The 2021-2022 NBA regular season is coming to an end soon. However, there is no clear-cut favorite to win a title in either conference. It has been this way since the pandemic started in 2020. Another factor at work is that parity has finally taken hold. Large market teams such as the Los Angeles Lakers and the New York Knicks are nowhere near the conversation of contending for an NBA championship.
Based on our observation of what is transpiring, the staff at Strike 7 Sports has identified four teams that can represent the Eastern and Western conferences in this year’s NBA Finals. So we will start things off by listing our top four teams from the Eastern Conference.
Milwaukee Bucks: Why not the Milwaukee Bucks? The team, by far, has one of the league’s best players in Giannis Antetokounmpo. Milwaukee is also the reigning, defending NBA world champions at this moment. After a sluggish start, the Bucks are now the second seed in the Eastern Conference playoff picture. The competition in the East is more challenging, but Milwaukee knows what it takes to get back to the Finals.
Brooklyn Nets: When Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving are on the court simultaneously, the Brooklyn Nets are difficult to defend. Based on the sample size that we have seen this season, Brooklyn has the potential to advance to the NBA Finals as a play-in team. It was reported on Wednesday that New York City will end their vaccine mandate for athletes according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and Jeff Passan. With the mandate removed, that means that Kyrie Irving, who is unvaccinated can play in games that are at the Barclays Center.
Miami Heat: The Miami Heat are currently the number one seed in the East and know what it is like to play in the NBA Finals. Personnel such as Kyle Lowry, Jimmy Butler, and Bam Adebayo have all seen action on the league’s biggest stage. In addition, they have the personnel needed to become a difficult matchup for teams such as Milwaukee, Philadelphia, or Brooklyn.
Boston Celtics: The Boston Celtics may have a young nucleus, but they have been in countless playoff battles. Based on how they have performed lately, are things finally coming together? They have won nine out of their last ten games and climbed to the Eastern Conference’s fourth spot. A red-hot team going into the postseason can always make a run to the Finals.
Miami Heat: The Miami Heat can represent the East in the finals. First, they have one of the NBA’s best coaches, Erik Spoelstra. The Heat have a very solid big three in Lowry, Adebayo, and Butler. Finally, their elite defense is what makes them a contender.
Boston Celtics: The Boston Celtics can make it to the Finals. They have two of the best wings in the NBA in Tatum and Brown. They are very versatile defensively. But, most importantly, they have that superstar who can take over a game in Jayson Tatum.
Brooklyn Nets: The Brooklyn Nets have a puncher’s chance to make it to the Finals. The Nets arguably have the best player in the world in Kevin Durant. Losing James Harden hurts, but they are deeper. If Ben Simmons returns and plays at a high level, they could win the title.
Milwaukee Bucks: The Milwaukee Bucks can make it back to the finals. They are more profound than they were last year. The East is better, but they are too. The biggest x-factor for them is Brook Lopez.
Miami Heat: Currently sporting the conference’s best record, Miami is again led by Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo, and Tyler Herro and motivated to move past last year’s first-round exit. The Heat sport a 26-9 mark at home. This will come in handy if the team holds onto its top seed line as the season concludes.
Milwaukee Bucks: As long as the Bucks maintain the services of Giannis Antetokoumpo, they will continue to stay in the championship hunt. It’s not just him, however. Point guard Jrue Holiday leads a unit that’s been among the best in terms of defensive rating. In addition, Khris Middleton continues to put the ball in the basket and locks up the opponents’ best perimeter player. A championship repeat does not seem to be out of the question with those three.
Philadelphia 76ers: Featuring arguably the best inside-outside combination in Joel Embiid and James Harden, the Sixers surround the duo with a perfect variety of pieces featuring Tobias Harris and budding point guard Tyrese Maxey. With so much scoring that can be done at each position, Philadelphia certainly looks like a team that will improve upon last year’s second-round loss in the playoffs.
Boston Celtics: The league’s hottest team, Boston’s duo of Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, appeared to have found their groove headed down the stretch. After several recent conference finals losses, they finally seem ready to break into the NBA Finals. With a top-5 defensive rating in the NBA and three elite defenders in Brown, Robert Williams, and Marcus Smart, it would not be a surprise if the Celtics could grind their way to the conference finals or even further.
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