2021-22 NBA season: What to know

on Oct19
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The NBA 2021-22 season will open up Tuesday with some of the best teams in the league on the docket.

The Milwaukee Bucks and Brooklyn Nets will meet in a rematch of the Eastern Conference semifinals, and the Los Angeles Lakers will host the Golden State Warriors in a rematch of the Western Conference playoffs play-in game.

The rest of the league will return to the court on Oct. 20 and 21.

With the tip-off of the season just a few hours away, here’s what you need to know about the year.

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Who is the defending NBA champion?

Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo (34) with the championship trophy after defeating the Phoenix Suns in Game 6 of basketball's NBA Finals in Milwaukee, Tuesday, July 20, 2021. The Bucks won, 105-98.

Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo (34) with the championship trophy after defeating the Phoenix Suns in Game 6 of basketball’s NBA Finals in Milwaukee, Tuesday, July 20, 2021. The Bucks won, 105-98.
(AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

The Bucks won their first NBA title in 50 years when they defeated the Phoenix Suns. Giannis Antetokounmpo was named the Finals MVP.

Who is the reigning NBA MVP?

Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic argues for a call with referee Rodney Mott in the first half of Game 4 of an NBA second-round playoff series against the Phoenix Suns, Sunday, June 13, 2021, in Denver.

Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic argues for a call with referee Rodney Mott in the first half of Game 4 of an NBA second-round playoff series against the Phoenix Suns, Sunday, June 13, 2021, in Denver.
(AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic won the MVP for the 2020-21 season. He played 72 games for Denver and averaged a career-high 26.4 points per game. He also averaged 10.8 rebounds and 8.3 assists. He was an All-Star for the third straight season.

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What are the NBA’s coronavirus rules?

About 95% of the NBA is reportedly vaccinated against the coronavirus going into the season. Those players who are unvaccinated have strict rules and are forced to sit out games in New York City and San Francisco due to local vaccine mandates.

Unvaccinated players will not be able to eat in the same room with vaccinated team members, must have lockers far away from vaccinated players and must stay masked and 6 feet away from others during team meetings. Teams were also told unvaccinated players will be “required to remain at their residence when in their home market,” the Associated Press reported.

Unvaccinated players are also barred from visiting restaurants, bars, clubs, entertainment venues, large indoor gatherings and other so-called “higher-risk settings.” The players did not have a vaccine mandate, but stat-crew staffs, team attendants and referees were told to be vaccinated.

Who are the rookies to watch?

Detroit Pistons first-round pick Cade Cunningham holds up his game jersey after his press conference Friday, July 30, 2021, in Detroit.

Detroit Pistons first-round pick Cade Cunningham holds up his game jersey after his press conference Friday, July 30, 2021, in Detroit.
(Kirthmon F. Dozier/Detroit Free Press via USA TODAY NETWORK)

Cade Cunningham was the No. 1 pick of the Detroit Pistons. Jalen Green was the No. 2 pick for the Houston Rockets after playing for the G League Ignite team, a basketball development program made up of prospects and veterans. The Cleveland Cavaliers’ Evan Mobley, Toronto Raptors’ Scottie Barnes and Orlando Magic’s Jalen Suggs rounded out the top five.

Who will not start the season on time?

Kyrie Irving has been at odds with the Nets and the NBA over his refusal to get the coronavirus vaccine. Brooklyn made the decision to sideline him instead of making him a part-time member of the team.

Indiana Pacers’ Caris LeVert, Denver Nuggets’ Jamal Murray, Los Angeles Clippers’ Kawhi Leonard, Golden State Warriors’ Klay Thomspon and New Orleans Pelicans’ Zion Williamson are among the top stars still healing from injuries.

Read below for a brief look at the teams.

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Atlanta Hawks' Trae Young (11) and the rest of his teammates celebrate after Game 1 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series against the New York Knicks, Sunday, May 23, 2021, in New York. The Hawks defeated the Knicks, 107-105.

Atlanta Hawks’ Trae Young (11) and the rest of his teammates celebrate after Game 1 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series against the New York Knicks, Sunday, May 23, 2021, in New York. The Hawks defeated the Knicks, 107-105.
(AP Photo/Seth Wenig, Pool)

2020-21 record: 41-31

2020-21 finish: 5th Eastern Conference

Head coach: Nate McMillan

Projected lineup: Trae Young, Bogdan Bogdanovic, De’Andre Hunter, John Collins, Clint Capela

Boston Celtics guard Jaylen Brown reacts after his three-point basket against the San Antonio Spurs in the third quarter Apr 30, 2021, at TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts.

