Biggest NBA and NHL Playoffs Storylines

Photo Credit: Stacy Revere/Getty Images

The first round of the playoffs in both the NBA and NHL are over, and boy were they special. Each league’s first round is now over, and at the time of this writing, the semi finals have just gotten underway.. Let’s take a look at some of the storylines for the first round of the NBA and NHL playoffs.


There were some huge upsets from each league, with multiple top seeds losing to teams who barely managed to sneak into the playoffs at all.

The biggest upset of the first round was easily the Panthers knocking off Boston. The Bruins rolled into the NHL playoffs having won the most games and points of any team in the history of the league. Boston even held a demanding 3-1 lead. That didn’t matter to Florida, though.

After somehow pulling out a win in game five, Florida won at home in game six. They played a very sound game in game seven, and scored in overtime to stun the Boston crowd. With Boston’s historic season and commanding hold on the series, this is easily the biggest upset of the first round, and likely will be for years to come.

Another shocking loss came with the Heat knocking off the Bucks in the NBA playoffs. Milwaukee rolled into the playoffs after dominating the Eastern Conference for most of the season. Miami had to grind out a win against Chicago to make it in as the eighth seed.

As seemed to be the mantra with all South-Florida teams this postseason, the Heat didn’t care about the odds, either. Miami steamrolled the Bucks and shockingly beat them in five games. Giannis missed some time with an injury, but even with him on the court, the Bucks didn’t win a game.

No Parade in Memphis

Moving on to the Western Conference, the second-seeded Grizzlies caught the upset bug as well, losing to the Lakers in six games. Memphis has found themselves in the news for non-basketball reasons far too often this season. Perhaps that was the root of their downfall.

Dillon Brooks asked for Lebron to give him 40, and the Grizzlies lost by that exact amount. It’s poetic justice at its finest, and the Grizzlies will have some questions to ask themselves this offseason.

Release the Kraken! (into the second round)

Finally, shifting back to hockey, we saw the defending champs bow out in the first round. Colorado hasn’t looked as dominant as usual this season, but they were still able to lock down the Central division, setting up a matchup against the Seattle Kraken, who made the NHL playoffs for the first time in their two-year history.

This series was back and forth, and actually turned out to be very evenly-matched. Colorado winning games two and three was the only time a team in this series won two games in a row, and almost every game was a dogfight. The Kraken managed to sneak out of game seven with a win, and have won their first playoff series in franchise history.

The End(s) of Dynasties

It’s hard to determine exactly what a dynasty is. It’s even harder to understand when they end. In the case of the Golden State Warriors, we still don’t know.

Golden State won three championships in four years, before facing off with Toronto in the 2019 NBA Finals. The Warriors lost that series in six games, with Klay Thompson tearing his ACL in that game-six loss. With his injury, and a shocking defeat in the Finals, many thought their dynasty was over. In the next couple of years, the Warriors would struggle at times, but are currently the reigning, defending champions after defeating the Celtics in 2022.

This year, Golden State went down 2-0 to the Kings in the first round, and once again people assumed it was their downfall. Once again, they were wrong. Golden State came back to win in seven games, and will try and beat the Lakers in the second round. Whether they do or not remains to be seen. In the same vein, as these playoffs unfold, we wait to see when the true end to this dynasty will be.

Then, in the hockey world, we may have actually witnessed a dynasty fall. The Lightning won two championships in a row in 2020 and 2021, and nearly won their third straight before losing to the Colorado Avalanche in 2022.

This year, they faced the same Toronto Maple Leafs team they defeated last year. In a bit of an ironic twist, this time around, the Leafs broke their own first round curse, while ending Tampa Bay’s dynasty. At least for now.

Iconic Second-Round Matchups

Across the board, in both leagues, we have some very exciting second round matchups. Let’s start with the NBA playoffs.

There is no more iconic matchup on this list than Lebron James and Stephen Curry. These two are easily both top-10 players of all time, and have faced each other in the Finals four times. With Steph at the age of 35, and Lebron 38, this second-round matchup might be the last time we see these two play.

