The 2023 NBA Playoffs, particularly the Play-In Tournament, are just around the corner. There’s still a kerfuffle in the Western Conference as to which team will bag the 10th seed, while everything’s set in the Eastern Conference, at least in terms of the teams we’ll see in the play-in. With the teams still jockeying for position, it’s time to make our NBA Playoff predictions 2023.
NBA Playoff predictions 2023
We’ll only know the exact playoff bracket once play-in ends, but let’s see how our NBA postseason predictions will stack up against reality.
1. Clippers drop to the play-in tournament
The Los Angeles Clippers are alternating wins and losses in their last ten games. Are they avoiding a potential matchup with the 4th-seeded Phoenix Suns in the first round of the playoffs? Maybe not.
2. Pelicans grab the 8th seed
The New Orleans Pelicans still have a long shot at an outright playoff spot, although they have already qualified for a play-in slot.
Either way, the Pels should be able to book a playoff ticket, even if they have to go through the play-in. They have won eight of their last ten games, thanks in large part to Brandon Ingram, who has scored at least 30 points six times in the last 11 contests.
3. Raptors get the 8th seed
It seems that the Miami Heat will lock into the 7th seed in the East, and they should be able defeat whoever they face in the play-in. That leaves the Atlanta Hawks, Toronto Raptors, and Chicago Bulls as the other play-in teams in the tussle for the last playoff spot.
The Hawks’ backcourt duo of Trae Young and Dejounte Murray can certainly cook when they get going, and there’s also the wing tandem of Zach LaVine and DeMar DeRozan to lead the Bulls. But a fully healthy Raptors squad should be able to get the job done and forge a potential matchup against the top-seeded Bucks.
4. Lakers will advance to the third round
For our first big one in the NBA Playoff Predictions 2023, we’re projecting the Lakers to make it past the play-in (if they need to), overcome their matchups in the first two rounds of the playoffs, and advance to the Western Conference Finals. This is really a bold prediction to make, especially with LeBron James coming off an injury layoff.
But the Lakers have also won seven of their last nine games, and their defense has vastly improved in the second half of the regular season. It may be that LeBron is not fully healthy yet, but look for a memorable playoff stint from Anthony Davis this year.
5. Nuggets fail to make it past the second round
With MVP frontrunner Nikola Jokic leading the way, the top-seeded Denver Nuggets are fully healthy this upcoming playoffs. Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. are game-changers when they’re on, and Aaron Gordon has also been consistently good this season. Moreover, they added a couple more integral pieces in Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Bruce Brown during the last offseason.
Still, their defense is not up to par with the elite teams on that end. The Nuggets would be able to take care of their assignment in the first round, but their defense will be tested when they face the likes of the Suns, Warriors, Lakers, or the Clippers in the second round.
6. Sixers forge ECF duel with Bucks
Joel Embiid is once again showing just how complete of a package he is. Embiid is leading the league in scoring for the second year in a row, and his partnership with combo guard star James Harden has never been better. The Sixers’ first-round matchup could be the Brooklyn Nets, with a potential classic series against the Boston Celtics waiting in the second round.
Embiid and Harden will put up the numbers, and young explosive guard Tyrese Maxey could be the X-Factor. The Sixers have been rolling since leading the league in preseason win totals, and this year might be the time for Embiid to finally get into the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time. Next up will be the Greek Freak and the Bucks.
7. Dream KD-LeBron matchup in WCF
It’s surely championship or bust for the Phoenix Suns, especially with Kevin Durant around. Add to that the fact that the 37-year-old Chris Paul isn’t getting any younger, and the Suns should be all-in for a title this year.
With KD and Devin Booker leading their charge, the Suns will march on to the Western Conference Finals, where they would face LeBron and the Purple-and-Gold. It would be a dream duel between Durant and James, a rematch of their 2012 NBA Finals battle that the latter won.
8. 2021 rematch in the 2023 NBA Finals
We might see a rematch of the 2021 NBA Finals, as the Bucks and Suns could be the last two teams standing this year. These two teams have stars who have been under the brightest of lights, so a Suns-Bucks Finals series is closer to reality than you might think.
The Bucks’ proven and tested defensive acumen should catapult them to the Finals. They’re currently just one spot outside of the top 10 in terms of offensive rating, but when you have Giannis Antetokounmpo on your roster, you’re good.
On the other hand, the Suns may be a top-heavy team but this is the kind of top-heavy roster that wins championships. They have three capable players who can create scoring opportunities (Paul, Booker, Durant) and head coach Monty Williams could always stagger the minutes of those three.
9. Bucks win it all again
Two NBA championships in three years for a small market team like the Bucks? Given the progressive steps that the Bucks organization have taken in the past several years, this level of success isn’t surprising anymore.
Giannis continues to be a model of professionalism and sustained excellence, and the Bucks front office have done an admirable job of surrounding their superstar with players who are “dogs” on the defensive end.
Still, their path to the title this year won’t be easy, especially if they face a star-filled team like the Suns. It’s high time for former All-Star forward Khris Middleton to wake up and return to his highly efficient ways on offense. As for defense, Giannis, Jrue Holiday, and Brook Lopez have that covered.
If Middleton produces better numbers this playoffs, the Bucks will be the last team standing in our NBA postseason predictions.
10. Giannis adds another Finals MVP hardware
Already a frontrunner for the MVP award this season, Giannis would cement another incredible year by leading the Bucks to the championship.
The Greek Freak is currently norming a tremendous stat line of 31.1 points, 11.8 rebounds, and 5.7 assists, and it’s not farfetched that he would increase his production come playoff time. Remember that he’s only averaging just north of 32 minutes in the regular season, and his playing time in the playoffs typically ranges from 36-38 minutes.
Arguably the best two-way player in the league today, Giannis will also win the 2023 NBA Finals MVP trophy.