5 underdog teams to watch out for in the 2021-22 NBA season

Atlanta Hawks v New York Knicks - 2021 NBA Playoffs.
Atlanta Hawks v New York Knicks - 2021 NBA Playoffs.

The 2021-22 NBA season, as usual, will give us many storylines coming from the top contenders throughout the league. However, there are always some interesting teams right in the middle of the pack, and other elite teams that normally fly under the radar due to being in a small-market city or having quiet NBA superstars.

An underdog winning an NBA championship is a rare sight, but in such a competitive league, anyone can perform game-winning basketball. There was an even larger chance of this in previous seasons in which the talent was spread around a little better than how it is right now.


5 non-favorites that could make noise in the 2021-22 NBA season

The LA Lakers and Brooklyn Nets are clear favorites in their conferences heading into the 2021-22 NBA season. Watching both super teams in the NBA Finals seems like an ideal situation for the league and some of its fans, as such a crew of superstars playing for the biggest prize in basketball seems an enticing prospect.

There are also several teams that could be considered underdogs in the 2021-22 season. In this article, we will give you five teams that are not amongst the favorites but could enjoy good runs in the upcoming NBA season.

Without further ado, let us take a look.


#5 Indiana Pacers

Domantas Sabonis #11 of the Indiana Pacers shoots the ball.
Domantas Sabonis #11 of the Indiana Pacers shoots the ball.

The Indiana Pacers have some solid players on their roster to push for the NBA Playoffs in the 2021-22 season. New coach Rick Carlisle comes in with a championship pedigree and the franchise will aim to be extremely competitive under him instead of just sellers.

Though there might be too many centers on the Indiana Pacers roster, with Domantas Sabonis and Myles Turner headlining the big men in the squad, the team seems good enough for the 2021-22 season.

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Keeping T.J. McConnell and his playmaking and defensive abilities is a great situation for Indiana. Torrey Craig's signing is also decent business as he is a three-and-D player who just played in the NBA Finals.

McConnell provided a huge spark last year from the bench with 6.6 assists per game and 1.9 steals per game. Along with Sabonis, Malcolm Brogdon, Caris Levert, Turner and T.J. Warren, the Pacers could be a solid outfit.

The team is coming off a 34-38 postseason and fell in the Play-In tournament against the Washington Wizards.


#4 Chicago Bulls

Zach LaVine #8 of the Chicago Bulls.
Zach LaVine #8 of the Chicago Bulls.

The Chicago Bulls missed the 2021 NBA Playoffs after underperforming in the second half of the season. The team has added Lonzo Ball and DeMar DeRozan this summer to a core already led by Zach LaVine and Nikola Vucevic, two All-Stars.

The Bulls, coached by Billy Donovan, now seem ready to make a solid push for the 2022 NBA Playoffs and possibly create some trouble against the best of the East. The franchise's current roster seems good enough to be considered a playoff team.

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Alex Caruso has also been added to the mix during the offseason, and his elite defense will definitely have an impact on the Bulls' perimeter.

If these incredible players manage to figure out how to play with each other on offense and develop good defensive intensity, the franchise could return to the postseason for the first time since 2017.

#3 Memphis Grizzlies

Ja Morant #12 of the Memphis Grizzlies.
Ja Morant #12 of the Memphis Grizzlies.

The Memphis Grizzlies' young core put the team in the 2021 NBA Playoffs after a solid regular season and two big wins in the Play-In tournament, including one over the Golden State Warriors on the road.

A 38-34 record in the 2020-21 NBA regular season was a great accomplishment for the side. But the most important thing is that the future of the Memphis Grizzlies, behind Ja Morant's prowess, is looking bright.

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The Grizzlies have made some changes to their roster with a three-team trade that mainly sent Jonas Valanciunas to the New Orleans Pelicans for Steven Adams and Eric Bledsoe. While Adams and Bledsoe might have big contracts, they are serviceable veterans who could help the young core.

Memphis had a middle-of-the-pack offense last season, but the defense ranked sixth in the NBA. Continuing to perform on that end of the floor while improving their offense will markedly benefit the team.


#2 New York Knicks

New York Knicks introduce new signees.
New York Knicks introduce new signees.

The New York Knicks made the NBA Playoffs in 2021 for the first time since 2013 and had a great regular season under Tom Thibodeau. They put up a 41-31 record and took the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference.

The team's 2021 offseason has not drastically improved their squad, but they could remain in playoff positions in the East for the 2021-22 NBA season. The additions of Kemba Walker and Evan Fournier have the potential to make the team marginally better.

New York fell out of the 2021 NBA Playoffs early after a first-round loss against the Atlanta Hawks in five games. The series was heated, and that kind of playoff intensity will always go with the Knicks in any series, possibly giving them an edge over rivals that are simply better teams.


#1 Atlanta Hawks

Trae Young #11 of the Atlanta Hawks.
Trae Young #11 of the Atlanta Hawks.

The Atlanta Hawks have looked like a good team ever since the front office went out in the 2020 offseason and put together solid players around Trae Young and John Collins. Resultantly, the Hawks enjoyed an excellent run in the 2020-21 NBA season.

In the 2021 offseason, signing Collins to a big contract was a priority, and they managed to do so. Nate McMillan has also returned to Atlanta after leading the team to a 27-11 record to finish the regular season and enter the 2021 NBA Playoffs with confidence.

Starting every series with road wins, the Hawks managed to reach the 2021 Eastern Conference after beating the New York Knicks and Philadelphia 76ers in five and seven games, respectively.

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They were two wins away from the 2021 NBA Finals, but Trae Young's injury and the Milwaukee Bucks' brilliance prevented them from reaching the ultimate stage. For the 2021-22 NBA season, Young and Collins should have a different kind of confidence in their game after a solid postseason run. The Hawks' overall team should also be better, which is good news for the talented duo.

Though the Eastern Conference will be stacked with talent and huge teams, Atlanta will definitely be a strong, worthy rival to any of the top teams in the conference. The Brooklyn Nets and reigning champions Milwaukee Bucks remain firm favorites heading into the 2021-22 season, but the Atlanta Hawks could pose a stiff challenge to both sides.


Also read: 5 'What if?' moments from the 2021 NBA Playoffs

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Edited by Anantaajith Raghuraman