Apart from that duel, we still have some interesting series across the NBA playoffs landscape. The Suns and Nuggets are currently in a rematch from their 2021 second round series, with the Nuggets on pace to get their revenge. The Heat and Knicks, two teams that came out with upset victories in the first round, are deadlocked 1-1 at the time of this writing. Finally, the Sixers-Celtics keep their rivalry alive with their playoff series, also knotted at one win apiece at the time of writing.

In the NHL playoffs, the second-round matchups focus more on the new kids on the block. The Kraken are fresh off their upset win, and survived a four-goal effort from Joe Pavelski in game one. The Devils knocked the Rangers out in the first round, and now face the gauntlet that is the Carolina Hurricanes. Then, in a matchup between two teams that haven’t made it out of the first round in a long time, the Panthers and Leafs play for a spot in the conference finals.

Finally, in the West, we have the Edmonton Oilers and Vegas Golden Knights. These teams match up pretty evenly. What’s most compelling, though, is the fact that we’ll be seeing the #1 and #2 draft picks from the 2015 NHL draft. Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel have both had great careers with very different trajectories up until this point. It will be very interesting to see who comes out on top in their first playoff matchup.

Charge Down: Why The NBA Shouldn’t Get Rid Of Charges

Photo Credit: Petre Thomas-USA TODAY Sports

Last weekend was the start of the NBA playoffs, and it began with a bang. Two great games took place with the Knicks narrowly beating the Cavaliers, and the Kings defeating the Warriors in a nailbiter. The weekend wasn’t all good though as charges took over as the big headline of the NBA playoffs so far.

Sunday started with an injury in the Lakers vs Grizzlies game as Ja Morant went down. A few hours later, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Tyler Herro went down. Giannis’ and Ja’s injuries caused some controversy, as both happened while a defender attempted to draw a charge.

It’s time to take a look at the injuries, explain why the charge rule is not a problem, and what they could do to help the rule instead of getting rid of it.

A Look At The Injuries

With 5:50 remaining in the fourth quarter, Ja Morant drove to the basket. He took off towards the hoop while Lakers forward Anthony Davis stepped up to take a charge. On the way down, Ja Morant landed on his wrist, immediately grimacing in pain. After it was called a charge, Morant checked out of the game and didn’t come back.

Giannis Antetokounmpo’s injury came with just over four minutes to play in the first quarter versus the Miami Heat. Kevin Love stepped over to take a charge and on Giannis’s way down, he fell hard on his back. Right away you could see he was in pain. He would end up getting up and taking his free throws, as it was called a block, but would leave the game a little bit later.

Giannis returned at the beginning of the second quarter and tried to play, but the pain would prove to be too much. He would exit the game a minute later and not return.

Both of these injuries are unfortunate, that’s evident. Two players landing awkwardly and not being able to catch themselves is a tough thing to watch. With that said, injuries are a part of sports and there’s only so much that can be done to prevent them.

Why Getting Rid Of Charges Doesn’t Make Sense for the NBA

It’s a rule that players have known for a long time, and has only recently become controversial. Now, it’s being called a “dangerous rule”. However, I believe what we’re seeing a case of recency bias. The charge rule was introduced in 1928-29 and is defined as:

An on-ball, block-charge situation occurs when contact is made between an offensive player (who is moving in a particular direction or trying to change directions) and defensive player. The defender is permitted to establish his legal guarding position in the path of the dribbler regardless of his speed and distance. To get into a legal position, the defender needs to establish himself in the path of the offensive player before contact is made, thus “beating him to the spot,” and before he starts his upward shooting motion.

The NBA Rule Authority

When looking at each play, you can see that the defender was set prior to the offensive player taking off and was outside the restricted area; neither player was undercut.

Doc Rivers described the plays perfectly.

“I think both of those plays, I think were people taking charges. I think the only thing there is some of the charges people take can be viewed as reckless and so they can view that. They can’t take that away, but they can call it what it is. If it’s a reckless play, they can call it a flagrant, but none of those I think were reckless. Ja Morant can jump over a human being and he tried to do it and that’s part of it.”

