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NBA predictions: Lakers lose to Nets in Finals; Durant wins MVP with no votes for LeBron

USA TODAY
USA TODAY
 2021-10-19

Should the Brooklyn Nets be the favorite to win the title, even if they don't have Kyrie Irving ? Are the Los Angeles Lakers the best team in the Western Conference? Do the defending-champion Milwaukee Bucks have what it takes to repeat ?

With another NBA season upon us, we're trying to answer those questions and more with our 2021-22 predictions. We polled 17 NBA writers and editors from around the USA TODAY Network and Sports Media Group to get their take on who will make the playoffs, who will win the season's awards and who will hoist the Larry O'Brien Trophy as champion in June.

WHAT TO KNOW: 10 storylines to monitor this season

X-FACTORS: 7 players who could swing the title race

After counting all the votes, some clear favorites emerged. The biggest takeaway: We really like Kevin Durant and the Nets. With 11 votes, Brooklyn is our overwhelming favorite to win the 2022 NBA championship. The Lakers received four votes, while the Bucks and defending Western Conference champion Phoenix Suns got one vote each.

https://img.particlenews.com/image.php?url=36Z5tU_0cVg7Qco00
Bruce Brown (1) tries to get around Anthony Davis (3) during a preseason game last week. The Nets and Lakers are projected by USA TODAY Sports to meet in the Finals. Robert Hanashiro, USA TODAY Sport

Like most, we see the East as a two-team race , with 16 panelists picking a Brooklyn vs. Milwaukee matchup in the conference finals. All 17 panelists chose either the Nets (12) or the Bucks (5) to win the East.

The West is a bit more open , but the Lakers are still the clear favorite with 11 votes to win the conference. Phoenix received four votes as West champ, and the Utah Jazz and Denver Nuggets each got one vote.

EAST PREVIEW: Team-by-team breakdown

WEST PREVIEW: Team-by-team breakdown

Durant is our favorite to win his second career MVP award, leading the pack with nine votes. At 33, he would be the fourth-oldest player to win and the 15th player in NBA history with multiple MVPs.

Milwaukee's Giannis Antetokounmpo and Dallas' Luka Doncic were the only other players to receive more than one vote for MVP with three each. One name absent from MVP voting completely: Lakers star and four-time winner LeBron James.

Houston's Jalen Green is our clear favorite to win Rookie of the Year. The No. 2 pick in the draft received 10 votes from the panel, while No. 1 pick Cade Cunningham got five.

Defensive Player of the Year voting was a two-man race. Utah's Rudy Gobert, winner in three of the last four seasons, got six votes, and Lakers big man Anthony Davis got five. Gobert would match Dikembe Mutombo and Ben Wallace for most in league history with a fourth trophy.

Denver's Michael Porter Jr. is a trendy pick for a breakout season, and that's reflected in him leading our voting for Most Improved Player with six. Utah's Jordan Clarkson, last year's Sixth Man of the Year, and Miami's Tyler Herro are the leaders for this season's top reserve with three votes each. Brooklyn's Steve Nash was the leader in Coach of the Year voting with four, while Boston's Ime Udoka and Phoenix's Monty Williams each received three votes.

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Kevin Durant, LeBron James and Giannis Antetokounmpo USA TODAY Sports

Here are individual predictions from each of our 17 panelists:

Scooby Axson, USA TODAY Sports

East playoff teams

  1. Brooklyn Nets
  2. Milwaukee Bucks
  3. Atlanta Hawks
  4. Philadelphia 76ers
  5. Miami Heat
  6. Boston Celtics
  7. Chicago Bulls
  8. Indiana Pacers

West playoff teams

  1. Utah Jazz
  2. Golden State Warriors
  3. Los Angeles Lakers
  4. Denver Nuggets
  5. Phoenix Suns
  6. Dallas Mavericks
  7. Los Angeles Clippers
  8. Portland Trail Blazers

