The 2022 NBA Playoffs are well underway, meaning fans around the world get to witness some of the greatest NBA players and NBA teams in the league today square off against one another for the ultimate prize – a shot at hoisting the coveted Larry O’Brien NBA Championship Trophy.
It’s something NBA players have been dreaming of ever since they were children playing junior varsity basketball. With 30 teams in the league, there can only be one champion. And with roughly 500 NBA players suiting up in any given NBA season, only about 20 of them get a ring.
The odds are against every single NBA player, which is what makes the NBA playoffs so unique and exciting. You never know what’s going to happen and things got even more interesting with the addition of the play-in tournament, which gives four extra teams a shot at the ultimate prize.
NBA Players to Keep an Eye On During the 2022 Playoffs
The NBA playoffs started with the play-in tournament on April 12th, which concluded on April 15th. The Brooklyn Nets and Minnesota Timberwolves each earned the No. 7 seed, while the Atlanta Hawks and New Orleans Pelicans barely squeezed their way into the No. 8 seed.
With the seeding and bracket set, the playoffs continued with Game 1 of the first round on Saturday, April 16th. As of Monday morning (April 18), the Suns, Jazz, Warriors, Timberwolves, Heat, 76ers, Bucks, and Celtics each held a 1-0 series lead against their playoff opponent.
We’ve already seen several NBA players shock us with their incredible play during this year’s playoffs and we’re only one game in. There’s plenty more where that came from, so let’s take a look at some of the most prominent NBA players to keep an eye on during the 2022 playoffs.
**The players listed below are in no particular order**
20. Ja Morant – Memphis Grizzlies
Ja Morant is in his third season in the NBA and is already making his second trip to the NBA playoffs. After averaging 30.2 points per game in last year’s first round, he has already put up 32 points, 4 rebounds, 8 assists, and one steal in the opening game of this year’s first round.
Morant is a fun player to watch. He’s extremely athletic, explosive, and loves to throw the hammer down – he’s a lot like Derrick Rose in his prime. Through 187 career NBA games, Morant is averaging 21.2 points, 4.5 rebounds, 7.1 assists, 1.0 steals, and 0.3 blocks per game.
19. Jimmy Butler – Miami Heat
Jimmy Butler, also known as Jimmy Buckets, is currently in his 11th season in the NBA and is making his 10th playoff appearance – his third consecutive since joining the Miami Heat. In Game 1 against the Atlanta Hawks, he put up 21 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists, and 3 steals.
Butler plays with a high level of intensity and wears his heart on his sleeve. He doesn’t back down from no one and is quick to speak his mind – which makes his play exciting. You won’t find many NBA players that work as hard as him and he shows it on a nightly basis for the Heat.
18. James Harden – Philadelphia 76ers
James Harden is currently in his 13th season in the NBA and has made the playoffs every year of his career – though he has never won a championship. He’s hoping to do that this year after being traded to the Philadelphia 76ers mid-season. He was on the Brooklyn Nets at the time.
Harden put up an impressive 22 points, 5 rebounds, 14 assists, 1 steal, and 1 block in the 76ers’ Game 1 victory over the Toronto Raptors. He’s averaging 23.3 points, 5.5 rebounds, 6.0 assists, 1.7 steals, and 0.5 blocks in 35.4 minutes per game in 138 career playoff games played.
17. Kevin Durant – Brooklyn Nets
Kevin Durant is in his 14th season in the NBA and is making his 11th playoff appearance. He’s a two-time NBA champion, winning it back-to-back with the Golden State Warriors in 2017 and 2018. He would love to add another ring to his finger, but he’s already down 0-1 in the series.
Durant put up 23 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 steal, and 1 block in Game 1 against the Boston Celtics. The Nets are going to need Durant to start going full-blown beast mode if they’re going to make it out of this series. Boston looks like they’re ready to spoil the Nets’ playoff run.
16. Kyrie Irving – Brooklyn Nets
Speaking of the Nets, let’s not forget about Kyrie Irving. He’s currently in his 11th season in the NBA and is making his sixth playoff appearance – he won an NBA championship with LeBron James in 2016 with the Cleveland Cavaliers. Now, he wants to add another one with Durant.
