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NBA Power Rankings, way-too-early edition - Where the Milwaukee Bucks and every team stand for 2021-22

UniqueThis 18 Jul 21

The Bucks went all-in last offseason in trading for Jrue Holiday and were repaid for doing so by winning the title Tuesday night with their victory over the Suns in Game 6 of the NBA Finals. With Holiday, Khris Middleton and Giannis Antetokounmpo all locked up long term, Milwaukee should be a threat in the East for years to come. The focus now will be on whether Milwaukee is able to re-sign P.J. Tucker, who is an unrestricted free agent, and whether it can come up with an extension for Donte DiVincenzo, the Bucks' talented young shooting guard who missed most of the playoffs after undergoing ankle surgery. -- Bontemps

2. Brooklyn Nets 2020-21 record: 48-24 Result: Lost in East semis

2022 title odds: +230

For their first full season together, the Big Three in Brooklyn had a difficult end to the year, with injuries derailing the superteam nature of the roster and leaving Kevin Durant essentially trying to carry the Nets alone. It was an awkward season overall, with injuries, health and safety protocols and plenty of getting-to-know-you going on, but clearly the path forward for the Nets is bright. They have some questions on the complementary side of the roster, with Spencer Dinwiddie declining his player option and low-salary players Blake Griffin, Bruce Brown and Jeff Green set to become free agents. The Nets are top heavy for good reason, but as this postseason showed, quality depth can be just as valuable at times. -- Young

3. Phoenix Suns 2020-21 record: 51-21 Result: Lost in NBA Finals

2022 title odds: +1500

After a disappointing loss in the NBA Finals, the Suns have to figure out one thing: how to get back and win it all. As the Western Conference gets healthier, the Suns' road back to another Finals will start this offseason with a decision on Chris Paul's future. The Point God has a $44.2 million player option that would likely carry the Suns into the luxury tax. Paul could opt out of the deal and try to secure more guaranteed money with more years, though. Phoenix is also looking at negotiating the rookie extensions of former No. 1 pick Deandre Ayton and Mikal Bridges. -- Lopez

4. Los Angeles Lakers 2020-21 record: 42-30 Result: Lost in Round 1

2022 title odds: +400

For the defending champion Lakers, a first-round exit against the Suns with LeBron James still not 100% and Anthony Davis knocked out of the series by injury had a silver lining: After going through the shortest offseason in NBA history, the Lakers get a relatively normal break this offseason. James and Davis should be healthy in October and ready to go for a second title together. Still, there are questions about who will surround them with up to 11 Lakers becoming free agents, including starting point guard Dennis Schroder hitting unrestricted free agency after turning down a contract extension. -- Pelton

5. Philadelphia 76ers 2020-21 record: 49-23 Result: Lost in East semis

2022 title odds: +1800

Following their disastrous second-round exit at the hands of the Hawks, the 76ers enter the offseason with one question looming over the franchise: Is it finally time for the Ben Simmons-Joel Embiid partnership to be dissolved? If it is, Daryl Morey, Philadelphia's president of basketball operations, will have to craft a deal that can allow the Sixers to find the playoff breakthrough they've been searching for. If it isn't, then all eyes will be on Simmons this fall to see if he can fix his free throw issues from the playoffs, and if he can add some semblance of a jumper to his arsenal. -- Bontemps

6. Utah Jazz 2020-21 record: 52-20 Result: Lost in West semis

2022 title odds: +1500

How much luxury tax is new owner Ryan Smith willing to pay after the Jazz finished the regular season with the NBA's best record but were bounced in the second round of the playoffs? The extensions for franchise cornerstones Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell start next season, which puts Utah right at the luxury tax line before free agency opens. That means the Jazz will have to pay an especially steep price to keep point guard Mike Conley, a must if Utah intends to contend in the immediate future. It could also factor into the decision on using the $5.9 million taxpayer midlevel exception, perhaps on a player who could be utilized at center in small-ball lineups. -- MacMahon

