Outside of the obvious dominance of the Golden State Warriors and Phoenix Suns, the more this 2021-22 NBA season plays out, the more muddled it all seems to become.
It doesn’t help that, between COVID-19 and injuries, a number of teams have been dealing with stars forced to sit out, not to mention some of the off-the-court drama that some teams are facing.
On one hand, this has combined to make for a more balanced league and probably better games on a night-to-night basis here during the regular season, but there’s something to be said about having a better distribution of dominant teams around the league as it makes for better destination viewing.
This is the way the league is trending out at the moment, however, and the latest edition of the NBA Tier List reflects that.
Tier 1: A Christmas miracle
The Warriors and Suns met twice last week with Phoenix first winning to match a franchise record with 17 straight victories before setting a new one with a win over the Detroit Pistons for 18. After that, however, the Dubs snapped that 18-game win streak by exacting some revenge on Phoenix.
The next time these two teams meet will be on Christmas Day and we can all be very grateful for that.
Tier 2: Teetering on top tier
All five of these teams have potential to move into the top tier, they just need to find a way to get healthy (in the case of Chicago, Miami and Milwaukee) and become more consistent (Brooklyn and Utah).
Still, compared the rest of the league – outside of Phoenix and Golden State, of course – this group of five look like veritable juggernauts as they haven’t fallen victim to getting sucked into that muddled middle so far yet.
Tier 3: Memphis looking mighty without Morant
The Memphis Grizzlies set an NBA record by absolutely obliterating the Oklahoma City Thunder by a margin of 73 points.
That they did it without star point guard Ja Morant is impressive, and even more impressive still is the fact that the Grizzlies have racked off four victories straight since Morant’s been forced out, winning each game in wire-to-wire fashion.
Tier 4: Blazers look to be entering period of turmoil
The Portland Trail Blazers relieved longtime general manager Neil Olshey of his duties after an investigation revealed that he violated the team’s code of conduct.
Now, in the aftermath of this decision, we should expect to see some big changes in Portland. The possibility that Damian Lillard might be traded has to be back on the table. Additionally, perhaps the Blazers may look to add someone like a Ben Simmons to pair up with Lillard to keep him happy.
As well, Portland has lost five of its last six games, with its last four losses coming in a blowout manner, meaning rookie head coach Chauncey Billups – who was an Olshey hire to some controversy as he didn’t appear to get the initial stamp of approval from Lillard in the off-season – could be on the hotseat already.
In more positive news at this tier, though, the Houston Rockets have won six straight and are actually in possession of the league’s longest active winning streak. This streak has coincided with Christian Wood moving back to centre for the Rockets, so keeping him there is probably a good idea if this team is looking to rack up a few more wins.
However, on the other hand, if the goal is earn more ping pong balls, maybe the move wasn’t actually a good one for Houston?
Tier 5: Thunder are mastering this whole tanking thing
The Thunder were the victims of a record-breaking 73-point loss to the Grizzlies and, as embarrassing as that may be, they’re probably fine with it.
After all, it was just another loss for them as they attempt to “catch up” to the likes of the New Orleans Pelicans, Orlando Magic and Pistons for the very bottom of the league and the best chance to draft either Chet Holmgren or Paolo Banchero.