With the 2022-2023 NBA regular season drawing to a close on Sunday, basketball fans around the world eagerly anticipate the start of the playoffs. 

The road to the NBA championship will be more challenging than ever before, with the introduction of the play-in tournament adding an extra layer of excitement and unpredictability. 

In this article, we'll take a closer look at the upcoming playoffs, analyze the top teams and players to watch, and make some predictions about which teams will come out on top. 

Get ready for a wild ride as we delve into the 2023 NBA Playoffs preview and predictions, including the much-anticipated play-in tournament.

[Last updated May 31, 2023]

Play-In Tournament

Western Conference 

(7) Los Angeles Lakers over (8) Minnesota Timberwolves 
    - Lakers get the 7th seed

(10) Oklahoma City Thunder over (9) New Orleans Pelicans

(8) Timberwolves over (10) Thunder
    - Timberwolves secure 8th seed

The Lakers take care of business against a currently dysfunctional Timberwolves. The Pelicans struggled against that T-Wolves team, and without Zion, I think Shai and the Thunder take care of business and shock New Orleans. 

However, the run stops short as I don't think Anthony Edwards will let the Timberwolves lose two in a row, despite the issues going on with Jaden McDaniels and Rudy Gobert. I think OKC will definitely keep it close, though. 

Eastern Conference

(7) Miami Heat over (8) Atlanta Hawks
    - Heat secure 7th seed

(10) Chicago Bulls over (9) Toronto Raptors

(8) Hawks over (10) Bulls
    - Hawks secure the 8th seed

Jimmy Butler is on a mission with the Heat, and I don't see them losing at home in the first play-in game. Meanwhile, DeMar DeRozan will get revenge on his old Raptors team and get a close victory for the Bulls. 

However, I don't think Chicago has enough unfortunately to overpower the Hawks in Atlanta. It will be close, but I think Trae Young and Dejounte Murray clutch it at home for the Hawks to get the eighth and final seed. 

It would be a different story if Lonzo Ball were healthy. 

UPDATE [4/17/23]: Most of my predictions came true here, just swap out the Hawks and Heat part. I don't think a lot of people expected Atlanta to win the first play-in game. Props to them, but now they have to deal with the Celtics. 

NBA Playoffs Predictions

Western Conference

First Round

(1) Denver Nuggets over (8) Timberwolves, 4-1
The Nuggets take care of business over a struggling and dysfunctional Timberwolves team via a gentleman's sweep. 

(4) Phoenix Suns over (5) Los Angeles Clippers, 4-3
While the Suns have a stacked roster and the Clippers are without Paul George, I think Kawhi Leonard will do enough to keep LA in this series. However, I don't think it will be enough as the Suns barely squeak by in seven games. 

(6) Golden State Warriors over (3) Sacramento Kings, 4-2
I think the Kings will shock the defending champs with their home crowd and win Game 1, but I believe the Warriors get it together and steal Game 2 and win every game at home. Hopefully, the Kings can contend against the media disrespect, but it is hard to pick against the Warriors. 

(7) Lakers over (2) Memphis Grizzlies, 4-2
I think the Lakers will take care of business, where they will even steal Game 1 in Memphis and eventually taking a 3-1 lead. LA has a chance to redeem themselves after going up 2-1 on the Suns and losing it two years ago. They will be a more feared 7th seed this time around. 


(1) Nuggets over (4) Suns, 4-2
Nikola Jokic has something to prove, and Denver is a lot deeper than Phoenix is when you look past their starting units. I think the series will be tied 2-2, but Jokic then delivers the next two games to close it out in Phoenix against KD. 

(7) Lakers over (6) Warriors, 4-2
The Lakers are on a mission, and I think the key is stealing one of the first two games on the road in Golden State. If they can do that, they have a chance to take a 3-1 lead. I think they will, and then close it with Game 6 at home in LA. 

UPDATE [5/2/23]: My first-round picks came true. Not all of them were right in the exact amount of games, but it is looking good. Nuggets may end up winning against Phoenix in four or five games instead with how it is looking right now. 


(7) Lakers over (1) Nuggets, 4-1
No one is really picking the Nuggets to win it all, it seems like. I think the Lakers present a tough matchup for them, just like they did two years ago in the Western Conference Finals. I think LA wastes no time, AD shuts down Jokic, and they close it out in five games. 

UPDATE [5/15/23]: My predictions for the second round went exactly the same way in real life. I think the Lakers will beat the Nuggets, but five could be tough to do. 

