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Top Sleepers to Make the 2022 NBA Playoffs

October 15, 2021
Sleeper NBA teams 2021-2022

The start of the 2021-22 NBA season is just around the corner. Teams are finalizing their preparations for the new season’s tip-off on Oct. 19. It’s no surprise that the Brooklyn Nets, reigning champion Milwaukee Bucks, and Los Angeles Lakers are among the favorites to win this coming season’s NBA championship.

While the teams mentioned above as well as others like the Jazz, Sixers, and Nuggets are essentially locks to make the playoffs this season, there are a handful of teams on the bubble. After that, there are  few more that might shock some NBA experts and qualify for one of the top eight seeds in their respective conference. 

Here, we identify the top sleepers – those at plus-money – that will make the 2022 NBA playoffs.

 

CHARLOTTE HORNETS (+180)

The Hornets finished 10th in the Eastern Conference last season to earn a trip to the play-in tournament. Unfortunately, Charlotte was eliminated and did not make the playoffs. This season, the Hornets may be the Cinderella that makes it to the ball. 

Speaking of ball, how about NBA Rookie of the Year LaMelo Ball? With a year of experience under his belt and the fact that he is healthy, Ball is one of the primary reasons why bettors should consider the Hornets to make the playoffs at +180. 

Charlotte drafted well again taking guard James Bouknight with the 11th overall pick and 6-10 F Kai Jones at No. 19. The Hornets have experience with Terry Rozier and Gordon Hayward and plenty of depth with the acquisitions of players like Mason Plumlee, Kelly Oubre Jr., and Ish Smith. 

The Hornets schedule is also favorable as the team plays in the Southeast Division. Miami and Atlanta are the two best teams while Orlando and Washington are at the other end of the spectrum. Add in Eastern Conference games against Detroit, Cleveland, and Toronto and the Hornets have a recipe for winning more than the 33 games they won last season. The closer they get to 40 wins, the better their chance of qualifying for the playoffs outright and not needing a win or two in the play-in tournament.

 

WASHINGTON WIZARDS (+400)

Too many are focused on the loss of Russell Westbrook. Yes, Westbrook is one of the game’s elite players, but did he really fit in Washington’s plans for the future? The Wizards have one of the game’s elite scorers in Bradley Beal. At one point last season, Beal was averaging around 36 points a game. Enter Westbrook and Beal finishes the season second in the league at 31.3 points per game.

Now, no single player can take a team to the playoffs or any championship by himself. The mix of Beal and Westbrook in the same backcourt just didn’t do what Beal, surrounded by the right role players, could do. The Wizard acquired some serious role players in the offseason, several of them in the deal that sent Westbrook to the Lakers.

free picks

Washington adds Kyle Kuzma, Montrezl Harrell, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, and Aaron Holiday to an already formidable roster that includes the likes of Davis Bertrans, Rui Hachimura, and last year’s top draft pick Deni Avdija. At +400 to make the playoffs, this is a team – and payout – that’s hard to pass up.

 

HOUSTON ROCKETS (+1600)

If you like risks, this is one worth taking. Yes, the Rockets had the worst record in the NBA last season. Houston is young and is still in the aftermath of the James Harden era, but that could play to the Rockets’ advantage. They are likely a few years away from competing for championships, but this Rockets team has plenty of talent.

Christian Wood is an outstanding offensive-minded big man who scored 21 points and averaged 9.6 rebounds a game last year. Kevin Porter Jr. is an up-and-coming point guard who averaged 16.6 and 6.3 assists a game last season.

Add in four first-round draft picks, including Jalen Green, and the Rockets have some of the best young talent in the NBA. Green is a guy who can score 25 to 30 points a night and do so early in his career. It will take a bit of luck, but the Rockets could be the surprise of the new NBA season.