Doc Rivers

Both plays involved the offensive player attempting to go over, or through, the defender who is in defensive position. I’m curious to see what the reaction would be if the defender was in the same spot but put their arms straight up. I believe we would see different reactions.

I’ve heard many arguments saying how the rule should be gone due to “the athleticism today”. It’s awesome to see big dunks and posterizations, but at what point do we stop making scoring easier? Hand checking is no longer allowed and that makes it tougher to stop someone from getting to the basket. Charges are a counter to that, and should cause the offensive player to use more brain than brawn.

One of the most commonly taught plays in basketball is the pull-up jumper. It’s a play that is supposed to be used when charges are attempted to be drawn. A floater, euro-step, and so many other moves can be used instead of trying to create a poster or draw an and-one.

How To Change The Rule To Make It Safer

Charges are game changing plays that have been crucial to the NBA for a long time. Up until now, there was not much talk about getting rid of them. Kevin Love has drawn 33 charges this season — second-most in the NBA. Giannis Antetokounmpo has been called for 148 charges in the past five seasons. Why was there no issue during those charges?

This tells me that charges aren’t the issue. I believe there is a way to keep charges in the game, but also make them safer. Here’s two ideas to make them safer:

  1. Move the restricted area further away from the basket. This would cause defenders to have to be in position earlier to defend a player’s drive to the basket, since players are taking off farther away from the basket than ever before.
  2. Make it a rule that if a defender undercuts a player in the air or flops to the ground before being touched, the defender gets a technical foul and the offense gets two free throws. This provides a punishment for poor charge attempts.
  3. Bring back hand-checking. This would serve to help counteract the amazing athleticism of today. It would increase a defender’s ability to stop offensive players prior to them getting into the lane.

While those rules won’t get rid of injuries entirely, they will minimize them. A small amount of injuries come from charge attempts, so getting rid of charges would cause offenses to score even easier than they already do. It would ruin the game.

Assessing the Trae/Luka Trade Five Years Later

Photo Credit: Jerome Miron/USA Today Sports

The 2018 NBA draft class was a very, very interesting one. The Dallas Mavericks and Atlanta Hawks owned picks three and five in the first round. Each team was rebuilding, and had the chance to land their star player for the future. Eventually, the Hawks and Mavricks would make a trade that would see Atlanta walk away with Trae Young, and Dallas with Luka Doncic.

We’ve now progressed five years, and it’s time to take a look at how this trade impacted the futures of both teams.

The Trae/Luka Trade

Entering the draft, Atlanta had the third pick, while Dallas owned the fifth. The Suns and Kings selected Deandre Ayton and Marvin Bagley, leaving both Young and Doncic available. Dallas traded up to third, taking Luka before Memphis had a chance. Atlanta knew Memphis wouldn’t select Trae, so they accepted the trade and moved down into the fifth selection.

The Details

Hawks received: #5 overall pick (Trae Young), 2019 first round pick (top-five protected)

Mavericks received: #3 overall pick (Luka Doncic).

So, How are the Hawks Doing?

Atlanta has seen some success since this deal, but it has been more-so glimpses of potential rather than sustained success. Here’s how the Hawks have done since acquiring Young.

  • 2018-19: 29-53, 12th in Eastern Conference
  • 2019-20: 20-47, 14th in Eastern Conference
  • 2020-21: 41-31, 5th in Eastern Conference, lost in conference finals
  • 2021-22: 43-39, 8th in Eastern Conference, lost in first round
  • 2022-23: 41-41, 8th in Eastern Confernce, TBD

Atlanta struggled mightily for the first two years after the deal. While COVID-19 shortened the 2020 season, Atlanta finished with just 49 combined wins in the first two seasons of Young’s career. The tank slowly ensued, while Young began to develop.

Then, in 2021, everything changed. Atlanta finished 41-31, and faced a matchup against the New York Knicks in the first round. The Hawks took care of New York easily, with Trae Young becoming The Big Apple’s supervillian in the process. Atlanta then pulled off another, more surprising upset. Thanks to some help from Ben Simmons, Atlanta knocked off the 76ers in six games, and advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals for the second time since 1970.

