4 NBA Teams Remain: Why Each Team Has a Shot to Win it All

Joey Tomassetti, Managing Editor

After another exciting season in the NBA, the 2021-2022 NBA Playoffs have brought even more joy than before to fans of every team. Since the start of the playoffs on April 16, the first two rounds have produced many memorable moments, but only four teams have come out of these first two rounds alive.

Now that the Conference Finals are underway, The Pharcyde is going to dissect each of the remaining teams and take a look at what makes them great and what they need to do to win the championship.

Miami Heat:

What Makes Them Great: If you had been told that Jimmy Butler would miss 25 games, Bam Adebayo would miss 26 games, Kyle Lowry would miss 19 games, Tyler Herro would miss 16 games, and Victor Oladipo would miss nearly 75% of the season and the Heat would still get the one seed in the East, chances are you probably wouldn’t have believed it. With a hall of fame coach at the helm in Erik Spoelstra and one of the best development programs that the NBA has ever seen, anything is possible. Duncan Robinson, Max Strus, Gabe Vincent, and Caleb Martin might not be household names, or drafted at least, but each and every one of them have contributed to winning at some point this season. And how can you talk about the Heat without mentioning their “glue guy” in P.J. Tucker.

What They Need To Do To Win a Championship: First of all, Jimmy Butler has to continue to be…Jimmy Butler. Throughout his career, he has been a better playoff performer than regular season performer. Butler has looked so comfortable as “the guy” on this Heat team, as he tries to lead them to their second finals berth in the last three seasons. One thing Miami needs to work on is their half court offense, specifically their three-point shooting. It doesn’t help that their floor general in Kyle Lowry is day-to-day with a hamstring injury, but they need to figure this out in order for them to go all the way. This team is capable of exploding for 120 points and 20 threes per game, but we haven’t seen it yet in the playoffs. During the regular season, the Heat led the league in three point shooting at 37.9%, but are last among the four remaining teams in three point shooting in the playoffs, at 32.1%. If they start shooting better and get a healthy Kyle Lowry back soon, Miami becomes an even tougher out.


Boston Celtics:

What Makes Them Great: After a bank-shot, game-winning three from RJ Barrett on January 6, the Celtics fell to 18-21. One of the best teams in the league for the past two decades, it is not normal for the Celtics to be…average. Then, things started to turn around. The Celtics would go on to win 33 of their final 43 games to end the season, and secure the two seed when some thought they wouldn’t even make it out of the first round. Why are they so good? Well, it helps that Jayson Tatum is a hooper. Maybe one of the best “tough shot-makers” in the league, Tatum is capable of making any shot from anywhere on the floor. And as we’ve seen throughout the first two rounds, he has become a great defender as well. Jaylen Brown is a great companion to Tatum, they have an elite defense led by Defensive Player of the Year Marcus Smart, and first year head coach Ime Udoka has done a great job of righting the ship in Boston. Having Robert Williams back brings rim protection and high energy play, Al Horford brings the leadership and veteran savvy, and Grant Williams can hit seven threes in a game 7 if you need him to.

What They Need To Do To Win a Championship: They have to consistently make shots. Everyone knows the defense is going to show up each and every game for the Celtics, but it’s the offense that is a big question mark. As a great defensive team, you are going to force a lot of turnovers which leads to a lot of fastbreak opportunities. But it’s the half court offense, similar to the Heat, that can be questionable at times. How long can Tatum and Brown carry the offense with their talented shot-making? Will the Celtics be able to make their open shots? Will they get enough contributions from their role players? These are all questions that will need to be answered in order for the Celtics to win the championship. If they can get past the offensive struggles, they will be another team that is hard to beat.


Golden State Warriors:

What Makes Them Great: Only one team comes to mind in terms of pure domination of the latter half of the 2010s: the Dubs. The NBA’s 2015, 2017, and 2018 champion is back in the Conference Finals for the first time in three years, but this time they have new faces. Even though there’s no more Kevin Durant in Golden State, they are still a well-oiled machine with Championship DNA coursing through their veins. Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green have all been to the finals before (five times to be exact). New-comers Jordan Poole and Andrew Wiggins have been welcoming additions to Steve Kerr’s arsenal, taking some of the pressure off of Curry and Thompson scoring-wise. They also have an elite level defense, anchored by former Defensive Player of the Year Draymond Green. Kevon Looney is a force in the rebounding department, rookie Jonathan Kuminga brings his boundless energy every game, and Otto Porter Jr. is a consistent shooter from three. 

What They Need To Do To Win a Championship: Most of the time, the Warriors offense looks like it’s on a string: every player on the floor touches the ball, there are tons of backdoor layups, and threes rain down from all over the floor. But sometimes, they get a little sloppy. In their second round series against Memphis, the Warriors offense was really slowed down due to the amount of turnovers they were committing. When you move the ball as much as they do, you are going to turn the ball over more than usual. To be fair, they also have a lot of different faces compared to their dynasty team from a few years ago. But they were turning the ball over an uncanny amount, to the point where it felt like it was every offensive possession. Turnovers can also really disrupt players’ shooting rhythm, which is why the Warriors struggle from three sometimes, even though they arguably have two of the best shooters of all time. If they fix their turnover issues, they might be on their way to their fourth championship since 2015.


Dallas Mavericks:

What Makes Them Great: At the trade deadline, the Mavericks shipped off big man Kristaps Porzingis to the Washington Wizards for guard Spencer Dinwiddie and forward Davis Bertans. People laughed at the Mavericks for what they got in return for the former all star. Looking at the trade now, it was pretty lopsided…for the Mavericks. Bertans has given the Mavs a nice spark off the bench at times, but the addition of Dinwiddie gave the Mavs another ball-handler to take the pressure off of Luka Doncic. Jalen Brunson having a breakout year was another much needed development for this Mavericks team. New coach Jason Kidd has done a great job at maximizing the superstardom of Luka Doncic while also helping the Mavs become one of the best defensive teams in the league, something they haven’t been since 2011 (the last time they won the championship). Dorian Finney-Smith has become one of the league’s best three-and-D wings, Dwight Powell is a gritty and high IQ defensive big-man, and Reggie Bullock and Maxi Kleber can shoot with the best of them.

What They Need To Do To Win a Championship: In the Mavericks’ shocking second round upset of the one-seeded Suns, they shot the ball at a blistering rate. Thanks to all of the attention Luka Doncic draws when he drives, he creates wide open shots for his teammates. Key number one for them to win is to continue to shoot well. Here we are in 2022, where each of the remaining four teams has to shoot the ball well in order to win the championship. It shows how the game has evolved and how important three-point shooting has truly become. Key number two for this team is to not let Luka Doncic and Jalen Brunson get stuck in uncomfortable defensive situations. What this means is that their defensive liabilities need to be hidden through the use of double teams and traps, instead of letting them go one-on-one every time down the floor. For as good as these two are offensively, they will be at the top of the opposing team’s game plan when it comes to breaking down the Mavericks defense. If the Mavs can defend well with Doncic and Brunson on the floor, and if they can continue to shoot the lights out (no surprise), they will become one of the biggest underdog champions in recent NBA history.