Now that free agency has settled down and major trade rumors have been put to rest, it is time to look at next season. There will probably be some shifting of rosters, with the possibility of a few stars moving to different teams, but the rosters should be close enough to what they will actually look like heading into the season. The top teams in the league should be predictable.
Before the season starts, let’s jump ahead to the finish line of next season by predicting which teams will appear in the NBA Finals.
Eastern Conference Champions: Boston Celtics
The Jayson Tatum led Boston Celtics got a taste of what the NBA Finals is like last season. Now that they know what to expect, they are going to be back to try to win this time. Their determination is going to put them on top in the East.
The Celtics figured something out last year. Whether it was Marcus Smart’s leadership, coaching, or management, something clicked in the middle of the season. The Celtics established a new defensive identity and became not just one of the best defensive teams, but one of the best overall teams in the entire league.
Unfortunately for them, they went up against the experienced Golden State Warriors dynasty in the NBA Finals. The Celtics put up a good fight, but they were ultimately no match for the sharpshooter Curry and his team of hardworking players who fill just about every role you could ask for on a championship team. The Warriors exposed some of Boston’s biggest flaws in the Finals, one of those being playmaking.
This offseason, the Celtics addressed this weakness by adding Malcolm Brogdon to their team, who is one of the best playmakers in the league. Without losing any of the core players that led them to the Finals, the Celtics picked up a player who can help lead the offense late in games.
It is also worth mentioning that the Celtics are still a young team. Jayson Tatum made another huge leap in his game last season. Expect Tatum and Brown to be even better next season.
Western Conference Champions: Los Angeles Clippers
The NBA is going to have a Boston-LA matchup in the Finals once again, but this time it won’t be the Lakers representing Los Angeles. The LA Clippers have been one of the top teams in the NBA ever since Kawhi Leonard signed with the team in 2019. The team had a good shot to win the title during the 2019-20 season, but the NBA hiatus ultimately led to the team losing momentum and losing to the Denver Nuggets in the second round after leading the series 3-1. Paul George was given a great deal of the blame after having consistently poor performances this postseason.
The following year, the team dealt with injuries, but they were able to reach their first Western Conference Finals appearance in franchise history. This year, Paul George had a spectacular postseason and led the Clippers to uncharted territory, even without Kawhi Leonard playing for most of the postseason.
Last season, the Clippers dealt with even more injuries. Kawhi Leonard did not play all year, and Paul George missed a big chunk of the season as well.
This season, they are ready. They were able to reach the Western Conference Finals without Leonard. Once he returns this year, they should definitely have a good shot at reaching the NBA Finals. The factor that separates the Clippers from much of the Western Conference is their depth. Well coached by Ty Lue, the Clippers are able to utilize nearly every player on their roster, even in a playoff scenario. The team also added an important piece to their team this year in John Wall, who is a former all-star.
There are only two teams that can match the depth and coaching that the Clippers have. Those teams are the Phoenix Suns and the Golden State Warriors, who were the top two teams in the league last year in terms of record. It will definitely be tough to get past either of these teams, but the Clippers have enough skill and experience to pull it off and make it to the Finals this year.