Bucks, Jazz Could Finish With Best NBA Records

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Milwaukee Bucks star forward Giannis Antetokounmpo goes up for a shot past Phoenix's Deandre Ayton in Tuesday's sixth game of the NBA Finals, in which the Greek star scored 50 points to power the Bucks over the Suns to win their first title since 1971
Milwaukee Bucks star forward Giannis Antetokounmpo goes up for a shot past Phoenix's Deandre Ayton in Tuesday's sixth game of the NBA Finals, in which the Greek star scored 50 points to power the Bucks over the Suns to win their first title since 1971

Following a pair of regular seasons that were shortened by the pandemic, the NBA is going back to an 82-game schedule. A few teams that didn’t even reach last year’s conference finals have the highest expectations for the 2021-2022 season, though the top championship contenders won’t necessarily have the most regular-season success.

The Utah Jazz finished atop the overall 2021 NBA standings, and the Philadelphia 76ers earned the No. 1 seed in the East. Both teams were upset in the second round of the playoffs and face questions about their ability to compete for a title.

The Brooklyn Nets and Los Angeles Lakers are overwhelming favorites to meet in the 2022 NBA Finals. Brooklyn was derailed by injuries last season, and concerns about the roster’s ability to stay on the court haven’t gone away. Following a surprising first-round postseason exit, the Lakers gave LeBron James and Anthony Davis another star teammate in Russell Westbrook.

The defending champion Milwaukee Bucks are almost certain to be one of the league’s top teams, yet again. Milwaukee had the league’s best record in 2019 and 2020 before winning the 2021 title as the East’s No. 3 seed. 

Reigning NBA MVP Nikola Jokic led the Denver Nuggets to the West’s third-best record. Denver will be without guard Jamal Murray for much of the season as he recovers from a torn ACL.

A torn ACL could keep Kawhi Leonard off the court for all of the upcoming season. The Los Angeles Clippers are no longer among the championship favorites because of the injury to the two-time NBA Finals MVP.

Klay Thompson's return from injury could help the Golden State Warriors get back into championship contention.

The Miami Heat acquired Kyle Lowry in the biggest move of free agency. Miami is only a year removed from reaching Game 6 of the 2020 NBA Finals.

The Chicago Bulls have been as active as any team in 2021. After acquiring Nikola Vucevic at the trade deadline, Chicago added Lonzo Ball and DeMar DeRozan in free agency. The Bulls have hopes of getting back to the postseason for the first time in five years.

Here are predictions for the complete standings in the upcoming NBA season in the Eastern and Western Conference.

East 

1) Milwaukee Bucks

2) Brooklyn Nets

3) Miami Heat

4) Atlanta Hawks

5) Philadelphia 76ers

6) Boston Celtics

7) New York Knicks

8) Indiana Pacers

9) Chicago Bulls

10) Toronto Raptors 

11) Washington Wizards

12) Charlotte Hornets

13) Cleveland Cavaliers

14) Detroit Pistons

15) Orlando Magic 

West

1) Utah Jazz

2) Los Angeles Lakers

3) Phoenix Suns

4) Dallas Mavericks

5) Golden State Warriors

6) Denver Nuggets 

7) Portland Trail Blazers

8) Los Angeles Clippers

9) Memphis Grizzlies

10) New Orleans Pelicans

11) Minnesota Timberwolves

12) Sacramento Kings

13) San Antonio Spurs

14) Houston Rockets

15) Oklahoma City Thunder 


Milwaukee Bucks star forward Giannis Antetokounmpo goes up for a shot past Phoenix's Deandre Ayton in Tuesday's sixth game of the NBA Finals, in which the Greek star scored 50 points to power the Bucks over the Suns to win their first title since 1971

Photo: GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / JONATHAN DANIEL

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