NBA Playoff Preview

Alexander Bingham, Sports Editor

Despite the fact that most often the NBA features a couple super teams that are almost destined to reach the finals, this season has a much broader pool of contenders. In no particular order, here are my picks for the top four title contenders from each conference:

Boston Celtics:

The Celtics were in jeopardy of missing the postseason with a winning percentage of approximately .500 through much of the season. They have turned it around over recent months with far and away the league’s best defense in net rating over that time. Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown have provided a strong 1-2 scoring punch and have a record of past successes in the postseason. 

Miami Heat:

The team with the current best record in the East, the Miami Heat are looking to make it back to the finals after losing to the Lakers two years ago, but after Jimmy Butler and Tyler Herro they lack much scoring depth. If Butler and Herro can stay healthy and play as well as they did in the 2020 playoffs, the Heat could be the most dangerous team in the East; if not, they could be in for an early exit. 

Milwaukee Bucks:

The defending champions, the Milwaukee Bucks, led by MVP candidate Giannis Antetokounmpo have been one of the favorites in the East since the start of the season, but without much talent after the top three of Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton, and Jrue Holiday, they are not clearly above the rest of the pack.

Brooklyn Nets:

In the Eastern Conference, the Nets were easily seen as the favorites with the superstar trio of Kevin Durant, James Harden, and Kyrie Irving, but injuries and Irving’s unvaccinated status has slowed them throughout the year. Additionally, a lack of chemistry on the team led to Harden’s trade to the Philadelphia 76ers in which the Nets received Ben Simmons, who has yet to play on his new team. But, if Durant, Irving, and Simmons can all stay on the court come postseason, the upside of this team is too much to count them out of contention. 

Phoenix Suns:

With easily the best record in the NBA despite Chris Paul and Devin Booker missing some time, the Suns are looking to come back from last season’s Finals loss. Younger players such as Deandre Ayton and Cameron Johnson have stepped up to provide a nice compliment to Paul and Booker. 

Golden-State Warriors:

Through much of the early season it seemed as if the Warriors were yet again the run away title favorites as the team was dominating even with star shooting guard Klay Thompson yet to return. Since then, Golden-State has cooled off a bit with Steph Curry going through a shooting slump, but with Curry now returning to form and Draymond Green returning soon from a back injury, the Warriors are still one of the top teams in the West. 

Memphis Grizzlies:

Memphis has been one of the league’s biggest surprises this year led by the electrifying guard Ja Morant, who has played himself into the MVP conversation. Morant and Memphis have been one of the most entertaining teams this year and will certainly be must-see TV come playoff time.

Dallas Mavericks:

It was a hard decision to pick the Mavericks over other close teams such as the Jazz or Nuggets, but with point-guard Luka Doncic heating up towards the end of the season, he gives Dallas the edge. The Mavericks have pulled off convincing wins against other top Western conference contenders, and with Doncic on his game Dallas will be a team no one will want to face in the playoffs.

This piece also appears in our March 2022 print edition.