Irving is an extremely talented player (when he actually plays). He put up 39 points, 5 rebounds, 6 assists, 4 steals, and 1 block in the Nets’ loss to the Celtics. This series is going to be extra intense with the hatred between Irving and Celtics’ fans (he already flipped them off in Game 1).
15. Anthony Edwards – Minnesota Timberwolves
Anthony Edwards is only in his second season in the league and recently made his playoff debut on Saturday. It was quite a debut as he put up a staggering 36 points, 2 rebounds, 6 assists, 1 steal, and 2 blocks in the Timberwolves’ impressive 13-point victory over Memphis.
Edwards has been lights out ever since entering the league as the No. 1 overall draft pick in 2020 – and he’s only getting better. After averaging 19.3 points per game as a rookie, he averaged 21.3 points per game this season. I’m sure we’ll see a lot more of him in the playoffs.
14. CJ McCollum – New Orleans Pelicans
CJ McCollum was traded to the New Orleans Pelicans mid-season and he’s probably glad he did. He’s a large reason why the Pelicans made the playoffs, despite not having Zion Williamson on the floor all season. Not only that, but his former team in Portland failed to make the playoffs.
McCollum put up 25 points, 8 rebounds, 6 assists, 1 steal, and 1 block. He was doing it all out there, much like he has over the past nine seasons. While he has made the playoffs every year since entering the league, he’s now hoping to hoist and kiss that Larry O’Brien Trophy in 2022.
13. Pascal Siakam – Toronto Raptors
Pascal Siakam is currently in his sixth season in the NBA and is making his fifth straight playoff appearance with the Raptors. He won the NBA championship with Kawhi Leonard on the team in 2019. Kawhi is no longer on the team, but he does have a young stud in Scottie Barnes.
Siakam looked impressive in Game 1 against the Philadelphia 76ers, putting up 24 points, 3 rebounds, 7 assists, and 3 blocks. He then put up 20 points, 10 rebounds, and 5 assists in Game 2. Unfortunately, his team is trailing 0-2 in the series as it slowly starts to slip away.
12. Zach LaVine – Chicago Bulls
Zach LaVine is currently in his eighth season in the NBA and finally made his playoff debut on Saturday – which is rather surprising, given his talent. LaVine put up 18 points, 10 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 block, and 1 assist, but his Chicago Bulls are down 0-1 to the defending champs.
LaVine is a special talent that can do it all. He gets his teammates involved, plays solid defense, can soar higher than anyone, shoot the ball, and throw the ball down with the best of them. He has averaged more than 23 points per game in each of the past four seasons with Chicago.
11. Karl-Anthony Towns – Minnesota Timberwolves
Karl-Anthony Towns, who was LaVine’s teammate for two years in Minnesota, is currently in his seventh season in the league. He’s making his second playoff appearance after being ousted in the first round last year. He averaged 15.2 points and 13.4 rebounds in five games.
He’s hoping to have a much better go this time around and he has Anthony Edwards’ help. In their Game 1 victory over the Grizzlies, KAT put up 29 points, 13 rebounds, 3 assists, and 1 block. He shot 61% from the field, something we can expect him to duplicate moving forward.
10. Stephen Curry – Golden State Warriors
Stephen Curry is no stranger to the playoffs. He’s currently in his 13th season in the NBA and is making his eighth playoff appearance. Between 2015 and 2018, he led the Warriors to three championships in four years. He has averaged at least 23.0 points per game each playoffs.
Curry put up just 16 points, 3 rebounds, 4 assists, and 1 steal in the Warriors’ Game 1 victory over the Denver Nuggets. It’s not his normal production, but he has a quality group of guys around him and that’s what makes the Warriors so dangerous. We’ll see if they can execute.
9. Donovan Mitchell – Utah Jazz
Donovan Mitchell is in his fifth season in the NBA and has led his team to the playoffs every year. He averaged 36.3 points in seven games in 2020 and 32.3 points in 10 games in 2021. He followed that up with 32 points, 6 rebounds, 6 assists, 1 steal, and 1 block in Saturday’s win.
