Biggest questions going into 2022 NBA Playoffs

Benny Greenspan, Staff Reporter

The 2022 NBA Playoffs are set to begin on Tuesday, April 12, beginning with the NBA’s Play-In Tournament.

After an NBA season that was full of both positive surprises, like the rise of young teams such as the Cleveland Cavaliers and Memphis Grizzlies, as well as disappointments, like the disastrous season from the Los Angeles Lakers, it is time for the NBA playoffs. 

Postseason NBA action will begin Tuesday with the play-in tournament, as the Cavaliers will go against the star-powered Brooklyn Nets for the seventh seed in the East and a playoff series against the Boston Celtics, while the Minnesota Timberwolves will play the Los Angeles Clippers for the second seed in the West and a chance to play the Grizzlies. 

The loser of the game between the Cavaliers and Nets will play the winner of the ninth and 10th seed contest, between the Atlanta Hawks and Charlotte Hornets, for the No. 8 seed in the East. In the West, the loser of the Timberwolves game will play the winner of the San Antonio Spurs and the New Orleans Pelicans, who managed to turn their season around after starting 1-12

After the play-in games end, what should be a playoffs full of uncertainty and surprises will begin. Here are some of the biggest questions going into the playoffs:

Will James Harden be able to step up? 

The biggest wildcard team going into the playoffs has to be the Philadelphia 76ers, who are led by scoring champion Joel Embiid and recent acquisition Harden. While Harden’s tenure with the Sixers started off strong to the point where he and Embiid were getting compared to Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant, Harden has struggled shooting the ball lately, shooting under 30% from the 3-point line in four of his last five games. 

The Sixers are set to face off in a tough first round matchup against the Toronto Raptors, a series where primary defender Matisse Thybulle will have to miss time due to his vaccination status making him unable to play in Toronto. 

In order for the Sixers to not just come out of the first round but make a run in the playoffs, they are going to need Harden to come back to his former MVP self. 

How will the fully healthy Warriors look? 

One of the biggest threats to the conference-leading Phoenix Suns is the Golden State Warriors, who are set to have their star point guard Stephen Curry return for Game 1 of their matchup against Denver. 

While the team’s core has played together for many years, the trio of Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green have only played in two full games together this season. Seeing how these three veterans play off of the rest of the Warriors’ exciting supporting cast such as Jordan Poole, Gary Payton II and first-time All-Star Andrew Wiggins will be exciting to watch as the postseason begins. 

Will Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant be enough to carry the Nets through the East? 

With Seth Curry dealing with a lingering ankle injury and Ben Simmons still having no timetable to return from a back injury, the fate of the Brooklyn Nets rests solely on their two stars, Irving and Durant. 

Yes, having your team rest on the shoulders of the best offensive threat ever in Durant and best ball handler ever in Irving is not the worst thing that can happen, but the Nets have a tough road ahead. Depending on the results of the play-in tournament, the Nets are going to have to play against the top-seeded Miami Heat or the red-hot Boston Celtics. 

Those two key injuries as well as being in the bottom third of the league in defensive rating leaves a lot of uncertainty for how far these two stars can carry this team through the tough Eastern Conference opponents.