The NBA playoffs are underway, and with about two months remaining in the 2023 season. Here are my predictions as to how I think the playoffs will turn out. 


Eastern Conference 

First Round: 
No. 1 Bucks vs. No. 8 Heat: Bucks win 4-1 

Simply put, the Bucks are a better team than the Heat this year. They have a much better offense (Bucks are 12th in the NBA, Miami is 25th), they have a better defense (Milwaukee is fourth, Miami is ninth), they have better shooters, better point of attack defenders, better shot creation, arguably the best player in the NBA, and potentially the best perimeter defender in the game today. Again, this team is simply better than anything I believe Miami can throw at them which is why I see this being a very convincing “gentleman’s sweep.”

No. 4 Cavaliers vs. No. 5 Knicks: Cavaliers win 4-1 

While the addition of Jalen Brunson has proven to be huge for New York, and Julius Randle seems to be back in form, the Cavaliers, much like the Bucks, simply just have a better team than the Knicks. Cleveland is sporting, one of the best backcourts in the league with the duo of Darius Garland and Donovan Mitchell. That on top of the twin towers they have defensively to protect the rim in both Jarrett Allen and Evan Mobley (who, I imagine, will be giving Randle a much tougher time than Clint Capela and John Collins in 2021) and the bench they sport with Caris LeVert and Cedi Osman, Cleveland should not have much trouble getting past New York. 

No. 3 Sixers vs. No. 6 Nets: Sixers win 4-0 

After the drama surrounding the Nets regarding the departure of both Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving at the trade deadline, people assumed that the Nets would slowly fall down the standings and eventually out of the playoff picture. However, here they are, and much credit must be given to Jacque Vaughn and the players (mainly Mikal Bridges) for keeping this team afloat. Unfortunately, their success more than likely stops here as Philly is all around just a better team and sporting some lofty expectations after coming up short for the past four seasons. I do not imagine much of a series though as Brooklyn simply has no answer for Joel Embiid who more than likely will be named the league MVP. 

No. 2 Celtics vs No. 7 Hawks: Celtics win 4-0 

Wrapping up the first round matchups in the east, we have the Boston Celtics taking on the Atlanta Hawks. Once again, don’t think there should be much of a competitive series here as Atlanta has been one of the most disappointing teams in the NBA this season. Boston has the better team, better coach, more experience, etc. Not much else to say. 

Conference Semi-finals: 
No. 1 Bucks vs. No. 4 Cavaliers: Bucks win 4-2 

This is finally where the Eastern Conference gets more interesting. Although I do believe that the twin towers will give Giannis trouble and the wall defense has proven to be able to neutralize the Bucks in the past, Giannis has shown tremendous growth in his ability to make plays out of the amount of attention he draws. That coupled with the twin towers that Milwaukee sports defensively in both Giannis and Brook Lopez, and the fact that both Garland and Mitchell will have to deal with the defensive excellence of Jrue Holiday, leads me to believe that Milwaukee will get by Cleveland. Should be a fairly competitive series. 

No. 2 Celtics vs. No. 3 Sixers: Celtics win 4-2 or 4-3 

Our first even matchup where I don’t believe one team is superior to the other. This series honestly comes down to one thing and that is that I don’t trust the 76ers. No matter how much they may have been favored or the changes they made in the prior off season to address the issues in the playoffs the previous season, Philly falls short every season. I don’t trust Doc Rivers to make the necessary adjustments. I don’t trust James Harden, who is no longer in his prime and has had his history of playoff blunders, and I don’t trust Joel Embiid, who has been the focal point of all the phases that Philly has went through, yet still has been unable to make the conference finals. Simply put, Boston has my trust and Philly doesn’t. 

Conference Finals: 
No. 1 Bucks vs. No. 2 Celtics: Celtics win 4-3 

This is the series that I’ve been waiting for. Ever since last year’s epic showdown in the semifinals, I’ve wanted these two to meet again, this time hopefully at full strength. Last year, although the Celtics won, the question was would Milwaukee had prevailed, if Khris Middleton didn’t go down in Game 1 of that series. The reason that I am picking Boston again this year is because of the defensive versatility that they can throw at Giannis. I know it is a small sample size but in the second half of Game 7 last year, Giannis struggled immensely to get anything going as he shot 4-of-16. With another year of experience under their belt, I think Boston will be able to extend Giannis’ struggles throughout the entire series. Allowing themselves to make it to back-to-back finals. 

Western Conference 

First Round: 
No. 1 Nuggets vs. No. 8 Timberwolves: Nuggets win 4-1 

I do notsee much of a series here. Minnesota has had such an up and down year that it is hard not to dismiss them as just another team who’s happy they made the playoffs. Denver has, in my opinion, the league MVP in Nikola Jokic, while sporting the 5th best offense in the league and, one of the deepest teams in the NBA. This should not be a hard win for the Nuggets. 

