Last week, on our DallasBasketball.com Boards, senior editor Dalton Trigg posted his Western Conference playoff predictions for the 2021-2022 season, including how big of a step the Dallas Mavericks could take with his reasoning behind it.
Health could obviously alter these predictions a good bit, but as things currently stand, this is how I see the 2021-2022 Western Conference playoff order playing out:
I’m just not as high on the Warriors as some people seem to be. With Klay Thompson having been out the last two years, they have to prove themselves again now.
And Thompson isn’t even going to play in the first half of this season more than likely. The Lakers are an older team and have health concerns, so they might not end up being as high as I have them here. The Clippers don’t have Kawhi Leonard this year. The Nuggets don’t have Jamal Murray. The Blazers arguably got slightly worse (and might not have Damian Lillard for much longer if they don’t have early regular season success). After all the stuff the Mavs went through last season, they still ended up as the fifth seed in the West. I think they’ll take another step this year with Luka Doncic having an MVP season and a slightly improved roster around the edges.
That’s not saying the Mavs are true title contenders yet… I just think they’ll have a good amount of regular season success at the very least.
On Monday, NBA.com released their own preseason Western Conference power rankings, and the top-8 on that list went as follows:
1) Suns, 2) Lakers, 3) Jazz, 4) Mavericks, 5) Clippers, 6) Nuggets, 7) Warriors, 8) Blazers
Aside from flip-flopping Lakers-Jazz and Nuggets-Warriors, it appears that we agree with NBA.com on how the West will play out this season with similar reasoning regarding the major injuries at the top of the conference. The only major difference is that the Memphis Grizzlies are missing entirely from the NBA.com list in favor of the Portland Trail Blazers, whereas we believe Memphis will take a leap forward with their young, talented core while Portland ultimately falls apart.
The biggest thing we like to see, though, is the agreement that the Mavs can take that next step in the West, despite not having as big of an offseason as most anticipated. Here’s what NBA.com’s John Schuhmann had to say:
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“Jamal Murray tore his ACL before the postseason began, Anthony Davis didn’t make it out of the first round, Mike Conley missed the first five games of the conference semis, and Kawhi Leonard was lost later in that same series. Chris Paul fought through one injury to push the Phoenix Suns to The Finals, but needed wrist surgery after the season was over. … Maybe the Dallas Mavericks can climb into that top tier.“
Doncic is the betting odds favorite to win the NBA’s Most Valuable Player award for the second consecutive year. Conditioning at the start of last season, having a handful of teammates out for three weeks due to Covid-19, and Josh Richardson not living up to expectations in replacing Seth Curry were all factors in Doncic not being able to win the award last season.
After making a deep Olympics run with Slovenia, one can assume that he’ll likely be in the best shape he’s ever been to start a season. And with the additions of Reggie Bullock and Sterling Brown as better fits to essentially replace Richardson, the spacing for Doncic should be more comparable to what he had to work with the season before last.
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A lot of people believe in Doncic and the Mavs on paper, but they’ll have to go out and backup that belief with their play on the court. Making it to the postseason the last two years after a three-year drought was nice, but now we’re getting to a point where anything short of a second-round appearance will be considered a failure.
Will Dallas step up to the challenge and take that next step? We’ll start to find out in 50 days from now when the NBA season officially gets underway.