After 1,236 NBA games throughout the 2022/2023 season, the NBA playoffs got underway this week.
And, whether it’s Sacramento’s 176 to 175 score line against the Clippers after two overtimes or the down to the wire Western Conference home-and-away season ending grabbing the headlines, it’s time to crown the Larry O’Brien Championship Trophy.
The NBA is the pinnacle competition for world basketball, and easily the most lucrative with winning players awarded rings valued between $10,000 to $40,000. Of the top 15 highest paid Australian sports stars, six earn a salary in the NBA, including the country’s highest paid sportsman Ben Simmons, who is paid an estimated $51 million a year.
Despite the huge player salaries, however, the winning NBA team itself does not receive as much money as many other top sports. This is because the NBA has the Players Playoff Pool in which all the money is distributed into the team’s hands from the playoffs’ income.
For example, in the 2020/2021 season, a prize pool of $27.5 million was founded. Within these $27.5 million, $328,000 went to teams that qualified for the playoffs, and as each round progressed, more money was funnelled into those winning teams. By the end of the playoffs, the winner received $US3.8 million.
The NBA Players Playoff pool number is unclear right now. However, compared to other competitions, such as the UEFA Champions League, the NBA winners get far less than the $15 million that the football winners in Europe receive.
Homegrown talent in the NBA
The First Australian in an NBA playoff series was Lanard Copeland, who played in the 1989/1990 Playoffs for the 76ers. In the 1990s, the names of Shane Heal, Darnell Mee, and, most notably, Luc Longley were featured.
Longley won the NBA title with the Chicago Bulls three consecutive times in 1995/1996, 1996/1997 and 1997/1998. In 1999, Andrew Gaze became the second Australian to win an NBA title with the San Antonio Spurs. In 2014, Aaron Baynes and Patty Mills won the title also with the San Antonio Spurs. In 2015, Andrew Bogut became the fifth Australian to win an NBA title, this with the Golden State Warriors. The sixth and most recent Australian to win the NBA was Matthew Dellavedova in 2016 with the Cleveland Cavillers.
The 2018/2019 season was the most Australian-featured NBA playoff season ever, as eight Australian players took part, including Simmons, Mills, Joe Ingles, Baynes, Dellavadova and Bogut. Within the 2022/2023 playoffs, four Australian players will play in the series.
Joe Ingles: Milwaukee Bucks
Joe Ingles has been an asset to the Bucks this season, averaging 3.2 assists and 2.9 rebounds per game. The 35-year-old has a lot of experience in NBA playoffs, featuring in 45 matches, most with the Utah Jazz. Ingles grew up in Adelaide, South Australia, where he was scouted to play basketball with the Australian Institute of Sport from 2005-2006. From 2006-2009, he played with Melbourne club the South Dragons, earning Rookie of the Year in 2006 and 2009; he helped the Dragons win the NBL title earning him a spot in the All NBL Team honours.
Jock Landale: Phoenix Suns
This season has marked Jock Landale’s second season in the NBA and first season with the Phoenix Suns. Landale has averaged 2.3 defensive rebounds this season and four offensive rebounds, improving significantly from his previous statistics from his time with the Spurs. Landale will be playing in his first playoff match against the Los Angeles Clippers. Originally from Geelong, Victoria, Landale earned a scholarship to Saint Mary’s College in 2017. His experience in the college system saw him in 2018 earn the West Coast Player of the Year award. By 2020, he returned to Australia to play for Melbourne United after seasons with Partizan and Zalgiris Kaunas in Europe. That season, he won the NBL Grand Final MVP award, leading United to a 3-0 clean sweep against the Perth Wildcats.
Jack White: Denver Nuggets
Jack White averaged 0.6 rebounds per game and 1.2 points in his maiden NBA season. He played an average of 3.2 minutes a game. White will play his first ever NBA playoff match this season, and it will be interesting to see how he fares. White is from Traralgon, Victoria, and was scouted to play basketball at the Australian Institute of Sport. He was scouted by the Duke Blue Devils, where he was captain for two years. In 2020, he signed a three-year deal with Melbourne United before he joined the Denver Nuggets.