Boston Celtics guard Jaylen Brown reacts after his three-point basket against the San Antonio Spurs in the third quarter Apr 30, 2021, at TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts.
(David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports)

2020-21 record: 36-36

2020-21 finish: 7th Eastern Conference

Head coach: Ime Udoka

Projected lineup: Marcus Smart, Josh Richardson, Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, Robert Williams

Kevin Durant (7) and James Harden of the Brooklyn Nets celebrate the win after the game against the Milwaukee Bucks during game 5 of the Eastern Conference second round at Barclays Center on June 15, 2021, in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. The Brooklyn Nets defeated the Milwaukee Bucks, 114-108.

Kevin Durant (7) and James Harden of the Brooklyn Nets celebrate the win after the game against the Milwaukee Bucks during game 5 of the Eastern Conference second round at Barclays Center on June 15, 2021, in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. The Brooklyn Nets defeated the Milwaukee Bucks, 114-108.
(Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

2020-21 record: 48-24

2020-21 finish: 2nd Eastern Conference

Head coach: Steve Nash

Projected lineup: James Harden, Joe Harris, Kevin Durant, Blake Griffin, Nic Claxton

Charlotte Hornets guard LaMelo Ball drives the ball past Miami Heat guard Tyler Herro (14) during the first half Oct. 11, 2021, at FTX Arena in Miami, Florida.

Charlotte Hornets guard LaMelo Ball drives the ball past Miami Heat guard Tyler Herro (14) during the first half Oct. 11, 2021, at FTX Arena in Miami, Florida.
(Rhona Wise-USA TODAY Sports)

2020-21 record: 33-39

2020-21 finish: 10th Eastern Conference

Head coach: James Borrego

Projected lineup: LaMelo Ball, Terry Rozier, Gordon Hayward, P.J. Washington, Mason Plumlee

Memphis Grizzlies forward Kyle Anderson (1) defends Chicago Bulls forward DeMar DeRozan (11) during the second half Oct 15, 2021, at United Center in Chicago, Illinois

Memphis Grizzlies forward Kyle Anderson (1) defends Chicago Bulls forward DeMar DeRozan (11) during the second half Oct 15, 2021, at United Center in Chicago, Illinois
(David Banks-USA TODAY Sports)

2020-21 record: 31-41

2020-21 finish: 11th Eastern Conference

Head coach: Billy Donovan

Projected lineup: Lonzo Ball, Zach LaVine, DeMar DeRozan, Patrick Williams, Nikola Vucevic

Cleveland Cavaliers guard Darius Garland (10) drives beside Washington Wizards center Alex Len (27) in the first quarter Apr 30, 2021, at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse in Cleveland, Ohio.

Cleveland Cavaliers guard Darius Garland (10) drives beside Washington Wizards center Alex Len (27) in the first quarter Apr 30, 2021, at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse in Cleveland, Ohio.
(David Richard-USA TODAY Sports)

2020-21 record: 22-50

2020-21 finish: 13th Eastern Conference

Head coach: J.B. Bickerstaff

Projected lineup: Darius Garland, Collin Sexton, Isaac Okoro, Evan Mobley, Jarrett Allen

Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic smiles after scoring during the first half in Game 1 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series against the Los Angeles Clippers Saturday, May 22, 2021, in Los Angeles.

Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic smiles after scoring during the first half in Game 1 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series against the Los Angeles Clippers Saturday, May 22, 2021, in Los Angeles.
(AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

2020-21 record: 42-30

2020-21 finish: 5th Western Conference

Head coach: Jason Kidd

Projected lineup: Luka Doncic, Tim Hardaway Jr., Dorian Finney-Smith, Kristaps Porzingis, Dwight Powell

Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic (15) is guarded by Oklahoma City Thunder center Isaiah Roby (22) on a drive to the basket during the first quarter Oct 13, 2021, at Paycom Center in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic (15) is guarded by Oklahoma City Thunder center Isaiah Roby (22) on a drive to the basket during the first quarter Oct 13, 2021, at Paycom Center in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
(Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports)

2020-21 record: 47-25

2020-21 finish: 3rd Western Conference

Head coach: Michael Malone

Projected lineup: Facundo Campazzo, Will Barton, Michael Porter Jr., Aaron Gordon, Nikola Jokic

Detroit Pistons guard Killian Hayes (7) drives to the basket against Memphis Grizzlies guard Ja Morant (12) during the first half Oct 11, 2021, at FedExForum in Memphis, Tennessee.

