The first half of the ’21-22 NBA season has been mixed. On one hand, we are witnessing one of the closest MVP and Rookie of the Year races in recent memory as the leader for this award changes each week. On the other hand, every team is decimated by Covid as we get the infamous “____ has been placed in health and safety protocols” tweets from Adrian Wojnarowski and Shams Charania.
Hopefully, the 2022 part of this season is a lot more healthy and entertaining than the first half. With that being said, here should be each NBA team’s New Years Resolution:
Boston Celtics (18-20): Once again, my Boston Celtics are one of the most disappointing teams in the NBA. And a key reason for that is this team still does not know how to close games. There are at least ten games where the Celtics had leads and blew them in the fourth due to them playing down to competition. This can be contributed to poor ball movement and poor shot selection. Ime Udoka needs to keep pushing an agenda where the pace doesn’t slow down for the Celtics.
Brooklyn Nets (24-12): This one is easy. Get Kyrie to get vaccinated and healthy so you can be at full strength for the second half of the season. Having a third option can make this team that much better. They already have nice depth with Patty Mills, LaMarcus Aldridge, Joe Harris, Nic Claxton, etc. With Kyrie, this team is the title favorites.
New York Knicks (18-20): Last year, the New York Knicks were a ton of fun to watch. They played with a lot of heart and toughness making them very likable. This year, that heart is nearly nonexistent. RJ Barrett said it best. It doesn’t matter about X’s and O’s. It’s about fight. The Knicks are a talented team and have the potential to be a threat in the East. Being more gritty can be the difference in the Knicks’ season.
Philadelphia 76ers (21-16): This is another obvious one. Sort out the Ben Simmons situations. Simmons has yet to appear in a game this year despite being healthy and whether you like him or not, he makes an impact. He is an amazing defender, playmaker and he gets the offense flowing. Obviously, he is afraid to shoot the ball which is a problem but with the newfound confidence of Tyrese Maxey, that might not be as much of a problem.
Toronto Raptors (18-17): Toronto is where everyone expected them to be – right outside the playoff picture. But they are only right outside it because they have not been healthy. So, the Raptors’ resolution should be to get healthy while continuing to develop their young two-way players. We have not yet seen what a fully healthy lineup of Fred VanVleet- Gary Trent Jr- OG Anunoby- Scottie Barnes- Pascal Siakam can do.
Chicago Bulls (25-10): Chicago please keep your foot on the gas. This team is incredibly fun to watch. The resurgence of DeMar Derozan is one of my favorite storylines this season. Zach Lavine has continued to kill it. Lonzo ball, Nikola Vucevic, and the rest of the squad are doing a phenomenal job supporting the stars. If one thing had to be said, it would be for Billy Donovan to figure out the guard rotation. Lonzo Ball, Zach Lavine, Coby White, Alex Caruso, and rookie Ayo Donsunmo have all provided great minutes but not all can consistently play.
Cleveland Cavaliers (21-17): The Cavs are a pleasant surprise this season as they are in the playoff picture. Darius Garland has been playing at an All-Star level. Evan Mobley is the rookie of the year favorite. But, this team seems to be turnover happy averaging nearly 16 a game. With Ricky Rubio done for the season, that number will most likely go up. Protecting the ball is a must for the Cavs to take the next step.
Detroit Pistons (7-29): The Pistons are this year’s bottom feeders having one of the worst records in the league. With that being said, Detroit needs to continue playing their young guys to gain more experience. It’s obvious these guys need to get adjusted to the league more as they struggle heavily on offense and especially defense. Not only will it help the young guys get better, but it should put the Pistons in a better position to get a top draft pick.
Indiana Pacers (14-25): The Pacers need to blow it up at the deadline and trade their assets for the right packages which include picks and young talent. Domantas Sabonis, Myles Turner, Caris LeVert, TJ Warren, and Malcolm Brogdon will all bring in a plethora of assets. Indiana already has a smaller and not as talented young core. Doing what the Magic did last trade deadline should be beneficial for Indy.
