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.
YOU MAY ALSO LIKE: 20 Best NBA MVPs Over the Years
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.
At The Buzzer, or ATB is the place for those who love sports, life, family, community, and so much more. We are far from the run-of-the-mill 24/7 sports news websites. We not only bring you what’s happening in the world of sports in terms of trades and breaking news, but we also bring you the news that goes on behind the scenes, like big life moments, and so much more. So take a minute and read one of our articles, we promise you won't regret it.