2023 NBA Playoff Predictions: Bracket Picks & Analysis

7 mins
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At long last, the 2023 NBA Playoffs have arrived! The NBA postseason officially tips off on Saturday, April 15, and we have everything you need to know about this year’s road to the Finals, including the favorites to win it all and why you shouldn’t buy too high on Joel Embiid and the Philadelphia 76ers just yet.

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How many teams make the NBA Playoffs?

Officially, 16 teams (eight from each conference) make the NBA postseason. We say “officially” because 20 total teams play beyond the 82-game regular season, but four (two in each conference) are eliminated during the Play-In Tournament. We know, it’s semantics, but you’re technically not a playoff team if you don’t, you know, play in the postseason. Seeing as the Play-In Tournament is considered its own event rather than an official branch of the NBA Playoffs, there you go. 

What is the format for the NBA Playoffs?

The NBA Play-In Tournament decides each conference’s seventh and eighth playoff seeds. Their reward for surviving and advancing to the postseason? How does a best-of-seven series with their respective conference’s top two teams sound? The top seeds (the Milwaukee Bucks in the East and Denver Nuggets in the West) will face the eight seeds, while the No. 2 seeds (Boston Celtics and Memphis Grizzlies) battle the No. 7 seeds.

NBA Playoffs bracket schedule.

When do the 2023 NBA Playoffs start?

The NBA postseason officially begins Saturday, April 15, when the Philadelphia 76ers host the Brooklyn Nets at 1 p.m. ET / 6 p.m. BST. Barring any unexpected postponements, the NBA Finals could end as late as Sunday, June 18. Hence why the NBA Playoffs are colloquially known as “The Second Season.”

2023 NBA Playoffs odds

Will Stephen Curry and the Warriors repeat as champions? Here are the latest 2023 NBA Finals odds according to the FanDuel Sportsbook.

Milwaukee Bucks+240
Boston Celtics+370
Phoenix Suns+450
Golden State Warriors+750
Philadelphia 76ers+900
Denver Nuggets+1100
Los Angeles Lakers+2200
Memphis Grizzlies+2400
Los Angeles Clippers+4000
Cleveland Cavaliers+4200
Sacramento Kings+5000
New York Knicks+13000
Miami Heat+21000
Atlanta Hawks+25000
Toronto Raptors+25000
Minnesota Timberwolves+25000
Brooklyn Nets+37000
Oklahoma City Thunder+50000
Chicago Bulls+50000
New Orleans Pelicans+50000

Eastern Conference NBA Playoff predictions

No. 1 Milwaukee Bucks defeat No. 8 Toronto Raptors in four games: We certainly wish the Raptors good luck in stopping MVP contender Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks. However, luck won’t save Toronto here, and neither will All-Star forward Pascal Siakam. Although we believe the Raptors will earn the No. 8 seed after winning two games in the Play-In Tournament, give us the Bucks pulling off the easy sweep come the postseason. Milwaukee took three of four during the regular season, though they did fall 121-105 in Toronto on April 9.

No. 2 Boston Celtics defeat No. 7 Atlanta Hawks in four games: So much for the Heat and Celtics meeting in the playoffs yet again. With Jimmy Butler and Miami likely to miss the postseason entirely, we’re picking Jayson Tatum and the Celts to handle business and sweep the Hawks. Boston swept Atlanta in the three-game regular-season set, including a 120-114 win on April 9.

No. 6 Brooklyn Nets defeat No. 3 Philadelphia 76ers in seven games: Yes, an upset! Although the 76ers are absolutely the superior team, this feels like a trap series for the superstar duo of Joel Embiid and James Harden. We know Philly swept the Nets this season, but we’re still going bold in suggesting Mikal Bridges and teammates will catch fire and upset the heavily-favored Sixers in seven. 

No. 4 Cleveland Cavaliers defeat No. 5 New York Knicks in five games: The good news for Knicks fans is they’re back in the postseason! The bad news? Their first-round test comes against Donovan Mitchell and a plucky Cavaliers team, one capable of making an NBA Finals run. We’re taking the Cavs to move on, though the series should be extremely competitive across all five games.

Western Conference NBA Playoff predictions

No. 1 Denver Nuggets defeat No. 8 New Orleans Pelicans in four games: Although the Pelicans entered the Play-In Tournament as the No. 9 seed, we’re picking them to advance even without injured big man Zion Williamson. As a result, they’ll meet Nuggets big man and two-time defending MVP Nikola Jokić. Enjoy! New Orleans and Denver surprisingly split the season series.

