The 2022 NBA playoff picture is starting to come into focus with only a few weeks left in the regular season. A lot has happened on and off the court since the beginning of the season back in October. Looking back at our 2021/2022 season preview gives us a view of how we thought the season would play out.
At that time the Brooklyn Nets and Los Angeles Lakers were the outstanding favourites in both division. Fast forward to today and both franchises looks set for a play-in berth with hopes of achieving an 8th seed placing in their respective conferences. We referenced James Harden as key man in the Brooklyn Nets trio of superstars. The former MVP has since been traded to Eastern Conference rivals Philadelphia 76ers in return for Ben Simmons, Seth Curry and Andre Drummond. Steve Nash’s other key pieces – Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving – have played only 45 and 19 games respectively this season.
Also in that preview piece we mentioned that the returning Klay Thompson could be a major boost for the Golden State Warriors and their championship hopes. While Klay has not returned to his pre-injury peak just yet, his form has been good enough to help the Warriors to a home seeding in the Western Conference playoffs in what has been an injury-hit season for the Bay Area outfit.
The Play-In Tournament is being played between the 12th and 15th of April with the 1st Round of the 2022 NBA Playoffs beginning on the 16th April.
So, with only a few weeks remaining in the regular season lets take a look at the current playoff picture in the NBA.
This year’s Eastern Conference has been one of the most competitive in recent memory. The fact that pre-season championship favourites Brooklyn Nets currently lie in 8th while last year’s beaten Eastern Conference finalists Atlanta Hawks are in 10th tells you that the season has not gone as planned.
The Miami Heat are the only team who have secured their playoff spot as of today (23rd March) and they look likely to be the N0.1 seeds come playoff time. Erik Spoelstra’s deep roster has been the most consistent in the East throughout the season. Tyler Herro is the leading contender to win Sixth Man of the Year while Max Strus, Omar Yurtseven, Gabe Vincent and others deep in their rotation have all proved that they are more than capable to handle themselves on the floor. All-Star talents like Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo and Kyle Lowry will all take centre stage come playoff time.
Current Eastern Conference Betting
*All odds correct at the time of publishing
Five wins separate the Bucks in 2nd spot and the Toronto Raptors in 7th. The Chicago Bulls and Cleveland Cavaliers have both performed above expectations in the early part of the season, at one stage finding themselves leading the Eastern Conference. They have since fallen more in line with pre-season expectations but their form in November and December should see them hold on to an automatic playoff spot. The Raptors and the Boston Celtics are the coming forces in this conference. Both have registered long winning streaks since the end of January. The introduction of the play-in has added extra trepidation to the final few weeks of the season. The 7th seed looks like a race between Toronto and the Cavaliers and both would definitely love to avoid a play-in match-up with Brooklyn.
Outside of that 7th seed, the Play-In Tournament looks to be confirmed in the Eastern Conference. The Nets will be the franchise that nobody wants to face. They have made improvements recently with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving returning to the lineup on a regular basis but the 8th seed seems to be their ceiling for this year. The 9 vs 10 matchup will see the Charlotte Hornets take on the Atlanta Hawks.
It’s still all to play for in the Eastern Confernce. The regular season has shown us that not much separates the teams on this side of the league. Last year’s NBA champions, the Milwaukee Bucks have remained consistent this season and could be the one to watch in the post-season.
The Phoenix Suns have been the standout team in the Western Conference. Last year’s beaten NBA finalists have bounced back with aplomb and have had a stranglehold on the No.1 seed for most of the season. Chris Paul and Devin Booker remain the driving forces behind the team that look set for another run to the Finals.
Behind them it’s the resurgent Memphis Grizzlies and Golden State Warriors that have been occupying the second and third spots for most of the year. The Warriors led the league for a long period at the start of the season. However, an injury to Stephen Curry after the All-Star break has seen their form suffer. In contrast, the Memphis Grizzlies have surged with 1st time All-Star Ja Morant playing himself into the MVP conversation.
Outside the top three in the standings things have been fairly congested. Again, the Play-In Tournament has added real spice to the final few weeks of the season. The Minnesota Timberwolves currently occupy the 7th seed but are pushing hard to get to the automatic playoff places. They have confirmed a winning record already this year and Karl-Anthony Towns has found another gear post All-Star.
Ahead of the Timberwolves, the Jazz, Mavericks and Nuggets are holding form. This points towards a number of seven game series to look forward to in the playoffs. The final three spots in the Play-In Tournament look to be confirmed with the Los Angeles Clippers, Los Angeles Lakers and New Orleans Pelicans occupying those spaces. It’ll be the second season in a row for the LeBron and the Lakers in the Play-In.
Western Conference Betting
*All odds correct at time of publishing
It’s been a really exciting season of the NBA. The playoffs promise plenty more dramatic moments and we can’t wait for it to get started.
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