Patty Mills: Brooklyn Nets
The Australian Captain, Patty Mills, will feature in his 13th playoff series, his second with the Brooklyn Nets. The 6ft guard has averaged 6 points and 1.4 assists across the NBA season this year. Seeing his impact on this playoff series for the Nets will be engaging. Mills was raised in Canberra, ACT, by his Kokatha mother and Muralag father. Mills joined the Australian Institute of Sport in 2004, and by 2006 he was named the South East Australian Baseball League Under-21 Player of the Year and then the Australian Basketball Player of the Year. That same year, he was also drafted into the Australian Boomers squad.
Ben Simmons: Brooklyn Nets
After sustaining a season-ending back injury against the Miami Heat on February 15, Simmons can only watch from the sidelines as his Nets teammates compete. Raised in Newcastle, NSW, Simmons played in Victoria with the Knox Raiders and Box Hill Senior Secondary College. In 2012, he took up a scholarship to join the Australian Institute of Sport, allowing him to represent Australia in the FIBA Under-17 World Championship. By 2015 after attending Monteverde Academy in Florida, he joined the LSU Tigers before being drafted as the number one pick into the Philladephia 76ers in 2016.
How the playoffs work
The top six teams from each conference automatically qualify for the playoffs. From April 12-15, the NBA play-ins involve teams that came 7th, 8th, 9th and 10th in their conference in one-off elimination games. The 7th and 8th placed teams verse each other, with the winner securing a playoff birth against the 2nd seed from the respective conference. The loser of the 7th and 8th play-in then plays the 9th and 10th placed play-in winner, with the winner playing the top-ranked team in their respective conference.
The NBA playoffs began on April 16, with the winner of these playoffs reaching the conference semi-finals and the conference finals. The teams that win their conference finals play in the NBA final on June 1.
So, what teams are involved in this year’s playoff, and what playera do you need to look out for?
The NBA play-in games are finally done and the playoff matchups are set! This is the most exciting time of the year. I can tell you from working the games first hand, the intensity for playoffs is on another level. Here are my predictions for the First Round below:
— LL (@LongLiveTheLam) April 15, 2023
The Milwaukee Bucks finished 1st in the Eastern Conference at the end of the home-and-away season. The Bucks will play the Miami Heat in the playoffs. The 2020/2021 season Champions dominated the NBA this season, winning 58 games and losing 24.
The player to look out for in the Milwaukee Bucks is Giannis Antetokounmpo. The 213cm forward and 2021 MVP has averaged 31.1 points per game and 11.8 rebounds. The captain also has 76 playoff games in his pocket, giving him a handful of experience leading into this 2022/2023 playoff season.
The Boston Celtics finished 2nd in the Eastern Conference at the end of the home-and-away season. The Celtics will play the Atlanta Hawks in the playoffs. Last year’s grand finalists fell short, losing four consecutive finals games to finish as runners-up last year. The 17-time Champions posted 57 wins and lost 25 games this season.
Jayson Tatum is the player to look out for in this finals series for the Celtics. The 6ft8in forward averages 30.3 points per game this season. Alongside this, Tatum has averaged 4.6 assists per game throughout the season. The 25-year-old also has played 74 NBA playoff games averaging 22.9 points throughout his previous playoff games.
The Philadelphia 76ers finished 3rd in the Eastern Conference, securing a playoff berth against the Brooklyn Nets. The 76ers haven’t won the NBA title for 40 years, although they have had consecutive playoff berths from the 2017-2018 season. The 76ers won 54 games and lost 28 games this season.
The player to look out for at the 76ers is Joel Embiid. The 29-year-old has averaged 33 points per game this season and 8.3 defensive rebounds. He played 44 games averaging 24 points and 11.1 rebounds in the playoff seasons.
