The 2022 NBA Playoffs are officially underway and the excitement as we head to the finals is palpable. Sixteen teams are in with a chance to write their name into history. Starting with the Eastern Conference we have:
- Atlanta Hawks
- Miami Heat
- Boston Celtics
- Brooklyn Nets
- Milwaukee Bucks
- Chicago Bulls
- Philadelphia 76ers
- Toronto Raptors
In the Western Conference we have:
- Phoenix Suns
- New Orleans Pelicans
- Memphis Grizzlies
- Minnesota Timberwolves
- Golden State Warriors
- Denver Nuggets
- Dallas Mavericks
- Utah Jazz
The Phoenix Suns are the current +275 favourites to bring home the NBA trophy, very well clear of the rest of the pack in the NBA playoffs odds. After a record setting 64-18 season for the franchise, they have a tonne of momentum heading into their playoff series with the Pelicans after comfortably topping the Western Conference. The Warriors are second favourites at +400 and last year’s winners the Bucks complete the top three at +475.
Although the Suns seem set to put the cherry on top of their incredible regular season, the playoffs are of course a whole different animal. No team will be more aware of this than this years hopefuls the Mavs and the Warriors. In 2007, the number 1 seeded Mavericks, coming off of a raucous 67-15 regular season, came up against a Warriors team who just about sneaked into a number 8 seed. The Warriors pulled off the upset to end all upsets, winning the series 4-2, sending eventual MVP Dirk Nowitzki’s Mavericks team crashing out in the first round.
But are there any teams who can pull off similar upsets in this years playoffs? Let’s take a look at some contenders who could potentially shock the world.
The Brooklyn Nets entering the playoffs at 7th seed was not too much of a surprise after Kyrie Irving’s drawn-out vaccine-saga. However, with Kyrie now available for home and away games, it looks as if the Nets can exceed their seeding to get one over on 2nd seeds the Boston Celtics.
It goes without saying that Brooklyn have more than a few offensive tricks up their sleeves. Along with Irving, Kevin Durant is one of the most dynamic offensive players in the league. KD averaged 32.6 points, 8.4 rebounds, 8.3 assists, 1.4 blocks and 46.8 percent three-point shooting over his final seven regular-season contests.
Bruce Brown also went on a flying run at the backend of the regular season where he averaging 14.7 points, 5.5 rebounds and 3.7 assists in March. He has also been welcomed on defense, an area where Brooklyn have struggled this season. With Robert Williams III a major injury doubt for most of the series following knee surgery, the Nets could definitely overcome their seeding.
Another series contested between the 7th and 2nd seeds is the W estern Conference clash between Minnesota and the Memphis Grizzlies. The obvious MVP for the Timberwolves is Karl Anthony-Towns. The 6-foot-11 center may be one of the greatest big-men shooters of all time, with no player taller than 6-foot-10 ever matching Towns’ 39.7% career accuracy with more than 50 3-point attempts.
However, the rest of their starting lineup is to be just as feared. Their primary starting line-up is one of just seven lineups across the NBA to outscore opponents by at least 100 points. After squeezing in through the play-in tournament, the Timberwolves have as good a chance as ever to make good on their 13-year playoff drought.
Despite entering as underdogs and losing their first match in the first round series with the Mavs, the Jazz now find themselves as favourites to come out on top. With the series tied 1-1 at the time of writing, Luka Doncic’s calf injury saw the Jazz series line flip to -300 and with the higher seed light of their most valuable player, the Jazz can almost smell blood.
The Jazz’ star man Donovan Mitchell has already established himself as one of the best playoff scorers in NBA history and his performances will be vital to the lower seeds chances in this series. He ranks fifth all-time in playoff points per game of players to have played a minimum of 25 postseason games at 28.9, with Kevin Durant the only active player ahead of him. The Jazz are now only ranked as underdogs by their seeding and it is highly likely that they will progress into the conference semifinals should Doncic remain side-lined for much longer.
The 2022 playoffs are sure to be a thrill-fest, even more so if the teams mentioned in this article can rise above their underdog status. There is no doubt that all eyes will be on round 1 in the coming weeks as we continue the road to the finals.