7. Denver Nuggets 2020-21 record: 47-25 Result: Lost in West semis

2022 title odds: +2500

Nikola Jokic had an MVP campaign, and the Nuggets looked like legitimate title contenders until Jamal Murray tore his ACL. Without Murray, they couldn't make it out of the second round of the playoffs. Now the Nuggets have to patiently wait for Murray to heal while building on what they had going before Murray went down. Denver can give Michael Porter Jr. a five-year, $168 million max extension this offseason or let him become a restricted free agent in 2022. Porter had a stretch in the second half when he played like a star. Aaron Gordon, who came in a big trade at the deadline, is set to enter the last season of his contract; Paul Millsap and JaVale McGee are free agents; and Will Barton and JaMychal Green can opt out of their deals. Meanwhile, the Nuggets have to improve their backcourt depth. -- Youngmisuk

8. Atlanta Hawks 2020-21 record: 41-31 Result: Lost in East finals

2022 title odds: +3000

The Hawks shocked just about everyone outside of Atlanta with their run to the conference finals, and they might have made it even further had Trae Young not injured his ankle by stepping on an official's foot. Young's impressive performance in the playoffs (28.8 points, 9.5 assists) showed he could carry a team when it matters. But will his team look the same next season? John Collins' status as a restricted free agent could mean Young will be without one of his favorite targets. But with Young's play and Nate McMillan's interim tag being lifted, there's still plenty of optimism moving forward. -- Lopez

9. LA Clippers 2020-21 record: 47-25 Result: Lost in West finals

2022 title odds: +2000

The Clippers redeemed themselves for their 2020 bubble meltdown with a resilient run to the Western Conference finals, but they enter the offseason with uncertainty surrounding their future and that of Kawhi Leonard. The franchise player had surgery to repair a partially torn ACL, and it remains to be seen how much of next season he could miss. Also, Leonard has a player option in his deal and can become a free agent in August. Back in December, Leonard said, "Obviously, if I'm healthy, the best decision is to decline the player option. But that doesn't mean I'm leaving or staying." Serge Ibaka also has a player option. Reggie Jackson's playoff surge might have increased his value on the free-agent market beyond what the Clippers can give him. Paul George will need help to keep the Clippers in contention until Leonard returns (if he doesn't opt out and sign elsewhere). The Clippers can still use additional front-court depth and a point guard/leader who can improve their IQ/offensive efficiency. -- Youngmisuk

10. Dallas Mavericks 2020-21 record: 42-30 Result: Lost in Round 1

2022 title odds: +3000

The Mavericks already made some major changes, hiring the tandem of GM Nico Harrison and head coach Jason Kidd to replace the departed duo of Donnie Nelson and Rick Carlisle. The immediate challenge: upgrading the roster in Dallas' final offseason of salary-cap flexibility before the supermax extension Luka Doncic is expected to sign this summer kicks in. The Mavs recognize the need to add another playmaker to complement Doncic. Can they find a way to do that and re-sign Tim Hardaway Jr.? -- MacMahon

11. Miami Heat 2020-21 record: 40-32 Result: Lost in Round 1

2022 title odds: +3000

The bubble hangover was real for a Miami team that could never find the same kind of magic it had during its push to the 2020 Finals. Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo will be motivated to prove that their run wasn't just a flash in the pan, but Heat president Pat Riley will have some tough roster decisions to make. Respected veterans Goran Dragic and Andre Iguodala both have team options, and point guard Kendrick Nunn is a restricted free agent. The Heat still have plenty of top-line talent, but they need young shooter Tyler Herro to take another step in his development to fortify the team's depth. Riley also must decide what to do with Victor Oladipo, who is an unrestricted free agent and is coming off another quad injury. -- Friedell

12. Golden State Warriors 2020-21 record: 39-33 Result: Lost in West play-in

2022 title odds: +1000

It's a big offseason for a Warriors squad that hopes to jump back into the thick of the Western Conference playoff picture. Stephen Curry reminded everybody that he can still play at an MVP level while dominating at times during the 2020-21 season. Andrew Wiggins registered arguably the most complete season of his eight-year career. Draymond Green showed that he can still be a dominant force when motivated -- but even with all that the Warriors still couldn't make it back to the playoffs. Now the organization must hope that veteran Klay Thompson can return to form after missing two years because of ACL and Achilles injuries and 2020 No. 2 overall pick James Wiseman can find his form after an up-and-down rookie season. The Warriors also must find more depth, likely in the form of the No. 7 and No. 14 picks in the 2021 draft. -- Friedell

