"Chicago Bulls - Atlanta Hawks" by Marit & Toomas Hinnosaar is marked with CC BY 2.0.

NBA Postseason Picks: 1st Round Picks

The NBA Playoffs are the most wide-open they’ve been since 1999


There have been a lot of people complaining this season about the play-in games. This season, it makes sense a lot of people are mad about it, but this season’s odd standings are the ONLY reason. Normally, the play-in exists to give teams a chance to keep trying when most teams around that 9-12 range would be tanking. At its core, the play-in exists to give winning teams a playoff shot in years where one conference is stacked.

No matter what you think of the existence of the play-in games, it’s pretty cool we have a single game, knockout format just prior to the start of the playoffs. To be honest, it makes sense for the East this year, as ten teams have at least a .524 winning percentage.

The season has been entertaining from the start, but now things are getting serious. For the first time in a very long time, there’s no clear, obvious favorite. The Suns have been tremendous this season, but we’ve said this about them more than twice in the last 20 years and it turned out to be just a big letdown both times. Whatever happens, it should be a competitive, entertaining playoffs overall.


Minnesota Timberwolves +260 vs Memphis Grizzlies -330

A lot of people seem to be under the impression the Timberwolves can win this series. Sure, they technically have the best offense in the NBA and force the most turnovers on defense. However,

The Memphis Grizzlies were picked between 9th and 7th in the vast majority of pre-season picks for the Western Conference. A reflection of their “we want that smoke” attitude, the Grizzlies finished the season with the second best record in the NBA. They’re 2nd in offense, 12th in defense, 1st in offensive rebounding, 1st in steals, and 6th in assists.

The Minnesota Timberwolves are the top scoring team in the NBA. They actually align very closely to Memphis in a number of categories. The difference is, they aren’t as deep as the Grizzlies and they aren’t as good on the defensive end. Their three best players are great when they’re on, but they can also be wildly inefficient.

Here’s the deal: Memphis is a better, deeper version of Minnesota. The Wolves can get lucky in Game 1, and that’s the time to bet the Grizzlies, as the series odds will be close to even. If you are dead set on the Wolves but think the Grizzlies will take Game 1 at home, wait until after Game 1, and you’ll likely be able to get the Wolves at +330 or so. If you’re in on the Grizzlies, this series opening price isn’t worth it. Your best bet would be to sit this one out, because the odds just aren’t worth it.


Dallas Mavericks +230 vs Utah Jazz -300

The Dallas Mavericks have been the same team now for the past three years. They’re in that “a couple good players away from being a contender” category. If this were any other team, our pessimism would be optimism. Even with a 52-30 record, there’s good reason to doubt the Mavericks. For starters, Luca Doncic will miss Game 1 with a calf strain. Even when he comes back, there’s a lot of questions as to how effective he can be.

The Utah Jazz may just be a couple years too late at this point. When the Mike Conley trade happened, it seemed like the Jazz were on a path to contending in the West. In reality, the Jazz were never as close as it seemed. Their ceiling was never as high as we thought, but their timing was even worse. Now, the Jazz really need all they can get from Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell.

This one is simple. If you have faith in Luca and the Mavs, wait until after they lose the opening game and then bet them when the series odds bump to around +300. If you’re on the Jazz, be careful. We don’t know how healthy Luca will be for the remainder of the series, so if you’re THAT confident in the Jazz, take them prior to the start of the series, because the odds won’t get any better.


Boston Celtics -130 vs Brooklyn Nets +110

The Boston Celtics really turned things around this season. With a first year head coach, the Celtics were just 23-24 on January 21st. Every team with a new coach needs an adjustment period, and the Celtics were no different. Since January 21st, the Celtics have gone 28-7. The difference for the Celtics has been finding offensive rhythm and their suffocating defense (#1 in the NBA).

The Brooklyn Nets are supposed to get Ben Simmons back at some point this week. Simmons has yet to log a game for Brooklyn, but what he offers is something the Nets are currently lacking: Defense. Even if Simmons struggles to find a place in the offense, we know two things he’ll be able to do immediately: Ball movement and amazing, versatile defense. Simmons can work off switches, guarding any position. His arrival will be key for the Nets if they want to make a run.