East finals: Nets over Bucks

West finals: Lakers over Jazz

NBA Finals: Nets over Lakers

Most Valuable Player: Luka Doncic, Mavericks

Defensive POY: Anthony Davis, Lakers

Rookie of the Year: Cade Cunningham, Pistons

Most Improved Player: Michael Porter Jr., Nuggets

Sixth Man of the Year: Jordan Clarkson, Jazz

Coach of the Year: Steve Nash, Nets

Ajayi Browne, Nets Wire

East playoff teams

  1. Brooklyn Nets
  2. Milwaukee Bucks
  3. Boston Celtics
  4. Philadelphia 76ers
  5. Miami Heat
  6. Atlanta Hawks
  7. Chicago Bulls
  8. New York Knicks

West playoff teams

  1. Los Angeles Lakers
  2. Phoenix Suns
  3. Golden State Warriors
  4. Utah Jazz
  5. Denver Nuggets
  6. Dallas Mavericks
  7. Los Angeles Clippers
  8. Minnesota Timberwolves

East finals: Nets over Bucks

West finals: Lakers over Clippers

NBA Finals: Nets over Lakers

Most Valuable Player: Kevin Durant, Nets

Defensive POY: Ben Simmons, 76ers

Rookie of the Year: Jalen Green, Rockets

Most Improved Player: Lonzo Ball, Bulls

Sixth Man of the Year: Derrick Rose, Knicks

Coach of the Year: Monty Williams, Suns

Ky Carlin, Sixers Wire

East playoff teams

  1. Milwaukee Bucks
  2. Brooklyn Nets
  3. Atlanta Hawks
  4. Philadelphia 76ers
  5. Miami Heat
  6. Boston Celtics
  7. New York Knicks
  8. Chicago Bulls

West playoff teams

  1. Los Angeles Clippers
  2. Los Angeles Lakers
  3. Utah Jazz
  4. Phoenix Suns
  5. Denver Nuggets
  6. Golden State Warriors
  7. Dallas Mavericks
  8. Memphis Grizzlies

East finals: Nets over Bucks

West finals: Lakers over Nuggets

NBA Finals: Nets over Lakers

Most Valuable Player: Kevin Durant, Nets

Defensive POY: Bam Adebayo, Heat

Rookie of the Year: Jalen Green, Rockets

Most Improved Player: Michael Porter Jr., Nuggets

Sixth Man of the Year: Jordan Clarkson, Jazz

Coach of the Year: Steve Nash, Nets

Greg Dudek, Brockton Enterprise

East playoff teams

  1. Milwaukee Bucks
  2. Brooklyn Nets
  3. Atlanta Hawks
  4. Philadelphia 76ers
  5. Boston Celtics
  6. Miami Heat
  7. New York Knicks
  8. Chicago Bulls

West playoff teams

  1. Utah Jazz
  2. Phoenix Suns
  3. Los Angeles Lakers
  4. Golden State Warriors
  5. Denver Nuggets
  6. Los Angeles Clippers
  7. Portland Trail Blazers
  8. Dallas Mavericks

East finals: Bucks over Nets

West finals: Lakers over Jazz

NBA Finals: Lakers over Bucks

Most Valuable Player: Kevin Durant, Nets

Defensive POY: Anthony Davis, Lakers

Rookie of the Year: Scottie Barnes, Raptors

Most Improved Player: Jaren Jackson Jr., Grizzlies

Sixth Man of the Year: Jalen Brunson, Mavericks

Coach of the Year: Nate McMillan, Hawks

Matt Eppers, USA TODAY Sports

East playoff teams

  1. Milwaukee Bucks
  2. Brooklyn Nets
  3. Atlanta Hawks
  4. Philadelphia 76ers
  5. Boston Celtics
  6. Miami Heat
  7. New York Knicks
  8. Chicago Bulls

West playoff teams

  1. Phoenix Suns
  2. Utah Jazz
  3. Los Angeles Lakers
  4. Golden State Warriors
  5. Dallas Mavericks
  6. Denver Nuggets
  7. Portland Trail Blazers
  8. Memphis Grizzlies

