NBA Power Rankings: The teams on the cusp
Like the Boston Celtics, the Miami Heat had a bit of a down year this past season after their NBA Finals campaign in the NBA bubble the summer before. While their offseason moves certainly made them a bit better, I'm still not sure that the needle will move that much.
The Eastern Conference is becoming increasingly competitive and, while Kyle Lowry, P.J. Tucker, and Markieff Morris all add value to the team, Morris is the youngest of those three at 31 years old. Ultimately, if the Heat want to make any meaningful run in the playoffs, then Bam Adebayo and Tyler Herro will have to show up in a big way.
Finally, we've made it to the Spurs. With the veterans mostly gone, the young core is now large and in charge. In that way, the 2021-2022 season could realistically go one of two ways for the team: either the young players come into the season looking better than ever and outperform expectations, or they make too many young player mistakes to salvage the loss of DeRozan, Mills, and Gay.
In these power rankings, I land somewhere in the middle. I think it's very possible that we'll see some huge improvements from the young Spurs players this season, but ultimately, the Western Conference is still going to be very competitive. Here, I have them ending the regular season as the #9 seed.
The Clippers would obviously be much higher on this list if it weren't for Kawhi Leonard being out with a torn ACL. Ultimately, though, the team's struggles will more than likely come down to that.
While it would still be a mistake for opponents to count them out entirely, as they'll be returning with Paul George, Reggie Jackson, Marcus Morris, Nicolas Batum, and Terrence Mann, not having their best player will surely hold them back quite a lot. If Leonard ends up sitting the whole season, the Clippers may even miss the playoffs.