I'll stick with this prediction, but I could see it being Lakers in 6 instead. No way I see this going 7, and if it does, there's no way Denver would win that. 

Eastern Conference

First Round

(1) Milwaukee Bucks over (8) Hawks, 4-1
I think Trae and the Hawks can do enough to avoid a sweep, but nothing more than that. This Bucks team is too good to be taken past five games in this series. I think Giannis Antetokounmpo will do whatever he can to take care of it in four instead. 

(4) Cleveland Cavaliers over (5) New York Knicks, 4-3
This series has the potential to be the best of the first round, and I think both teams are pretty solidly matched. 

While I do like the idea of Donovan Mitchell closing out the Knicks in Madison Square Garden in Game 6, I think Jalen Brunson does enough to prevent that. But I think the Cavs will take care of business at home in Game 7. 

(3) Philadelphia 76ers over (6) Brooklyn Nets, 4-1
The Nets should be a play-in team, but they win the lottery of being the team to be gentlemen-swept by the Sixers. 

I think they steal one at home to get back at James Harden, but it will be hard to overpower the tough matchup that is Joel Embiid. Nic Claxton is about to be BBQ chicken in this series. 

(7) Heat over (2) Boston Celtics, 4-3
I take that back—this series could be the best one. I think the Heat want revenge for last year. They were a Jimmy Butler 3 away from being in the Finals, and I think the Miami star will deliver that reminder to Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown in the first round. 

I'm not fully buying Boston like the media has been this whole season. They're the Buffalo Bills of the NBA right now, and Tatum is Josh Allen. They will choke in the playoffs one way or another. 

UPDATE [4/17/23]: With the Hawks and Heat swapping places, I'll have to switch up the predictions here. Following Game 1, including the injuries in the Bucks-Miami game, I'm thinking the following: 

(1) Bucks over (8) Heat, 4-2: If Giannis returns, Bucks in 6. If he can't, maybe the Heat push it to 7. But Tyler Herro out does not help them. 

(2) Celtics over (7) Hawks, 4-1: Looks like Boston will make it out of the first round in my updated predictions. They may sweep, but I think Atlanta somehow finds a way to win at least one game. 


(1) Bucks over (4) Cavs, 4-3
I think the Cavs matchup very, very well against Milwaukee. They have a big lineup, and I think Jarrett Allen and Evan Mobley can cause enough trouble to make life tough for Giannis and Brook Lopez. 

They also have the scoring punches with Darius Garland, Mitchell, and Caris LeVert. I think the Bucks deliver in Game 7, but I don't see Cleveland going down without a fight. This series should go at least six games. 

(3) 76ers over (7) Heat, 4-3
I think Miami does enough to troll the Sixers into being tired for their next series. Butler is going to want playoff revenge against his old team. I don't trust Harden in the postseason, so I definitely see some choke jobs happening in this series. 

However, luckily for the Beard, I think Embiid will do enough to will Philly past Miami. I think the Heat and Butler match up well against Philly, and they are definitely not scared of them. But Philly pulls it out in a very tough series. 

UPDATE [4/17/23]: Since Boston made it to the next round, they will face the Sixers. Here are the new predictions:

(3) 76ers over (2) Celtics, 4-3: I think Embiid exorcises his demons and finally beats the Celtics in the playoffs. It won't be easy, though. 

UPDATE [5/2/23]: I did NOT see the Heat coming, that is for sure. And the Hawks' rally against the Celtics gives me some concern for Boston, especially after Harden torched them in Game 1 without Embiid. Also, props to the Knicks as well for beating the Cavs in 5. 

(8) Heat over (5) Knicks, 4-2: Jimmy Butler and Miami are on a mission. We may end up seeing the same conference layout as we did in the 2020 Bubble Playoffs. I think Miami takes care of business, especially after what we saw in Game 1. 

I am sticking with my Sixers prediction of winning in 7. Game 1 wants me to pick Philly in 6, but Harden and Embiid's past still bothers me. Joel's current injury doesn't help either. However, Boston looks vulnerable, and I think they lose this series. 


(1) Bucks over (3) 76ers, 4-2
The Sixers made it this far, but I can't see them getting past Giannis—no matter how good Embiid is. I'm taking Greek Freek, Jrue Holiday, and Lopez over Philly's Embiid, Harden, and Tyrese Maxey. 

