2023 NBA Playoff Predictions

by James Stewart, Sports Beat Manager

Once again, the NBA playoffs will bring compelling storylines that played out during the regular season, and past seasons into this season’s culmination in June where a champion will be crowned. 

From superstars that were traded mid-season like Kevin Durant, to Steph Curry and the reigning champion, Golden State Warriors the Western Conference will feature star power in each and every matchup.

In the East, MVP front runner Joel Embiid and his Philadelphia 76ers will try to make a return to the NBA Finals for the first time since 2001. In order to make that return, they will have to get through Jayson Tatum and his talented Boston Celtics squad, as well as arguably the current best player in the NBA, Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks. 

How can you forget to mention one of the greatest players of all time, LeBron James, who led the Los Angeles Lakers to a playoff berth thanks to the play-in tournament? Two time MVP Nikola Jokic, and the Denver Nuggets are another team that will look to make a splash in the playoffs this year. 

First Round 

The first round in the Western Conference is headlined by the star studded matchup between the 4th seeded Suns and 5th seeded Clippers. I truly believe that this will be the best of all the first round matchups, but without star forward Paul George who is out with a knee sprain, I do not think the Clippers will have what it takes to move on and they will lose to the Suns in six.

As for the rest of the west I see the Nuggets having no trouble with the Timberwolves in the 1 vs. 8 series, but upsets could occur in the other matchups. I have the 7 seeded Lakers beating the 2 seed Grizzlies in six, and the 3 seeded Kings knocking off the defending champion Warriors in seven games.

As for the eastern conference there are not many intriguing matchups early. The Celtics, Bucks, and 76ers are all heavy favorites in their first round matchups, and I see all three teams having  no problem advancing to the next round.

The only higher seeded team that could have trouble is the Cavaliers who face the Knicks, who are led by newly acquired point guard Jalen Brunson in the 4 vs. 5 matchup. Although there may be a little bias towards the hometown team, I think that the Knicks could steal a game in Cleveland and win all of their home games to beat the Cavs at Madison Square Garden to advance in Game 6. 

Second Round

Sadly, I think the Knicks run ends at the hands of the Bucks and Antetokounmpo in the second round as the Knicks will simply have no answer for the former MVP. Tatum and the Celtics will also see the same success they saw vs the 76ers in 2020. This time it will take 6 games rather than 4 for the Celtics to advance past their rivals, and to the Eastern Conference Finals.

In the second round in the West, Jokic and the Nuggets are simply the more complete and consistent team, and they will knock off Durant and the Suns in six, setting up a matchup in the Western Conference Finals with the Lakers and LeBron James who will defeat the less experienced Kings in seven.

Conference Finals 

In the conference finals, both number one seeds will prove exactly why they earned those seeds during the regular season, as the Nuggets will best the Cinderella story, Lakers in six games, while the Bucks will avenge their second round loss from last season and beat the Celtics in seven.

NBA Finals

On June 1st, the Milwaukee Bucks and Denver Nuggets will take center stage in the basketball world and face off in game one of the NBA Finals. This matchup pits arguably the two best players in the NBA against one another in Jokic and Antetoukounmpo.

This series is poised to go at least six games, and potentially a win or go home game seven. With that being said, this series will come down to second and third options for each team. Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday for the Bucks, and Aaron Gordon and Jamal Murray for the Nuggets. 

Not only will these teams need these other stars, but they will need productive minutes from their bench where I believe that the Nuggets have a slight edge. 

As the season comes to its conclusions, Antetoukounmpo falls just short of his second championship ring, and Jokic, a two time regular season MVP, wins not only his first ring, but his first finals MVP, as he leads the Nuggets to a 4-3 series win in the NBA Finals.

The playoffs are already in full swing on ESPN, ABC, and TNT, so make sure to tune in to watch the best teams in the NBA compete to be crowned NBA champions.