2022 NBA Playoff Picks

April 11th, 2022

By Alan Lu

With the play-in tournament beginning tomorrow, and with the NBA playoffs starting on April 16th, the postseason is just right around the corner. I decided that it was time to preview the playoffs and to make my picks as to who I think would win in the play-in tournament, as well as in each round of the playoffs.

I went to Basketball-Reference and NBA.com for research purposes. Some of my picks may end up being right, some may end up being wrong, but here, I will make my best guess as to what may happen in the postseason this year. Later in this article, I will show you a detailed bracket of my NBA.com entry as to the picks I made for the 2022 NBA Playoffs.

Milwaukee Bucks’ legendary point forward, Giannis Antetokounmpo led his team to win the 2021 NBA championship, and the Bucks could be poised to repeat to win another NBA title this year.
Joe Camporeale/USA Today Sports, via Fansided’s Behind the Buck Pass)

The Projected 2022 NBA Playoffs

The 2022 NBA Play-In Tournament – Eastern Conference:

(7) Brooklyn Nets vs. (8) Cleveland Cavaliers – Prediction: Brooklyn wins, advances

(9) Atlanta Hawks vs. (10) Charlotte Hornets – Prediction: Atlanta wins
(8) Cleveland Cavaliers vs. (9) Atlanta Hawks – Prediction: Atlanta wins, advances

With Jarrett Allen out, and with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving healthy and ready to play, I think the Brooklyn Nets will get the win over Cleveland on Tuesday.

I also think if Atlanta plays up to expectations, Trae Young and Atlanta will get the win over Charlotte, as Trae Young’s talents and Atlanta’s talent and depth will likely help them get the edge to get the victory tomorrow night.

Jarrett Allen being injured right now hurts Cleveland’s chances significantly, and Atlanta’s talented roster and playoff experience certainly would help them here.  I think Atlanta pulls out another win to get into the 2022 NBA playoffs.

The 2022 NBA Play-In Tournament – Western Conference:

(7) Minnesota Timberwolves vs. (8) Los Angeles Clippers – Prediction: LA Clippers win, advances

(9) New Orleans Pelicans vs. (10) San Antonio Spurs – Prediction: New Orleans wins
(7) Minnesota Timberwolves vs. (9) New Orleans Pelicans – Prediction: Minnesota wins, advances

Chris Finch did a terrific coaching job, and Karl-Anthony Towns and Anthony Edwards have developed into being a very good, bonafide tandem in this league.  But Tyronn Lue’s coaching job against Dallas and Utah was masterful, and he is also won as a head coach with the 2016 Cleveland Cavaliers.  Also, superstar forward Paul George is back, and I think the Clippers will edge out Minnesota to lock down the 7th seed in the West.

It is a testament to Gregg Popovich’s tremendous coaching to help get San Antonio to the play-in tournament, and Dejounte Murray has had a tremendous season.  But the New Orleans Pelicans might have too much offensive firepower for San Antonio to overcome.  The Pelicans have a strong 1-2 scoring punch in Brandon Ingram and C.J. McCollum, and they also have the depth, as they also have players like Herb Jones that can be solid contributors to their team.  It’ll be a tough game, but I think New Orleans might edge out San Antonio to advance to the next play-in game.

The Minnesota Timberwolves have consistently surpassed expectations, and while they are a young team, they’ve won 46 games in the regular season, and they’ve come too far to miss the playoffs once again.  Karl-Anthony Towns has been one of the best centers in the NBA for a while, and it’s time for him to take the next step by helping his team reach the playoffs in the post-Butler and Wiggins era.  I think Towns and Edwards emerge and play well to help the Timberwolves make the playoffs this year.