No. 4 Suns vs. No. 5 Clippers: Suns win 4-2 or 4-3 

Easily the most interesting of all the first-round matchups, we have the Phoenix Suns and the Los Angeles Clippers. Off the bat, this is interesting given the circumstances surrounding the Suns and acquiring Kevin Durant at the trade deadline. Then we have the Clippers who have ended the season on a roll, thanks to the play from Kawhi Leonard and Russell Westbrook. Which brings us to the ex-factor of the series, Paul George, who has been out for three to four weeks with a knee sprain. Recent reports have suggested that he may come back in the middle of the series, but at that point, the Suns may already be too far ahead. Because of the questions surrounding George and the offensive prowess that Phoenix now possesses, I think Phoenix has it in the bag here. It should be a fight though, as Kawhi Leonard is historically one of the best at elevating his play in the post-season. 

No. 3 Kings vs. No. 6Warriors: Kings win 4-3 

The Sacramento Kings made it to the playoffs for the first time since 2006! Meanwhile, the defending champs have looked ever so questionable in their follow-up season. After being one of the best teams in the league last season, they have fallen to being a mediocre defense and one of the worst road teams in the league. This of course does not help since they will not have home court advantage in this series. On top of that, the Kings have the best offense in the NBA and two young stars in De’Aaron Fox and Domantas Sabonis who I believe are ready to take the league by storm. This might be a hot take, but I see the Kings prevailing in this one. 

No. 2 Grizzlies vs. No. 7 Lakers: Lakers win 4-2 

The Los Angeles Lakers had easily the biggest turnaround of the entire season and find themselves now back in the playoff hunt. The Memphis Grizzlies started off hot, but unfortunately, struggled with injuries and off the court issues that derailed their season. The Grizzlies are still fairly young and have not had enough time to mature into the play style that they need to get them to that next level. This is why I think they will succumb to the experience that the Lakers have, along with the new additions of Malik Beasley and Jarred Vanderbilt and the re-addition of D’Angelo Russell. This also might be a hot take, but I believe the Lakers will get it done here. 

Conference Semi-finals: 
No. 1 Nuggets vs. No. 4 Suns: Suns win 4-2 

Expect a high-scoring series here as both these teams offer some of the best offenses the NBA has to offer. The reason why I think Phoenix comes out on top is simply due to the level of offensive weapons they have compared to Denver. Outside of Jokic and Murray, the other offensive weapons they have to throw are Aaron Gordon, who is more of an off-ball threat, and Michael Porter Jr. who again, is more of an off-ball threat. Pair that up with Chris Paul (who will more than likely take a back seat but can turn it up when need be) and DeAndre Ayton, who has one of the best turn-around mid-range jumpers in the NBA, and I believe the Suns can and will overpower the Nuggets’ arsenal. 

No. 3 Kings vs. No. 7 Lakers: Kings win 4-3 

This will probably be another hot take, but I honestly am that high on the Kings. As great as the Lakers have become over the past two months, I think the Kings have been that much better over the course of the season. That coupled with the fact that the Lakers are not as sound defensively as they used to be, and I truly believe the Kings can get it done and make the conference finals. The main thing that keeps me on the fence, however; is the Kings’ defense which is one of the worst in the NBA. It can honestly go either way but if I had to choose, I would say the Kings got it. 

Conference Finals: 
No. 3 Kings vs. No. 4 Suns: Suns win 4-2 

Another great offensive series which will play out very similarly to the Nuggets series. It also will be reminiscent of the Nuggets series as the prowess of the Suns should be enough to usurp the Kings’ offense. Not saying it still won’t be close, but Phoenix should win fairly decisively. 

NBA Finals: 

Celtics vs. Suns: Celtics win 4-2 or 4-3 

Finally, we reach the NBA finals. With both teams featuring some of the best teams in the NBA along with having the experience of playing in the NBA finals, the reason I believe the Celtics will be the 2023 NBA champions is because they have a more complete team than the Suns do. They may not be as offensively gifted, but they have a deeper team, a better defense, are more versatile, and let’s not forget how Kevin Durant performed last year against the Celtics. Most would consider that on par with the 2016 Western Conference finals as Kevin Durant’s worst playoff performance and Boston has only improved from last year’s team. The only thing I could see saving the Suns would be if Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum both struggled like they did in last year’s finals but even then, they were going up against the number defense in the NBA. I believe that with the completeness of their team, and the hunger to avenge their finals loss from a season ago, that the Boston Celtics will be the 2023 NBA Champions.