2021-22 NBA Futures Field Predictions

NBA Futures: Has the Finals Field Ever Been More Wide Open?

Entering every typical NBA season, there always seems to be at least one overwhelming favorite to win the Finals.

Whether they’re christened by the best sportsbooks in Canada, the top oddsmakers in the U.S. or just by the sports most renowned analysts, at least one or two teams tend to stand out head and shoulders above the back.

Ahead of this season, there was only one candidate to take up this mantle, but it was a doozy: The Brooklyn Nets. No team had a congregation of superstars quite like them. Between Kevin Durant, James Harden and Kyrie Irving, the Nets have, on paper, three of the best 15 players in the game—and two of the top five.

Knowing star power wins titles in the Association, the Nets were deemed title formalities. If they were healthy, good luck beating them four times in seven tries during the playoffs.

Well, they’re not healthy. Or rather, they’re not at full strength. Not only has Harden struggled to start the 2021-22 campaign, but the Nets will be without Irving unless he decides to get the COVID-19 vaccination, something he says that he doesn’t intend to do.

This, in turn, has opened the door for plenty of other teams in the league. And we mean plenty. It isn’t just the usual suspects, either. On the contrary, the Los Angeles Lakers have stumbled out of the gate, while the Los Angeles Clippers remain without Kawhi Leonard and Jamal Murray is expected to miss the entire season for the Denver Nuggets. On top of that, Ben Simmons is away from the Philadelphia 76ers as he tries to force a trade and deal with his mental health.

Put all this together, and it amounts to arguably the most wide-open championship race in recent memory. Amid all this uncertainty, let’s break down the five most interesting candidates from each conference to win it all.

Top NBA Title Candidates: Eastern Conference

  • Milwaukee Bucks
  • Miami Heat
  • Brooklyn Nets
  • Chicago Bulls
  • Atlanta Hawks

Good luck hashing out an Eastern Conference pecking order. Nearly every team’s record is jumbled together at the moment.

The reigning champion Bucks are no-brainer inclusions. They’re off to a rocky start, but they’ve yet to sniff full strength. They will ultimately be fine.

Though the Heat are on the older side, their core of Kyle Lowry, Bam Adebayo, Jimmy Butler and Tyler Herro has proven to be hellacious. They’re arguably the East’s best team when fully healthy.

Don’t erase the Nets altogether, either. Their frontcourt is spotty and they can’t put pressure on the rim, but KD and Harden are megastars who can carry a contender without Irving.

Perhaps the biggest surprise in the league this season, the revamped Bulls are right up there with the rest of the field. They are flirting with a top-seven offense and defense, which usually portends legit contention.

The fifth spot is tough to dole out. We lean toward the Hawks. They’ve been bad of late, but they have too much talent up and down the roster to continue struggling. They’re safer assumptions than the New York Knicks or Boston Celtics.

Top NBA Title Candidates: Western Conference

  • Golden State Warriors
  • Phoenix Suns
  • Utah Jazz
  • Denver Nuggets
  • Los Angeles Lakers

Full stop, we don’t feel great about the final two inclusions. The Lakers have been a bust with Russell Westbrook, but they have so much star power at the top with LeBron James and Anthony Davis that they skate through.

We feel a little better about the Nuggets. They don’t have Jamal Murray, but Nikola Jokic has a case as the best player in the NBA.

Cobbling together the top of the pecking order is much easier. The Jazz continue to be a regular-season machine, and they finally have the versatility up front to make more noise in the playoffs.

The Suns were two wins shy of a title last year. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see them win it all this season. Their defense is hellacious, and the offense is on the ascent.

Last, but certainly not least, there is the Warriors. They currently have the league’s best defense and half-court offense—and star guard Klay Thompson has yet to play a game this season. They should probably be the odds-on favorites no matter the conference.

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