Mitchell has been one of the hottest players in the playoffs over the past two seasons. He hasn’t turned that into a championship ring yet, but he has a great group of guys around him and they’re already off to a hot start against the Dallas Mavericks, who are without Luka Doncic.
8. Devin Booker – Phoenix Suns
Devin Booker is currently in his seventh season in the league and is making just his second playoff appearance this year. He’s finally starting to get the respect he deserves now that he has a quality supporting cast around him. And it showed when they went to the 2021 NBA Finals.
Booker averaged 27.3 points, 5.6 rebounds, 4.5 assists, 0.8 steals, and 0.2 blocks in 22 games last postseason when the Suns lost to the Bucks in the Finals. He put up 25 points, 4 rebounds, 8 assists, and 1 steal in the Suns’ Game 1 victory over the Pelicans. Now it’s time to duplicate it!
7. Jayson Tatum – Boston Celtics
Jayson Tatum is only in his fifth season in the NBA and has made the playoffs every year. He helped his team to the Eastern Conference Finals twice in his first three seasons, but faced a first round exit last season against the Nets. They have a chance for revenge this season.
Tatum put up an impressive 31 points, 4 rebounds, 8 assists, 1 steal, and 2 blocks in the Celtics’ Game 1 victory over the Nets on Sunday. Even more impressive was his buzzer beater layup that gave them the one-point win. If he can keep playing like this, I like the Celtics chances.
6. Nikola Jokić – Denver Nuggets
Nikola Jokić is in his seventh year in the NBA and is making his fourth playoff appearance this season. He was the MVP last year and averaged 29.8 points, 11.6 rebounds, and 5.0 assists in 10 playoff games that year. Many analysts have him pegged as the MVP once again in 2022.
Jokić put up 25 points, 10 rebounds, 6 assists, 3 steals, and 1 block in the Nuggets’ Game 1 loss to the Golden State Warriors. Without Jamal Murray in the lineup, it’s going to be difficult for this team to move past the streaking Warriors. Still, Jokić can surprise everyone at any moment.
5. DeMar DeRozan – Chicago Bulls
DeMar DeRozan is in his 13th season in the league and is making his seventh playoff appearance this season. It’s his first season with the Chicago Bulls, marking the third team he has helped lead to the playoffs. He had his best season as a pro and was clutch when needed.
Despite having an incredible season, DeRozan got off to a rough start in this year’s playoffs. He put up a respectable 18 points, 8 rebounds, 6 assists, and 3 assists, but only shot 6 of 25 from the field (24%). The Bulls will need him to be more efficient, but that shouldn’t be a problem.
4. Trae Young – Atlanta Hawks
Speaking of NBA players that didn’t have a good start to the playoffs, Trae Young had an even worse go in Game 1. He only scored eight points on 1 of 12 shooting (8% from the field) with six of his points coming from the free throw line. He also had 6 rebounds, 4 assists, and 2 steals.
Young is currently in his fourth season in the NBA and is making the second playoff appearance of his career. Last season, he averaged 28.8 points, 2.8 rebounds, 9.5 assists, and 1.3 steals in 16 games as he led his team to the Eastern Conference Finals. That’s what they need from him.
3. Luka Dončić- Dallas Mavericks
Luka Dončić is currently in his fourth season in the league and is making his second playoff appearance since entering the league. Unfortunately, an injury has kept him out of the first two games of the first round. The Mavs lost Game 1, but they followed that up with a Game 2 win.
There’s a good chance Dončić makes a return in Game 3 and if not, then Game 4 would be it. The Mavericks are going to need Luka’s return if they want to advance past the Utah Jazz – especially since the Mavs traded their No. 2 player in Kristaps Porzingis just a few months ago.
2. Giannis Antetokoumpo – Milwaukee Bucks
Giannis Antetokounmpo is currently in his ninth season in the league and is making his seventh playoff appearance. After three first round exits in his first three appearances, he eventually led the Bucks to the Conference Finals in 2019 and a championship last season.