1st Round of the 2022 NBA Playoffs – Eastern Conference:

(1) Miami Heat vs. (8) Atlanta Hawks – Miami in 6
(4) Philadelphia 76ers vs. (5) Toronto Raptors – Philadelphia in 7

(2) Boston Celtics vs. (7) Brooklyn Nets – Boston in 7
(3) Milwaukee Bucks vs. (6) Chicago Bulls – Milwaukee in 5

1st Round of the 2022 NBA Playoffs – Western Conference:

(1) Phoenix Suns vs. (8) Minnesota Timberwolves – Phoenix in 5
(4) Dallas Mavericks vs. (5) Utah Jazz – Dallas in 7

(2) Memphis Grizzlies vs. (7) Los Angeles Clippers – Memphis in 7
(3) Golden State Warriors vs. (6) Denver Nuggets – Golden State in 6

Atlanta is definitely good enough to make the playoffs, and they should.  However, the Miami Heat have been terrific pretty much all season.  The Heat are a more well-rounded team, and they play smarter defensive schemes.  Picking Miami to win in the first round isn’t the stylish, in-vogue pick, but head coach Erik Spoelstra has outmaneuvered some of the best coaches in the playoffs, and the Heat are a gritty, fundamentally sound team that just seems to play smart basketball, especially in the postseason.

Not having Matisse Thybulle in Toronto hurts Philly a bit, especially since he’s chosen to remain unvaccinated, and they have had questions about their bench all year long.  Shake Milton and Furkan Korkmaz have not shot the ball well this year (also could be due to their stagnant offensive schemes this season), head coach Doc Rivers insists on playing DeAndre Jordan even when Paul Reed has been playing very well to close the season and when Charles Bassey played well in limited minutes, and he has pretty much shut down all rumors of giving Reed some meaningful minutes in the postseason.

That said, the 76ers still have two superstars in Joel Embiid and James Harden, and they also have talented starters in Tyrese Maxey and Tobias Harris.  Embiid and Harden are two of the best scorers in the NBA.  The Toronto Raptors are a well-coached team led by Nick Nurse, and he’s done a great job of building a cohesive, fundamentally sound basketball team.  But if the 76ers can’t get a first round series win in the NBA playoffs this year, then they may need to find a new basketball coach that can do so.

Getting the Nets in the first round would be a tough draw for the Boston Celtics, especially since they ended up the season so strong, and earned getting the 2nd seed in the East.  They are a well-coached team led by rookie head coach Ime Udoka, Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown are both playing very well, they also have a solid veteran center in Al Horford, and they have two tremendous defenders in Marcus Smart and Robert Williams.  Robert Williams has been injured and may not play in the first round, which could hurt the Celtics here.

On paper, the Nets are one of the most talented teams in the NBA.  They have two mega-stars in Kevin Durant and in the enigmatic, but tremendously talented Kyrie Irving, and both of them can take over and dominate games at any given time.  The Nets struggled at home because Kyrie wasn’t able to play home games since he’s refused to get vaccinated, but they opened up their rules to allow him to play home games recently. 

The Nets are talented enough to make a deep run in the playoffs and even contend for the title, but they haven’t always mentally been in games, and they’ve struggled defensively.  I think this will be a close call between Boston and Brooklyn.  There are reports of Ben Simmons coming back, but it’s hard to get a feel for the Brooklyn Nets, especially since they have had really high highs, and really low lows.  The Nets are super talented, but I can’t reward their inconsistent play in the regular season, and they are a bit too Durant-dependent, so I think Boston barely squeaks by in 7 games, but this could swing either way.

The Milwaukee Bucks are the defending champions, and while the Chicago Bulls have a slew of stars in DeMar DeRozan, Zach LaVine, and Nikola Vucevic that have made them a playoff team this year, I fully expect Giannis and company to get a fairly easy, first-round series win.  The Bulls are capable of winning a game or two in the playoffs, and I don’t think they’ll get swept, but the Bucks have too much talent, depth, and coaching to get eliminated this early in the playoffs.  Therefore, I think Milwaukee will march on to the second round from here.

The Phoenix Suns are just a very good team and they are a well-coached team led by Monty Williams, and they have a deep and talented roster that will make them a very tough team to beat this year.  They have two superstar guards in Chris Paul and Devin Booker, they have a shutdown perimeter defender in Mikal Bridges, another solid 3 and D player in Jae Crowder, and they have a solid, rim-protecting big man in DeAndre Ayton.  They also have a deep bench led by Cameron Johnson and Cameron Payne.

