As of this writing, the NBA playoffs are a little over two weeks away. In the Western Conference, the Phoenix Suns have clinched the best record overall while the Grizzlies are second. The third through seventh seed spots are still open while it is highly unlikely any team will bump the Clippers out of the eighth seed. In the Eastern Conference, the first through fourth seeds have not been solidified as the top four teams are all within two games of one another. The fifth through seventh seeds all have close records, although Chicago holds tiebreakers over both Cleveland and Toronto. Brooklyn holds the eighth seed, but Charlotte and Atlanta still have a chance to take Brooklyn’s spot. With most playoff matchups likely to be set in the next week or so, here are four bold predictions for the NBA playoffs.
Utah Jazz Get Swept in First Round, End of Mitchell & Gobert Era
The Utah Jazz have not only been having problems this season but for the entirety of the Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert era. The Jazz are coming off of a five-game losing streak, with the team blowing a 25-point lead to the Los Angeles Clippers Tuesday night. Star guard Donovan Mitchell was frustrated with the loss, noting that it was a repeat of the 2021 playoffs, where the Clippers overcame a 2-0 deficit to eliminate the Jazz in the second round. This has given the Jazz a reputation as the regular season team, with their regular season performance meaning nothing come the playoffs. With the way things are going, the relationship between Mitchell and Gobert being up and down, and coach Quinn Snyder potentially being on the hot seat, the playoffs could see the end of this iteration of the team. Currently fifth in the West, there is still potential for the Jazz to fall to sixth, potentially seventh in a worst-case scenario. A 3/6 matchup could see the Jazz playing the Warriors with a healthy Steph Curry. A 2/7 matchup would see the Jazz play the Grizzlies, who have been dominant, even without Ja Morant. No matter who the Jazz face, they will NOT make it out of the first round. With the coach being one of the first to go when a team is failing and the rumor of Snyder being a potential successor to Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich, the Jazz’s inevitable playoff loss will result in Snyder being fired and Mitchell requesting to be traded while Gobert remains on the team.
The Los Angeles Lakers Miss the Playoffs AND the Play-In Tournament
There is no team that has disappointed more this season than the Los Angeles Lakers. Russell Westbrook has not been a fit, Anthony Davis has missed multiple chunks of the season due to injury, Lebron James has had his fair share of injuries, and the bench has struggled all season. The Lakers have only won seven of their last 25 games since the beginning of February. The team currently sits in the 11th seed of the west with a 31-45 record. The New Orleans Pelicans and San Antonio Spurs sit right above the Lakers in 9th and 10th. The Lakers do not have an easy schedule with their remaining games. The Lakers have games against New Orleans, Denver (twice), Phoenix, Golden State, and Oklahoma City. With LeBron out due to an ankle injury for an unknown amount of time (with the possibility he shuts it down for the rest of the season), the Lakers will be missing two of their three stars against some of the best teams in the league. In the 20 games the Lakers have played without LeBron this season, they are 6-14. New Orleans and San Antonio have slightly easier remaining schedules, making it likely that the Pelicans and Spurs will finish 9th and 10th while the Lakers miss the playoffs for the second time in the LeBron James era. Like the Jazz, there will be a lot of movement for the Lakers in the offseason. Two almost guaranteed moves will be the firing of head coach Frank Vogel and Russell Westbrook being traded.
Brooklyn will Eliminate Milwaukee in the First Round
As of this writing, Milwaukee is the second seed in the East while Brooklyn is eighth. The Nets are only two games behind the Cleveland Cavaliers, who are going to miss Evan Mobley for at least the next three games. Although it will be very close, Brooklyn will not only surpass the Cavs but defeat the team in the Play-in, taking the seventh seed officially for the start of the playoffs. Because of this, Brooklyn versus Milwaukee will take place in the first round. This series went seven games in the second round last year and will go seven games this year in the first round. While the defending NBA champs have had a good season, they will make not be able to stop Kevin Durant and a fresh, full-time Kyrie Irving. Milwaukee’s elimination will be shocking but will play a role in the next prediction.
Miami Survives the Gauntlet and Reaches the NBA Finals
Looking two months down the road, it is very difficult to see any team in the Western Conference beating the Phoenix Suns in a seven-game series. The Eastern Conference, on the other hand, will be a wild card. With the previous prediction of Brooklyn eliminating Milwaukee, there is one less tough opponent for Miami Heat (who currently sit in first) to face. Miami will take care of Cleveland in the first round, while Philadelphia eliminates Chicago and Boston eliminates Toronto. Brooklyn and Boston will have another tough series and Boston will get revenge on Brooklyn for the 2021 playoffs. While Philly will eliminate Chicago in the first round, a long season will catch up to Embiid and an underperforming Harden, leaving Miami and Boston in the Eastern Conference Finals. The amazing run of the Boston Celtics will come to a grueling end as Miami eliminates Boston and reaches the NBA Finals against the Phoenix Suns.