04.14.2022 | Felix | BLOG

Based on the last couple of years, it's nice to have a full, uninterrupted NBA season under our belts. It certainly wasn't without its ups and downs -- health and safety protocols, injuries and trade demands to name a few -- but we made it, and a wide-open postseason is our reward.

Before we get into the playoffs, however, let's take a second and reflect with the final NBA Power Rankings of the 2021-22 regular season. This season had a lot of variance, with several teams earning the top spot throughout the year based on weekly performance. But overall there was absolutely no question that the Phoenix Suns were the best team in the NBA this season, and they've earned the No. 1 spot as a result.

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The surprising Memphis Grizzlies end up at No. 2, while a trio of Eastern Conference teams -- the Boston CelticsMiami Heat and Milwaukee Bucks -- round out the top five. Of course, we can't discuss this season without mentioning the Los Angeles Lakers and Brooklyn Nets, the preseason title favorites who both disappointed to varying degrees. The Nets will have to fight for their lives in the play-in this week just to make the playoffs, while the Lakers won't even be afforded that luxury as they missed the postseason altogether.

Unlike our regular Power Rankings, which are based on weekly performance, this edition will evaluate the 2021-22 season as a whole to give us a snapshot of the hierarchy we can look back on years from now. Thanks for coming with us on this journey, and enjoy the playoffs.