The Cleveland Cavaliers finished 4th in the Eastern Conference with a win-to-loss percentage of 0.622. The Cavs will play the New York Knicks. Cleveland has only won one NBA title, this in the 2015/2016 season, despite them being in five grand finals since the 2006/2007 season.
Donovan Mitchell is the player to look out for if you’re a Cavs fan. The 6ft1in Guard has averaged over 28.3 points per game and 4.4 assists in the 2022/2023 season. Mitchell has played 39 NBA playoff games, where he has also averaged 28.3 points per game.
Most 40-point games in a single season in Cavs history:
(2023) Donovan Mitchell – 12
(2006) LeBron James – 10
(2010) LeBron James – 9
(2009) LeBron James – 9
(2008) LeBron James – 7 pic.twitter.com/DnJIQlNrwI
— NBACentral (@TheNBACentral) April 3, 2023
New York Knicks
The New York Knicks finished 5th in the Eastern Conference securing a finals game against the Cleveland Cavaliers. It has been 41 years since the Knicks won an NBA title, and will they be able to break the drought? The Knicks won 47 games and lost 35 averaging a win-loss percentage of 0.573.
The player to watch out for if you’re a Knicks fan is Immanuel Quickley. The 23-year-old guard averaged 14.9 points, 3.3 assists and 4.1 rebounds per game in the 2022/2023 home-and-away season. Quickley has only played five playoff games, but seeing how he can help the Knicks throughout this playoff season will be interesting.
The Brooklyn Nets finished 6th in the Eastern Conference standings and have a win-loss percentage of 0.549. The Nets will play the Philadelphia 76ers. The Nets had never won an NBA title but made it to NBA Grand Finals when they were the New Jersey Nets in the 2001/2002 and 2002/2003 seasons.
Mikal Bridges is the player to look out for if you’re a Nets fan. The 6ft11in guard-forward has averaged 27.7 points for the Nets this season and 4.4 rebounds per game on average. The 26-year-old has played in 35 NBA Playoff games, most recently with the Suns last season.
The Miami Heat finished 7th in the Eastern Conference standings, winning 44 games and losing 38 in the home-and-away season. The Heat will play the Milwaukee Bucks. The Heat have claimed three NBA Grand Final trophies in 2005/2006, 2011/2012 and 2012/2013 and were the runners-up in the Eastern Conference final last season. The Heat qualified through the play-ins this season, initially losing to the Atlanta Hawks 105-116 and then defeating the Chicago Bulls 102-91.
The Heat’s player to look out for is Kyle Lowry. The 37-year-old guard averaged 11 points, 5.1 assists and 4.1 rebounds per game this season. However, he showed his full talent when he clocked in 33 points for the Heat against the Hawks in the play-in. Lowry has played in 107 playoff games and won the Larry O’Brien Trophy with the Raptors in 2019.
The Atlanta Hawks finished 8th in the Eastern Conference with a win-to-loss percentage of 0.500. The Hawks have reached their fourth consecutive playoff series, although they have never reached a grand final. The Hawks went through the play-ins, winning against the Miami Heat 116-105 and will play the Celtics.
The Hawks player to watch out for is Trae Young. The 6ft1in guard has averaged 26.2 points per game for the team from Atlanta and 10.2 assists. Young has played in 21 games playoff, all with the Hawks.
The Denver Nuggets finished 1st in the 2022/2023 home-and-away season, posting 53 wins and 29 losses. The Nuggets will play the Minnesota Timberwolves in the playoffs. The Nuggets have never won an NBA title and will be looking to after reaching consecutive playoff berths since 2018/2019.
The Nuggets player to look out for is Nikola Jokic. Over the past two years, he has consecutively earned the NBA’s MVP award. The 6ft 11in centre controls the movement of the Nuggets, averaging 24.5 points, 9.8 assists and 3.6 turnovers per game in the season. The 28-year-old has featured in 21 playoff games in his NBA career.
The Memphis Grizzles finished 2nd in the 2022/2023 season posting a win-to-loss percentage of 0.622. The Grizzlies will play the Los Angeles Lakers in the playoffs. Like the Nuggets, Memphis has never won a Larry O’Brien Championship Trophy, but after an impressive season, is it their time to finally bring it back to Memphis?
