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2022 NBA Western Conference Power Rankings & Offseason Grades

Will Desvallees Jul 18th 12:48 PM EDT.

This summer, NBA teams have made a lot of noise in free agency. This has also been an especially busy offseason when it comes to blockbuster trades and rumors. Now that the draft is over, it’s time to evaluate the talent on each Western Conference squad as we gear up for the 2022 NBA season. These power rankings indicate where we think each team will finish in the conference as well as how well they have done this offseason. Let’s dive in!

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1. Golden State Warriors (Offseason Grade: B)

The Warriors have won four NBA Championships over the last eight NBA seasons. They are the best team in the West, and likely the best team in the entire association. What makes them so special is a combination of lethal scoring combined with the best ball movement in the game. 

Following their fourth NBA Championship at the hands of the Boston Celtics, the Warriors have made some interesting moves this offseason. The Warriors essentially realized that they couldn’t keep both C Kevon Looney and SG Gary Payton II on the payroll heading into next season. Forced to make a decision, the Warriors’ front office opted to retain Looney on a three-year, $25.5 million deal. While Looney was productive off the glass through the regular season (especially when Draymond Green was out) and in the postseason, the Warriors used their first-round pick (No. 2 overall selection) in the 2020 NBA Draft to select C James Wiseman after stellar production for the Memphis Tigers. In choosing to retain Looney, Golden State was outbid by the Portland Trail Blazers, who offered Gary Payton II a three-year, $28 million deal. The loss of Payton II for the Warriors could leave some holes to fill on the defensive end. Last season, Payton II played 17.6 minutes per game and produced 7.1 points on 61.6% shooting from the field. In addition, the 1.4 steals per contest off the bench went some ways to help the Warriors in the regular season and the playoffs. 

Elsewhere, the Warriors lost Otto Porter Jr. to the Toronto Raptors. He had a great season for the Warriors after playing less than 60 games combined between 2018 and 2020. In 2021, Porter Jr. suited up for 63 games and tallied an efficient 8.2 PPG (46.4% FG), 5.7 boards, and 1.1 steals per contest whilst averaging only 22.2 minutes per contest throughout the season. The Warriors did sign SG Donte DiVincenzo, who was with the Kings (from Milwaukee) before the 2022 All-Star break. He is a versatile guard capable of shooting from deep to score in double-figures regularly while maintaining productive numbers in virtually all other categories. DiVincenzo was injured for the majority of last season. However, in 2020, he averaged 10.4 PPG on 42% shooting from the field (37.9% from long range) to go alongside 5.8 REBs, 3.1 ASTs, and 1.1 steals per contest in 66 games played to help the Bucks win the 2020 NBA Championship. 

The Warriors lost some key pieces this offseason. While Porter Jr. and Payton II are gone, Golden State brought a strong young guard heading into his fifth NBA season to compensate. They were also able to retain KeVon Looney, who averaged 6.0 points and 7.3 rebounds in 21.1 minutes per contest. He also played in all 82 of the Warriors’ regular-season games, proving that he is durable and healthy. The Warriors likely chose to retain Looney as a precaution in the case that James Wiseman is unable to produce and continues to deal with injuries. 

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2. Phoenix Suns (Offseason Grade: A-)

On Thursday of last week, the Indiana Pacers offered restricted free agent and Suns center, Deandre Ayton, a four-year, $133 million max deal. With 48 hours to match the offer, the Suns decided to offer Ayton the max contract he deserves. In his first four NBA seasons, Ayton has averaged a double-double in each. 

The only crucial role player the Suns lost this offseason was C JaVale McGee. Although he came off the bench, McGee truly found his rhythm in Phoenix. Despite playing 15.8 MPG last season, McGee produced 9.2 PPG, 6.7 REBs, and 1.1 blocks per contest through 74 games. He might be one of the most underrated centers in the league, and the Suns will miss him in the rotation especially when Ayton needs to come off the floor. Although the Suns re-signed Bismack Biyombo, who will likely see an increased role this upcoming season as opposed to last, the loss of McGee creates a hole for the Suns that will need to be filled. 

The only two other players Phoenix lost were SG Aaron Holiday and PF Frank Kaminsky who both were acquired by the Atlanta Hawks. Expect another great season from the Suns who are undoubtedly one of the best teams in the league. CP3 will continue to run the point and play alongside Devin Booker, Jae Crowder, Deandre Ayton, and Miles Bridges who are getting ready for 2022. 