Detroit Pistons guard Killian Hayes (7) drives to the basket against Memphis Grizzlies guard Ja Morant (12) during the first half Oct 11, 2021, at FedExForum in Memphis, Tennessee.
(Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports)

2020-21 record: 20-52

2020-21 finish: 15th Eastern Conference

Head coach: Dwane Casey

Projected lineup: Killian Hayes, Cade Cunningham, Saddiq Bey, Jerami Grant, Isaiah Stewart

Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (30) celebrates his three-point buzzer beater against the Portland Trail Blazers during the second quarter Oct 15, 2021, at Chase Center in San Francisco, California.

Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (30) celebrates his three-point buzzer beater against the Portland Trail Blazers during the second quarter Oct 15, 2021, at Chase Center in San Francisco, California.

2020-21 record: 39-33

2020-21 finish: 8th Western Conference

Head coach: Steve Kerr

Projected lineup: Stephen Curry, Jordan Poole, Andrew Wiggins, Draymond Green, James Wiseman

Houston Rockets center Christian Wood looks on at a NBA game against the Toronto Raptors Oct. 11, 2021, at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto, Ontario.

Houston Rockets center Christian Wood looks on at a NBA game against the Toronto Raptors Oct. 11, 2021, at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto, Ontario.
(Kevin Sousa-USA TODAY Sports)

2020-21 record: 17-55

2020-21 finish: 15th Western Conference

Head coach: Stephen Silas

Projected lineup: Kevin Porter Jr., Jalen Green, Jae’Sean Tate, Christian Wood, Daniel Theis

Indiana Pacers center Myles Turner (33) celebrates with guard Jeremy Lamb (26) after making a shot late in the fourth quarter to take a lead against the Memphis Grizzlies  Oct 13, 2021, at Gainbridge Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Indiana Pacers center Myles Turner (33) celebrates with guard Jeremy Lamb (26) after making a shot late in the fourth quarter to take a lead against the Memphis Grizzlies  Oct 13, 2021, at Gainbridge Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, Indiana.
(Marc Lebryk-USA TODAY Sports)

2020-21 record: 34-38

2020-21 finish: 9th Eastern Conference

Head coach: Rick Carlisle

Projected lineup: Malcolm Brogdon, Jeremy Lamb, Justin Holiday, Domantas Sabonis, Myles Turner

Los Angeles Clippers guard Paul George (13) fights to the basket against Dallas Mavericks' Tim Hardaway Jr, right, in the first half in Game 3 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series in Dallas, Friday, May 28, 2021.

Los Angeles Clippers guard Paul George (13) fights to the basket against Dallas Mavericks’ Tim Hardaway Jr, right, in the first half in Game 3 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series in Dallas, Friday, May 28, 2021.
(AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

2020-21 record: 47-25

2020-21 finish: 4th Western Conference

Head coach: Ty Lue

Projected lineup: Reggie Jackson, Eric Bledsoe, Paul George, Marcus Morris, Ivan Zubac

Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James fields questions during the NBA basketball team's Media Day Tuesday, Sept. 28, 2021, in El Segundo, California.

Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James fields questions during the NBA basketball team’s Media Day Tuesday, Sept. 28, 2021, in El Segundo, California.
(AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

2020-21 record: 42-30

2020-21 finish: 7th Western Conference

Head coach: Frank Vogel

Projected lineup: Russell Westbrook, Wayne Ellington, LeBron James, Trevor Ariza, Anthony Davis

Memphis Grizzlies guard Ja Morant (12) dives for a loose ball against the Chicago Bulls Oct 15, 2021, during the first half at United Center in Chicago, Illinois.

Memphis Grizzlies guard Ja Morant (12) dives for a loose ball against the Chicago Bulls Oct 15, 2021, during the first half at United Center in Chicago, Illinois.
(David Banks-USA TODAY Sports)

2020-21 record: 38-34

2020-21 finish: 9th Western Conference

Head coach: Taylor Jenkins

Projected lineup: Ja Morant, De’Anthony Melton, Desmond Bane, Jaren Jackson Jr., Steven Adams

Miami Heat center Bam Adebayo (13) reacts after a play against Charlotte Hornets forward P.J. Washington (25) and forward Miles Bridges (0) during the first half Oct 11, 2021, at FTX Arena in Miami, Florida. 