This set up a matchup with the Milwaukee Bucks, another giant Atlanta would have to take down. This time, however, they were unsuccessful and lost in six. The past two years, Atlanta has reverted to an average team, finishing eighth in the conference each of the past two seasons. In 2022, the Hawks bowed out after winning just one game in the first round.

During his sophomore season, Young made the leap into stardom. Trae would finish the year scoring 29.6 points per game, over 9 assists, and over 4 rebounds. He shot 43%/36%/86%, which are impressive numbers given the sheer volume of shots he was taking, which was 20.8, the highest number in his career. Young would make his first All-Star team that year, and made the All-Star roster again in the 2021-22 season.

The Hawks have done a relatively good job at building a contender around him as well, although it may not have happened as well as they’d hoped in recent years. The Hawks notably added Dejounte Murray last off-season, although the price wasn’t cheap. They’ve also added Clint Capela, Bogdan Bogdanovic, and John Collins to pair with Trae.

What About Dallas?

The Mavericks have had some ups and downs after landing Luka Doncic.

  • 2018-19: 33-49, 14th in Western Conference
  • 2019-2020: 43-32, 7th in Western Conference, lost in first round
  • 2020-21: 42-30, 5th Western Conference, lost in first round
  • 2021-22: 52-30, 4th in Western Conference, lost in conference finals
  • 2022-23: 38-44, 11th in Western Conference

Their first year with Luka was all about development. Dallas finished near the bottom of the West in his first year, yet Doncic certainly made strides improving his game.

Year two is when things started to go into motion. The Mavericks traded for Kristaps Porzingis, giving Luka Doncic another star to play with. They wound up making the playoffs, but losing in six games to the Clippers. The following year, Dallas lost to the Clippers again in the first round.

The 2021-22 season was their best with Luka so far. Dallas won over 50 games, and hosted a playoff series for the first time. Dallas beat Utah in six games, and absolutely destroyed the Suns in a game seven in the second round. The Mavericks would go on to lose to Golden State in the conference finals. However, this season showed stark improvement.

Dallas was on the same path this year, and ended up trading for Kyrie Irving before the trade deadline. Irving played well while in Dallas, but the team had to give up two of their already few above-average defenders, and the team spiraled. They could have potentially made the play-in tournament, but pretty openly tanked for a better draft pick as the season came to an end.

Who Won the Trae/Luka Trade?

As of now, this remains one of the more even trades in recent memory. Both teams have had eerily similar experiences.

Both franchises had a tanking period. Atlanta was bad for two years, while Dallas was for one. Then, by the third season in each player’s career, they had made the playoffs.

The farthest the Hawks have gotten is the conference finals. The same can be said for the Mavericks. Both teams upset a major opponent in the second round. Atlanta beat Philadelphia, while Dallas beat Phoenix.

The only thing that can change it from here would be the Hawks upcoming playoff run. Trae Young and co. will play Boston in the first round after advancing in the play-in. If the Hawks can make a deep playoff run, then this trade won’t look so even. For now, it does.

NBA Playoffs Preview: Playoff Races, Matchups, Storylines

Photo Credit: Kyle Terada/USA Today Sports

As we approach the end of the season and the beginning of the NBA playoffs, both excitement and disappointment begin to sit with fanbases around the league. Some of the typical championship contenders remain the cream of the crop, but the current playoff picture looks far different from years prior.

The Western Conference is, still, extremely clustered. Seeds four through 11 are all within five games of each other. There’s less parity in the East, but the play-in seeds remain jumbled. With less than two weeks remaining in the season, let’s take a deep, detailed look at the NBA playoff picture.

Play-In Tournament

Eastern Conference

Here’s a look at the current play-in standings in the Eastern Conference (standings accurate as of March 30, 2023).