East finals: Bucks over Nets

West finals: Lakers over Jazz

NBA Finals: Bucks over Lakers

Most Valuable Player: Kevin Durant, Nets

Defensive POY: Anthony Davis, Lakers

Rookie of the Year: Jalen Green, Rockets

Most Improved Player: Michael Porter Jr., Nuggets

Sixth Man of the Year: Kevin Huerter, Hawks

Coach of the Year: Monty Williams, Suns

Yossi Gozlan, HoopsHype

East playoff teams

  1. Milwaukee Bucks
  2. Brooklyn Nets
  3. Atlanta Hawks
  4. Boston Celtics
  5. Miami Heat
  6. Philadelphia 76ers
  7. New York Knicks
  8. Indiana Pacers

West playoff teams

  1. Utah Jazz
  2. Phoenix Suns
  3. Denver Nuggets
  4. Portland Trail Blazers
  5. Dallas Mavericks
  6. Los Angeles Lakers
  7. Los Angeles Clippers
  8. Golden State Warriors

East finals: Nets over Bucks

West finals: Nuggets over Suns

NBA Finals: Nets over Nuggets

Most Valuable Player: Kevin Durant, Nets

Defensive POY: Rudy Gobert, Jazz

Rookie of the Year: Jalen Green, Rockets

Most Improved Player: Michael Porter Jr., Nuggets

Sixth Man of the Year: Kevin Huerter, Hawks

Coach of the Year: Michael Malone, Nuggets

Joe Mussatto, The Oklahoman

East playoff teams

  1. Milwaukee Bucks
  2. Brooklyn Nets
  3. Boston Celtics
  4. Atlanta Hawks
  5. Miami Heat
  6. Indiana Pacers
  7. Chicago Bulls
  8. Philadelphia 76ers

West playoff teams

  1. Phoenix Suns
  2. Utah Jazz
  3. Denver Nuggets
  4. Los Angeles Lakers
  5. Golden State Warriors
  6. Dallas Mavericks
  7. Memphis Grizzlies
  8. Los Angeles Clippers

East finals: Nets over Bucks

West finals: Suns over Nuggets

NBA Finals: Nets over Suns

Most Valuable Player: Kevin Durant, Nets

Defensive POY: Joel Embiid, 76ers

Rookie of the Year: Cade Cunningham, Pistons

Most Improved Player: Michael Porter Jr., Nuggets

Sixth Man of the Year: Dennis Schroder, Celtics

Coach of the Year: Michael Malone, Nuggets

Jim Owczarski, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

East playoff teams

  1. Brooklyn Nets
  2. Milwaukee Bucks
  3. Miami Heat
  4. Philadelphia 76ers
  5. Atlanta Hawks
  6. Boston Celtics
  7. New York Knicks
  8. Chicago Bulls

West playoff teams

  1. Utah Jazz
  2. Phoenix Suns
  3. Los Angeles Lakers
  4. Golden State Warriors
  5. Portland Trail Blazers
  6. Denver Nuggets
  7. Dallas Mavericks
  8. Memphis Grizzlies

East finals: Nets over Bucks

West finals: Jazz over Lakers

NBA Finals: Nets over Jazz

Most Valuable Player: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Bucks

Defensive POY: Anthony Davis, Lakers

Rookie of the Year: Cade Cunningham, Pistons

Most Improved Player: Kevin Porter Jr., Rockets

Sixth Man of the Year: Patty Mills, Nets

Coach of the Year: Ime Udoka, Celtics

Justin Quinn, Celtics Wire

East playoff teams

  1. Milwaukee Bucks
  2. Brooklyn Nets
  3. Boston Celtics
  4. Miami Heat
  5. Atlanta Hawks
  6. Philadelphia 76ers
  7. New York Knicks
  8. Chicago Bulls

West playoff teams

  1. Phoenix Suns
  2. Utah Jazz
  3. Denver Nuggets
  4. Los Angeles Lakers
  5. Golden State Warriors
  6. Portland Trail Blazers
  7. Dallas Mavericks
  8. Los Angeles Clippers

East finals: Bucks over Nets

West finals: Suns over Nuggets

NBA Finals: Suns over Bucks

Most Valuable Player: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Bucks

Defensive POY: Rudy Gobert, Jazz

Rookie of the Year: Jalen Green, Rockets

Most Improved Player: Devin Booker, Suns

Sixth Man of the Year: Dennis Schroder, Celtics

Coach of the Year: Ime Udoka, Celtics

Duane Rankin, Arizona Republic

East playoff teams

  1. Brooklyn Nets
  2. Milwaukee Bucks
  3. Philadelphia 76ers
  4. Miami Heat
  5. Atlanta Hawks
  6. New York Knicks
  7. Boston Celtics
  8. Chicago Bulls

