The NBA season is here. Every year teams make huge strides in one direction or the other. Major transformations can happen in an instant. Teams that are one player away from contending for a championship can immediately find themselves in the gutter if they upset the wrong player. Look at the Houston Rockets, one minute they are a frontrunner, the next they are competing for the #1 pick. Last year, I predicted the Hawks, Pelicans and Suns to make big strides, the Suns and Hawks not only made the playoffs, but actually made big runs. The Pelicans are back to the drawing board. This season there again were major changes made in the NBA landscape. Here are a few teams that I think make a big step in 2022.
Additions- Demar Derozan, Derrick Jones Jr., Alex Caruso, Tony Bradley, Ayo Dosunmou, Lonzo Ball
I once wrote about the potential of a Bulls rebuild beginning with the emergence of Lauri Markkanen paired along with Kris Dunn. I look back on that blog and realize its stupidity of a cold hard take.
The Bulls rebuild that has seemed like it’s been going on for ten years was finally finding its footing in 2021. The addition of Nikola Vucevic immediately gave the Bulls a weapon to play alongside Zach lavine. Vuc was good with Chicago, averaging 23 ppg and 11 rpg in 26 games. The addition of a bonafide star made the Chicago offense efficient despite being a bottom ten ppg team last season, they were top ten in offensive efficiency with the big man in the middle.
Chicago has the guys on the offensive end but their biggest issues in 2021 were turnovers and interior defense. The Bulls went out to address those issues by adding PG Lonzo Ball and veteran guard Demar Derozan. Both are high level defenders that are efficient with the ball. Zach Lavine will now be able to play off of the ball, his athletic ability will be on full display with less ball control needed.
The Bulls addition of Tony Bradley will help protect the basket when defense is needed. 2nd year player Patrick Williams will have to begin the season on the injured list. The Bulls will lilley go with Derrick Jones Jr or Alex Caruso in the starting lineup, but the smart choice would be inserting Troy Brown Jr. into the lineup to try and make up for the defensive loss of Williams for the first few weeks.
Chicago’s offense will be elite, they will lean on Ball and Williams on the defensive end. The Bulls offense will be fun to watch, it will be enough to find themselves in contention for the playoffs and potentially making their way into the middle of the conference.
Additions- Evan Mobley, Lauri Markkenan, Ricky Rubio
The Cavaliers made a lot of offseason moves. Drafting the uber talented Evan Mobley, along with adding Lauri Markkenan and Ricky Rubio gives the Cavs the depth they have not had in a long time.
The Cav’s will feature one of the best young frontcourts in the league with Collin Sexton and Darius Garland. Garland in particular made a huge jump in his second year, averaging 17 ppg and shooting 39% from behind the arc. Cleveland will now have a proven veteran behind the two young guards in Ricky Rubio. The addition of Rubio will allow the Cavaliers offense to not lose it’s flow on offense. With Rubio they have a slashing guard that can help set things up while playing alongside Evan Mobley. Mobley’s athletic ability will be perfect for a pick a roll game with Rubio.
The addition of Markkenan will give the Cavaliers a boost from the 3-point line, a place that was seriously a problem during the 2020-2021 season. His ability to hit shots will help Sexton and Rubio break down defenses and set up one on one matchups in the paint for Mobley and returning center Jarett Allen.
The biggest question mark of the team will be what is going to happen with Kevin Love. The Cavaliers seemed to build a team that would be prepared to not have him be a big part of the future plans. If Love is able to perform to his abilities, a combination of him, Markkenen and Allen could be a nightmare for smaller lineups. The Cavaliers will likely need more depth in the front court but this team competeded last year and have made vast improvements to the roster.
Additions- Alex Len, Tristan Thompson, Davion Mitchell
This is laughable, the Kings have had 15 straight seasons without making the playoffs. That is ten more seasons than the nearst team. They have been the appendamy of futility over the last decade in the NBA. The rebuild is close to being able to legally drive a car. Instead of a driver’s license the Kings will be rewarded with a spot in the playoffs.
The 2020-2021 Kings were a horrid defensive team. The defense gave up a 55% effective field goal percentage, good for 30th in the league. Their on ball defense was laughable at times. It is an indication of a lack of a team concept to rotate onto shooters. To address that problem they added Baylor stud Davion Mitchell in the draft, as well as signing rim protector Tristan Thompson. They will also have a full season of Maurice Harkless. The addition of those three along with the offensive acumen that D’eAron Fox will make this team a serious threat for one of the final playoff spots for the upcoming season.
Davion Mitchells addition gives the Kings a spark of energy likely off the bench. Mitchell at 23 years old brings a maturity that you won’t usually see from a first year player. He also brings with him a winning culture, fresh off leading the Baylor Bears to the national title a year ago. A similar addition is Tristan Thompson, a veteran that has won a championship before and can be a great bench asset for Luke Walton’s squad.
The King’s offense will still need to be on the move. They will play a lot of 3 guard lineups during the season, which means the defense will not be completely transformed, their style will not allow that. The key for Sacramento will be to improve the half court defense to get to the middle of the pack in opponent effective field goal percentage. If they do that, their offense should carry them to a lot of wins.