If you’re a Grizzlies fan, Desmond Bane is the player to look out for. The guard has averaged 21.6 points for the Grizzlies this season and posted an average of 4.3 rebounds per game, making him a strong, versatile player across the court. Bane has played in 17 playoff games and will look to up that number.
The Sacramento Kings finished 3rd in the 2022/2023 season, winning 48 games and losing 34 games. The Kings will play the Golden State Warriors in the playoffs. The Kings have never won an NBA title and haven’t featured in the playoffs since the 2005/2006 season. Will they be able to make a statement this year?
DE Aaron Fox is the player to look out for if you’re a Sacramento fan. The 6ft 3in guard has averaged 25.1 points per game this season in the NBA. Alongside this, the 25-year-old has created 6.1 assists on average per game. This season will mark Fox’s first playoff appearance in the NBA.
The Phoenix Suns finished 4th on the 2022/2023 Western Conference ladder with a win-to-loss percentage of 0.549. The Suns play the Los Angeles Clippers. The Suns have never won an NBA title, but they aim to go one better than they did in the 2020/2021 season.
The Suns player to look out for is Devin Booker. Booker has averaged 28 points per game for the Suns this season. The Suns’ guard also has managed to clock in 5.5 assists per game for the Suns, making him a fierce attacker on the court.
Los Angeles Clippers
The Los Angeles Clippers finished 5th on the 2022/2023 Western Conference ladder with a win-to-loss percentage of 0.537. The Clippers face the Phoenix Suns. The Clippers have never reached an NBA final but have played in three of the past four playoff series.
The Clippers player to look out for is Norman Powell. The 6ft 4in guard has averaged 17 points per game and 2.5 defensive rebounds throughout the season. Powell has also played in 73 playoff games, winning a title with the Toronto Raptors in 2019.
Golden State Warriors
The Golden State Warriors finished 6th on the 2022/2023 Western Conference ladder, winning 44 games and losing 38. The Warriors face the Sacramento Kings. Golden State has won five Larry O’Brien Championships, four coming in the past decade. The 2021/2022 champions defeated the Celtics 4-2 to claim the NBA title.
Golden State’s player to look out for is Steph Curry. Curry has averaged 29.6 points throughout the season as well as 6.3 assists. The 35-year-old has played in 134 playoff games.
— Lapy (@lapy_t) June 17, 2022
Los Angeles Lakers
The Los Angeles Lakers finished 7th on the 2022/2023 Western Conference ladder with a win-to-loss percentage of 0.524. The Lakers will face the Memphis Grizzlies in the Playoffs. The Lakers have won 15 titles, the most recent being in the 2019/2020 season against the Miami Heat. The Lakers went through the Play-In route to the Playoffs, defeating the Minnesota Timberwolves 108-102 in a thrilling overtime match.
If you’re a Lakers fan, Lebron James is the player to watch out for. The 6ft 9in forward has averaged 29 points per game and 8.4 rebounds. The 38-year-old has played in 266 NBA playoff games, where he has averaged 28.4 points per game.
The Minnesota Timberwolves finished 8th in the home-and-away season, clocking in 42 wins and 40 losses. The Timberwolves will play the Denver Nuggets. The Timberwolves have never reached an NBA final but made it to their 2nd playoff series in a row. The Timberwolves went through the play-in route to get there, losing to the Los Angeles Lakers in a 102-108 overtime match but then beating the Oklahoma City Thunder 120-95.
Naz Reid is the player to look out for if you’re a Minnesota fan. The 6ft 9in centre-forward has averaged 3.8 defensive rebounds and 4.9 rebounds throughout the 2022/2023 season. He has played in 5 NBA playoff games, all for the Timberwolves.
this will be the end result of the 2023 NBA season, barring injury pic.twitter.com/N581L2tHy0
— 𝔾𝔹 (@ThaLakerNation) February 5, 2023