2021-22 NBA Preview: A Look at Intriguing Questions for Each Team (Part II, The West)

2021-22 NBA Preview: Western Conference

Some people are saying that Part I of the 2021-22 NBA Preview will go down in history as one of the best blog posts ever. So, I’ll try to make sure that the sequel is just as special.

On a serious note, you should know the drill by now. Here are some of the most intriguing questions I have about each team in the Western Conference this year.

Will Luka Doncic Get Traded? April Fools guys, come on.

Will the Real Kristaps Porzingis Stand Up?

Enough of the offseason buzz Jason Kidd, I want to see this happen over the course of the entire season. After Jason Kidd was hired as the team’s new head coach, he basically spent the entire offseason trying to comfort Kristaps Porzingis. I feel like it was basically an attempt to make a sequel to The Notebook. So far in the preseason, Porzingis has looked outstanding. We all know how special Luka Doncic is. If the Mavericks can get a big year out of Porzingis, it dramatically shifts the mood of this team. Side note…can we please unleash Josh Green finally? Thank you Jason.

Can Bones Hyland Provide a Spark?

We will all be patiently waiting for Jamal Murray to hopefully return to the Denver Nuggets sometime this year. If not, this team is still going to have plenty of firepower on the offensive side of the ball. Nikola Jokic has looked to be in great shape and is going to be a joy to watch again on a nightly basis. Michael Porter Jr and Aaron Gordon both got nice extensions this offseason, so they should hit the ground running. But keep an eye on rookie draft selection Bones Hyland. He will be a favorite for basketball fans around the NBA in a hurry with his ability to put up big numbers.

Who Will Step Up in the Rotation?

We know that we all will be counting down the days until the Klay Thompson return meter starts to get hot. We also know how good Stephen Curry is at his job. This Warriors team should be gritty this year and they are going to shake some things up in the Western Conference. Jordan Poole has looked fantastic in the preseason and it looks like he will take the starting job in the backcourt alongside Curry until the return of Klay. Until then, who else can the Dubs get to contribute for the rotation? Keep an eye on Nemanja Bjelica and rookie Moses Moody. Don’t be surprised if James Wiseman takes a stride forward this year once he returns. I don’t care how insane people think I am…Jonathan Kuminga will get some run during the year and he could surprise people.

Who to Watch Besides Jalen Green?

There’s no doubt that Jalen Green is going to put up some serious numbers and he’s most likely going to be a favorite for Rookie of the Year. But other than that, who should we get pumped up about? The first is fellow rookie Alperen Sengun. The Turkish big man should get plenty of run throughout the regular season and he’s been impressive during Summer League and preseason. It’ll be interesting to see what other rookies such as Josh Christopher and Usman Garuba do as well over the course of the year.

Who Will Step Up for the Clippers?

With Kawhi Leonard expecting to miss the majority of the season, the Clippers are going to need some pieces to step up in a hurry. Paul George is going to be “the guy” for the first time since his days in an Indiana Pacers jersey. The backcourt rotation will be something to watch for with Eric Bledsoe and playoff legend Reggie Jackson. Expect a big year out of Terance Mann as well.

Is “Age” the Only Concern for the Lakers?

While the age jokes have run their course, there are still a number of important storylines to keep an eye on with this Lakers team for the upcoming year. It cannot be overstated that the Lakers need to stay healthy to have a shot at a title run. Most importantly though, the Lakers need to improve as a shooting team. They struggled last year and brought in a number of pieces that have serious talent but don’t necessarily move the needle when it comes to three-point shooting. Malik Monk and Kendrick Nunn could become serious pieces of the rotation.

Is this the Year for the Memphis Grizzlies?

A weird part of me believes that this is the year the Memphis Grizzlies make their presence felt in the West. The reason? Jaren Jackson Jr is back and ready to roll. After dealing with a bit of an injury bug the last couple of years, JJJ has looked sensational in the preseason. The Grizzlies thought the same, as they just rewarded Jackson Jr with a nice extension. Look out for Desmond Bane and Xavier Tillman Sr to take steps in their development as well.

