Media days kick off Monday, officially ushering in the start of training camps around the NBA. The dust has finally settled from free agency, and September training camp kickoffs will mark the first normal schedule in two years.
The biggest news surrounding training camp comes out of Philadelphia, where Ben Simmons has vowed to never play another game for the 76ers. The three-time All-Star has asked for a trade out of Philadelphia and will not report to the start of training camp, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.
Elsewhere, star players will get their first reps with their new teams.
Russell Westbrook and Carmelo Anthony will integrate into the Los Angeles Lakers‘ lineup alongside LeBron James and Anthony Davis. Kyle Lowry will see his first action as a member of the Miami Heat, while DeMar DeRozan will debut with the Chicago Bulls and Kemba Walker will return home to the New York Knicks.
Where does that leave all 30 teams as they head into training camp? What are the biggest changes following our post-free-agency Power Rankings?
Note: These rankings are based on where the members of our panel (ESPN’s Tim Bontemps, Nick Friedell, Andrew Lopez, Dave McMenamin, Kevin Pelton and Ohm Youngmisuk) think teams belong heading into next season. Title odds for 2022 by Caesars Sportsbook.
Having a training camp with the full roster will be a boon for Nets coach Steve Nash after the midseason additions of James Harden and Blake Griffin last season. While Harden was able to fit in seamlessly on the fly, Brooklyn will get more practice time with all three stars after he played just 332 minutes — including the playoffs — with both Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, per NBA Advanced Stats. Sorting out how Griffin, LaMarcus Aldridge and newcomers James Johnson and Paul Millsap fit into a revamped frontcourt will also be key. — Pelton
Due to the star power surrounding the Nets and Lakers, the Bucks have the benefit of coming into this season without the burden of being expected to defend their title. One thing to watch here? The play of Grayson Allen, who could be an interesting complement to Donte DiVincenzo at shooting guard after coming to Milwaukee in an offseason trade with Memphis. — Bontemps
The season opens up with a new big three as the main attraction in L.A., with Russell Westbrook teaming with LeBron James and Anthony Davis to put the Lakers back into championship contention. The Lakers got an early start with a trip to Las Vegas, a minicamp organized by James that was more about team bonding than intense court work, according to sources. — McMenamin
Phoenix’s NBA Finals trip last season fell short of the ultimate goal, but there was very little turnover in the desert — it shouldn’t take much for Monty Williams to get his team to buy in. Landry Shamet and Elfrid Payton join a Suns backcourt that lost a little bit of depth (Jevon Carter, Torrey Craig, E’Twaun Moore, Langston Galloway) and will look to acclimate themselves with Chris Paul‘s Point God ways as quickly as possible. — Lopez
Most of the Jazz’s rotation remains intact, with all of the starting lineup and the top two finishers in Sixth Man of the Year voting returning to Salt Lake City. But Utah hopes that it upgraded its bench, signing Rudy Gay and Hassan Whiteside, and trading for Eric Paschall. It will be interesting to see how much Quin Snyder tinkers with Gay as a center in small-ball lineups, which wasn’t an option with last season’s personnel. — MacMahon
Kyle Lowry, P.J. Tucker and Markieff Morris figure to fit in nicely alongside Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo and the rest of a proud Miami team that comes into the season with championship expectations. The question for Erik Spoelstra is how quickly all these pieces can come together and how much the veteran core needs to be paced for the grind of an 82-game season. A big key will be determining how much of an impact Victor Oladipo is going to have during the season while he continues to rehab from a quad injury. — Friedell
Perhaps no reigning MVP has flown further under the radar than Nikola Jokic. While the Nuggets will need another MVP-like season from Jokic to contend, Denver’s chances of being a top-four team in the West likely rest on Michael Porter Jr.’s shoulders. With Jamal Murray out for an extended period of time due to a torn ACL suffered in April, Porter will have to continue his ascension. He averaged 19.3 points and 7.3 rebounds as a starter last season and is capable of averaging a double-double while shooting 45% from 3 this season. — Youngmisuk
Take a look back at the highs and lows of Ben Simmons’ time with the 76ers.