13. Boston Celtics 2020-21 record: 36-36 Result: Lost in Round 1

2022 title odds: +5000

After one of the most stable organizations in the league went through some massive changes -- Brad Stevens replacing Danny Ainge atop the organization, Ime Udoka replacing Stevens on the sidelines and the Celtics' trade swapping Kemba Walker and their first-round pick for Al Horford -- Boston enters the offseason with two key questions to answer. The first is whether the Celtics will re-sign Evan Fournier, whom they acquired at the trade deadline and is an unrestricted free agent. The other is whether they can agree to a long-term contract extension with Marcus Smart -- and if not, whether the team will attempt to trade him, rather than risk him leaving next summer for nothing. -- Bontemps

14. New York Knicks 2020-21 record: 41-31 Result: Lost in Round 1

2022 title odds: +6000

The curse of overachieving, as the Knicks did in 2020-21, is it raises the expectations for the following year. It will now be up to New York to try to raise its talent level to meet the rising bar. There are a few things left for them to sort out. First, New York has to see if Julius Randle is willing to take a contract extension. Second, it has to decide whether to decline Mitchell Robinson's very affordable team option, making him a restricted free agent, or pick it up -- meaning he will be an unrestricted free agent in 2022. Finally, with a bunch of cap space, will New York try to use it or again be patient? -- Bontemps

15. Memphis Grizzlies 2020-21 record: 38-34 Result: Lost in Round 1

2022 title odds: +8000

GM Zach Kleiman has done an excellent job as the architect of the Grizzlies' rapid rebuild, but his one major misfire so far has been the expensive trade for forward Justise Winslow. Will the Grizzlies cut their losses and decline Winslow's $13 million option -- giving them $22 million of salary cap space -- or will they give the 25-year-old another season to prove he can be the playmaking wing Memphis envisioned as a complement to Ja Morant? Another complicated issue: Can the Grizzlies and Jaren Jackson Jr. (given his injury history) agree to an extension of his rookie deal that makes sense for both sides? -- MacMahon

16. Portland Trail Blazers 2020-21 record: 42-30 Result: Lost in Round 1

2022 title odds: +5000

The offseason already has been sloppy for the Blazers, starting with the transition from longtime coach Terry Stotts to Chauncey Billups. Besides the controversial nature of the hire (Billups faced rape allegations in 1997) and the questions over transparency that came with it, the Blazers are in a pinch in trying to satisfy the ambitions of Damian Lillard. General manager Neil Olshey indicated after Portland's first-round exit to the Nuggets that the existing roster wasn't the issue, so any changes might be on the fringes, with internal development around Billups' approach being the focus. But there always looms the nuclear option, with CJ McCollum's name routinely coming up in trade rumors. Could Olshey make a bold play to try to bump the Blazers back to the top half of the West? -- Young

17. Indiana Pacers 2020-21 record: 34-38 Result: Lost in East play-in

2022 title odds: +6000

Who says you can't go home again? Rick Carlisle did just that after resigning from his coaching position with the Mavericks to head back to Indiana for a third time: He was an assistant from 1997 to 2000 and then head coach from 2003 to '07. Indiana is coming off a season in which it missed the playoffs for the first time in six years, and there is no plan for a rebuild. Now, whether Indiana tries to run it back with a healthier version of last season's roster or makes some moves to change it up remains to be seen. -- Lopez

18. Charlotte Hornets 2020-21 record: 33-39 Result: Lost in East play-in

2022 title odds: +10000

The Hornets just missed a playoff berth, but the future still appears bright in Charlotte thanks to the breakout play of LaMelo Ball. The 19-year-old point guard gave the Hornets the type of electricity they've been searching for in recent years, and with the improved play of a young core that includes Devonte' Graham, P.J. Washington, Miles Bridges and Malik Monk, the Hornets appear to have the pieces in place to push back into the postseason. Gordon Hayward's ability to stay on the floor will be crucial for a young team that has a promising future with Ball paired alongside veteran guard Terry Rozier. -- Friedell

