The Eagle’s Eye Guide to the NBA Playoffs


If you aren’t a huge fan of the NBA, this year’s playoffs are a perfect time to tune in. After a long eighty-two game season, the playoffs offer a much more compact, action filled best-of-seven series. There are tons of storylines from young, up-and-coming teams ready to prove themselves, champions looking to defend their legacy and a wide open, Lebron James-less western conference. This guide will serve as a preface if you’re unfamiliar with the playoffs, storylines and games to watch, and my own personal (and most definitely wrong) picks for who’s going to win it all. 

How do the playoffs work?

The teams are seeded one through eight based on record, with the best teams from the regular season being awarded the top seed, the next best being awarded the next highest seed, and so forth. However, the eight and seven seeds were determined by a new format implemented by the NBA in 2020 called the play-in tournament. In this format, teams that would’ve normally just missed the playoffs get the chance to sneak in and make an upset. In win-or-go-home games, the seven seed plays the eight seed, with the winner receiving the seven seed. The loser of this game plays the winner of the nine versus ten seed game for the eight seed. After all eight teams in each conference are determined, the series’ begin, and in a bracket format (similar to march madness), a winner is crowned after winning the Quarterfinals, Semifinals, Conference finals and (finally) NBA Finals. 

What should I watch?

After the Charlotte Hornets were eliminated in the play-in tournament by the Atlanta Hawks, there isn’t a hometown team that Enloe students can root for. Here are my top storylines to pay attention to instead:

Nine-seeds that made it into the playoffs: Despite being one place out of the playoff race in normal years, the play-in tournament allowed the Atlanta Hawks and New Orleans Pelicans to enter the mix. For Atlanta, “Ice” Trae Young is rapidly becoming the most notorious villain in the NBA, after taking down the New York Knicks in last year’s playoffs and angering seemingly every New Yorker in the process. This year, Young and the Hawks are back to play the number one seed Miami Heat that are back at full strength. Meanwhile in NOLA, the Pelicans are one of the most likable teams in the league, featuring an extremely young squad missing arguably their biggest star in phenom Zion Williamson but getting a boost at the trade deadline by acquiring veteran guard CJ McCollum. They will face the one-seed Phoenix Suns, who had the best regular season record in the NBA.

Ja Morant vs Anthony Edwards: These two young superstar guards are the most electrifying players to watch this playoffs. Despite his injuries, Ja Morant’s Memphis Grizzlies finished with the second best record in the NBA. Their matchup against Edward’s Minnesota Timberwolves is no easy one, as the team plays with a dog-like defensive prowess, spearheaded by veteran Patrick Beverly. No matter who wins this matchup, there’s bound to be plenty of superhuman highlights that you won’t want to miss.

Philadelphia 76ers: Every year, the NBA landscape goes through drastic changes at the trade deadline, and the 75th season was no different. The Brooklyn Nets sent former MVP James Harden to the Philadelphia 76ers in exchange for young star Ben Simmons, two role players and two first round picks. This trade elevated the 76ers to astronomical heights, pairing MVP candidate Joel Embiid with the 3-point marksman and facilitator that the 76ers so badly needed. While nobody will be quite the same, this combo could be as scary as Shaq and Kobe in the Lakers’ early 2000s dynasty. They play the Toronto Raptors in the first round. 

Playoff Picks:

Eastern Conference First Round:

  • Heat over Hawks, 7 game series
  • 76ers over Raptors, 5 game series
  • Bulls over Bucks, 6 game series
  • Nets over Celtics, 7 game series

Western Conference First Round:

  • Suns over Pelicans, 5 game series
  • Mavericks over Jazz, 6 game series
  • Warriors over Nuggets, 4 game series
  • Grizzlies over Timberwolves, 7 game series

Eastern Conference Semifinals:

  • 76ers over Heat, 5 game series
  • Nets over Bulls, 6 game series

Western Conference Semifinals:

  • Suns over Mavericks, 5 game series
  • Grizzlies over Warriors, 7 game series

Eastern Conference Finals:

  • 76ers over Nets, 7 game series

Western Conference Finals:

  • Suns over Grizzlies, 6 game series

NBA Finals:

  • 76ers over Suns, 6 game series