2022 NBA Playoffs: Predictions for Round 1 matchups, NBA Finals and breakout player

How far can Fred VanVleet and Pascal Siakam carry the Toronto Raptors this season? (Cole Burston/Getty)

With the NBA Playoffs tipping off this weekend, we tapped some of Sportsnet's NBA experts to get their predictions on the first-round matchups as well as their picks for the NBA Finals, the eventual league champion and who will be named Finals MVP.

OUTSIDE OF THE RAPTORS-SIXERS, WHICH FIRST-ROUND SERIES ARE YOU MOST LOOKING FORWARD TO?

Michael Grange (Sportsnet's Senior Basketball Insider):
Nets vs. Celtics. I think Boston-Brooklyn will be really telling: either the KD-Kyrie monster the Eastern Conference has been having nightmares about will rear its head or the Celtics will establish that their dominant second half was indeed a prelude to a Finals run.

Blake Murphy (Co-host of Sportsnet FAN 590 morning show + volume writer):

Nets vs. Celtics. Boston was the best team in the East by a fair margin analytically, especially on the defensive side of the ball. There's no better test for that than KD and Kyrie, especially with Robert Williams unavailable.

Amy Audibert (Sportsnet TV courtside analyst + reporter):

Nets vs. Celtics. It’s a brilliant mix of star-studded players along with some drama. Kyrie back at TD Garden, I hope there’s free refills on the popcorn.

Brad Fay (Host of Raptors broadcasts):

Nets vs. Celtics. I don’t think either is built to win four rounds, but in my mind they are the toughest two opponents for ONE round … and they drew each other. Could be epic.

Eric Smith (Raptors radio play-by-play):

Timberwolves vs. Grizzlies. Should be a lot of fun (tons of scoring, I'd assume) but it's hard to not also say Brooklyn-Boston with two legit contenders in the FIRST round!?

Donnovan Bennett (Sportsnet host + writer + producer):

Nets vs Celtics. Simply put, both teams have rosters with multiple max players, built to win four series. One of them won’t win four games.

Daniel Rainbird (Sportsnet.ca Associate Editor):

Nets vs. Celtics. It doesn’t get more intriguing than this for a first-round matchup. The Nets were a pre-season favourite, and the Celtics are the hottest team since January. And who doesn’t want to see Tatum and Durant go at it?

EASTERN CONFERENCE: FIRST-ROUND PREDICTIONS ...

Hawks vs. Heat series preview

Michael Grange: Heat in six
Blake Murphy: Heat in five
Amy Audibert: Heat in six
Brad Fay: Heat in seven
Eric Smith: Heat in six
Donnovan Bennett: Heat in six
Daniel Rainbird: Heat in five

Nets vs. Celtics series preview

Michael Grange: Celtics in five
Blake Murphy: Celtics in seven
Amy Audibert: Celtics in seven
Brad Fay: Nets in six
Eric Smith: Nets in seven
Donnovan Bennett: Nets in six
Daniel Rainbird: Celtics in seven

Bulls vs. Bucks series preview

Michael Grange: Bucks in four
Blake Murphy:
Bucks in four
Amy Audibert:
Bucks in four
Brad Fay:
Bucks in four
Eric Smith:
Bucks in five
Donnovan Bennett:
Bucks in six
Daniel Rainbird:
Bucks in five

Raptors vs. 76ers series preview

Michael Grange: Raptors in six
Blake Murphy:
Raptors in seven
Amy Audibert:
Raptors in six
Brad Fay:
Raptors in six
Eric Smith:
Raptors in six
Donnovan Bennett:
Raptors in four
Daniel Rainbird:
Sixers in seven

WESTERN CONFERENCE: FIRST-ROUND PREDICTIONS ...

Pelicans vs. Suns series preview

Michael Grange: Suns in five
Blake Murphy:
Suns in five
Amy Audibert:
Suns in five
Brad Fay:
Suns in five
Eric Smith:
Suns in four
Donnovan Bennett:
Suns in six
Daniel Rainbird:
Suns in four

Timberwolves vs. Grizzlies series preview

Michael Grange: Grizzlies in six
Blake Murphy:
Grizzlies in seven
Amy Audibert:
Grizzlies in five
Brad Fay:
Grizzlies in six
Eric Smith:
Grizzlies in six
Donnovan Bennett:
Grizzlies in six
Daniel Rainbird:
Grizzlies in six

Nuggets vs. Warriors series preview

Michael Grange: Warriors in six
Blake Murphy:
Warriors in six
Amy Audibert:
Warriors in seven
Brad Fay:
Nuggets in six
Eric Smith:
Warriors in six
Donnovan Bennett:
Warriors in four
Daniel Rainbird:
Warriors in six

Jazz vs. Mavericks series preview

Michael Grange: Jazz in six
Blake Murphy:
Jazz in six
Amy Audibert:
Jazz in seven
Brad Fay:
Mavericks in six
Eric Smith:
Jazz in seven
Donnovan Bennett:
Jazz in six
Daniel Rainbird:
Jazz in six

Which teams will meet in the NBA Finals? And who will win the title + MVP?

Michael Grange: Celtics over Suns and Jayson Tatum as MVP.

Blake Murphy:
Bucks over Suns and Giannis Antetokounmpo as MVP. Boring to predict a repeat, I know, but the player and teams involved have only gotten stronger since last year.

Amy Audibert:
Suns over Heat and Devin Booker as MVP ... unless Miami can get The Raptor under the baseline.

Brad Fay:
Suns over Bucks and Chris Paul as MVP (finally).

Eric Smith:
At the risk of being boring, Bucks over Suns and Giannis Antetokounmpo as MVP.

Donnovan Bennett: Warriors over Nets and Stephen Curry as MVP.

Daniel Rainbird:
Bucks over Suns and Giannis Antetokounmpo as MVP.

ONE PLAYER YOU EXPECT TO HAVE A BREAKOUT IN THE NBA PLAYOFFS?

Michael Grange: Can Jayson Tatum have a breakout? If so, Jayson Tatum.

Blake Murphy: Desmond Bane. He's quietly had an MIP-calibre season and one of the most exciting first-round series should be a good opportunity for the larger NBA universe to appreciate it. (The Grizzlies have like half-a-dozen candidates on their own. They rule.)

Amy Audibert: OG Anunoby. He doesn’t shoot to miss.

Brad Fay: Gary Trent Jr.

Eric Smith: Ja Morant. He "broke out" and put the league on notice this season, and I expect the same to continue in the playoffs. I just hope it lasts more than one round.

Donnovan Bennett: Jordan Poole.

Daniel Rainbird: Anthony Edwards. He may have already broken out, but this is where he becomes a household name. As he tweeted after a stellar play-in performance: "When the lights come on, I show up."

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