The Timberwolves have a talented, feisty, upstart young crew led by their superstars Karl-Anthony Towns and Anthony Edwards, but their lack of playoff experience and historical playoff woes could be significant hindrances in the playoffs, and I think the Suns will end up cruising to the second round.

It is extremely unfortunate that Dallas Mavericks’ superstar point forward Luka Doncic got hurt very late in the regular season, as he is now dealing with a calf strain that could sideline him or hinder his performance significantly throughout the first round of the playoffs, which could potentially be the rest of the postseason for Dallas.

The Utah Jazz has had rumors about discord and chemistry problems between their superstars, Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert, which is extremely worrisome.  Even more so, the Jazz looked lost in their second round playoff series last year to the Clippers, as they really struggled defensively, and the Clippers made the 3-time Defensive Player of the Year (Gobert) look extremely beatable, as he really struggled to guard out on the perimeter last season.  This time around, the Jazz will be hoping that they will have fixed their defensive woes for this year’s playoffs.   

On the bright side, the Dallas Mavericks are hopeful that Luka Doncic’s calf strain is not too serious.  Doncic is a terrific player that has been one of the best in the NBA, and if he can be fully healthy in the first round of the playoffs, I think he could help catapult the Mavericks to a first-round series win over the Utah Jazz.

The Memphis Grizzlies have had a tremendous season this year, and I think Ja Morant, Jaren Jackson Jr., and company will make enough plays to advance to the second round.  I do think though that Paul George and the Clippers will make this a competitive series, but the Grizzlies have a lot of depth and talent that will make them a very good team in the playoffs this year.

Nikola Jokic is a transformative center that has redefined the NBA center position, especially with his magical passing skills, but the Golden State Warriors are a battle-tested team that has won titles and big games in the postseason.

The big question is if Stephen Curry will be fully healthy in the playoffs, but I’m optimistic that he’ll at least be able to play in Game 2.  Klay and Draymond are healthy, Jordan Poole has played very well this season, and with the coaching of Steve Kerr, I think Golden State can pull out a series win, although the Nuggets will make it tough and competitive for them in the meantime.

The 2nd Round of the 2022 NBA Playoffs – Eastern Conference:

(1) Miami Heat vs. (4) Philadelphia 76ers – Miami in 6
(2) Boston Celtics vs. (3) Milwaukee Bucks – Milwaukee in 7

The 2nd Round of the 2022 NBA Playoffs – Western Conference:

(1) Phoenix Suns vs. (4) Dallas Mavericks – Phoenix in 6
(2) Memphis Grizzlies vs. (3) Golden State Warriors – Golden State in 7

The Miami Heat have a more, well-rounded roster and they utilize their whole roster better than Philadelphia, and they have a much stronger bench.  The Heat has a scheme that encourages other players to touch the basketball, so that can enable others such as Tyler Herro, Duncan Robinson, Max Strus, and Victor Oladipo to give them supplementary production.

The 76ers have the talent to advance, but Doc Rivers has blown a lot of 3-1 and 3-2 series leads recently, and he’s struggled in close playoff series.  The big question marks for Philadelphia has been their bench, and their overly simplistic offensive scheme, which may hurt their role players in the playoffs.  Therefore, I think the Philadelphia 76ers may be doomed to disappoint once again, just like last year when they suffered a mishap and lost to the Atlanta Hawks in the second round in the 2021 NBA Playoffs.

The series between Boston and Milwaukee would be a very tight, hard-fought series.  It comes back to health.  If Robert Williams is back in time for the second round, the Celtics could potentially overtake the Bucks and win the series.  However, if they don’t have him in the second round, or if he’s not fully healthy, it would be tough for them to stop Giannis.  Therefore, I think the  Bucks squeak by to win in 7 games, even though Boston is surging and is really good on both sides of the ball.