Can Minnesota finally take “the leap”?

Honestly, I think so. This could be the year in which the Timberwolves make a nice little run at the playoffs. We know the pieces that this team has with the combination of D’Angelo Russell and Karl-Anthony Towns. Don’t be surprised if Anthony Edwards takes a BIG leap forward in year two. Keep an eye on some intriguing parts of the rotation including second-year wing Jaden McDaniels.

Who Shines for the New Orleans Pelicans?

Things are starting to get weird in New Orleans with the Zion Williamson situation, but let’s not get off on the wrong foot. Get it? Because he’s dealing with a foot injury. Okay, not my best joke. I’m pumped to see a number of young pieces on this team. Rookie wing Trey Murphy III was one of my favorite prospects in this recent draft class and he’s been an absolute STUD. Don’t be surprised if he finds his way in the starting lineup quickly. I’ll be intrigued to see what Nickeil Alexander-Walker and Kira Lewis Jr can do this year.

Is the Thunder Backcourt going to Thrive?

The Thunder are so young in their re-build, so don’t let the title here mislead you. That being said, I’m strangely super pumped to see what Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Josh Giddey can do on the floor. We know how good SGA is, but Giddey has been a bit of a monster with some of his play in the preseason. Poku is still going to make me scratch my head at times. Don’t sleep on some other young pieces of this roster like Tre Mann and Jeremiah Robinson-Earl.

Is Phoenix Going to Thrive Again?

Let me get this off my chest…Deandre Ayton I’m sorry. But let’s save that for another day. The Suns look ready to roll again and I hope this team can stay healthy over the course of an entire season again. Year two of the Devin Booker/Chris Paul duo should be awesome. Landry Shamet could become a massive boost in the rotation if he can become the player that he was early in his career. I’ll be thrilled to see what Mikal Bridges and Cam Johnson can do after another full offseason of development.

Do the Blazers have Enough Depth?

Honestly, I’m not sure. This Blazers team seems like it could shock or get ugly in a REAL hurry. We all know that the Damian Lillard rumors were out of control this summer, so it’s going to be interesting if those heat up if the Blazers struggle out of the gate. With Chauncey Billups now the man in charge, it’s going to be interesting to see if the Blazers can come out of the gate quickly. Larry Nance Jr could become a huge part of this rotation.

Could the Sacramento Kings be the surprise of the West?

I promise I’m not insane, but I’m beginning to wonder if there could be some magic developing in Sacramento. I love the Kings backcourt, especially with the addition of rookie guard Davion Mitchell. If De’Aaron Fox and Tyrese Haliburton can continue to flourish, there’s some intrigue with this Sacramento team. I’ll be fascinated to see what the rotation looks like, and of course, if Marvin Bagley III can stay healthy.

Who Is Going to Breakout for the Spurs?

I’ll admit it, I can’t find myself ruling out the San Antonio Spurs shocking everyone and playing at a high level to start the year. That’s also mainly because I think the Spurs have two wings on their roster that are about to explode. Keldon Johnson just had himself a sensational offseason, after impressing with his play for Team USA at the Olympics. He should be flowing with confidence and preparing for a big year. Keep an eye on Devin Vassell as well. He’s one of my favorite sophomore breakout candidates this year and he could turn into a dangerous weapon for this team this year.

Is it Finally the Year for Utah?

Yes. I really do think this is the year that the Utah Jazz could have the best opportunity to finally get over the hump. It seems as if every year the Jazz have an impressive offseason and this one might have been the best yet. If this Utah team can stay healthy, they will be an absolute wagon to deal with. Don’t underestimate the additions of Rudy Gay and Hassan Whiteside. Utah has been searching for a serviceable backup to Rudy Gobert and Whiteside could be the perfect fit.