Milwaukee Bucks (25-15): The defending champs are currently sitting at third in the Eastern Conference and since they are the defending champs, the expectations are higher than a three seed. To exceed this, Milwaukee’s bench must improve. To be fair, health has played a large role in Milwaukee’s disappointing depth. Brook Lopez is out indefinitely. Donte DiVincenzo is just coming back from injury and doesn’t look the same. All-star Kris Middleton missed some time. This has caused usual bench guys to start leaving borderline NBA players to get big minutes. As Milwaukee becomes healthier, I am sure their bench will look much better but still, a trade would benefit them.
Atlanta Hawks (17-20): Atlanta made a nice run to the Eastern Conference finals last year but does not look the same this season. A part of this is Nate McMillan not shaking up rotations enough. McMillan usually runs starters with starters and bench players with bench players leading to a lack of chemistry. When the fourth quarter roles around the lineups are combined, players being to rush and play at too fast of a pace leading to a collapse. Nate McMillan must not be afraid to shake up the rotation.
Charlotte Hornets (12-19): Charlotte got off to a hot start but since has cooled down. Teams have figured out that they are terrible on defense. Charlotte does not have a consistent and reliable defender on the roster. In addition to this, they can’t rebound the ball for their life as they allow the second-most second-chance points in the league. Their offense may be explosive but won’t be effective until they figure out their defense.
Miami Heat (24-15): Miami has a simple resolution: Get fully healthy. This team has been dismantled by COVID more than the average team. Bam Adebayo had surgery on his thumb. Jimmy Butler missed time with an ankle injury. A majority of their team has entered health and safety protocols at least once this season. Once they are fully healthy, this team will be dangerous with their backups already getting quality minutes and proving to be quality players.
Orlando Magic (7-32): Similar to the Pistons, the Magic need to just keep losing games and playing their young guys. But, their young guys also need to get healthy. Cole Anthony, Jalen Suggs, Jonathan Isaac, and Markelle Fultz are all great young players when healthy but are currently hurt. They are certain to get a top pick in the draft. They already have great young pieces but seem to be a young stud away from beginning to push for the playoffs.
Washington Wizards (19-19): Washington has been underrated this season. They have an underdog mentality and it’s fun rooting for them. This resolution is more individual but Bradley Beal needs to be a stronger leader and play like one. It’s obvious that everyone feeds off his energy. When he plays loose and has fun, the rest of the team has fun.
Denver Nuggets (18-18): Reigning MVP Nikola Jokic and the rest of the Nuggets have been ravaged by injuries and COVID. But, this is just an excuse as Denver has one of the most talented rosters in the league. The problem is the offense. It seems as none of Denver’s top guys click on the same night and there are a bunch of times where it’s extremely stagnant. Mike Malone must get this offense in order if Denver wants to be a legit threat playoff time.
Minnesota Timberwolves (18-20): Minnesota has been one of my favorite teams to watch this season with Karl Anthony Towns, Anthony Edwards, and D’Angelo Russell lighting it up. However, if Minnesota wants to take the next step in its development, they need to trade for depth. Outside their core three, the rest of the roster is filled with average to below-average role players. Being this shallow while not having a clear-cut superstar is dangerous come to the end of the season.
Oklahoma City Thunder (13-24): Similar to Orlando and Detroit, OKC needs to continue the tank. However, OKC is different from these other two teams since they have a young all-star in Shai Gilgeous Alexander. They also have other proven young players like Lu Dort and Darius Bazley. All of their draft picks this season have all been hits. Keep tanking OKC because if you continue drafting as you have, this core will be special.
Portland Trailblazers (14-23): And Portland is the most frustrating team in the league- again. Portland this off-season made major changes to their front office and coaching staff and yet, this team is outside the playoff picture. Of course, Portland has had injuries to Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum causing their best two players to barely have played together. There are really only two courses of action for this team for the remainder of the season: go all in for Dame and pull a 2018 Cavs or go for a full-on rebuild trading both Dame and CJ. Portland should choose one.
Utah Jazz (28-10): Utah like usual has flown under the radar with the third-best record in the league. This doesn’t mean they can’t improve. Utah’s perimeter defense has been underwhelming which was expected with Donavan Mitchell not being the strongest defender and an aging Mike Conley. Utah must force more turnovers as they are currently 28th in turnovers forced.