Antetokounmpo put up an impressive 27 points, 16 rebounds, 3 assists, and 2 blocks in the Bucks’ Game 1 victory over the Bulls. Last year, he averaged 30.2 points, 12.8 rebounds, 5.1 assists, 1.0 steals, and 1.2 blocks in 21 playoff games en route to a championship ring.
1. Joel Embiid – Philadelphia 76ers
Joel Embiid is currently in his sixth season in the league after missing the first two years of his career due to injury. He’s making his fifth straight playoff appearance with the 76ers, though they’ve never made it past the Conference Semifinals. We’ll see if that changes this season.
Embiid put up 19 points, 15 rebounds, 4 assists, and 1 block in the 76ers’ Game 1 victory over the Raptors. He followed that up with 31 points and 11 rebounds in their Game 2 victory, now holding a 2-0 lead over the champs from three years ago. They’ll need all they can get from him.
Which NBA Players Do We Wish Were In the Playoffs?
The best of the best are currently going head-to-head in hopes of fulfilling every NBA player’s childhood dream, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t some NBA players we wish we could watch during this year’s playoffs. I mean, there are 14 teams currently sitting at home watching like us.
NBA players we wish were in the playoffs are Julius Randle, Bradley Beal, LaMelo Ball, Paul George, Darius Garland, Cade Cunningham, Kawhi Leonard, Dejounte Murray, LeBron James, Anthony Davis, De’Aaron Fox, Damian Lillard, and Shai Gilgeous–Alexander.
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Just look at LeBron James, who just completed his 19th season in the league and has been to the playoffs 15 times during that span. His Los Angeles Lakers failed to make the postseason this year, marking the second consecutive season the playoffs didn’t feature LeBron James.
Our Predictions for the NBA Playoffs
I’m not too sure if you’ve heard, but the NBA playoffs are among us and things are already getting interesting. We’re already two games into the first round and while we’ve seen some teams do what we expected, we’ve also seen some teams come out and surprise us early.
For basketball fans, this is the most exciting time of the year – the only thing that might compare is March Madness, but that’s a whole different story. The NBA playoffs are where the best players, the best teams, the best coaches, and the best fans all compete for the ultimate prize.
The NBA playoffs aren’t for the faint-hearted – especially if you plan on winning it all. It takes culture. It takes commitment, hard work, stamina, execution, and teamwork. If you’re not playing your best ball in the NBA playoffs, you won’t make it very far and will be sent home early.
Making Our Predictions for the 2022 NBA Playoffs
We’re already two games into the NBA playoffs, but it’s never too late to discuss predictions. Until a team secures their fourth victory in the NBA Finals, anything can happen. That’s what makes the NBA playoffs so exciting – while everyone wants to win, only one team actually will.
In fact, we’ve already seen four teams have their NBA playoffs end early with the play-in tournament, which made its debut in last season’s NBA playoffs. The Los Angeles Clippers, Charlotte Hornets, San Antonio Spurs, and Cleveland Cavaliers all failed to advance.
That leaves us with 16 teams in the NBA playoffs and a bracket that will be hard to predict. While games have already started, it’s still too early to name a champion. With that, we’re going to predict what might happen to each of those 16 teams currently fighting for a championship.
First Round Exits
16. Toronto Raptors
The Toronto Raptors finished the season 48-34 and entered the NBA playoffs as a No. 5 seed in the Eastern Conference. They’re currently matched up with the Philadelphia 76ers and are down 2-0 in the first round after two games. I have the Raptors getting swept in four games.
The Raptors are a good team on the rise, but not quite at the 76ers’ level. Pascal Siakam and Fred VanVleet will have themselves a good series, but the absence of Scottie Barnes has been tough on the team. He’ll likely return at some point, but it will be too late for the Raptors.
15. New Orleans Pelicans
The New Orleans Pelicans finished the season 36-46 and entered the NBA playoffs as a No. 8 seed in the Western Conference. They’re currently matched up with the Phoenix Suns with the series tied 1-1 after the first two games. I have the Pelicans losing to the Suns in five games.