3. Los Angeles Clippers (Offseason Grade: B)

If Paul George and Kawhi Leonard are healthy heading into 2022, they could be one of the deadliest teams in the Western Conference. This is especially the case after the Clippers decided to sign John Wall. While Wall hasn’t been healthy in years and has only played a total of 72 games combined over the last four seasons, he has been one of the most talented guards in the league when healthy. For example, during the 2020-21 season, Wall played 40 games for the Houston Rockets. That season, he averaged 20.6 PPG (third-highest scoring average in his NBA career; averaged 20.7 PPG for Wizards in 2019), 6.9 assists, and 1.1 steals. If he can maintain that level of production through at least 60 games next season and get into a rhythm with Kawhi and PG-13, the Clippers could be lethal in 2022. 

The Clippers only lost C Isaiah Hartenstein to the New York Knicks. This allowed them to retain Nicolas Batum, Ivica Zubac, and Amir Coffey for the upcoming season. Though they are rolling the dice by rostering John Wall, the veteran’s return could be exponential if he can play at a high level and the Clippers’ stars can remain healthy throughout the season. 

4. Dallas Mavericks (Offseason Grade: C)

There was no way that the Mavericks could keep Jalen Brunson on their payroll after such a stellar season. In 79 games played for the Mavs in 2021, Brunson averaged NBA career-highs across the board. He played 31.9 MPG and scored 16.3 points per night while shooting 50.2% from the field. This is the second consecutive season in which Brunson converted more than half of his shots taken from the field. He also averaged 3.9 boards and 4.8 assists per game last season. 

Brunson leaving the Mavs will especially hurt in the case that Luka Doncic goes down. This past season, Brunson played 20 games without Luka on the floor and averaged 22.2 PPG and 7.2 assists while running the point on his own. Considering Dallas traded third-string point guard Trey Burke to the Rockets in the deal for Christian Wood, the Mavericks are really lacking depth at the guard position in the wake of Brunson’s absence. 

While the Mavs lost their second-best guard, they were able to trade for Wood who could do some damage next season alongside Luka. He averaged a double-double last season playing 30.8 MPG for Houston. They also acquired C JaVale McGee from the Suns, providing them with nice roster depth among bigs. The biggest concern for the Mavs heading into next season will be replacing Brunson and filling in some major holes among guards on their roster. 

5. Memphis Grizzlies (Offseason Grade: B)

The Memphis Grizzlies are likely the best young team in the NBA. Last season, they made a lot of noise in the playoffs, and largely without Ja Morant. Morant had another incredible season in 2021, but other young players took center stage in the Grizzlies’ success both in the regular season and in the playoffs. 

Guys like Desmond Bane, Dillon Brooks, and Jarren Jackson Jr. will continue to open up the floor for Ja Morant. The Grizzlies did lose Kyle Anderson to the Timberwolves this offseason, but ultimately, the Grizzlies are bringing back their most important core players heading into next season. One thing to keep an eye on is Jackson’s health. He has surgery this offseason and could miss the beginning of the 2022 season.

6. Minnesota Timberwolves (Offseason Grade: A+)

The Timberwolves might have had the best offseason in the NBA. Not only were the T-Wolves able to re-sign Karl-Anthony Towns on a massive multi-year deal, but they were also able to acquire C Rudy Gobert from the Utah Jazz in a huge trade. In 2022, the two could end up being the twin towers of the NBA while the T-Wolves look on paper like the biggest team (in terms of size) in the league. 

Still, the T-Wolves traded three of their core players to the Jazz. Next season, Malik Beasley, Patrick Beverly, and Jarred Vanderbilt will be in Utah. While these players are replaceable, Minnesota will need to adapt to their new roster without these crucial bench players. Nonetheless, Beasley saw a steep decline in his production last season. While he scored 19.6 PPG on 44.4% shooting from the field in 2020, Beasley finished the 2021 season averaging 12.1 PPG on 39.1% shooting. He also saw a steep decline in his minutes. 

With Beasley out, expect SF Anthony Edwards to produce even more than he did in his sophomore season. The T-Wolves also retained PG D’Angelo Russell, who will be running the point for Edwards, Gobert, and Towns in 2022. All in all, this seems like a very big step in the right direction for the T-Wolves who could develop into a strong playoff contender in the West. 

7. Denver Nuggets (Offseason Grade: A-)

This offseason, the Nuggets offered back-to-back NBA MVP Nikola Jokic the fattest contract in NBA history. He will be playing in Denver for the next five years on a $264 million deal. 

The main move the Nuggets made this offseason was striking a multi-player deal with the Washington Wizards. In exchange for SG Will Barton and PG Monte Morris, Denver received PG Ish Smith and SG Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. While the Nuggets should do fine without Monte Morris, especially if Jamal Murray comes back at full strength, the loss of Barton could be significant. Still, Caldwell-Pope seems like a perfect fit for the Nuggets, bringing sharp-shooting and lockdown defense that Barton wasn’t able to offer consistently.