The NBA’s biggest storyline entering training camp resides in Philadelphia, where the basketball world is waiting to see if Ben Simmons shows up — and if the 76ers decide to move on from him. Simmons has declared he will never play for the Sixers again, while Philadelphia is waiting to get a star-level return for its 25-year-old three-time All-Star with four years remaining on his contract. Until one side budges, this stalemate will continue. — Bontemps
The biggest question for Atlanta during training camp is going to be how the Hawks replicate last season’s success after a surprising run to the Eastern Conference finals. Atlanta had a question mark at the backup point guard spot, leaning on Bogdan Bogdanovic at times to fill that role in the playoffs. The Hawks addressed that by scooping up Delon Wright in a three-way trade with Sacramento and Boston. — Lopez
Klay Thompson‘s rehab and ability to get back on the floor close to his old All-Star self is the key to any major success the Warriors have this season. But as Steve Kerr & Co. wait for the former All-Star to get healthy, the key for the Warriors will be the development of lottery picks Jonathan Kuminga and Moses Moody, while hoping that 2020 No. 2 overall pick James Wiseman can take another step in his own development as he continues to recover from a meniscus tear that ended his season early and will sideline him for the opening of this season. — Friedell
What changes will new coach Jason Kidd make? Kidd has some lineup decisions to make, choosing whether he wants to play big with Maxi Kleber or Dwight Powell next to Kristaps Porzingis, or play a smaller lineup that includes free-agent addition Reggie Bullock. It will also be interesting to see how Kidd uses Porzingis, who was frustrated with his often limited role under Rick Carlisle. More importantly, how well is Porzingis moving after a full healthy offseason? His lack of mobility made him a defensive disaster last season. — MacMahon
With Kawhi Leonard out for possibly a good chunk of this season while he makes his way back from a partially torn ACL, the Clippers will try to maintain their playoff standing until he returns. Paul George is poised for a big season after lifting the Clippers to the Western Conference finals with Leonard out. Reggie Jackson will look to sustain his playoff-level performance while the Clippers take a closer look at younger players like Terance Mann and Luke Kennard and new additions Eric Bledsoe, Justise Winslow, Keon Johnson, Jason Preston and Brandon Boston Jr. — Youngmisuk
Everyone knows the Celtics will go as far as Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown take them. That being said, the preseason will see three intriguing arrivals in Boston: Ime Udoka, who replaces Brad Stevens as the team’s head coach, and guards Dennis Schroder and Josh Richardson, both of whom are looking to bounce back from disappointing seasons. — Bontemps
Kemba Walker expresses how excited he is to join the Knicks and jokes about whether he’ll be playing back-to-back games this season.
New York City native Kemba Walker returned home this summer, immediately agreeing to a deal with the Knicks after being bought out by the Oklahoma City Thunder, who acquired the guard from the Boston Celtics in June. Walker’s health, especially after missing the final couple games of Boston’s first-round series against the Brooklyn Nets with knee issues, will be a big topic of discussion the next few weeks ahead of a reunion with his old team at Madison Square Garden on opening night. — Bontemps
There will be a lot to cover in a short period for first-time head coach Chauncey Billups, who is installing a new system at both ends as he replaces Terry Stotts after nine seasons in Portland. The Blazers’ starting lineup, one of the league’s best after the midseason addition of Norman Powell, remains intact. But Portland’s second unit has added veterans Ben McLemore, Larry Nance Jr., Tony Snell and Cody Zeller. We’ll be keeping a close eye on possible improvements to the Blazers’ defense, 29th on a per-possession basis last season. — Pelton
Steven Adams, who will fill Jonas Valanciunas‘ role as starting center after they were swapped in an offseason trade, is the Grizzlies’ graybeard at the ripe old age of 28. This Memphis core got its first taste of the playoffs last season, but it’s a group that is still early in the developmental stages. The Grizzlies’ best hope to make a jump is for Jaren Jackson Jr., only 22 years old entering his fourth NBA season, to fulfill the potential he flashed before suffering a knee injury in the bubble and sitting out most of last season. — MacMahon
Indiana’s major offseason change was swapping out first-year head coach Nate Bjorkgren for veteran coach Rick Carlisle, who is starting his second stint as the Pacers’ leader. The Pacers also have to look at how to best keep their roster healthy. Several key players have missed time recently because of injuries or illnesses. But a healthy lineup featuring Malcolm Brogdon, Caris LeVert, T.J. Warren, Domantas Sabonis and Myles Turner could do some damage in the Eastern Conference. — Lopez
The Hornets have a young core already in place alongside veterans Gordon Hayward and Terry Rozier — now they have to see how Kelly Oubre Jr. fits in and hope that rookies James Bouknight and Kai Jones can have an impact, as well. Oubre had an up-and-down season a year ago with the Warriors, but at 25 years old, he has a chance to find a nice niche on a Charlotte group that needs the energy he can bring on both sides of the ball. — Friedell
