Published June 2, 2022
2022 NBA Playoffs: The Good and Bad
To Be Remembered…or a Disappointment?
Going into the 2022 NBA playoffs, the hype was immense. For the first time in what feels like forever, we got a combination of two key things: a proper, full season and a championship race that felt open. There was no super-team that was obviously going to dominate all competition. Multiple squads looked ready to win it all.
However, the reception to these playoffs seems mixed, to say the least. Some praise how unpredictable it’s felt, while others feel as if the matchups have been underwhelming and lack that competitive fire. Both are solid and agreeable points…but does the bad outweigh the good?
The Good: Parity
My favorite thing about the 2021-22 season is that it’s felt fresh from the start. So many teams have had inspiring stories that flipped narratives and the power rankings of the league.
Remember when the Washington Wizards went 11-5 in the first month of the season? That’s the kind of unpredictability being referred to. Washington’s dominance obviously wasn’t sustainable or that threatening, but seeing those strange bursts of success was interesting.
Fast forward to the NBA playoffs, and you have sixteen teams that all seem to bring something valuable to the table. Only one sweep has occurred in the entirety of the post-season, and it was a relatively competitive Celtics vs. Nets series. Seeing the suffocating Boston defense contain a scorer as great as Kevin Durant was a generational performance and the kind of outcome the media didn’t expect – or want – to see.
Another bizarre outcome was Dallas embarrassing Phoenix in seven games, which was a phenomenal feat but something nobody expected. Past that, the upsets and pure competition started to grow thin…which is where the negatives come in.
The Bad: Injuries
Injuries are part of sports; everybody knows that.
However, the most disheartening thing about the post-season is seeing star power dissipate due to bad luck. That was a huge part of this playoffs, and for some reason people tend to forget that.
Out of the sixteen competing teams, every single one was impacted negatively by poor health at some point. You had potentially impactful players that missed the season outright (i.e., Zion Williamson and Jamal Murray), players that missed stretches and could’ve helped their teams (Khris Middleton), or lingering injuries that limit a team’s overall effectiveness (i.e., Joel Embiid or Kyle Lowry).
Combine this with the fact that a lot of the league’s best groups are defensive and physical, and the injuries are only increasingly more likely to pose a problem. Look at the Eastern Conference Finals; both teams were banged up and missing key pieces on a regular basis, turning it into a dogfight that felt dependent on health.
Is there a solution to this? Not necessarily, because nobody – athletes included – knows when or how injuries can occur at any given moment. Load management may be the safest alternative out there, but even that has its downsides; it’s a tricky puzzle to fix.
The Good: New Superstars
LeBron James, Kevin Durant, James Harden. What do these all-stars have in common? Not only are they league MVPs of the past ten years, but they all went home early or missed the playoffs completely this year.
As it stands, we’re currently amidst a “transition” season for the league. New talent is starting to top the leaderboards, take their teams to high seeds, and dominate in the playoffs. The only exception to this are the Golden State Warriors, who still thrive off of a young core behind their veterans.
Two of the most impressive stories of this post-season go to Jayson Tatum and Luka Doncic, who led their teams to the Finals and Conference Finals, respectively. Tatum is averaging two more assists per game in the playoffs than the regular season and playing forty-one minutes a game, as well as showing up big when necessary (46 points when facing elimination by Milwaukee in Game 6).
Luka, on the other hand, has now solidified himself as the second highest scoring player in NBA playoffs history behind the legendary Michael Jordan. He averages almost thirty-three points a game over his career, and was only slightly short of that this year; at his worst, he was dropping twenty-six points yet still contributing to winning games in other ways. This is why he’s now considered a premier player in the league and the arguable best point guard.
Tatum, Doncic, Jokic, Antetokounmpo, Morant – the list goes on. Start accepting these guys as the face of the NBA.
The Bad: Blowouts
This playoffs, twenty-nine out of eighty-one games have been decided by fifteen points or more. That’s a whopping thirty-six percent of games that lacked a close outcome; either they were never competitive or took too long to become such, and that’s a big issue. It’s leading to less overall hype for a lot of series that would otherwise be golden.
The three-point shot is starting to receive the blame for this, and understandably so. The variance in scoring is starting to become dependent on who can get hot from behind the arc; it’s just difficult to combat a flurry of threes with constant drives to the rim. On top of this, the mid-range is unfortunately a dying art that only select stars are keeping alive.
A five-point game used to be the limit for a “close” game, but now a ten-point difference is as much of a nail-biter. Does it lead to more exciting and flashy offense? Yes. Is it healthy for the game? Not quite.
Will something be done to change it? Likely not. The three-point shot is too integral to the game of basketball now to be tampered with, and it’s a matter of players changing in offensive style again for something to shift. Until then, get used to these wide end results.
All In All…A Good Postseason?
I would say yes. I enjoy basketball no matter what, and the playoffs only amplify that. I will admit I haven’t been too invested in a number of series this year, but the fresh narratives, player drama, and highlights make it worth it. There may be some persistent flaws that can hurt the product, but they haven’t made it outright bad; the 2021-22 season has been a good one.