West playoff teams

  1. Los Angeles Lakers
  2. Phoenix Suns
  3. Utah Jazz
  4. Denver Nuggets
  5. Golden State Warriors
  6. Dallas Mavericks
  7. Los Angeles Clippers
  8. Portland Trail Blazers

East finals: Nets over Bucks

West finals: Lakers over Suns

NBA Finals: Nets over Lakers

Most Valuable Player: Kevin Durant, Nets

Defensive POY: Jrue Holiday, Bucks

Rookie of the Year: Jalen Green, Rockets

Most Improved Player: John Collins, Hawks

Sixth Man of the Year: Carmelo Anthony, Lakers

Coach of the Year: Monty Williams, Suns

Omari Sankofa II, Detroit Free Press

East playoff teams

  1. Milwaukee Bucks
  2. Brooklyn Nets
  3. Boston Celtics
  4. Atlanta Hawks
  5. Philadelphia 76ers
  6. Chicago Bulls
  7. Miami Heat
  8. New York Knicks

West playoff teams

  1. Phoenix Suns
  2. Utah Jazz
  3. Los Angeles Lakers
  4. Golden State Warriors
  5. Denver Nuggets
  6. Portland Trail Blazers
  7. Dallas Mavericks
  8. Memphis Grizzlies

East finals: Nets over Bucks

West finals: Suns over Warriors

NBA Finals: Nets over Suns

Most Valuable Player: Jayson Tatum, Celtics

Defensive POY: Anthony Davis, Lakers

Rookie of the Year: Cade Cunningham, Pistons

Most Improved Player: Jaren Jackson Jr., Grizzlies

Sixth Man of the Year: Otto Porter Jr., Warriors

Coach of the Year: Ime Udoka, Celtics

Michael Scotto, HoopsHype

East playoff teams

  1. Milwaukee Bucks
  2. Brooklyn Nets
  3. Atlanta Hawks
  4. Philadelphia 76ers
  5. Miami Heat
  6. Chicago Bulls
  7. New York Knicks
  8. Boston Celtics

West playoff teams

  1. Los Angeles Lakers
  2. Phoenix Suns
  3. Denver Nuggets
  4. Utah Jazz
  5. Los Angeles Clippers
  6. Dallas Mavericks
  7. Portland Trail Blazers
  8. Golden State Warriors

East finals: Bucks over Nets

West finals: Lakers over Suns

NBA Finals: Lakers over Bucks

Most Valuable Player: Kevin Durant, Nets

Defensive POY: Rudy Gobert, Jazz

Rookie of the Year: Jalen Green, Rockets

Most Improved Player: Jordan Poole, Warriors

Sixth Man of the Year: Patty Mills, Nets

Coach of the Year: Billy Donovan, Bulls

Jorge Sierra, HoopsHype

East playoff teams

  1. Brooklyn Nets
  2. Milwaukee Bucks
  3. Philadelphia 76ers
  4. Miami Heat
  5. Atlanta Hawks
  6. Boston Celtics
  7. Indiana Pacers
  8. New York Knicks

West playoff teams

  1. Los Angeles Lakers
  2. Utah Jazz
  3. Phoenix Suns
  4. Dallas Mavericks
  5. Denver Nuggets
  6. Golden State Warriors
  7. Los Angeles Clippers
  8. Memphis Grizzlies

East finals: Nets over Bucks

West finals: Lakers over Jazz

NBA Finals: Nets over Lakers

Most Valuable Player: Luka Doncic, Mavericks

Defensive POY: Rudy Gobert, Jazz

Rookie of the Year: Jalen Green, Rockets

Most Improved Player: Jordan Poole, Warriors

Sixth Man of the Year: Tyler Herro, Heat

Coach of the Year: Steve Nash, Nets

Sanjesh Singh, LeBron Wire

East playoff teams

  1. Milwaukee Bucks
  2. Brooklyn Nets
  3. Miami Heat
  4. Atlanta Hawks
  5. Chicago Bulls
  6. Philadelphia 76ers
  7. Boston Celtics
  8. Indiana Pacers

