2022 NBA Playoffs: Warriors, Bucks surging in Power Rankings entering second round

2022 NBA Playoffs: Warriors, Bucks surging in Power Rankings entering second round

It’s getting down to the business end of the season as we enter the second round of the playoffs. 

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In the East, Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks will take on Jayson Tatum and the Boston Celtics, while Jimmy Butler and the Miami Heat will face the Philadelphia 76ers.

Out West, the Golden State Warriors will have to get through the upstart Memphis Grizzlies, while the Phoenix Suns do battle with Luka Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks.

Who are the favorites to win the 2022 NBA Finals?

The bookmakers have the Golden State Warriors and Milwaukee Bucks advancing to the NBA Finals, with the Phoenix Suns holding the second-best odds to make it back-to-back trips to the championship series. 

Despite finishing with the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference, the Miami Heat have the fifth-best odds to win the Finals, with the Milwaukee Bucks and Boston Celtics both favored above them to come out of the East. 

Odds via FanDuel

TeamOdds to win NBA Finals
Golden State Warriors+240
Phoenix Suns+300
Milwaukee Bucks+460
Boston Celtics+550
Miami Heat+650
Philadelphia 76ers+1600
Dallas Mavericks+2000
Memphis Grizzlies+2400

With the second round underway, let’s dive into Power Rankings for how each team is shaping up for the championship run.

8. Memphis Grizzlies

Memphis made life difficult for themselves against the Timberwolves as the series probably shouldn’t have gone to six games. And now they already find themselves on the back foot against the Warriors after dropping Game 1. 

The key for the Grizzlies will be Jaren Jackson Jr., who was a force in Game 1 with 33 points, 10 rebounds and most importantly, just three personal fouls.

JJJ has struggled at times to stay on the floor due to foul trouble but his ability to switch and patrol the devastating pick-and-roll combination of Stephen Curry and Draymond Green could ultimately decide the series. 

The Warriors’ experience gives them the edge over the Grizzlies, but even Curry sees something special brewing in Memphis. 

“All throughout those three years, we learned a lot about ourselves,” Curry said of the years prior to their championship runs. “And I’m sure that’s what they’re going through. We don’t want them to learn too much, though.”

7. Dallas Mavericks

I give the Mavs the edge of the Grizzlies by a small margin, simply due to the presence of Luka Doncic. 

After missing the first three games of their first round series, Doncic’s impact was immense over the final three games, averaging 29.0 points, 10.7 rebounds and 5.7 assists.

With Jalen Brunson playing the best basketball of his career, Spencer Dinwiddie giving them a strong secondary ball-handler and Dorian Finney-Smith improving on both ends, Dallas is going to be a handful for the Suns. 

But to beat the Suns, the Mavs will have to stop Chris Paul.

“We’ve really, really got to focus on him,” Doncic said. “I think he’s controlling everything on the court. He’s their leader and he’s a hell of a player. We really have to make a great effort to stop him.”

6. Philadelphia 76ers

In the absence of Joel Embiid, all eyes will be on James Harden in their second-round series against the Miami Heat.

Philly went just 6-8 in games without Embiid this season, mostly prior to Harden’s arrival. But against a locked-in Heat defense, Harden will not only have to up his scoring, he will also have to create offense for his teammates.

According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, there is optimism Embiid could return for either Game 3 or Game 4 in Philadelphia, which will completely change the completion of the series.

Can Harden be the man til then?

5. Miami Heat

The Heat probably deserve more credit as the East’s No. 1 team, but Kyle Lowry’s hamstring issue and Jimmy Butler’s knee inflammation are rightly cause for concern. 

We saw how potent their defense can be as they harassed Trae Young and the Atlanta Hawks out of the first round, but they’ll need Lowry and Butler to be healthy to get through the 76ers.

4. Phoenix Suns

The Suns hobbled into the second round after a cagey six-game series against the New Orleans Pelicans. They were hampered by the absence of Devin Booker for three games, but at full strength, they deserve the second-best championship odds.

This postseason feels different for Chris Paul, who showed everyone why the Suns will be a tough out as he surgically closed out the Pelicans with a perfect late-game display. 

3. Boston Celtics

Has anyone played better basketball this postseason than the Celtics?

Their hard-nosed defense and the excellent coaching of Ime Udoka has the Celtics hitting their stride at just the right time. 

Al Horford looks reborn, Robert Williams III is back in the lineup and Jayson Tatum is flourishing into a superstar before our eyes. Not only is he scoring and defending at an elite level, he’s taking his playmaking to new heights, averaging 7.0 assists per game, with only James Harden, Ja Morant and Chris Paul averaging more this postseason.

2. Milwaukee Bucks

Even without Kris Middleton, the Bucks remain a juggernaut, behind the all-around dominance of Giannis Antetokounmpo, who torched the Celtics for a 24-point, 13-rebound, 12-assist triple-double in Game 1. 

For being defending champions, the Bucks are floating under the radar a bit. But the Greek Freak continues to show why he’s the best player of the eight remaining teams. And that alone puts them in position to make a run.

1. Golden State Warriors

The Warriors have already seized home court advantage from the Grizzlies after winning Game 1 on the road and coming off an impressive gentleman’s sweep over the Denver Nuggets in the first round. Plus, they have emerged as the favorites to win the title. 

Jordan Poole’s emergence as a legitimate playoff performer has added a fresh wrinkle to their offense, giving them a new death lineup of Poole alongside Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Andrew Wiggins and Draymond Green.

The numbers don’t lie.