19. Toronto Raptors 2020-21 record: 27-45 Result: Missed postseason

2022 title odds: +6000

Toronto's lost season in Tampa, Florida, proved to be a blessing in one way, at least, as the Raptors jumped up in the lottery to nab the fourth overall selection in next week's NBA draft. That will guarantee the Raptors, assuming they don't trade the pick, will come away with one of the star players in the top tier of this year's draft class: Cade Cunningham, Jalen Green, Evan Mobley or Jalen Suggs. While that decision will come first, the next is whether Toronto will be able to retain point guard Kyle Lowry. After choosing not to trade him at the deadline, the Raptors now at least have the opportunity to keep him with the team he has been with the past nine years, assuming a deal can be struck that makes sense for both sides. -- Bontemps

20. Washington Wizards 2020-21 record: 34-38 Result: Lost in Round 1

2022 title odds: +10000

With new coach Wes Unseld Jr. replacing Scott Brooks, Washington GM Tommy Sheppard will be focused on doing what he can to surround Bradley Beal with a winning product. The trade for Russell Westbrook helped get the Wizards into the playoffs despite a COVID-19 outbreak that threatened their season. Now Sheppard has to continue building a winner, and that starts with keeping Beal, who enters the last guaranteed year of his contract. Washington must improve its defense, add impactful veterans but also continue to develop young talent such as Rui Hachimura, Deni Avdija and Daniel Gafford. Getting healthy will help after losing Thomas Bryant and Avdija to season-ending injuries. -- Youngmisuk

21. New Orleans Pelicans 2020-21 record: 31-41 Result: Missed postseason

2022 title odds: +8000

After a disappointing finish to the season, New Orleans and coach Stan Van Gundy parted ways after just one 72-game stretch. Now, Phoenix Suns assistant Willie Green will be tasked with trying to get the Pelicans on the right track. The Pelicans have major decisions to make with restricted free agents Lonzo Ball and Josh Hart as well as whether they'll trade or keep the No. 10 pick in the upcoming draft. But ultimately Green will have to make a roster centered around Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram work better than Van Gundy did. -- Lopez

22. San Antonio Spurs 2020-21 record: 33-39 Result: Lost in West play-in

2022 title odds: +25000

After making the playoffs for an NBA-record-tying 22 consecutive seasons, the Spurs have now missed the playoffs in back-to-back years after falling short in the bubble in 2020 and losing in the play-in tournament in 2021. The biggest question facing the Spurs this season will be what happens with several of the team's veterans who are now free agents, starting with DeMar DeRozan. If DeRozan, Patty Mills and Rudy Gay move on, the Spurs could be major players in free agency or could even get assets back in a potential DeRozan sign-and-trade deal if they choose that route. -- Lopez

23. Chicago Bulls 2020-21 record: 31-41 Result: Missed postseason

2022 title odds: +10000

The Bulls took a big swing when they traded for veteran big man Nikola Vucevic at the deadline, but it didn't pan out the way the organization hoped. Now the Bulls have to find a way to improve without a top-10 pick this year (not to mention another future first-rounder headed Orlando's way) while big cap questions persist. Zach LaVine became an All-Star for the first time this past season and will be looking for a max extension in the near future. Will the Bulls try to use their salary cap space this summer to hammer out a deal with him or use it somewhere else? What about former No. 7 pick Lauri Markkanen? He hasn't improved the way the Bulls hoped and appears headed for a fresh start somewhere else. Chicago remains in the middle of a rebuild, but it is unclear how much it will be able to improve without the draft capital that most young teams use to improve. -- Friedell

24. Sacramento Kings 2020-21 record: 31-41 Result: Missed postseason

2022 title odds: +25000

A 31-41 finish saw the Kings tie the Clippers (from 1976-77 through 1990-91) for the longest playoff drought in NBA history. New GM Monte McNair preached patience in his first year, hoping to avoid the mistakes of his predecessors, and added All-Rookie First Team pick Tyrese Haliburton to a backcourt that already included De'Aaron Fox and Buddy Hield. This season, the pressure will be on third-year head coach Luke Walton to improve Sacramento's dismal defense, which ranked last in the league by allowing 116.5 points per 100 possessions. Re-signing starting center Richaun Holmes, an unrestricted free agent, would help. -- Pelton