West playoff teams

  1. Utah Jazz
  2. Phoenix Suns
  3. Los Angeles Lakers
  4. Golden State Warriors
  5. Denver Nuggets
  6. Los Angeles Clippers
  7. Dallas Mavericks
  8. Portland Trail Blazers

East finals: Bucks over Nets

West finals: Lakers over Suns

NBA Finals: Lakers over Bucks

Most Valuable Player: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Bucks

Defensive POY: Rudy Gobert Jazz

Rookie of the Year: Cade Cunningham, Pistons

Most Improved Player: Jordan Poole, Warriors

Sixth Man of the Year: Jordan Clarkson, Jazz

Coach of the Year: Nate McMillan, Hawks

Larry Starks, USA TODAY Sports

East playoff teams

  1. Brooklyn Nets
  2. Miami Heat
  3. Milwaukee Bucks
  4. Chicago Bulls
  5. Atlanta Hawks
  6. Philadelphia 76ers
  7. New York Knicks
  8. Boston Celtics

West playoff teams

  1. Phoenix Suns
  2. Utah Jazz
  3. Los Angeles Lakers
  4. Golden State Warriors
  5. Dallas Mavericks
  6. Los Angeles Clippers
  7. Denver Nuggets
  8. Portland Trail Blazers

East finals: Nets over Heat

West finals: Suns over Lakers

NBA Finals: Nets over Suns

Most Valuable Player: Stephen Curry, Warriors

Defensive POY: Rudy Gobert, Jazz

Rookie of the Year: Jalen Suggs, Magic

Most Improved Player: Michael Porter Jr., Nuggets

Sixth Man of the Year: Terance Mann, Clippers

Coach of the Year: Billy Donovan, Bulls

David Woods, Indianapolis Star

East playoff teams

  1. Brooklyn Nets
  2. Milwaukee Bucks
  3. Chicago Bulls
  4. Miami Heat
  5. Boston Celtics
  6. New York Knicks
  7. Atlanta Hawks
  8. Indiana Pacers

West playoff teams

  1. Utah Jazz
  2. Los Angeles Lakers
  3. Phoenix Suns
  4. Dallas Mavericks
  5. Golden State Warriors
  6. Denver Nuggets
  7. Los Angeles Clippers
  8. Portland Trail Blazers

East finals: Nets over Bucks

West finals: Lakers over Warriors

NBA Finals: Nets over Lakers

Most Valuable Player: Luka Doncic, Mavericks

Defensive POY: Jrue Holiday, Bucks

Rookie of the Year: Jalen Green, Rockets

Most Improved Player: Lonzo Ball, Bulls

Sixth Man of the Year: Tyler Herro, Heat

Coach of the Year: Steve Nash, Nets

Jeff Zillgitt, USA TODAY Sports

East playoff teams

  1. Milwaukee Bucks
  2. Brooklyn Nets
  3. Philadelphia 76ers
  4. New York Knicks
  5. Atlanta Hawks
  6. Miami Heat
  7. Chicago Bulls
  8. Boston Celtics

West playoff teams

  1. Phoenix Suns
  2. Utah Jazz
  3. Denver Nuggets
  4. Los Angeles Lakers
  5. Los Angeles Clippers
  6. Golden State Warriors
  7. Dallas Mavericks
  8. Memphis Grizzlies

East finals: Nets over Bucks

West finals: Lakers over Jazz

NBA Finals: Lakers over Nets

Most Valuable Player: Kevin Durant, Nets

Defensive POY: Bam Adebayo, Heat

Rookie of the Year: Jalen Green, Rockets

Most Improved Player: Lonzo Ball, Bulls

Sixth Man of the Year: Tyler Herro, Heat

Coach of the Year: Erik Spoelstra, Heat

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: NBA predictions: Lakers lose to Nets in Finals; Durant wins MVP with no votes for LeBron

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