  • #7) Heat 40-37
  • #8) Hawks 38-38
  • #9) Raptors 38-38
  • #10 Bulls 36-40

Play-in matchups: Bulls @ Raptors, Hawks @ Heat

It’s worth noting that the Nets own the sixth seed, although they are just 1.5 games ahead of Miami. Either the Nets or Heat could occupy the seventh seed by the time the season ends.

Here, we have some solid matchups. The Heat easily put away the Hawks in the first round last year, although they clearly aren’t on that level anymore. Meanwhile, both the Raptors and Bulls have had disappointing seasons, and one will get dumped after the first play-in game. The Wizards own the 11th seed, but remain two games behind Chicago.

Western Conference

  • #7) Timberwolves 39-38
  • #8) Lakers 38-38
  • #9) Pelicans 38-38
  • #10) Thunder 38-39

Play-in matchups: Thunder @ Pelicans, Lakers @ Timberwolves.

This conference is far more jumbled. The Timberwolves find themselves in a play-in spot, yet are just one game behind the sixth seeded Warriors. They’re also just a game and a half out of the fourth seed.

Still, Minnesota will face the Lakers in their first play-in matchup. The Warriors has had a very up-and-down season, as has Los Angeles. The Pelicans and Thunder is a matchup of two teams going in very different directions. Bpth teams are young, up and coming franchises, and they’ll be battling for a spot in the playoffs here.

The Mavericks sit a full game behind the Thunder, and the Jazz are one and a half games back.

Current NBA Playoffs Matchups

Eastern Conference

  • (1) Bucks vs. #8 seed.
  • (2) Celtics vs. #7 seed.
  • (3) 76ers vs. (6) Nets
  • (4) Cavaliers vs (5) Knicks

The Bucks and Celtics have led this conference from the very beginning of the season. Both of these teams stand out apart from the rest of the competition, and both will be heavy favorites over whichever play-in team they face. Milwaukee could face the Hawks, Raptors or Bulls, while Boston would likely face Miami or Atlanta.

The Nets have been a bit of a surprising team. After trading Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, most expected them to tank. However, some players have blossomed in the new system, and they’ve risin to contention. They’d pose a tough matchup against a 76ers team that has been in a bit of a freefall recently.

Finally, the Cavs and Knicks present a very even matchup. Both teams are very similar, and this series has a good chance of going seven games.

Western Conference

  • (1) Nuggets vs. #8 seed.
  • (2) Grizzlies vs. #7 seed.
  • (3) Kings vs. (6) Warriors
  • (4) Suns vs. (5) Clippers

This conference is incredibly clogged, and by the time the season ends these standings could look very different. The Nuggets and Grizzlies have been the top two in this conference for most of the season, and they’ll face one of the play-in sides.

The Kings and Warriors are a very interesting matchup. Golden State has had the Kings’ number for quite awhile now, but Sacramento is a different beast this season.

The Suns and Clippers have both had plenty of ups and downs this season, but remain right in the thick of the playoff race. A playoff series between these two might be one of the better matchups around the entire league. Both teams have star power and large expectations, and it would be a very intense first round matchup.

NBA Playoffs Storylines

Young, New Playoff Contenders

One of the biggest aspects to this postseason is the new up-and-coming franchises that will be new to the playoff landscape. We will see a couple of them on display this season.

In the Western Conference, the Kings and Thunder are the two most surprising playoff contenders. Sacramento recently clinched their playoff berth for the first time in 17 years. Meanwhile, Oklahoma City has accelerated their rebuild far quicker than anybody might have guessed as they contend for a play-in spot.

In the East, the Cavaliers remain the new darlings in the playoff scene. Cleveland made the play-in last year, but couldn’t advance. This year they’ve earned a playoff series. The Nets have been in the playoffs before, but their new, young core will be leading the playoff charge for the first time as well.

Continuance of NBA Playoffs’ Rivalries

Rivalries are vital to the NBA’s popularity. The league thrives off of rivalries, and those that occur in the playoffs make for a legendary atmosphere. This year, we have a ton of potential rivalry matchups.

In the West, the most well-known squabble is between the Warriors and Grizzlies. Both teams have made their dislike for the other clear, and as it stands, there is a very real chance this can be a first, or second round matchup.

