The National Basketball Association playoffs are here, and there are many intriguing matchups to look forward to this 2022 season.
The newly made Play-In Tournament first occurred in the National Basketball Association (NBA) back when they had to implement a community bubble in Florida due to COVID-19 protocols. The NBA has since adapted to keep the Play-In Tournament to decide the seventh and eighth seeds for each conference.
In the Eastern Conference, the ninth-seeded Hawks will host the 10-seed Hornets, and the Pelicans will host the Spurs in the Western Conference. The winner of the Eastern Conference, ninth- and 10th-seeded games, will go on to play the loser of the Cavaliers versus Nets game, while the winner of the Cavs versus Nets gets the seventh seed in the playoffs. Likewise, the winner of the Spurs versus Pelicans will go on to play the loser of the Clippers against the Timberwolves, with the winner of the Clippers and Timberwolves getting the seventh seed in the West.
Starting in the East, the No. 1 seed heading into the playoffs is the Miami Heat, featuring a multitude of solid veteran players. The team is backed by the superstar duo of center Bam Adebayo and forward Jimmy Butler, but also gets scoring from the favorite to win sixth man of the year, point guard Tyler Herro. The second-seeded Celtics are led by the young duo of emerging stars in the NBA with forward Jayson Tatum and guard Jaylen Brown.
Moving on to the No.3 seed, the defending champion Bucks are led by former MVP forward Giannis Antetokounmpo and multiple-time all-star guard Khris Middleton. With the same record as the Bucks and Celtics, the 76ers managed to slip to the No.4 seed, backed by MVP favorite center Joel Embiid and former MVP guard James Harden, whom they acquired from the Nets.
The Raptors are an enticing young squad who feature a multitude of position-less players like forward Pascal Siakam, forward Scottie Barnes and forward OG Anunoby. With a late season fallout mixed with a variety of injuries, the Bulls take the No. 6 seed into the playoffs, featuring the above-the-rim phenom, Zach LaVine, and the mid-range specialist, DeMar DeRozan, as their guards.
The Western Conference No.1 seed, the Suns, are the NBA champion runner-up, falling short to the Bucks, but are nonetheless atop the Western Conference again. The Grizzlies are the No.2 seed in the West, backed by young superstar guard Ja Morant, who is in the running for the NBA’s Most Improved Award.
The No.3 seed Golden State Warriors were hot to begin the season, but without Stephen Curry, the team went cold. They will have to rely on the hot stretch guard Klay Thompson, who has been on since coming back from an injury. The fourth-seeded Dallas Mavericks will be at a disadvantage to start the postseason as superstar guard Luka Dončić will be out for the foreseeable future while rehabbing an injury.
The last two playoff teams with a spot in the West are the fifth-seeded Utah Jazz and the sixth-seeded Denver Nuggets. The Jazz have put together a solid squad behind former defensive player of the year, center Rudy Gobert, and all-star guard Donovan Mitchell. On the other hand, it has been a one-man show for the Denver Nuggets, with center and MVP candidate Nikola Jokić leading a one-man show in Denver without the injured guard Jamal Murray and guard Kevin Porter Jr.
All in all, this playoff will feature some of the younger superstars in the higher seeds like Morant on the Grizzlies, Devin Booker on the Suns and Tatum leading the Celtics to the No. 2 seed.
A version of this article appeared on p. 11 of the Apr. 14, 2022 print edition of the Daily Nexus.