After spending almost 20 months away from home, the Raptors will finally return to Toronto on Monday for the start of training camp. And while the Raptors will certainly be glad to be back home after spending last season in Tampa, the biggest story in camp will be about a guy who was also playing in Florida last season: forward Scottie Barnes, the No. 4 pick in this year’s NBA draft out of Florida State. With Pascal Siakam out to start the season after undergoing shoulder surgery, can Barnes earn Siakam’s starting spot until he returns? — Bontemps
Chicago had one of the organization’s most interesting offseasons in recent memory with the acquisitions of DeMar DeRozan, Lonzo Ball and Alex Caruso — but the key for Billy Donovan coming into training camp is seeing how those pieces, along with holdovers Zach LaVine, Nikola Vucevic and Patrick Williams, can work as a defensive group. There are few doubts around the league about whether the Bulls will score, but there are many doubts about whether the Bulls will be able to defend at a high enough level to win consistently. — Friedell
With Russell Westbrook traded to the Lakers, Bradley Beal will have to get used to several new pieces around him in camp. New coach Wes Unseld Jr. will have little time to mesh Spencer Dinwiddie, Kyle Kuzma, Montrezl Harrell, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Aaron Holiday around Beal. Daniel Gafford will also have his first camp with the Wizards. Health remains a big issue for this franchise, with Thomas Bryant and Deni Avdija making their way back from injuries. Can Beal get this team back to the playoffs? He certainly has more vets around him and ones motivated to prove people wrong. — Youngmisuk
Three starters are guaranteed to be in the Pelicans’ opening night lineup: Brandon Ingram, Zion Williamson and Jonas Valanciunas. How the backcourt shakes out will be one of the biggest decisions facing Willie Green in his first training camp as a head coach. The Pelicans have plenty of suitors for the final spots: Devonte’ Graham, Nickeil Alexander-Walker, Tomas Satoransky, Josh Hart, Kira Lewis Jr., Naji Marshall and Trey Murphy III could all lay claim to the final two spots. — Lopez
The youth movement in San Antonio is underway. The three Spurs who have been in the league the longest — Thaddeus Young, Al-Farouq Aminu and Doug McDermott — were all acquired this offseason. The Spurs parted with DeMar DeRozan via sign and trade, and watched Rudy Gay and Patty Mills walk away in free agency. Dejounte Murray (15.7 points) and Derrick White (15.4 points) are the two leading returning scorers as the Spurs shift into a new era. — Lopez
Kings coach Luke Walton has a handful of talented guards at his disposal with first-round pick Davion Mitchell joining De’Aaron Fox, Tyrese Haliburton and Buddy Hield. Sacramento could find itself regularly employing three- or even four-guard lineups in order to have its most talented team on the floor. — McMenamin
Ramona Shelburne discusses the Timberwolves’ decision to part ways with Gersson Rosas.
A mostly quiet Minnesota offseason was thrown into turmoil last week when Gersson Rosas was dismissed as president of basketball operations. The search for Rosas’ replacement could overshadow what happens on the court during training camp. It’s Chris Finch’s first camp in charge after he replaced Ryan Saunders midseason. Finch’s system, the development of former No. 1 pick Anthony Edwards and the return of D’Angelo Russell and Karl-Anthony Towns quickly appeared to pay dividends as the Timberwolves went 7-5 over their last 12 games, beating a handful of playoff-bound teams. — Pelton
It’s all about Cade Cunningham. The No. 1 pick’s ascension — or lack thereof — will determine Detroit’s destiny over the next half decade or more. Coach Dwane Casey will have to figure out with whom, beyond Jerami Grant, it will be best to have Cunningham operate. — McMenamin
While the past few years have been about developing Cleveland’s backcourt in Collin Sexton and Darius Garland, now the spotlight will shine on the center position with No. 3 pick Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen. The Cavs will have to find out if the two true bigs can share court time or if they will have to split minutes this season. — McMenamin
Jalen Green got the better of first overall pick Cade Cunningham with 25 points against the Detroit Pistons.
Houston would be a serious contender in a 21-and-under league. The Rockets will bring eight players that young to their training camp in Galveston, Texas, five of whom are teenagers, including all four of their first-round picks. This season is all about the development of Houston’s young core, led by the starting backcourt of 21-year-old point guard conversion project Kevin Porter Jr. and No. 2 overall pick Jalen Green, which is why the mutual decision was made for John Wall to sit and wait while the Rockets try to trade him. — MacMahon
Aside from the ongoing rehab process for Jonathan Isaac and Markelle Fultz, the big early question for the Magic revolves around rookie Jalen Suggs and the impact he’ll be able to have early in his first season. Suggs had some nice moments at summer league and has the ability to energize a fan base that is yearning for some excitement. — Friedell
Thunder training camp will be our first extended look at No. 5 overall pick Josh Giddey, who played just five minutes of summer league in Las Vegas after suffering an ankle injury. With the youth of the Oklahoma City roster, winning games won’t likely be a priority this season. Instead, the Thunder’s goals relate to developing their prospects. The growth of Theo Maledon and Aleksej Pokusevski in Year 2 will be worth watching, as will Shai Gilgeous-Alexander‘s return to full health after plantar fasciitis ended his 2020-21 regular season and kept him out of Olympic qualifying. — Pelton
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