How much faith do you have in the Celtics? More importantly, how much faith do you have the Nets will add Ben Simmons in the opening round and it works out for them? There are a lot of questions with this series, but here’s the skinny. If you think Ben Simmons will have zero impact in this series and the Celtics will win, this is easy (you take the Celtics at -130). If you think Simmons will be a legit factor, you wait til after the Celtics win game 1 and then take the Nets +180 for the series.


Philadelphia 76ers -180 vs Toronto Raptors +150

The Philadelphia 76ers made a massive trade late in the season, which will likely re-shape the power dynamic in the East for years to come. The 76ers sent Ben Simmons and Seth Curry to Brooklyn for James Harden. At first, Harden was immediately effective. Over time, he slowed down and became a little more erratic shooting the ball. Now, the test has come. It’s playoffs and time for the 76ers to step-up and finally get over the hump in the East.

The Toronto Raptors are one of the better defensive teams in the NBA. By Points Allowed Per Game, they are 7th. They are second in the NBA in turnovers forced per game as well. Offensively, the Raptors are 20th in the NBA in PPG and 2nd in the NBA in offensive rebounding. They’re also 2nd in steals. The Raptors had a lot of questions going into the season as to the choice of Scottie Barnes in the Draft, but he’s been a ROY candidate since the opening week and a valuable piece on both ends.

The Raptors might just run away with this series. Sure, Harden will be rested and his conditioning should be better at this point. However, the Raptors are very capable and offer a lot of defensive versatility. If you are set on the 76ers, take them prior to the series tip. If you believe the Raptors will win, wait until after the inevitable Game 1 76ers win and take the Raptors at +220 or so.


Golden State Warriors -250 vs Denver Nuggets +210

The Golden State Warriors are a completely different team with Steph and Draymond than they are without them. There was an idea last season, this team would be fully-reloaded in 2022 when Wiseman, Klay, Draymond, and Steph were all healthy and playing together. The truth is, they haven’t been able to all get healthy and stay healthy at the same time. If they can get that sorted, they should be considered the second-favorite in the West.

The Denver Nuggets may be one of the most overrated teams in the playoffs. When you think about the Nuggets, you think about Jokic, Jamal Murray, and Michael Porter Jr. Had it not been for the major injuries to Murray and Porter Jr, we may be talking about the Nuggets as a Finals hopeful. Instead, the Nuggets are clinging to just being a conversation piece to make the second round in the West. They’re more of a one-man band than anyone else in the NBA right now.

The Warriors are probably the safe play here, even if their heart and soul don’t return to full strength until a few games into the series. If you’re on-board with the Warriors for the series and accept that some limitations will be in place, go ahead and take them now. This may be the best price for a Warriors playoff series in the last seven years. To be honest, the only way the Nuggets have a shot is if someone like Will Barton steps-up and gets hot for the entire series.


Milwaukee Bucks -1000 vs Chicago Bulls +650

The Milwaukee Bucks are somehow flying under the radar this season in the playoff conversation. To a degree, when injuries hit the Nets in their series against the Bucks last season, that scenario created an asterisk for NBA fans. With the way the Bucks floated through the regular season, it’s reasonable to temper expectations. That being said, Giannis is probably the most valuable player on both ends of the floor, and they may just wake up for the playoffs again.

The Chicago Bulls hit some bad injury luck down the stretch. The loss of both Alex Caruso and Lonzo Ball really put them into a tailspin. After a 26-10 start, the Bulls went 20-26 the rest of the way. Caruso is expected to return for the playoffs, but the absence of Ball and Coby White (injured at the start of the year) leaves them with a short rotation at the point (Ayo Dosunmu is another option). This series should be fairly straightforward.

The Bucks aren’t losing this series unless Giannis gets hurt. Their offensive efficiency and playoff defense are not accurately reflected by their pedestrian regular numbers, but the Bucks are the 3rd best offense in the NBA. Defensively, they’re 12th, but we’ve seen them at another lever in the playoffs (last season). The Bulls have no real shot here, but the value just isn’t there for the Bucks in this series. There’s just too much risk for very little payoff.


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