewd move that would severely mitigate the risk of relying on so many veterans and give Los Angeles another piece in the quest to win another championship.
- This is one of those bold predictions that could look horribly bad in a matter of days (writing this before Sexton’s rookie-scale extension deadline and if he signs a new deal, he’d be ineligible to be traded).
7. The Western Conference ends up with seven teams that win at least 50 games.
- The Lakers, Jazz, Blazers, Mavericks, Warriors, Clippers, and Suns all win 50 games.
8. Despite winning 50 games, the Suns end up in the play-in tournament as the No. 7 seed.
- Some regression hits Phoenix; the major cable news media question the existence of the play-in tournament with the reigning Western Conference champs playing in it alongside the Nuggets, Timberwolves, and Pelicans.
9. RJ Barrett takes a major step forward but the Knicks sputter into the play-in tournament.
- New York takes the No. 7 seed.
10. Despite the new additions in Chicago, the Bulls are stuck in the play-in tournament.
11. The Wizards fall in the standings early (again) but make the play-in tournament.
- There’s a lot of cooks in the kitchen in Washington. On paper, it’s a really talented, deep squad, however, on a night-to-night basis, it becomes a major challenge to get all of the talent playing time. Figuring out the team’s hierarchy caps the team’s potential early on.
12. Thomas Bryant returns and gradually takes over the starting center spot again.
- Daniel Gafford has the potential to be something special on the defensive end of the floor, though let’s not forget how well Bryant was processing before his ACL injury. Bryant is currently the franchise’s all-time leader in true shooting percentage and the center ranks fifth all-time in PER. The Wizards front office has preached efficiency as a metric they highly value all offseason and TB coming back gives them a chance to improve in that area.
13. Washington sends Kyle Kuzma to Sacramento for Marvin Bagley and a lottery-protected first-round pick.
- Tommy Sheppard has a history of taking low-risk swings on former first-round picks; Kuzma ends up in Sacramento after all.
14. Washington trades for Pascal Siakam.
- Sheppard cashes in some of his chips, sending Rui Hachimura, Davis Bertans, Montrezl Harrell, and two first-round picks (a top-5 2026 first-rounder and the lottery-protected pick from the Kings’ predicted Kuzma trade) to Toronto in exchange for Siakam (who will miss a chunk of time to begin the season with a shoulder injury).
15. The Magic contend for a play-in spot but fall just short.
16. The Magic trade for Kevin Love.
- Orlando makes a low-risk move in trading for Love, sending out Gary Harris and Mohamed Bamba.
17. Darius Garland wins the Most Improved Player award but it doesn’t translate to major regular-season success.
- Garland thrives playing alongside Ricky Rubio and the new-look frontcourt but the team is again in the lottery.
18. Raptors drop to the Eastern Conference’s cellar.
- Toronto gets off to a slow start with Siakam on the sideline (and then in this prediction piece, traded to Washington) and while the team has a ton of exciting pieces, it misses the play-in tournament and dwindles with the likes of Cleveland, Orlando, and Detroit at the bottom of the conference standings.
18. Brooklyn won’t finish with the No. 1 seed in the East.
- The Nets are the favorites (-135) to take home the No. 1 seed and with drama in Philly and potential for a Finals hangover in Milwaukee, the path may be clear for Brooklyn’s superteam to claim the top spot in the regular season. However, I say not so fast…
19. The Heat will finish with the best record in the Eastern Conference.
- The additions of Kyle Lowry and P.J. Tucker as well as progression from Tyler Herro boost Miami up the standings this season as Jimmy Butler & Co. look to position themselves for another run to the Finals (Miami’s +1600 to claim the top seed in the conference).
20. Bam Adebayo makes an All-NBA team.
- The last time we had a regularly scheduled offseason, Adebayo rose from a prospect with potential to an All-Star big man. This year, Adebayo builds off his Team USA experience and takes another major leap.
21. Jerami Grant makes the All-Star team.
- The 27-year-old shines for the Pistons, taking yet another unprecedented step forward
22. Kyrie Irving never plays for Brooklyn again.
- The city of New York doesn’t lift the vaccine mandate before the trade deadline.
23. The Pistons trade for Kyrie Irving in a three-team deal at the trade deadline.
- The Nets move on from Irving and the Pistons take a shot on the disgruntled star trading Jerami Grant and Cory Joseph (and Josh Jackson to the Thunder to make the salaries work). Brooklyn also receives a lottery-protected first-rounder from Detroit and a second-rounder from OKC. The Pistons work with Irving for the remainder of the season, promising to find him a suitable trade if he gives Detroit a real chance.