The Pelicans would be a lot scarier with Zion Williamson on the floor. Unfortunately, he missed the entire year and who knows when he’ll play next. Brandon Ingram and CJ McCollum will lead this team, but it won’t be enough to get past a team that was in the Finals last year.
14. Chicago Bulls
The Chicago Bulls finished the season 46-36 and entered the NBA playoffs as a No. 6 seed in the Eastern Conference. They’re currently matched up with the defending champion Milwaukee Bucks and are down 1-0 in the series with Game 2 on Wednesday. I have them losing in 5.
The Bulls have a solid core consisting of Zach LaVine, DeMar DeRozan, and Nikola Vucevic. If they weren’t playing a team as good as the Bucks, they would have a better shot at moving past the first round. Unfortunately, it won’t matter how good they play, the Bucks are better.
13. Atlanta Hawks
The Atlanta Hawks finished the season 43-39 and entered the NBA playoffs as a No. 8 seed in the Eastern Conference. They’re currently matched up with the No. 1 seeded Miami Heat and are already down 2-0 in the first round. I have the Hawks losing to the Heat in five games.
The Hawks advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals last season in what many viewed as a surprise and they were hoping to keep the ball rolling this season. Unfortunately, they don’t look the same and Trae Young isn’t playing his best ball. They’ve also been without Clint Capela.
12. Denver Nuggets
The Denver Nuggets finished the season 48-34 and entered the NBA playoffs as a No. 6 seed in the Western Conference. They’re currently matched up against the Golden State Warriors and are already down 2-0 in the series. I have the Nuggets losing to the Warriors in six games.
The Nuggets are without their starting point guard Jamal Murray, which is a major reason why they’re struggling in the first round. We know what Nikola Jokic can do, but the Warriors’ defense is going to do whatever they can to contain him. Without help, Denver won’t last long.
11. Minnesota Timberwolves
The Minnesota Timberwolves finished the season 46-36 and entered the NBA playoffs as a No. 7 seed in the Western Conference. They’re currently matched up against the Memphis Grizzlies with the series tied at 1-1. I have the Timberwolves losing to the Grizzlies in seven games.
This is one of those series that can go either way. Memphis is hands-down the better team, but Minnesota plays with the type of fire you need in the NBA playoffs. That fire will carry them to three wins over their opponent, but it won’t be enough to take Game 7 – especially on the road.
10. Dallas Mavericks
The Dallas Mavericks finished the season 52-30 and entered the NBA playoffs as a No. 4 seed in the Western Conference. They’re currently matched up against the Utah Jazz with the first round series tied at 1-1. I have the Mavericks losing to the Jazz in a tough seven-game series.
The Mavericks have been without their star player Luka Doncic for the first two games of this series. He’ll likely be back for Game 3 and while it’ll give the Mavs a much-needed boost, I don’t think it will be enough to move past a hungry Jazz team. This is definitely a series to watch.
9. Brooklyn Nets
The Brooklyn Nets finished the season 44-38 and entered the NBA playoffs as a No. 7 seed in the Eastern Conference. They’re currently matched up against the Boston Celtics in the first round and are down 1-0 with Game 2 on Wednesday. I have the Nets losing in seven games.
Many analysts pegged the Brooklyn Nets as championship favorites, but I’m not buying it. They don’t have the depth that other teams do, they don’t play defense as good as the Celtics, and they can’t expect to lean on Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving the entire playoffs. They need help.
Second Round Exits
8. Memphis Grizzlies
The Memphis Grizzlies finished the season 56-26 and entered the NBA playoffs as a No. 2 seed in the Western Conference. They’re currently matched up against the Minnesota Timberwolves with the series tied 1-1. I have the Grizzlies winning their first round series in seven games.
Based on my prediction, the Grizzlies would face the Golden State Warriors in the second round – a series I have Memphis losing in five games. Ja Morant and Jaren Jackson Jr. will have a good series, but the Warriors’ defense and depth will be too much to handle for a young team.
7. Utah Jazz
The Utah Jazz finished the season 49-33 and entered the NBA playoffs as a No. 5 seed in the Western Conference. They’re currently matched up against the Dallas Mavericks with the series tied 1-1. I have the Jazz winning in seven games behind Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert.