Want to mention PJ Tucker? Ok, the Bucks got Bobby Portis. And we can' forget Khris Middleton either. Again, I don't think Harden delivers when Philly needs him to. 

It will be bittersweet for Giannis to send Harden home as well–which I think he will on Harden's home court in Game 6. So much for a run-and-dunk with no skills. 

UPDATE [5/2/23]: The Bucks were a lot of people's picks for the East, but now they are Gone Fishin'. Here's my new prediction below. 

(3) 76ers over (8) Heat, 4-3: It's hard to pick against Butler, but I am going to roll with Philly for now with how both teams performed in the second round so far. Sixers were also the only team to sweep an opponent this playoffs. They look stronger than we thought. 

UPDATE [5/15/23]: The Eastern Conference has made me look like a fool this season, as well as probably everyone else. I should've known better than to pick choke-artist Harden over the Celtics, who also routinely beat Embiid in the postseason every year. 

Those Games 6 and 7 performances were horrific, and now Boston gets a date with Miami. I think the Heat will win and get revenge for last season. They were one shot away from the Finals, and I think Butler takes care of the C's this time around. 

(8) Heat over (2) Celtics, 4-2: Boston has shown to be very consistently inconsistent this postseason. They always choke at least one game and Jayson Tatum is always a no-show for at least one or two games in a series. 

That should be enough for Jimmy Buckets to take care of business. With the Conference Finals being a 2020 bubble rematch, I expect it to go further with a Lakers-Heat bubble Finals rematch as well. 

NBA Finals

(7) Lakers over (1) Bucks in 6
I'm going back to my preseason prediction of the Lakers vs Bucks Finals matchup. And it looks very well possible that we will be here at this point. I think both teams match up extremely well. 

I see the Bucks taking home Game 1 in their own arena, but the Lakers answer back and steal Game 2. The rest is history after that—LA tasks both wins at home to take a commanding 3-1 lead. The Bucks could win Game 5 to cut it to a 3-2 deficit. 

However, I see the purple-and-gold ultimately closing it out in 5 to win the NBA Finals. I think the Finals MVP race will be close, but I think LeBron James will deliver yet again. 

LA has all the tools to win with this roster. They have multiple guys they can send at Giannis to guard, and they have enough to guard all of the Bucks weapons. Their offense will need to deliver, though. 

Call me crazy, but I am going to roll with this pick. 

We'll check back in June.

UPDATE [5/2/23]: My Lakers pick isn't looking as crazy any more, but that Bucks pick?? I digress. Based off my predictions, I am going go with this now. 

(7) Lakers over (3) 76ers, 4-2: The Lakers have a solid lineup that matches up well against Philly. The Embiid injury does not help, and I think the 76ers will be gassed by the time they play LA. I think LA takes care of business in at least five or six games. 

UPDATE [5/2/23]: As mentioned above, the Eastern Conference continues to troll me. With that said, it only makes sense to have the most troll Finals matchup of them all: the eighth-seeded Heat against the seventh-seed Lakers to create the 2020 Bubble Finals rematch. 

(7) Lakers over (8) Heat, 4-2: I think the results from 2020 will be the same exact results this year again. The Lakers will defeat the Heat in the Finals to take the all-time Finals lead over Boston with 18 championships. 

I expect the Lakers to take at least a 3-1 series lead, drop Game 5, and then win Game 6 to close it out. I think LeBron will finish with Finals MVP once again. 

UPDATE [5/31/23]: The Lakers did not have enough to overcome Denver, meanwhile Boston almost came back from a historic 3-0 deficit to Miami. Now, we got a Heat-Nuggets Finals matchup. 

Logic says you should pick the Nuggets, but best believe I will be rooting for Jimmy Butler and the Heat to pull it off since they are just big underdogs as an 8-seed. They are going against a No. 1 seed in Denver, who has been the most dominant team in the playoffs so far.

I am not sure who can stop Nikola Jokic. If Anthony Davis, Rudy Gobert, and DeAndre Ayton could not do it, why should we expect 6-foot-9 Bam Adebayo to do so? But with Playoff Jimmy, there's a way. 

Caleb Martin is underrated. The Heat's role players have been solid for the most part, and it will likely come down to if their role players can outplay the Nuggets' role players. If they can contain Jokic and Jamal Murray while doing that, they have a shot. 

If the Heat win, it will probably be in 6 or 7. If the Nuggets win, it should be in 6 or less. With how horrible these predictions have been lately, that is going to be my last say for now. 


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