24. Kevin Durant will average over 30+ points per game (+180 at PointsBet).
- This might not be that bold but the thinking here is that Durant will get off to a strong start to the season coming off a Team USA run and the 33-year-old will take on even more offensive responsibilities without Irving in the picture. Durant has surpassed this total twice in his career (2009/10, 2013/14; both in OKC).
25. Dennis Schroder has a career year.
- Schroder’s raw and efficiency numbers rebound, earning him a long-term deal with the Celtics.
26. The Grizzlies get off to a horrid start, end up as one of the worst teams in the Western Conference.
- Ja Morant struggles to stay on the court and some regression hits Memphis.
27. Boston, Utah swap Rudy Gobert, Jaylen Brown in three-way trade deadline deal.
- While the Jazz have had much regular-season success, they make a move with an eye on improving their postseason stock.
28. The Celtics finish with the No. 4 seed, win a playoff series.
- The re-tooled Boston roster proves to complement Jayson Tatum nicely, leading to regular-season success (the Celtics are +110 to finish above the 5.5 seed at PointsBet) and some postseason noise.
29. The Hawks take a few steps back.
- While Atlanta has a roster that’s ready to make a trade that vaults the team into real contender status, the franchise stands pat and regression hits. The Hawks end up with the No. 5 seed and lose in the first round to the Celtics.
30. The Nuggets get out to slow start, end up in play-in tournament.
- Denver makes that postseason as the No. 8 seed.
31. The Warriors trades James Wiseman and Andrew Wiggins in six-player blockbuster deal with the Spurs.
- The Spurs send Dejounte Murray, Thaddeus Young, and Jakob Poeltl to Golden State for James Wiseman, Andrew Wiggins, and Moses Moody.
32. Golden State earns the No. 3 seed.
- The restocked Warriors beat the Clippers (No. 6 seed) in the first round of the playoffs.
33. The Jazz claim the No. 2 seed, reach the Western Conference Finals.
- Behind their new-look trio, Donovan Mitchell & Co. reach the Western Conference Finals, beating the Suns (eventual No. 7 seed) and Warriors (No. 3 seed) in consecutive series.
34. Luka Doncic wins the MVP award as well as his first playoff series.
35. The Mavericks earn the No. 1 seed, win just one playoff series
- Luka leads the Mavericks over the Nuggets (No. 8 seed) in seven games.
36. The Lakers earn the No. 4 seed.
- Los Angeles’ regular season is filled with drama and uncertainty, though the team is still able to get home court in a first-round playoff series.
37. Anthony Davis wins the Defensive Player of the Year award.
- Davis covers up many of the Lakers’ defensive deficiencies, proving to be the best in the league.
38. Los Angeles dominates in the playoffs.
- The Lakers blow past the Blazers (No. 5 seed) and Mavericks (No. 1 seed), losing just two games combined before beating the Jazz 4-2 in the Western Conference Finals.
39. The Sixers lose in the first round of the playoffs.
- Brooklyn (No. 3 seed) sends Philadelphia (No. 6 seed) home in five games.
40. Milwaukee loses in the second round of the playoffs.
- After beating the Bulls (No. 7 seed), the Bucks (as the No. 2 seed) meet the Nets (No. 3 seed) in the second round for the second consecutive season. Although this time, Durant & Co. are too much for Giannis’ squad.
41. The Heat makes the Eastern Conference Finals.
- Miami knocks off the Knicks (No. 8 seed) and Celtics (No. 4 seed) to make their second ECF in the past three seasons.
42. Brooklyn beats Miami in seven games during the Eastern Conference Finals.
- The Heat give the Nets an ultra-tough series.
43. Erik Spoelstra wins the Coach of the Year award.
44. The Nets destroy the Lakers in the NBA Finals.
- Brooklyn wins the series 4-1.
45. James Harden wins Finals MVP.
- Harden proves doubters wrong, showing up
46. Jalen Green wins the Rookie of the Year award.
- The No. 2 overall pick shines as the team enters and the team enters the 2022 offseason with a plan to accelerate the rebuild around him.
47. John Wall sits out the entire season.
- The Rockets fail to find a deal for the former superstar and allow the trade deadline to pass without making a deal. Wall’s gigantic expiring contract actually gives the Rockets quite a bit of flexibility in the trade market.
48. Ben Simmons is still on the Sixers as the 2022 NBA offseason begins.
- The Sixers have one of the more awkward seasons in recent memory but Daryl Morey continues to have the longest view in the room, holding out for an eventual Simmons trade that nets Philadelphia a star (Bonus bold prediction: Philly gets Embiid a top running mate next summer).
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