Based on my predictions, the Jazz will face the Phoenix Suns in the second round – a series I have the Suns winning in six games. The Suns are too powerful of a team and while the Jazz will be their toughest opponent yet, they’ll only have enough firepower to win two games.
6. Boston Celtics
The Boston Celtics finished the season 51-31 and entered the NBA playoffs as a No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference. They’re currently matched up against the Brooklyn Nets and are leading the series 1-0 after a buzzer-beater victory in Game 1. I have Boston winning in seven.
After a long first round series, the Celtics will face the Milwaukee Bucks in the second round – a series I have the Celtics losing in six games. Much like their Nets’ series, this one is going to be an exciting one to watch as two of the best go head-to-head. The Bucks win with experience.
5. Philadelphia 76ers
The Philadelphia 76ers finished the season 51-31 and entered the NBA playoffs as a No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference. They’re currently matched up against the Toronto Raptors and are leading 2-0 in the series. I don’t think the Raptors stand a chance – 76ers get the sweep.
Based on my predictions, the 76ers would play the Miami Heat in the second round – a series I have Philadelphia losing in six games. They traded for James Harden mid-season with hopes of winning a coveted ring, but I think they meet a fierce Heat defense that’s too much to handle.
Conference Finals Exits
4. Phoenix Suns
The Phoenix Suns finished the season 64-18 (league-best) and entered the NBA playoffs as a No. 1 seed in the Western Conference. They’re currently matched up against the New Orleans Pelicans and the series is tied at one game a piece – I have the Suns winning in five games.
After a six-game series against the Jazz, Phoenix would be matched up against the Golden State Warriors in the Conference Finals – a series I have the Suns losing in seven games. They would love to make their second trip to the Finals in as many years, but I don’t see it happening.
3. Milwaukee Bucks
The Milwaukee Bucks finished the season 51-31 and entered the NBA playoffs as a No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference. They’re currently matched up against the Chicago Bulls and are up 1-0 in the series – Game 2 is on Wednesday. I have the Bucks winning the series in five games.
After a six-game series against the Celtics, the Bucks would move on to the Conference Finals against the Miami Heat – a series I have the Bucks losing in seven games. The two teams have seen each other in the playoffs the past two years – Miami won in 2020 and the Bucks in 2021.
NBA Finals Runner-Up
2. Golden State Warriors
The Golden State Warriors finished the season 53-29 and entered the NBA playoffs as a No. 3 seed in the Western Conference. They’re currently matched up against the Denver Nuggets and are leading the series 2-0 after two games. I believe the Warriors will finish them in five games.
After a five-game series against the Memphis Grizzlies and seven-game series against the Phoenix Suns, the Warriors will face the Miami Heat in the NBA Finals. The series will go to six games, but the Warriors won’t have enough left in the tank for a hungry and deep Heat team.
NBA Finals Champion
1. Miami Heat
The Miami Heat finished the season 53-29 (best in the East) and entered the NBA playoffs as a No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference. They’re currently matched up against the Atlanta Hawks and are up 2-0 in the series. The Heat should have no problem closing them out in five games.
After a six-game series against the Philadelphia 76ers and a seven-game series against the Milwaukee Bucks, the Heat will win a six-game series against the Warriors to win the 2022 NBA Championship. It’ll be well-deserved by one of the hardest-working teams in the entire league.
What Are Your Predictions for the NBA Playoffs?
Alright, you know what we think might happen in this year’s NBA playoffs – we have the Miami Heat winning it all behind Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo, and Kyle Lowry. Now, we want to know what you think will happen. Who do you have winning? Who do you have hoisting that trophy?
After two games, we know that several teams hold a 2-0 lead in their first round series – which is an excellent way to start. With that said, there are also some 1-1 series and those are the ones that will likely go the distance. Either way, there’s a lot of exciting basketball to come.
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No matter what team you have winning or what team you’re rooting for, we hope you enjoy this year’s NBA playoffs for what they are – the most exciting two months in the entire basketball season. May your team do well and if they aren’t in the NBA playoffs, there’s always next year!
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