1 SUNS What else can we say about the Suns? They finished the regular season first in net rating, third in defense and fourth in offense en route to a franchise record in wins. It's hard to have a perfect season, but Phoenix came pretty darn close. Behind Coach of the Year favorite Monty Williams, the savvy front office and the powerful backcourt of Chris Paul and Devin Booker, this team has gotten through any and all adversity this season with flying colors. There was absolutely no debate about their No. 1 spot in the final Power Rankings. -- 64-18
2 GRIZZLIES If the Grizzlies were ahead of schedule by making the playoffs last season, what on earth do we call this? Memphis finished with the second-best record in the entire NBA, and that was with MVP candidate Ja Morant missing over 20 games. This team is deep, well-coached and extremely confident despite its lack of experience. They finished in the top five in both offensive and defensive rating, the only team besides Phoenix to do so. -- 56-26
3 CELTICS It was a tale of two seasons for the Celtics, who disappointed in the first half before turning into an absolute juggernaut. They went 24-6 after Feb. 1, leading the league in both offensive and defensive rating over that stretch, and worked their way all the way up to the No. 2 seed in the East. Jayson Tatum went to the next level offensively and Ime Udoka's ball movement-based philosophy finally got through to the players, but this team hangs its hat on the defensive end, where it was the stingiest in the NBA.  1 51-31
4 HEAT While most expected the Heat to be a tough out in the playoffs, not many predicted they'd finish the regular season as the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference. It's especially impressive when you consider that their presumptive closing lineup of Kyle Lowry, Tyler Herro, Jimmy Butler, PJ Tucker and Bam Adebayo played just 51 minutes together all year. The defense was expectedly stingy, but Erik Spoelstra once again deserves all the praise he receives for keeping this team on the winning track despite playing the likes of Gabe Vincent, Max Strus and Omer Yurtseven for major minutes.  2 53-29
5 BUCKS It's hard to imagine a 51-win season being a disappointment, but that's how good the defending champions are. The defense slipped to the middle of the pack, but was about the same as it was last regular season before they went on to have the best defensive rating of any playoff team. Giannis Antetokounmpo did nothing to dissuade some people from considering him the best basketball player in the game today, and Jrue Holiday had a tremendous season. The regular season wasn't mind-blowing, but there's a reason many are still picking Milwaukee to get back to the NBA Finals.  2 51-31
6 WARRIORS The Warriors ended up with an impressive record, but the way they got there was quite circuitous. They looked like the best team in the league to start the season, then Draymond Green got hurt and Steph Curry went into an unprecedented slump, leading to a 12-16 record after February 9. Curry, Green and Klay Thompson played just 11 minutes together during the regular season due to injuries and load management, so it's hard to tell what the Warriors will look like as a full unit. The role players and rookies appear to fit, but James Wiseman's injury lingered to the point that he never even took the floor. All said, however, a 53-win season is probably better than most predicted for Golden State.  9 53-29
7 MAVERICKS Luka Doncic's late-season surge coincided with the Kristaps Porzingis trade to catapult the Mavs into the upper echelon of Western Conference teams. They went 19-7 after the trade as their offense caught up to their much-improved defense under Jason Kidd. The addition of Spencer Dinwiddie gave Dallas another much-needed scorer and ball-handler to take pressure off of Doncic, who averaged over 30 points, nine rebounds and eight assists on 39 percent 3-point shooting after the deal.  2 52-30
8 76ERS Zooming out, a 76ers team that got absolutely nothing from Ben Simmons all year long finishing with 50 wins is quite an accomplishment. However, expectations changed when James Harden joined the team at the deadline. They've gone 18-9 since the trade, but lost high-profile games to the Nets, Bucks and Suns. Harden and Joel Embiid have been excellent together, however, sporting a glistening plus-15.9 net rating in over 600 minutes. Embiid may not win the MVP, but he turned in another elite regular season.  1 51-31
9 NUGGETS Despite not having Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. for essentially the entire season, the Nuggets earned the No. 6 seed in the West behind an absolute monster campaign from reigning MVP Nikola Jokic, who could take home the trophy for the second straight year. Michael Malone probably doesn't get as much credit as he should, keeping this team as a top-10 defense and managing rotations with limited options. -- 48-34
10 RAPTORS The Raptors looked to be a solid team heading into the season, but there was also talk of a potential rebuild if they wanted to sell off their pieces. Luckily Masai Ujiri decided to stay the course, resulting in one of the weirdest, most entertaining teams in the NBA. They also had a great season, finishing in the No. 5 spot in the East thanks to a flurry of wins starting in March. Pascal Siakam had a bounce-back season, and could receive All-NBA consideration, while Scottie Barnes made an immediate impact and could take home the Rookie of the Year trophy. Overall it was a great regular season for Toronto.  2 48-34
11 JAZZ The Jazz had a great run early in the season, but got into a dangerous habit of blowing big leads as they fell to the middle of the Western Conference playoff standings. While they led the league in offensive efficiency, Utah's third-ranked defense from a season ago slipped out of the top 10, while their clutch net rating was toward the bottom of the league. Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert are both All-Stars, but another quick playoff exit could mean a re-evaluation from the front office this offseason.  5 49-33
12 NETS Well this Nets season went about as everyone expected, right? What a journey it's been, from presumptive title favorites to Kyrie Irving being barred from home games to a Kevin Durant injury to James Harden forcing his way to Philadelphia at the trade deadline. When all was said and done, Brooklyn ended up with the No. 7 seed in the East, and it frankly could have been much worse. Durant was transcendent when he was on the floor, as usual, but the team could never get into a consistent rhythm on either end.  1 44-38
13 TIMBERWOLVES This season was an unmitigated success for the Wolves, who made the playoffs for the first time since 2018 and the second time since 2004 thanks the the three-headed monster of Karl-Anthony Towns, Anthony Edwards and D'Angelo Russell. The biggest improvement came on defense, where they went from 28th last season to just outside the top 10 this season, while they finished sixth in offense. The success on both ends led to the No. 7 seed in the West, and plenty of hope for the future.  1 46-36
14 BULLS Injuries to Lonzo Ball and Alex Caruso soured what was looking like an excellent season for the Bulls, but they still made the playoffs for the first time since 2017 thanks to an MVP-caliber season from DeMar DeRozan. They struggled mightily against top teams, but the first step is winning most of the games you should win, and they certainly did that. Despite going 7-15 after the All-Star break, the Bulls have to be happy with the progress made this season.  1 46-36
15 CAVALIERS What a year for Cleveland. The Cavs returned to relevance despite numerous injuries to key players, reaching the playoffs for the first time since LeBron James left for the Lakers. Darius Garland and Jarrett Allen both accelerated their growth into All-Stars, and Evan Mobley contributed to winning as much as any rookie in recent memory while helping to anchor their No. 6-ranked defense. Throw in a resurgent performance from Kevin Love off the bench, and the Cavs were one of the best stories in the league this season.  2 44-38
