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Far-Fetched Friday: 2022 Play-Offs Will Be One for the Ages
By: Khaqan Khan
Coming out of the all-star break, a sprint to the finish line. With the NBA being the most wide open as it's ever been and talent spread out across the league, we are due for a postseason for the ages. 2021-2022 will be an all-time postseason. One outside criticism of the NBA is the lack of parity. But with the evolution of the game and the development of good coaches combined with an influx of talent, the league is finally unpredictable. As a result, I predict every series will go to a game six or seven.
Welcome back to Far-Fetched Friday, where every Friday we give you a bold prediction that we believe will come to fruition. This Friday we look at the upcoming NBA Playoffs.
Let's start by looking at the seedings. In the East, the 6th place Boston Celtics are only four games behind the 1st place Miami Heat. This means the number 1 seed is up for grabs. It makes it hard to predict the matchups, but in my opinion, the chaos will make everything 10x better. In years past, the 1-8 matchup has been skippable, but no more Orlando Magic getting 'gentlemen swept' by the one seed. We are about to get the most heated 1st round matchups that we can remember. Considering the East, the teams in the play-in bubble include the Atlanta Hawks, Charlotte Hornets, Toronto Raptors, and the Brooklyn Nets. None of those teams are afraid of the Miami Heat or Chicago Bulls that currently sit atop the conference.
It is a similar situation in the West. At the top, the Chris Paul injury might shake up the top 3 seeding between the Memphis Grizzlies, the Golden State Warriors, and Phoenix Suns. Imagine fighting for the first seed in the playoffs and having to face an angry Lebron James and Anthony Davis, or a solid Clippers team getting Paul George and maybe Kawhi Leanord back? Even then, a team like the Lakers isn't a shoo-in for the playoffs. Do not overlook a team like the Minnesota Timberwolves with Karl Anthony Towns and Anthony Edwards. They are going to cause a lot of problems for any team.
The potential matchups we might see in the playoffs are must-watch television. Tell your friends to reschedule their weddings in May and June to July because these have the potential to be all-time dramas:
1. The Brooklyn Nets vs. The Philadelphia 76ers. May I say more? Two teams that swapped disgruntled superstars meet in a battle of narratives. Ben Simmons returns to Philly in the playoffs, which begs the question, does Doc Rivers hack him to send him to the free-throw line in front of the Philly crowd? Even besides that, A duel between Kevin Durant and Joel Embiid is enough to warrant an amazing series. Not to mention, Kyrie Irving might become a full-time player again, which who knows what drama that might bring?
2. The Phoenix Suns vs. Golden State Warriors. Two juggernauts that operate with eerie precision face off in what might be one of the tightest head-to-head matchups we've ever seen. Hopefully, we get to see this in the Western Conference Finals. Anyone that claims they know which team is going to win this is full of it. The ball movement, the three-pointers, and defense from both teams mean every game will go down to the wire. Chris Paul vs. Steph Curry. Klay Thompson vs. Devin Booker. Draymond Green vs. Mikel Bridges. An aphrodisiac of a series for basketball die-hards.
3. The Battle of Los Angeles we no longer want. Los Angeles Lakers vs. the Los Angeles Clippers in the play-in. Oh, how the league can change. The promise of the Western Conference Finals between the Lakers and Clippers we wanted to get two years ago we got in the play-in tournament with the biggest stars limping to the Crypto Center. Nonetheless, the atmosphere will be intense, and everyone will have their memes ready for Twitter.
This year's playoffs will also include a fresh batch of talent that should define the league for the next decade. Starting with Ja Morant, who was in the playoffs last year, but this year, took his game and his team to another level. The Grizzlies as a whole believe they are here to stay and are ready to prove it. Then we get the Dynamic young stars of Clevland who organically built their team from the ruins of a Post-Lebron team. Twin towers of Jarrett Allen and Evan Mobley have become a case study of where the league might go in the next five years. Darius Garland has taken the next step and is knocking on the door of being a top 5 Point Guard in the league. If you haven't watched much of Garland this year, you're in for a treat; he is one of the most fun players to watch. Two players ahead of him in the fun category are sophomores Anthony Edwards and Lamelo Ball. These two players are walking-highlight-reels and are full of charisma, making them can't-miss television. This will be our first look at what these players look like when it matters most.
A now in-shape Luka Doncic and Nikola Jokic can swing any matchup with their control of the game. In the East, the Boston Celtics and Chicago Bulls each have dynamic scoring duos backed by a frisky backcourt. Both pairs of Tatum/Brown and Lavine/Derozan have the potential to combine for 70-80 points on any given night. Also, would anyone be surprised if the Miami Heat make it to the finals? Yet to be seen if they have enough juice to make a deep run, but besides that, they are a complete team. I know a lot of people would be surprised if Toronto makes it to the eastern conference finals, but not me! Pascal Siakam and Fred Van Vleet are former champions, and Nick Nurse has countless weapons at his disposal. I didn't even mention the most recent defending champions, the Milwaukee Bucks. Are we about to see Giannis follow up his legendary run last year and catapult himself in the discussion of top 5 players of all time?
The point of all of this is that the championship is truly wide open, and with so much talent spread across, we are due for an epic playoff starting from the play-in games to the last game of the finals. After a decade of super-teams and big 3s, we are finally seeing what parity looks like in the league, and it's refreshing. I can't remember a time when I was this excited for the remainder of the regular season. From the league's perspective, the hope is the viewership trends upwards ahead of the new CBA. In terms of the players, this is a chance for them to solidify their legacies. And for the rest of us, this is what we were all waiting for. So get ready; we are about to get a record amount of game 6s and 7s.
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