Miami Heat center Bam Adebayo (13) reacts after a play against Charlotte Hornets forward P.J. Washington (25) and forward Miles Bridges (0) during the first half Oct 11, 2021, at FTX Arena in Miami, Florida. 
(Rhona Wise-USA TODAY Sports)

2020-21 record: 40-32

2020-21 finish: 6th Eastern Conference

Head coach: Erik Spoelstra

Projected lineup: Kyle Lowry, Duncan Robinson, Jimmy Butler, P.J. Tucker, Bam Adebayo

Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo runs up the court during the first half of the team's preseason NBA basketball game against the Utah Jazz on Wednesday, Oct. 13, 2021, in Salt Lake City.

Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo runs up the court during the first half of the team’s preseason NBA basketball game against the Utah Jazz on Wednesday, Oct. 13, 2021, in Salt Lake City.
(AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

2020-21 record: 46-26

2020-21 finish: 3rd Eastern Conference

Head coach: Mike Budenholzer

Projected lineup: Jrue Holiday, Pat Connughton, Khris Middleton, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Brook Lopez

Minnesota Timberwolves forward Anthony Edwards reacts during the second quarter against the New Orleans Pelicans Oct. 4, 2021, at Target Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Minnesota Timberwolves forward Anthony Edwards reacts during the second quarter against the New Orleans Pelicans Oct. 4, 2021, at Target Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
(Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports)

2020-21 record: 23-49

2020-21 finish: 13th Western Conference

Head coach: Chris Finch

Projected lineup: D’Angelo Russell, Malik Beasley, Anthony Edwards, Jaden McDaniels, Karl-Anthony Towns

New Orleans Pelicans forward Brandon Ingram gestures in the third quarter against the Golden State Warriors May 4, 2021, at the Smoothie King Center in New Orleans, Louisiana.

New Orleans Pelicans forward Brandon Ingram gestures in the third quarter against the Golden State Warriors May 4, 2021, at the Smoothie King Center in New Orleans, Louisiana.
(Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports)

2020-21 record: 31-41

2020-21 finish: 11th Western Conference

Head coach: Willie Green

Projected lineup: Devonte’ Graham, Nickeil Alexander-Walker, Brandon Ingram, Naji Marshall, Jonas Valanciunas

New York Knicks forward Julius Randle (30) runs up court after scoring a basket alongside Detroit Pistons forward Jerami Grant (9) during the first half Oct 13, 2021, at Madison Square Garden in New York.

New York Knicks forward Julius Randle (30) runs up court after scoring a basket alongside Detroit Pistons forward Jerami Grant (9) during the first half Oct 13, 2021, at Madison Square Garden in New York.
(Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports)

2020-21 record: 41-31

2020-21 finish: 4th Eastern Conference

Head coach: Tom Thibodeau

Projected lineup: Kemba Walker, R.J. Barrett, Evan Fournier, Julius Randle, Mitchell Robinson

Oklahoma City Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander Oct. 10, 2021, at Fiserv Forum in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Oklahoma City Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander Oct. 10, 2021, at Fiserv Forum in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
(Michael McLoone-USA TODAY Sports)

2020-21 record: 22-50

2020-21 finish: 14th Western Conference

Head coach: Mark Daigneault

Projected lineup: Josh Giddey, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Lu Dort, Darius Bazley, Isaiah Roby

Orlando Magic guard Cole Anthony (50) reacts after making a three-pointer during the second half Oct. 4, 2021, against the Boston Celtics at TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts

Orlando Magic guard Cole Anthony (50) reacts after making a three-pointer during the second half Oct. 4, 2021, against the Boston Celtics at TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts
(Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports)

2020-21 record: 21-51

2020-21 finish: 14th Eastern Conference

Head coach: Jamahl Mosley

Projected lineup: Cole Anthony, Jalen Suggs, Gary Harris, Jonathan Isaac, Wendell Carter Jr.

In this Feb. 19, 2021, file photo, Philadelphia 76ers' Joel Embiid reacts after making a basket during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Chicago Bulls in Philadelphia.