One great move the Nuggets made was signing free agent SG Bruce Brown from the Brooklyn Nets. Brown got some playing time last season especially while Kyrie Irving was out. Between injuries and dysfunction for the Nets, Brown Jr. played hard every time he hit the floor. This is a great offseason signing for the Nuggets, who need efficient shooting guards to help space the floor for Jamal Murray and Nikola Jokic.

The Nuggets were without both PF Michael Porter Jr. and PG Jamal Murray for the entirety of last season. Heading into 2022, both of these rising stars should be ready to go. In addition, the tactful trade with the Wizards and the signing of Bruce Brown Jr. could help the Nuggets surprise some foes and finish among the top five teams in the West.

8. New Orleans Pelicans (Offseason Grade: A+)

Despite playing without big man Zion Williamson for the majority of last season, the Pelicans were able to sign SG C.J. McCollum from the Portland Trail Blazers. Alongside Brandon Ingram and a strong core of rookies, the Pelicans were able to fight their way through the NBA play-in tournament and secure a first-round playoff berth against the Warriors. While they met the expectations and lost to Golden State, the Pelicans showed grit this postseason and mid-way through the regular season. 

The return of Zion Williamson in NOLA should make the team even better in 2022. Though Williamson gained weight throughout his injury recovery, easily exceeding 315+ .lbs (healthy weight 285 .lbs), Williamson has been working his way back and is looking like he will be ready to start for the Pelicans in 2022. Even more encouraging is the contract extension the Pelicans offered Zion to keep him on board for the future. In addition, the Pelicans lost no one. All they did since last year’s All-Star break was bring in talent, and retain the talent they already had.

9. Los Angeles Lakers (Offseason Grade: B+)

The Lakers’ offseason began with the Russell Westbrook situation. Ultimately, Russ opted-in on a second year with the Lakers. In addition, the team hired a new coach on a four-year contract: Darvin Ham. After getting hired, Ham decided to release three Lakers’ assistant coaches: David Fitzdale, Mike Penberthy, and John Lucas III. After all, some changes need to be made as the Lakers unbelievably underachieved in 2021. 

The Lakers did get rid of SG Malik Monk, who is joining the Sacramento Kings. However, the Lakers brought on a serious amount of free-agent NBA talent to add to their roster. Los Angeles signed free agents Lonnie Walker IV from the Spurs, Thomas Bryant from the Wizards, Juan Toscano-Anderson from the Warriors, and Damian Jones from the Kings. All of these guys are capable of putting in efficient time on the floor coming off the bench. In losing a role player like Malik Monk, who had a career season in 2021 averaging 13.8 PPG on 47.3% shooting from the field, signing accomplished role players (especially Lonnie Walker IV) such as the four above was a necessity. 

Finally, the Lakers selected Max Christie (Michigan) with the No. 35 overall selection in this year’s draft. Although he is a second-rounder who averaged less than 10 PPG for the Wolverines last season, he is yet another player who the Lakers added to bolster their current depth chart. 

If the Lakers can acquire Kyrie Irving, obviously their ranking would skyrocket.

10. Utah Jazz (Offseason Grade: B+)

In Utah, the Jazz has made it clear that they were ready to move on from C Rudy Gobert and SG Donovan Mitchell. Gobert signed with the T-Wolves and will be playing alongside Karl-Anthony Towns next season while Mitchell’s next NBA team remains to be determined. In focusing on getting rid of their stars, the Jazz will have lined up a vast amount of draft picks for the 2023 and 2024 NBA Drafts. This will especially be the case if the Knicks successfully package their draft picks and multiple players in exchange for Mitchell. GM Danny Ainge clearly is ready to rebuild their team around a roster of young players who will develop together. This, and not going further into the playoffs next season, has been the focus of the Utah Jazz’s front office this Summer.  

11. Portland Trail Blazers (Offseason Grade: B)

After what was a rough season for the Portland Trail Blazers, the team provided contract extensions to PG Damian Lillard and SG Anfernee Simmons. While Lillard was out for the vast majority of last year as a result of a season-ending abdominal injury requiring surgery, Anfernee Simons had a chance to earn a big contract. This was especially the case in the second half of the season after McCollum went to the Pelicans. Last season, Anfernee Simons averaged 21.4 PPG and 4.9 assists in 23 games played without McCollum. Although Lillard will be returning this season, Simons is certainly one of the team’s best talents. Portland will be building around him for years to come.