The Phoenix Suns are a more, well-rounded team.  They are a very skilled, talented team from top to bottom, and they have the offensive firepower to really exploit Dallas’ defensive weaknesses.  The Mavericks will need Luka Doncic to stay healthy, but even so, it will be a very tough matchup for them if they are able to get to the second round in this year’s playoffs. Therefore, I think the Suns will advance to the Western Conference Finals.

It would be a very tough series between Golden State and Memphis, and this could swing either way.  A healthy Stephen Curry could give any team fits, especially with his superb agility, shooting, scoring, and playoff experience.  The Warriors on their best day are an NBA championship-caliber team.  That said, the Memphis Grizzlies are also a very good team. 

Ja Morant is a tremendously athletic point guard that can really score and make plays on offense, and he is also a solid defender that really competes.  Jaren Jackson Jr. is an athletic big man that can score in a variety of ways, and has been one of the league’s best defenders.  Steve Kerr and Taylor Jenkins have been two of the best coaches, as Kerr has won three NBA titles as the head coach of the Warriors, and Taylor Jenkins helped lead the Grizzlies to win 56 games this year.  Stephen Curry could really give the Grizzlies fits.  Ja Morant could really give the Warriors fits.  I think this could go either way, but the Warriors’ experience and mettle could allow them to barely edge out the Memphis Grizzlies in 7.

The 2022 NBA Eastern Conference Finals:

(1) Miami Heat vs. (3) Milwaukee Bucks – Milwaukee in 7

The 2022 NBA Western Conference Finals:

(2) Phoenix Suns vs. (3) Golden State Warriors – Phoenix in 7

The Eastern Conference Finals will be a very tough and competitive series.  Both teams are very well coached, but Milwaukee has an ace in the hole, which is that they have a mega-star in point forward Giannis Antetokounmpo, who may arguably be the best player in the game today.  Any team is going to have a tough time in trying to stop or contain him, and so I think Milwaukee will be able to get to the NBA Finals this year.

Both Western Conference teams are very talented teams that can really shoot, run the floor, and make plays on both ends of the court.  The Suns have a deep team top to bottom, but the Warriors have looked tremendous early on, and they have the potential to be a dominant team, if fully healthy.  This series could go either way, but the true question mark is if Stephen Curry is healthy. 

The Warriors have tremendous star power in their starting lineup, but the Phoenix Suns have offensive firepower from top to bottom.  Both Steve Kerr and Monty Williams have been two of the best coaches in the league right now.  This series could go either way, and it’s like a coin flip in picking which Western Conference team will advance to the NBA Finals. The Phoenix Suns have been a more consistently productive, high-quality team this season, and both teams are proven, battle-tested teams. It was a very tough decision, but I decided that Phoenix would edge out Golden State in 7.

Today, I decided to go to NBA.com to fill out a bracket to play the Pick ‘Em Bracket Challenge, and here are the picks I made for the 2022 NBA Playoffs.
NBA.com, via Pick ‘Em Bracket Challenge)

The 2022 NBA Finals:
(3) Milwaukee Bucks vs. (1) Phoenix Suns – Milwaukee in 7

Projected 2022 NBA Champion:
The Milwaukee Bucks

Projected 2022 NBA Finals MVP:
Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks

Both teams played each other in the NBA Finals last year, and they could be destined to repeat this matchup in the playoffs this time around. It was a very hard-fought series, but Phoenix could not guard Giannis as the series wore on, and the 2021 Milwaukee Bucks ended up winning the title last year.

The big issue though will be if the Suns can find ways to defend and contain Giannis, or if they would choose to shut down everyone else around him.  The Suns did acquire more big man depth behind DeAndre Ayton to prevent against the possibility of foul trouble, but Giannis is one of the greatest players in the game, and he, along with Khris Middleton, Jrue Holiday, and head coach Mike Budenholzer could lead the Milwaukee Bucks to win the 2022 NBA Finals.

In conclusion, those are my picks as to how the NBA playoffs may shape up over the next couple of months. Time will tell to see if my predictions will come true or not. Most likely, some picks will be on the mark, and some of the picks will be misses. I had fun doing this, and thanks for reading.

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