Updated: Jan 14
The 2021 NBA season is over and the Milwaukee Bucks are NBA Champions for the first time since 1971. 50 years for the Bucks and 50 points for Giannis Antetokounmpo in Game 6. The Draft is just around the corner, so before the Finals get too far behind us, let’s rank the teams one more time to end the season:
1. Milwaukee Bucks
Giannis Antetokounmpo really did it. GA managed to take this small market team, without a second superstar and win an NBA title. Antetokounmpo has cemented his legacy forever among the greatest to ever play the game and he is only 26 years old. This kid is getting better; let’s see if he can go do it again.
2. Phoenix Suns
Chris Paul was so close to winning his first ever ring, but he deserves all the credit in the world for taking this team as far as he did. CP3 performed better in the Finals than in the playoffs, and better in the playoffs than the regular season. Not a bad word should be spoken about one of the best point guards to ever play this game, but a major question remains for this summer regarding whether he chooses to run it back in Phoenix.
3. Los Angeles Clippers
The Clips were one of the hardest teams to get a read on in these playoffs. LA could not get anything right in the first two games of any series, but they were really a difficult team to beat. If Kawhi did not get injured, who knows how far this team would have gone. Much credit belongs to Paul George, who stepped up after the injury, but maybe it is time that Ty Lue gets the respect he deserves as one of the league’s best coaches.
4. Atlanta Hawks
After an abysmal start to the season, Atlanta turned things around under interim head coach Nate McMillan and finished the regular season 27-11 under his leadership. What McMillian has been able to do with this roster is nothing short of spectacular, but much of the credit has gone to their flashy point guard, Trae Young, who has a unique style of play. It is still shocking that this team was able to get through both Philadelphia and New York how they did.
5. Brooklyn Nets
With the roster the Nets built, it should be a disappointment to finish anywhere lower than first on these rankings. To not make the finals, should be an embarrassment. This team struggled with health in the regular season and those issues were clearly their demise in the playoffs, but that should not be used as an excuse. The Nets front office traded away depth to acquire star players with a long history of injury and off-court issues. Now, we wait to see how seriously they will take next season.
6. Philadelphia 76ers
The loss to the Hawks was embarrassing, but it could be the best thing for this team moving forward. We can very clearly see the ceiling that this Sixers team presently has. Ben Simmons needs to work on his shooting in the offseason, but even still, Philadelphia would be best served trying to move him for a more talented scorer before his stock falls any further.
7. Utah Jazz
After finished the regular season with the best record and home record in the league, the Jazz fell victim to Kawhi in his last healthy series. This is the second straight year that the Jazz underperformed expectations in the playoffs, but it’s the first time that back-to-back defensive player of the year, Rudy Gobert, was exposed repeatedly on the defensive end.
8. Dallas Mavericks
Luka has emerged as one of the top players in the league. What he was able to do against Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, two of the league’s top perimeter defenders, should not go unmentioned. Mark Cuban has already replaced the team’s head coach in an effort to keep Luka happy, but this team needs a second scorer. There are roomers that Kawhi may be headed to Dallas. That would be a scary combination and a great fit for the soft-spoken superstar.
9. Denver Nuggets
Denver managed to sneak through the first round behind MVP Nikola Jokic, but expectations were never high for this team after they lost point guard Jamal Murray for the season. Notably, Michael Porter, Jr. stepped up and Aaron Gordon shrunk. Jokic is going to need more help next season.
10. Portland Trailblazers
It really looked like the Blazers were going to take out the Nuggets in the first round before they eventually lost the series in six games. Portland has since hired a new head coach, a highly respected former player, Chauncey Billups. Now, the question is whether Dame still wants to run it back.
11. Los Angeles Lakers
Injuries. Injuries seem to be a recurring them in this year’s playoffs, but no team may have been less fortunate than the Lakers. Not only did Anthony Davis miss time during the season and then get injured in the playoffs, but the late season ankle injury for LeBron James clearly had him playing at less than full strength. It is the first in LeBron’s long and accomplished career that he lost in the first round. We expect changes in LA this offseason.
12. Boston Celtics
The Celtics also faced a disappointed first round exit, losing to the Nets. Tatum is a true star in the league, but others the C’s are already making big changes. Danny Ainge has resigned. Brad Stevens is moving off the bench and into the front office. Stevens then traded Kemba Walker and a first-round pick to Oklahoma City in exchange for Al Horford in a trade to free up cap space. This team is only one year removed from a trip to the Eastern Conference Finals.
13. Miami Heat
After their trip to the NBA Finals last season, the Heat decided to come back and compete with largely the same roster. They were then swept in the first round by the Bucks. The Bucks are no slouch, but expect changes in Miami this offseason. The team is reportedly in the hunt for Kawhi.
14. New York Knicks
After winning only 21 games last season, the Knicks truly turned it around under head coach Tom Thibodeau. Julius Randle was never signed with the intention of him being the best player on a championship team, but the continued growth of the league’s most improved player has been exciting to watch.
15. Memphis Grizzlies
Ja Morant has led this team further than anyone would have expected him to. Ja will be an electric point guard to watch for many years to come, but for now the Griz need to get him a lot more help before they lose him after his rookie deal.
16. Washington Wizards
This team was a laughingstock a year ago, even with the elite scoring of Bradley Beal. In comes Russell Westbrook and things changed quickly. Sure, it helps that Russ contributes in literally every category and his passing has improved drastically, but his winning and physical attitude is contagious. There are some young talented players on the Wiz, like Rui Hachimura and Deni Avdija, who will be interesting to watch develop on this dynamic roster.
17. Golden State Warriors
18. Charlotte Hornets
19. San Antonio Spurs
20. Indiana Pacers
21. New Orleans Pelicans
22. Chicago Bulls
23. Toronto Raptors
24. Minnesota Timberwolves
25. Sacramento Kings
26. Cleveland Cavaliers
27. Oklahoma City Thunder
28. Orlando Magic
29. Detroit Pistons
30. Houston Rockets