16 HORNETS Charlotte ended up in the final play-in spot in the East for the second straight year, but don't let that fool you. They improved from a .458 to a .524 winning percentage, finishing just a couple of games out of the No. 6 spot. LaMelo Ball blossomed into an All-Star and Miles Bridges is a candidate for Most Improved Player -- not to mention they did all of this with limited minutes from Gordon Hayward. The Hornets went 14-8 after the All-Star break with a robust 120.3 offensive rating.  6 43-39
17 HAWKS After a surprising conference finals appearance last season, most expected the Hawks to take a leap forward this season. That certainly did not happen, though they played well enough to salvage a play-in spot. Trae Young was brilliant all year long, finishing with averages of 28.4 points and 9.7 assists per game on 46/38/90 shooting splits. Unfortunately, the defensive progress the Hawks made last season did a complete 180, as they finished in the bottom five.  3 43-39
18 CLIPPERS If there were any lingering doubts about Ty Lue's coaching chops, he erased them all this season. Despite Kawhi Leonard missing the entire season and Paul George playing in just 31 games, the Clippers finished with an above-.500 record as the No. 8 seed in the West. The full roster stepped up with the stars out, and the front office added Norman Powell and Robert Covington at the trade deadline to help both this season and in the future. Even with a mediocre record, this was a confidence-boosting season for the Clippers.  1 42-40
19 PELICANS The Pelicans got off to a dismal start, got zero games from Zion Williamson and only 55 from Brandon Ingram, yet they somehow powered their way into the play-in tournament. The CJ McCollum trade gave them a huge offensive boost, and Willie Green led New Orleans to a top-10 defense after the All-Star break, thanks in part to standout rookie Herb Jones. The Pels have set a tremendous foundation, with Williamson's healthy return expected next season.  1 36-46
20 KNICKS What started with "Bing Bong" ended with a giant thud, as the Knicks disappointingly missed the postseason altogether after earning the No. 4 seed last season. Julius Randle lost whatever magic he found last year, and the additions of Kemba Walker and Evan Fournier didn't work out the way the front office hoped. RJ Barrett had a productive, albeit inefficient, second half, and Immanuel Quickley was solid off the bench, but the Knicks have to re-evaluate their roster, and possibly their direction, after a rough season.  2 37-45
21 SPURS The Spurs got a nice bonus amid their rebuild, as they snuck into the play-in tournament behind All-Star guard Dejounte Murray, who averaged over 20 points, nine assists and eight rebounds for the season. Gregg Popovich seemed to enjoy mentoring the young group, which played at one of the fastest paces in the league and attempted four more 3-pointers per game than they did last season. Jakob Poeltl had a sneakily good season on both ends of the floor, while Keldon Johnson continued his development and shot 40 percent from the 3-point line. -- 34-48
22 WIZARDS The Wizards faced some tough sledding with Bradley Beal only playing 40 games, and even in those he didn't look like himself. The record followed suit, but they got solid play from Kyle Kuzma and made a big trade for Kristaps Porzingis, who looked great to finish the season. Overall, Washington finished in the bottom 10 in both offense and defense -- a surefire recipe for the lottery.  2 35-47
23 LAKERS The Lakers had one of the worst seasons in NBA history relative to expectations, and it didn't look like anyone was having fun for the majority of the year. The good news is that LeBron James looked great, and nearly took home the scoring title at the ripe age of 37. Other than that, however, pretty much everything that could go wrong went wrong. Russell Westbrook was a disaster, Anthony Davis couldn't stay healthy and the aging supporting cast was mostly injured and/or underwhelming. The Lakers can improve next season, but it's going to take some major retooling. -- 33-49
24 KINGS The Kings' hopes to make the playoffs for the first time since the George W. Bush administration never fully materialized, and they decided to go big with a trade for Domantas Sabonis at the deadline. They paid a steep price by sending out Tyrese Haliburton, but Sabonis and De'Aaron Fox appeared to have solid chemistry together in limited minutes to end the season. Once again, Sacramento's defense was among the worst in the league.  2 30-52
25 PACERS A team that looked like they might contend for the playoffs to begin the year quickly turned into something very different, as the Pacers eventually traded Domantas Sabonis and fully embraced the tank. They got a glimpse of the future with Tyrese Haliburton's strong performance after joining the team, and they now have tradeable assets in Myles Turner, Malcolm Brogdon and Buddy Hield if they decide to fully rebuild. As for this season, however, the Pacers' defense was about as bad as it gets, which made winning a difficult proposition on most nights.  2 25-57
26 THUNDER Another successful season for OKC, which is defined as losing as much as possible. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander had another phenomenal season and rookie Josh Giddey looks promising, but some of the lineups the Thunder threw out this season could go down in basketball infamy. Hopefully one of these days the front office decides to try to win, because there's enough talent in the program to make an entertaining product.  3 24-58
27 PISTONS The Pistons are bound for a high lottery pick once again, and they saw strong development from No. 1 overall pick Cade Cunningham, who got himself into the Rookie of the Year conversation with a strong finish to the season. Jerami Grant only played a little more than half the season, but he looked solid, scoring 19.2 points per game on 36 percent 3-point shooting. Saddiq Bey, Killian Hayes and Isaiah Stewart all had their moments, and should continue to fill roles around Cunningham moving forward.  1 23-59
28 MAGIC Orlando finished with the second-worst record in the league, which was certainly part of the plan. As for positives, rookie Franz Wagner looks like a winning player and when he shared the court with Wendell Carter Jr. the Magic had pretty much an even net rating -- compared to their season-long mark of minus-8.5. Orlando finished with the worst offense in the NBA, and it doesn't look like they have any "pure scorers" on the roster as of yet. We'll see where they end up in the draft. -- 22-60
29 ROCKETS Houston finished with the worst record in the NBA -- mission accomplished -- but saw tremendous development from No. 2 overall pick Jalen Green to conclude the season. Other youngsters like Kevin Porter Jr., Alperen Sengun, Josh Christopher and KJ Martin had their moments as well, while Christian Wood was productive when he was on the floor. The Rockets were very bad this season, but they probably feel pretty good about where they are moving forward.  4 20-62
30 TRAIL BLAZERS Last summer, Damian Lillard put pressure on the front office to turn Portland into a winner this season, and they ended up trading away CJ McCollum, Norman Powell and Robert Covington while finishing with the third-worst record in the West. Life comes at you fast. Lillard didn't play a game in 2022 and the Blazers went 2-21 after the All-Star break with a minus-21 net rating. There's tanking, and then there's TANKING. They'll end up with a solid draft pick and have cap space to make some moves, so we'll see what they end up putting around Lillard next season. -- 27-55





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