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The Current NBA Playoff Picture

December 29, 2021

As we head into the New Year, a few things are becoming clear in the race toward the NBA playoffs. Golden State and Phoenix are the two best teams in the NBA. The Detroit Pistons are the worst.

The virus known as COVID-19 and all its variants are still having a great impact on the league. That will likely continue and will impact the postseason. That brings us to this question. If the season ended today, which teams would make the playoffs?

Here’s a look at the current NBA playoff picture.

 

The East

The best team in the Eastern Conference right now is Brooklyn. The Nets are 23-9 led by Kevin Durant, the NBA’s leading scorer who is averaging 29.7 points per game. Brooklyn has won seven of its last ten games fighting through missing key players, including Durant, to take a 1.5-game lead in the East over Chicago.

Kevin Durant will lead the Nets into the 2022 playoffs

If the playoffs started today, the Nets, who are listed as the +325 favorite to win the NBA title, would face the No. 8 seed which is currently Washington. The Wizards are 17-17 thus far this season. The Nets won the only meeting against the Wizards this season winning 104-90 back in October.

The Bulls (21-10) are second in the East after winning eight of their last ten games. Chicago would face No. 7 Charlotte which is 18-17 so far this season. The Hornets are the league’s top-scoring team, but they give up a ton of points as they did when they played the Bulls on Nov. 29. Chicago won 133-119. The Bulls are an interesting longshot to win the title this year. Chicago is listed at +2200 at top rated sportsbooks.

Reigning NBA champion Milwaukee (23-13) would get Philadelphia (18-16) in the first round of the playoffs. The Bucks beat the Sixers 118-109 in November in the only game so far between the two teams. Milwaukee is among the favorites to repeat as champs at +800.

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The other East playoff matchup would pit Miami (22-13) against the surprising Cleveland Cavaliers (20-14). The Cavs and their three 7-foot starters own two wins over Miami (+1200) already this season. The Cavs haven’t made the postseason since the 2017-18 season when they lost to Golden State in the NBA Finals

 

The West

There is no doubt the top two teams in the NBA are Golden State and Phoenix. The Warriors (27-7) earn the top seed right now and would face Dallas (16-17) in Round 1. The Suns would get the Lakers, the No. 7 team right now. The Lakers are 17-18 and have lost to the Suns twice already this season. Remember, Phoenix eliminated L.A. from last year’s postseason.

Both the Suns and Warriors are among the betting favorites to win the NBA crown in 2022. Golden State checks in just behind Brooklyn at +375. Phoenix is given +800 odds to win it all. 

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Utah (+1200) is a team to watch in the West. The Jazz have won eight of their last ten games and are now 24-9 overall. Utah would face the ailing Clippers who are 17-17. Los Angeles has been playing without Kawhi Leonard who is rehabbing a knee injury. The Clippers just lost Paul George for a few weeks with an elbow injury. Utah beat the Clips by 21 on Dec. 15.

The final first round playoff matchup in the West would pit Memphis (21-14) against Denver (17-16). The Grizzlies (+5000) just got Ja Morant back in the lineup and they have won seven of their past ten games. Memphis has two wins over Denver already this season. Reigning NBA MVP Nikola Jokic is having another MVP-caliber season, but the rest of the Nuggets roster has been battling injuries. The Nuggets are another longshot at +2500 to win it all.

 

The Consensus

This season’s champion will be the one that weathers the storms the best. Right now, that seems to be Golden State and Phoenix in the West and Brooklyn in the East. There is still plenty of basketball yet to be played though. Teams have in the neighborhood of 47 to 48 games remaining and teams that can stay healthy will have the advantage.