This core has been together for a while now and has yet to get over the second-round hump. Mitchell and Gobert are All-Star regulars on the right side of 30. The amount of interest in them—and the impact of their addition elsewhere—would be immense.
Snyder is among the NBA’s top skippers. Any team with an opening would give him a long look.
If it can’t solve the toughest postseason puzzles this time around it may not get another crack at them.
With all due respect to the league-leading Phoenix Suns more on them later this championship race feels wide-open.
Know how that could change though? If you cobbled together all of the players on the injury report that group would become basketball’s next Goliath.
Through it all Brooklyn emerged as…fine. The Nets who snagged the East’s No. 7 seed during the play-in tournament Tuesday tied for 14th in winning percentage .537 and landed 15th in net rating plus-0.9. Issues on defense and the interior also held those numbers in check.
The Nets can be much much better. The presence of Durant and Irving alone promises that. The pair is plus-13.1 across 523 minutes together. The possible addition of Simmons only ups the intrigue.
Is the lack of a tier-one megastar to blame? Or do these dangerous loomers have issues that justify the back-burner treatment?
The answer might be all of the above.
Look the Heat are good. Really really good.
Objectively speaking there are no reasons to doubt the Memphis Grizzlies based on what they’ve done this season.
Subjectively though it’s hard not to worry about this team’s lack of track record.
They don’t have much playoff experience to draw from. Not to mention there are questions about whether Memphis first in fast-break points—can handle the inevitable downshifting of playoff basketball. If the Grizzlies have to grind out games in the half court their lack of shooting could be an issue.
No team in the Eastern Conference bettered Boston’s plus-7.4 net rating this season. No one played better basketball from February to April when the C’s steamrolled to a 24-6 record.
Are we sure championship road doesn’t run through Beantown?
The computers clearly think so. ESPN’s BPI gives Boston a mind-numbing 39.6 percent chance to win the title. FiveThirtyEight gives the Celtics a 32.0 percent chance of winning it all. Basketball Reference has them at 27.1 percent. All of those numbers are the best in the league and only one is even remotely close.
If the last few months were any indication there is not.
However they’re all in their 30s now. Thompson is playing for the first time in three seasons after suffering more than one significant injury.
Curry just posted his worst shooting rates from the field 43.7 and from three 38.0 barring his five-game sample in 2019-20. And Green had some rough showings after missing two months with a lower-back injury.
Can this trio summon their magic again? Even the Warriors who have yet to play a game with their entire active roster aren’t sure what to expect.
I think four years ago I am expecting to win a championship.
In a lot of ways it makes it really fun.
The questions for this club might hinge on the supporting cast. When healthy Curry remains one of the NBA’s most powerful offensive forces and Green is arguably its best defender.
But are their younger less experienced teammates ready for the spotlight? We’ll find out soon.
A quick note to everyone else: Just don’t expect the Sixers or Harden to acknowledge that elephant in the room.
Pressure no. I feel good Harden told ESPN’s Tim Bontemps I’m ready to hoop. There’s nothing to it.
If Harden plays up to his potential the Sixers could be fine.
If he can’t change the narrative—on a team he handpicked—it may hang over his head forever.
The Milwaukee Bucks are entering the playoffs as the defending champions. They have seven series victories to show for their last three postseason trips.
Milwaukee’s supporting cast isn’t young but it’s not ancient either. Jrue Holiday turns 32 in June. Khris Middleton turns 31 a few months later. Neither is particularly dependent on athleticism to make an impact.
And when that trio shared the floor this season they went 37-10 with a dominant plus-11.1 net rating.
Chris Paul and the Phoenix Suns both enter the 2022 playoffs amid decade-plus searches for their first NBA championships.
Throughout the 2021-22 campaign they loudly dropped hints that they’re ready to finally secure that elusive hardware.
Phoenix posted a franchise-record .780 winning percentage; no other club cleared .700.
By virtually every measure this is the best team in basketball.