There has been intense speculation about the teams that could advance to the NBA Finals this season. While many teams have put together elite talents that can compete at the highest level, they may not perform at the level many expect them to.
Injuries and poor play calls, among other things, could cause a team's demise. While some teams could exceed expectations, there are a few that might struggle to live up to expectations
The Miami Heat are the prime example of a team that performed below expectations last season; they were swept in the first round of the 2021 NBA playoffs. While the Milwaukee Bucks were formidable opponents, more was expected from the Heat, who were the runner-ups in the 2020 NBA Finals.
On that note, here are the top five teams that might not perform as per expectations in the 2021-22 NBA season:
#5 New York Knicks
The New York Knicks had an impeccable 2020-21 NBA campaign. Their resurgence was unexpected, given the absence of any All-Star caliber player in their ranks heading into the season. Nevertheless, Julius Randle successfully led them to a fourth-place finish as they reached the playoffs for the first time in eight years.
With Tom Thibodeau at the helm, another playoff run is expected, but the Knicks could miss the 2022 NBA playoffs. The acquisition of Kemba Walker and Evan Fournier has admittedly bolstered their roster, but that may not necessarily carry them to another playoffs.
The Chicago Bulls might make a surprise appearance in the playoffs, given their offseason acquisitions. Given the quality of teams in the East, New York are more likely to end up in the play-in spot and eventually get knocked out.
#4 LA Clippers
With no return date for Kawhi Leonard yet, the LA Clippers may struggle for a good portion of the 2021-22 NBA season. Although it is the perfect opportunity for Paul George to prove himself, it might be too much to expect him to lead the Clippers to victory every night.
The Clippers reached the 2021 NBA Western Conference Finals. For many, that was the beginning of an era. However, their chances of being the best team in the West this season do not look good, especially with The Klaw on the sidelines.
They might not get favorable matchups in the early stages of the playoffs, and that could pose a problem for them in seven-game series. Although Leonard should be available by then, facing any of the top teams, including the Warriors and Lakers, might be a hurdle too high for the Clippers in the 2022 NBA playoffs.
#3 Golden State Warriors
The Golden State Warriors are looking forward to an exciting 2021-22 NBA season. That's because they are expecting the return of Klay Thompson and a deep run in the 2022 playoffs. But what happens if Thompson's return does not produce the anticipated outcome?
Thompson is undoubtedly an elite talent, and can be a game-changer at both ends of the court. However, after a two-year layoff due to injury is a ridiculously long absence to expect All-Star-caliber performances from him immediately.
The Warriors have exciting young prospects, and have again employed the services of Andre Iguodala, who was pivotal in their 2015 championship run. You can't help but wonder if these additions are enough to complement Stephen Curry's scoring, though.
A conference Finals appearance is what most expect from the Warriors in the 2022 NBA playoffs, at the very least. Nevertheless, their struggles might continue, as it could take some time for Thompson to return to his pre-injury self.
#2 LA Lakers
Winning the Western Conference title and featuring in the NBA Finals is the floor for the LA Lakers this season. Their first-round exit in the 2021 playoffs was disappointing. So the front office went about restructuring the roster the best to ensure that there won't be a repeat of that result this season.
Rob Pelinka went all out and acquired two elite bucket-getters, Carmelo Anthony and Russell Westbrook, to provide the much-needed scoring option the team lacked last season. To maintain their status as the top defensively-rated team, the Lakers also acquired veteran defenders on the perimeter and in the paint.
However, the Lakers go into the 2021-22 season as the oldest team in the NBA. That is an area of concern, as they might not be able to keep up with the young athletic stars in the league.
An NBA Finals matchup between the Lakers and the Nets is expected. While LeBron James may not be ready to lose another first-round matchup, injuries might hinder his aspirations, culminating in a conference semi-finals or Finals exit.
#1 Brooklyn Nets
The Brooklyn Nets, given the quality of their roster, are considered one of the favorites going into the 2021-22 NBA season.
Anything less than an appearance in the NBA Finals would be considered a a massive disappointment. Although they should reach the Finals, several factors could act as a stumbling block in realizing their ultimate goal. Injuries to their star players could be a major source of concern even though the Nets now have several scoring options.
Kyrie Irving's refusal to get vaccinated against COVID-19 is another factor that could negatively impact the Nets' next season. According to local and NBA laws, the All-Star guard could lose $15 million and not feature in any of the Brooklyn Nets' home games this season if he fails to get vaccinated before the start of the campaign.
Considering the same, the Brooklyn Nets might just fall short in their quest to win the NBA Championship next season.