In this Feb. 19, 2021, file photo, Philadelphia 76ers’ Joel Embiid reacts after making a basket during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Chicago Bulls in Philadelphia.
(AP Photo/Matt Slocum, File)

2020-21 record: 49-23

2020-21 finish: 1st Eastern Conference

Head coach: Doc Rivers

Projected lineup: Ben Simmons, Seth Curry, Danny Green, Tobias Harris, Joel Embiid

Phoenix Suns guard Chris Paul and head coach Monty Williams during the first quarter against the Los Angeles Lakers Oct, 10, 2021, at Staples Center in Los Angeles, California.

Phoenix Suns guard Chris Paul and head coach Monty Williams during the first quarter against the Los Angeles Lakers Oct, 10, 2021, at Staples Center in Los Angeles, California.
(Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports)

2020-21 record: 51-21

2020-21 finish: 2nd Western Conference

Head coach: Monty Williams

Projected lineup: Chris Paul, Devin Booker, Mikal Bridges, Jae Crowder, Deandre Ayton

Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard (0) drives to the basket against Denver Nuggets guard Markus Howard during the second half of Game 5 of a first-round NBA basketball playoff series Tuesday, June 1, 2021, in Denver.

Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard (0) drives to the basket against Denver Nuggets guard Markus Howard during the second half of Game 5 of a first-round NBA basketball playoff series Tuesday, June 1, 2021, in Denver.
(AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)

2020-21 record: 42-30

2020-21 finish: 6th Western Conference

Head coach: Chauncy Billups

Projected lineup: Damian Lillard, C.J. McCollum, Norman Powell, Robert Covington, Jusuf Nurkic

Sacramento Kings guard De'Aaron Fox dribbles the ball against the Phoenix Suns in the second quarter Oct. 4, 2021, at the Golden 1 Center in Sacramento, California.

Sacramento Kings guard De’Aaron Fox dribbles the ball against the Phoenix Suns in the second quarter Oct. 4, 2021, at the Golden 1 Center in Sacramento, California.
(Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports)

2020-21 record: 31-41

2020-21 finish: 12th Western Conference

Head coach: Luke Walton

Projected lineup: De’Aaron Fox, Tyrese Haliburton, Buddy Hield, Harrison Barnes, Richaun Holmes

San Antonio Spurs guard Dejounte Murray controls the ball against the Utah Jazz during the first quarter May 5, 2021, at Vivint Arena in Salt Lake City, Utah.

San Antonio Spurs guard Dejounte Murray controls the ball against the Utah Jazz during the first quarter May 5, 2021, at Vivint Arena in Salt Lake City, Utah.
(Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports)

2020-21 record: 33-39

2020-21 finish: 10th Western Conference

Head coach: Gregg Popovich

Projected lineup: Dejounte Murray, Derrick White, Keldon Johnson, Doug McDermott, Jakob Poeltl

Toronto Raptors forward OG Anunoby against the Philadelphia 76ers Oct. 7, 2021, at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Toronto Raptors forward OG Anunoby against the Philadelphia 76ers Oct. 7, 2021, at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
(Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports)

2020-21 record: 27-45

2020-21 finish: 12th Western Conference

Head coach: Nick Nurse

Projected lineup: Fred VanVleet, Goran Dragic, OG Anunoby, Scottie Barnes, Chris Boucher

Utah Jazz's Donovan Mitchell goes up for a shot during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Philadelphia 76ers, Wednesday, March 3, 2021, in Philadelphia.

Utah Jazz’s Donovan Mitchell goes up for a shot during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Philadelphia 76ers, Wednesday, March 3, 2021, in Philadelphia.
(AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

2020-21 record: 52-20

2020-21 finish: 1st Western Conference

Head coach: Quin Snyder

Projected lineup: Mike Conley Jr., Donovan Mitchell, Bojan Bogdanovic, Royce O’Neale, Rudy Gobert

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Washington Wizards guard Bradley Beal advances the ball against the Toronto Raptors during the second half Oct. 12, 2021, at Capital One Arena in Washington, D.C.

Washington Wizards guard Bradley Beal advances the ball against the Toronto Raptors during the second half Oct. 12, 2021, at Capital One Arena in Washington, D.C.
(Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports)

2020-21 record: 34-38

2020-21 finish: 8th Western Conference

Head coach: Wes Unseld Jr.

Projected lineup: Spencer Dinwiddie, Bradley Beal, Deni Avdija, Kyle Kuzma, Daniel Gafford



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