No. 2 Memphis Grizzlies defeat No. 7 Los Angeles Lakers in five games: The Lakers became a trendy pick to win the Western Conference even before earning the No. 7 seed and a first-round date with Ja Morant and the Grizzlies. With respect to King James and Anthony Davis, their latest title quest will end earlier than they’d have liked. The Lakers took two of three from the Grizzlies this season. 

No. 6 Golden State Warriors defeat No. 3 Sacramento Kings in five games: Can this truly be an upset when the Warriors are the defending champions and still boast a stellar lineup? Nope. De’Aaron Fox and the Kings should be commended on an incredible run back to the postseason (their first playoff berth since the 2005-06 campaign!) and have positioned themselves to return next year … and the year after … and maybe the year after! For now, though, their dream season will end at the Dubs’ hands. Golden State won three of its four matchups with Sacramento during the regular season, most recently a 119-97 win on April 7.

No. 4 Phoenix Suns defeat No. 5 Los Angeles Clippers in five games: The Clippers brought Paul George and Kawhi Leonard to LA four years ago envisioning a title parade. It hasn’t happened yet, and we don’t see it occurring this year. We like Kevin Durant, Devin Booker, and the Suns moving on without facing too much trouble. The Clippers and Suns split the season series.

NBA Playoff predictions: Conference semifinals and results

No. 1 Milwaukee Bucks defeat No. 4 Cleveland Cavaliers in six games: Some might be tempted to pick the Cavaliers given the Bucks’ history of underwhelming playoff performances. Although we think the Cavs will keep things interesting, we don’t see them beating Giannis and the Bucks for a spot in the Eastern Conference Finals. It is worth noting, though, that the Central Division rivals split the season series.

No. 2 Boston Celtics defeat No. 6 Brooklyn Nets in four games: Yawn. The Celtics own the Nets, having won six of seven regular-season games against their Atlantic Division foes dating back to February 2022. Oh, and don’t forget about last year’s first-round sweep. It’s hard to pick against the Celtics here.

No. 6 Golden State Warriors defeat No. 2 Memphis Grizzlies in five games: Golden State won its first two matchups against Memphis this year. The Grizzlies subsequently won the next two meetings. Therefore, this second-round series should be fairly balanced, right? Nope. We think the Warriors’ experience will carry them to a relatively painless five-game victory over the Grizzlies.

No. 4 Phoenix Suns defeat No. 1 Denver Nuggets in seven games: Nikola Jokić vs. Kevin Durant is the NBA playoff series basketball fans desperately need, and we’re predicting a thrilling seven-game set between the two superstars. Unfortunately for Nuggets fans, we have KD and the Suns barely hanging on to reach the Western Conference Finals for the second time in three years. Note that Phoenix won its final two matchups with the Nuggets after losing the first two, including a 128-125 defeat on Christmas Day.

NBA Playoff predictions: Conference finals

No. 2 Boston Celtics defeat No. 1 Milwaukee Bucks in six games: A Celtics-Bucks conference finals has felt like the endgame since the season tipped off in mid-October. Boston outscored Milwaukee 404-348 in three meetings this year, winning two. The Celtics feel like a team of destiny, at least in the Eastern Conference, and we like them to reach the NBA Finals for the second straight year. 

No. 4 Phoenix Suns defeat No. 6 Golden State Warriors in seven games: Suggesting that Kevin Durant will get his “revenge” on Stephen Curry and the Warriors feels incorrect. What revenge is there to take? If anything, Durant will send a message to his doubters by carrying the Suns to a Western Conference Finals victory over Curry, Klay Thompson, and the high-powered Warriors. Phoenix defeated Golden State three out of four times this year.

NBA Playoff predictions: NBA Finals

Boston Celtics defeat Phoenix Suns in six games: Remember in 2008 when the Lakers radically overhauled their roster, reached the NBA Finals, and fell to the Celtics in six games? We expect history to repeat this year, except with the Suns representing the West and without Kevin Garnett screaming into a microphone following Game 6. Instead, the viral moment will belong to Jayson Tatum, who will earn Finals MVP honors after a 35-point double-double. 

Can’t get enough basketball? Be sure to also check out our International Basketball page  for top games to stream (including Victor Wembanyama!), betting lines, and much more!

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