With the NBA playoffs in full swing, now is great time to recall the season that was. The NBA always delivers its fans plenty of drama, and the 2021-22 was no different.

It began long before the first tip-off. Immediately after the Milwaukee Bucks were crowned league champions for 2020-21, bookmakers posted their oddson each teams’ chances for the 2021-22 season. The two early favorites were the Kevin Durant led Brooklyn Nets at +230 and LeBron James’ Los Angeles Lakers at +425. 

The sportsbooks couldn’t have been more wrong! The Lakers didn’t even qualify for the playoffs while the Nets were quickly eliminated by the Boston Celtics in a first-round sweep. But even now, it’s not too late to get in on the action. Live betting sites are always open to take any and all pre- and in-game wagers.

What no one would’ve bet on was the season-long story revolving around Nets star point guard Kyrie Irving. The outspoken Irving refused to get vaccinated, and as a result of New York City’s strict vaccine mandates, he could neither practice nor play with the team. When the restrictions loosened, Irving rejoined his teammates in January – but only for games played outside of New York. It wouldn’t be until the end of March that Irving was allowed to play a home game. He still put up great numbers in his limited appearances, but his play couldn’t save the favored Nets from an early playoff exit.

Remarkably, Irving’s controversial decision wasn’t the only drama surrounding the Nets franchise. Mid-season, the Nets made a trade to acquire the Philadelphia 76ers holdout forward Ben Simmons, giving up James Harden in the process. Under the microscope since the 76ers early playoff exit in 2020-21, Simmons declared he no longer wanted to remain with the team and essential bailed on the Nets, citing “mental health issues.” After racking up a league record in fines for his absence, the 76ers finally shipped Simmons to the Nets, but to little affect. A back injury sidelined Simmons throughout the season, and he never officially suited up for his new team. 

On the opposite coast, the LA Lakers seemed to make a big splash themselves by acquiring star point guard Russell Westbrook in a trade with the Washington Wizards prior to the season. The trade turned into a disaster as Westbrook’s inconsistent play added to the Lakers’ on-going woes. The team struggled to stay above .500, and soon bottomed out, finishing the season with a sub-optimal 33-49 record and finding themselves on the outside of the playoffs looking in.

The team no one seemed to be talking about was last season’s runners-up, the Phoenix Suns. But the loss to the Bucks in the Finals appeared to be fuel for the Suns’ fire. The one-two punch of All-Stars Chris Paul and Devin Booker were out to prove their Finals appearance was no fluke, and the Suns steamrolled through the competition to become the first team to lock in a playoff berth. Their league-best record of 64-18 was eight games better than the second place Memphis Grizzlies, and culminated in head coach Monty Williams being named the NBA’s Coach of the Year.

Speaking of the Grizzlies, the franchise turned itself around in 2022. With Ja Morant coming into his own as one of the league’s most exciting players, the Grizzlies improved on their 2020-21 season by a whopping 18 games. NBA Executive of the Year, the Grizzlies’ Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations and General Manager Zach Kleiman, is hoping his number two seeded team in the Western Conference is just beginning to ascend to dominance. 

While Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic improved statistically across the board to be awarded his second consecutive MVP award, joining some rare and distinguished company, all eyes were really on the previous two-time MVP: the Milwaukee Bucks Giannis Antetokounmpo. Could “The Greek Freak” once again lead the Bucks back to the promised land of the NBA Finals? While the team struggled slightly mid-season, it quickly regained its championship form to finish tied for second with the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference.

Despite all of the season-long ups and downs, the playoffs have come down to the top four teams in each Conference. Who ultimately will reign supreme remains to be seen, but certainly more drama will await fans in the Finals.


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