Golden State Warriors (29-8): Golden State has the best record in the league as everything has clicked for them this season. Steph Curry is a top MVP candidate and Draymond Green is the leading DPOY. Andrew Wiggins has built a case to send him to the all-star game. The supporting cast has done a great job of feeding off of the top players and stepping up when needed. If one thing needed to be said, it would be to properly integrate Klay Thompson and James Wiseman when they get back.
LA Clippers (19-19): This was and has been a weird season for the Clippers with Kawhi Leonard probably being out for most of the season. Paul George has done a great job covering Kawhi’s absence as the top option. But, Paul George can’t do it all. When Paul George has been out this season, the offensive output has been a lot less. Trading for another scorer can not only help the Clippers for this season by taking pressure off of Paul George but for next year when they are fully healthy. Paul George wouldn’t have to have all of the offensive load on him when he plays but he wouldn’t have to rush his injuries when he sits out.
Los Angeles Lakers (20-19): Wow, there is a lot to say here for the Lakers. Recently, they seem to have picked up their play and LeBron has looked like the best player in the world but the problems that went on earlier in the season cannot be ignored. For the Lakers, I’m giving them two resolutions. The first one is to get control of Anthony Davis. Make him play center. Get him open looks and give him confidence. Bring him back to the intimidator he was on defense. Secondly, they need to get their chemistry on point. LeBron has been open about the Lakers’ chemistry issues. Fixing their chemistry issues and getting Anthony Davis back to superstardom would limit their other problems such as their sloppy defense, the immense amount of turnovers, and ability to close games.
Phoenix Suns (29-8): The defending Western Conference champs have been one of the best teams in the league this season. Devin Booker, Chris Paul, and the rest of the squad have had their foot on the gas all season. There isn’t a lot of negative things to say here. This resolution is specifically towards head coach Monty Williams. Create a more balanced rotation. Chris Paul is 36 and shouldn’t be playing the number of minutes he does. Phoenix has a deep roster and there will be another guy to step up.
Sacramento Kings (16-24): If Luke Walton was still here, this resolution would be easy. However since they finally fired him, they don’t have a clear-cut scapegoat. So, their resolution is to tighten up defensively as a team. This is a lingering problem that resulted from Walton’s reign. The King’s opponents have scored over 100 points each game except for 3 (Pacers, Pelicans, and Luka-less Mavericks). The Kings have been rebuilding for a long time and each year, there are hopes for them to reach the playoffs/play in. If they fail to reach this for the 16th straight season, they should consider trading everyone besides Tyrese Haliburton and Davion Mitchell.
Dallas Mavericks (20-18): Despite having an over .500 record, the Mavs seem underwhelming this season. Perhaps this feeling stems from multiple absences from Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis. Outside their two stars, the rest of the team besides Jalen Brunson seems to not have their step and a lack of energy. Trading for depth and “resetting” their role players would benefit the Mavs.
Houston Rockets (11-28): A couple of weeks ago, this would’ve been easy as I would’ve said get Jalen Green adjusted to the NBA and keep getting their young guys reps. However, with the recent news of Kevin Porter Jr and Christian Wood acting out against their coaches, they need to get these guys in check. Both of these guys are presumably part of this team’s future as they are both very young. Kevin Porter Jr has established himself as being a hothead but the Rockets need to fix this even if it means hiring a designated psychologist for him.
Memphis Grizzlies (25-14): Memphis has shocked everyone this season. Ja Morant has put together an all-star season which has only been fun to watch. Jaren Jackson Jr, Desmond Bane, Dillon Brooks, Tyus Jones, and Steven Adams have all done an amazing job as role players. Their resolution is to not slow down. Keep your foot on the gas. Try to be the team that the top seeds want to avoid in the second round.
New Orleans Pelicans (13-25): Another simple one: get Zion Williamson fully healthy. His impact on the team is clear as, without him, they have been one of the worst teams. Zion’s teammates clearly fed off of his energy and play last year. Without him this year, they play with no heart on both ends of the floor.
San Antonio Spurs (15-22): Wrapping things up is the San Antonio Spurs. This resolution has been the same for the past couple of years- shoot more threes. They are currently second to last in three-pointers attempted. They have players that can shoot the rock, such as Keldon Johnson, Lonnie Walker, Derrick White, etc. The NBA has been and will continue heading into a direction where teams will need to shoot more than 30 threes a game.
Photo: Trevor Ruszkowski/USA Today