With less than one month before the start of the 2022 playoffs, the NBA is finally entering the home stretch of the regular season, with several teams being regarded as legitimate title contenders. With that in mind, it’s time to take a look at the favorites for the 2021-22 NBA championship and how the title race is shaping up. The 2022 NBA Playoffs will begin on April 12 with the Play-In tournament, while the 2022 NBA Finals are scheduled to begin on June 2.
If there’s a certain fact about the remainder of the regular season is that the Phoenix Suns will finish at the top of the Western Conference rankings. Led by Chris Paul and Devin Booker, the team has the best record in the league and seems ready for a good run in the playoffs. Other than that, everything is up for grabs, and even the struggling Los Angeles Lakers still have some chances of making the playoffs.
In the East, the Miami Heat are making a compelling case for being considered one of the title contenders this season. However, 17 wins out of their last 20 matches have made the Boston Celtics somewhat of a dark horse in the title race. The defending champions Milwaukee Bucks, with Giannis Antentokounmpo among the favorites to win the 2021-22 MVP award, have started to roll.
According to analysts and NBA consensus votes, the Phoenix Suns are the odds-on favorites to win the 2021-22 NBA title, currently at +350 odds, with the Golden State Warriors as the second favorites at +470 odds. Even though they are currently placed eighth in the Eastern Conference standings, the Brooklyn Nets are also among the favorites for the title at +550 odds.
Suns running away with the conference
With their win over the Miami Heat last week, the Phoenix Suns became the first team this season to clinch a playoff spot; and with a 54-14 record, the team is on its way to securing home-court advantage for the entire 2022 playoffs. Despite Chris Paul being out for the remainder of the regular season due to a fractured right thumb, the Suns should be able to retain this position since they have a 7.5 game lead on the Grizzlies.
The Grizzlies, by the way, were able to count on the return of Dillon Brooks, the team’s second-leading scorer behind Ja Morant, who missed two and a half months due to an ankle injury. This young team’s and its superstar point guard’s ceiling remains high; over his last 20 games, Morant has averaged 32.7 points, 6.6 assists, and 6 rebounds, in a campaign that will probably give him All-NBA honors.
The Golden State Warriors trail the Memphis Grizzlies by just half a game, and Draymond Green is set to return this week after a two-month absence. If Steph Curry and Klay Thompson can keep the momentum going and the young players keep playing like this once Green returns, the Warriors should be a strong contender in this year’s playoffs.
Tight race in the East
The Miami Heat have been one of the best teams in the league so far, and the team’s only loss last week came without Jimmy Butler – shot creation can be a problem for the Heat when he’s not available. However, Victor Oladipo has returned to the lineup and has displayed glimpses of quality performance in limited minutes. Erik Spoelstra will have plenty of time over the next two weeks to get his seasoned squad ready for a push into the postseason.
Averaging 29.7 points, 11.5 rebounds, 5.9 assists, and 1.4 blocks, the Greek Freak is once again in the race for the MVP award. Khris Middleton is heating up as well, and Brook Lopez will return to action this week, after being out since opening night due to a back surgery. With that in mind, and the fact that the team is starting to string some wins together, it’s safe to say the Milwaukee Bucks will pose a serious threat in the playoffs.
The Boston Celtics are undoubtedly one of the hottest teams in the league now, and they currently sit just 1.5 games behind the second place in the East. Since January 29, they’ve gone 15-2 with a plus-14.9 net rating; and although defense was originally responsible for Boston’s ascension, the Celtics are now lighting it up on offense as well. With great performances by Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, the Celtics look like a completely different team from the one that started the season.