25. Minnesota Timberwolves 2020-21 record: 23-49 Result: Missed postseason

2022 title odds: +30000

After a strong finish to the regular season and some positive growth under coach Chris Finch, the Wolves are entering the offseason with some expectations. The development of Anthony Edwards was a significant positive from an overall tough season, and in the games in which the Wolves had their full roster available, they were competitive against even the upper crust of the West. General manager Gersson Rosas hasn't been shy about roster tweaks, saying after the season he believes they have a current core of five players to build on, but are in need of seven or eight additions. They traded this year's first-round pick to the Warriors two seasons ago to add D'Angelo Russell, so the additional help will have to come via trades or their midlevel exception in free agency. -- Young

26. Detroit Pistons 2020-21 record: 20-52 Result: Missed postseason

2022 title odds: +30000

Despite last year's 20-52 finish, there's reason for hope in the Motor City. The first draft for GM Troy Weaver yielded a pair of hits in All-Rookie First Team pick Saddiq Bey and second-team selection Isaiah Stewart. (The jury is still out on No. 7 overall pick Killian Hayes.) Meanwhile, Team USA Olympian Jerami Grant showed the ability to shoulder a heavy scoring load with reasonable efficiency. To that core, the Pistons add this year's No. 1 overall pick. Although that will likely still translate into a lottery team in 2021-22, the long-term future is bright in Detroit. -- Pelton

27. Cleveland Cavaliers 2020-21 record: 22-50 Result: Missed postseason

2022 title odds: +30000

This year's No. 3 pick will be Cleveland's highest pick since taking Andrew Wiggins No. 1 overall in 2014. The Cavaliers need to add a star and decide on the future of guard Collin Sexton. Sexton has shown the ability to score prolifically with above-average efficiency but might not fit well if Cleveland drafts a guard (likely Jalen Green or Jalen Suggs) and is due a rookie extension. With internal development and a full season from center Jarrett Allen (a restricted free agent), the Cavaliers should take a step forward after winning 60 games over the past three seasons. -- Pelton

28. Orlando Magic 2020-21 record: 21-51 Result: Missed postseason

2022 title odds: +30000

Another painful rebuild is underway for a Magic franchise that hasn't been nationally relevant since trading away Dwight Howard in 2012. Former Mavericks assistant coach Jamahl Mosley takes over for Steve Clifford and is tasked with trying to build out a young roster that has big question marks. Markelle Fultz and Jonathan Isaac are each coming off serious knee injuries as the Magic hold out hope that both can be key parts of their future. It is important that Magic president Jeff Weltman and his staff hit on the team's lottery picks (No. 5 and No. 8) in the upcoming draft as the group continues to evaluate forward Wendell Carter Jr., who is up for a potential rookie extension. -- Friedell

29. Oklahoma City Thunder 2020-21 record: 22-50 Result: Missed postseason

2022 title odds: +50000

The Thunder have been quite transparent about their intentions, using the back end of last season to position themselves for the highest draft pick possible. The pingpong balls didn't bounce their way, as they ended up with the sixth overall pick, complicating their building plan. But general manager Sam Presti is prudent, and patient, and won't let that disappointment throw him off his game. He has more levers than anyone to pull if he wants to move up in the draft. But beyond who the Thunder take at No. 6 (or wherever), they also will look to lock up Shai Gilgeous-Alexander to an extension, solidifying a core player for the long term. -- Young

30. Houston Rockets 2020-21 record: 17-55 Result: Missed postseason

2022 title odds: +50000

The most important decision the Rockets have to make this summer is what to do with the second overall pick in the draft. GM Rafael Stone intends to explore all options, including trading down, but Houston is certainly enamored with the star potential of Jalen Green after the teenage guard starred for the G League Ignite. He could be a great fit with the rebuilding Rockets' promising young nucleus that includes Christian Wood, Kevin Porter Jr., Jae'Sean Tate and Kenyon Martin Jr. -- plus a stockpile of future first-round picks. Houston has interest in re-signing veteran forward/center Kelly Olynyk. -- MacMahon