12. Sacramento Kings (Offseason Grade: B+)

The Kings made some strong moves this season. They acquired both Gary Payton II and Malik Monk but only lost SG Donte DiVincenzo. In addition, the Kings still have De’Aaron Fox and Domantas Sabonis who the team acquired before last season’s All-Star break. Furthermore, they signed SG Kevin Huerter from the Atlanta Hawks, who will provide the Kings with a nice offensive spark off the bench. Finally, the Kings used the No. 4 overall selection in the 2022 NBA Draft to bring standout PF Keegan Murray (Iowa) to Sacramento. 

All in all, the Kings didn’t lose much this offseason, but still managed to bring in some great wings through free agency (Malik Monk & Kevin Huerter). Furthermore, their talented first-round pick should do some damage alongside Sabonis and Fox next season. If they are lucky, the Kings could have a chance to earn a playoff birth in 2022, or at least get into the play-in games. Heading into 2021, such a scenario seemed impossible. For that reason, the Kings had a pretty solid offseason in which they brought in a lot of talent without losing much of their existing roster. 

13. Oklahoma City Thunder (Offseason Grade: B)

With the No. 2 overall selection in the 2022 NBA Draft, the Thunder got their guy, Chet Holmgren (Gonzaga). Even more exciting for the Thunder has been his production on the floor throughout the NBA Summer League. In five games for OKC this summer, Holmgren averaged 14.0 points, 8.4 rebounds, 2.0 steals, and 2.8 blocks per game. He scored 23 points and recorded six blocks in his first summer league game. 

In addition, the Thunder acquired the draft rights to Ousmane Dieng, who was selected by the Knicks with the No. 11 overall selection in this year’s draft. They also acquired PG Jalen Williams (UC Santa Clara) who was selected 12th overall in this year’s draft. Last season, he averaged 18 PPG converting more than 51% of his shots from the field, 4.2 assists, 4.4 rebounds, and 1.2 steals per contest. In picking him up, the Thunder have another strong guard who will develop alongside second-year guards Tre Mann and Josh Giddey. In addition, OKC re-signed SF Luguentz Dort who suffered a season-ending injury in 2021. With the anticipated return of SG Shai Gilgeious-Alexander just around the corner, the Thunder have earned themselves a deep core of young guards and the best big man (Holmgren) in the draft. While the Thunder is a team still developing, they did pretty well this offseason by adding young talent to their roster and specifically creating depth in the backcourt. 

14. San Antonio Spurs (Offseason Grade: C-)

This offseason, the Spurs lost standout PG Dejounte Murray to the Atlanta Hawks. They also lost Lonnie Walker IV to the Lakers, who averaged a career-high 12.1 PPG in 23 minutes per contest last season. In addition, the Spurs waived Danilo Ganillari after acquiring him in the trade which sent Murray to Atlanta.  

The Spurs did have three first-round picks in this year’s draft. They selected 19-year-old Polish PF Jeremy Sochan (Baylor) with the No. 9 overall selection. Last season, Sochan tallied 9.2 points and 6.4 rebounds in 25.1 MPG for the Bears. 

At the moment, it looks like the Spurs are rebuilding for the future. In getting rid of Lonnie Walker IV and especially Dejounte Murray, the Spurs were smart enough to know that they needed to burn it all down to the floor and rebuild. San Antonio’s depth chart is currently headlined by SF Keldon Johnson, which shows the extent to how shallow their roster is heading into 2022.

15. Houston Rockets (Offseason Grade: A-)

Although the Rockets missed out on PF Paolo Banchero (Duke), they snagged PF Jabari Smith (Auburn) with the No. 3 overall selection in this year’s draft. They also snatched SF Tari Eason  and PG TyTy Washington Jr. in the first round of the 2022 draft. Houston, therefore, swept this year’s NBA draft and came out as a huge winner in this regard. In a trade with the Dallas Mavericks, the Rockets acquired Marquise Chriss, Trey Burke, and Boban Marjonovich, who will all add to the team’s depth heading into next season.

To get those three guys, the Rockets traded away C Christian Wood. Wood was Houston’s most efficient scorer after averaging a 17.9-point and 10.1-rebound double-double last season. They got rid of PG John Wall who will be a Clipper in 2022. The Rockets remain one of the worst teams in the NBA, but this offseason, they acquired a tremendous amount of young talent through the draft. They also got at least one or two solid role players (PG Trey Burke stands out) who could come off the bench and help the team produce. Nonetheless, the Rockets have one of the weakest rosters heading into 2022. However, they used this offseason successfully to build the foundations for a strong rebuild in the years to come. And don’t forget that this team still has Kevin Porter Jr., Jalen Green, and the fresh Jabari Smith. That’s a young core that could emerge as a significant threat in a few years.  

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