The Celtics and Heat played each other in the Eastern Conference Finals last year. That game came down to the final seconds in game seven, in one of the most evenly-matched series’ in recent memory. If Miami comes out of the play-in as the seventh seed, this re-match will be a first round matchup.

One of the brightest parts about the playoffs in general is the creation of these rivalries. We’ll see some very exciting, tough matchups this time around, and some of those will create rivalries that extend into next season.

Kevin Durant Traded to Suns in Blockbuster Move

Photo Credit: Fadeaway World

One year ago today would mark the last day the Brooklyn Nets had Kyrie Irving, James Harden, and Kevin Durant. Today, they have none of them. They moved on from James Harden on February 10th, 2022. This past week, they moved Kyrie Irving to Dallas. Today, it’s a trade that sends Kevin Durant to the Suns. It’s the latest blockbuster move in the NBA. So, how does this affect the NBA?

Full Kevin Durant Trade

Suns Receive:

  • Kevin Durant
  • T.J. Warren

Nets Receive:

  • Mikal Bridges
  • Cam Johnson
  • Jae Crowder
  • Unprotected 2023, 2025, 2027, & 2029 1st round picks
  • 2028 pick swap
Suns Become West Favorites

The Suns were in a weird spot prior to this move. It was noticeable that multiple NBA analysts were leaving them off their contender list. Many saw a decline coming after a 64-win season last year. However, they were still talked about as a great team. They were thought of as the pretenders in the West. This trade changes everything.

With the acquisition of Durant and Warren, they have a potential starting line-up of Chris Paul, Devin Booker, Kevin Durant, T.J. Warren, and Deandre Ayton. Bringing them back to being one of the favorites. According to FanDuel Sportsbook, they have the third best odds at the NBA Championship after this. Only the Boston Celtics and Milwaukee Bucks have better odds, both in the Eastern Conference.

Nets Officially Start Rebuild

Before the season, fans didn’t know what to expect from the controversial Nets. After multiple options involving trading James Harden a year ago, they opted to trade Kyrie a few days ago, leaving the Nets with Durant. This kept some hope for their fans that they would possibly try to win with Durant by building around him. Well, that’s not happening after acquiring four picks and two 26-year-olds for KD to officially start the Nets rebuild.

This leaves Brooklyn with a core of Cam Johnson, Mikal Bridges, Nic Claxton, and Ben Simmons. Along with the draft picks, the Nets aren’t in horrible shape. They could decide to flip any of their newly acquired players, such as Mikal Bridges, if they choose to.

They could still finish the season as a playoff, or play-in, team. It’ll give them more time to test out line-ups and players, then decide where they want to go from there. It could’ve been worse. Regardless, it’s a disappointing end to the Irving, Harden, Durant era in Brooklyn.

Western Conference Gets More Talent

“Which conference is stronger?” is a question asked every year by NBA fans. For a while, most fans would say it’s been the Western Conference. This year was the first in a while that had people questioning that answer. Within the past week, that answer has been definitively answered.

First, Kyrie Irving goes from Brooklyn to Dallas to make it stronger. Now, Kevin Durant gets moved from the Brooklyn to Phoenix. The Kevin Durant trade creates a crowded Western Conference. With this addition, the Suns are now a legit contender for the Finals.

As mentioned, many fans of the game wrote them off this season, but with Durant in tow, they’re back.

In front of them in the West, they still have the Kings, who are looking to continue to prove themselves, the young and ferocious Grizzlies, 1st place Nuggets, and Dallas Mavericks with newly acquired Kyrie Irving. There are still three more teams right behind the Suns in that 6-8 spot in the standings. Oh, and the reigning champs are still there as the 9th seed.


When a superstar is moved there are many factors to consider. This ends a rough chapter for the Brooklyn Nets, and we’ll be waiting to see what their next chapter holds. On the other hand, this trade creates an exciting chapter for Kevin Durant and the Suns. Will they be able to be the last team standing? Only time will tell. Either way, this is a league-changing trade that will be talked about for a long time.