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NBA playoff predictions: Bracket picks & 2023 Finals champion

Vincent Frank

Now that the preseason is upon us, it’s time to check in on our NBA Playoff predictions for 2022-23.

The Golden State Warriors are coming off their fourth title in eight years. With their core group returning, they are odds-on favorites to repeat as champs.

With that said, there are a ton of other storylines now that everything has pretty much died down at this point in the summer. Can the Boston Celtics maintain their status as the top dog back east following all of their drama? The Cleveland Cavaliers now might be in the midst of challening that after a blockbuster trade for Donovan Mitchell. Out west, the Los Angeles Lakers are looking to return to form after some major struggles last season.

Below, we give you our way too early NBA playoff predictions for the 2022-23 campaign with updates throughout the summer.

Related: Sportsnaut’s updated NBA power rankings

Eastern Conference NBA Playoff predictions and seeds

nba playoff predictions: milwaukee bucks
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  1. Milwaukee Bucks (59-23)
  2. Boston Celtics (56-26)
  3. Miami Heat (54-28)
  4. Cleveland Cavaliers (51-31)
  5. Brooklyn Nets (50-32)
  6. Philadelphia 76ers (48-34)
  7. Atlanta Hawks (44-38)
  8. Chicago Bulls (42-40)

The Celtics’ acquisitions of Malcolm Brogdon and Danilo Gallinari after coming out of the Eastern Conference last season seemingly set them up to repeat back east. Unfortunately, Gallinari suffered a torn ACL during the summer and is out for the entire 2022-23 season. Manwhile, head coach Ime Udoka was suspended for the 2022-23 season. It remains to be seen how this is going to impact Boston.

Khris Middleton’s absence impacted Milwaukee big time in the 2022 NBA Playoffs. We’re talking about a 20-point scorer with three-and-D capabilities. With Middleton out, the Bucks had to rely on Jrue Holiday to be their second-leading scorer behind Giannis Antetokounmpo. That’s a less-than-ideal scenario. Middleton is now also sidelined after undergoing wrist surgery and might not be available to start the season.

As for the defending conference runner-ups, these Heat were looking to make a big splash during the offseason. That included being linked to both Kevin Durant and Donovan Mitchell in trade talks before the former was taken off the market and the latter was dealt to Cleveland.

For now, Miami comes in at No. 3 back east primarily because of its lack of a true No. 2 option behind the legendary Jimmy Butler. Bam Adebayo was Miami’s second-leading scorer behind Butler in the conference finals against Boston, averaging 15 points per game. Ouch!

As for the Cavaliers, they are now one of the most-talented overall teams in the NBA following the blockbuster trade for star guard Donovan Mitchell. Cleveland now has three All-Stars all 25 and under as well as reigning NBA Rookie of the Year runner-up Evan Mobley. That’s just insane.

We were also expecting 76ers front office head Daryl Morey to be proactive in acquiring a third star with James Harden and Joel Embiid, especially after the former took a major pay cut to remain with the team. Even short of that happening, Philadelphia’s acquisitions of De’Anthony Melton, P.J. Tucker and Danuel House were pretty darn nice.

Speaking of pretty darn nice, Atlanta finally made that move to acquire another star to go with Trae Young. While it came in as an expensive proposition, Dejounte Murray provides another element for the Hawks after an ugly first-round exit in the 2022 NBA Playoffs. We’re talking about a first-time All-Star who averaged 21.1 points, 8.3 rebounds and 9.2 assists for the Spurs last season. Depending on what happens with the John Collins situation, Atlanta could improve even more this summer.

There’s a lot going on with the Brooklyn Nets right now. Kevin Durant had requested a trade before pulling said request. Kyrie Irving was the subject of widespread trade rumors, but he’s set to return. Ben Simmons could be inching to 100% after undergoing back surgery. If healthy, these Nets are legit conference title contenders.

Related: Highest-paid NBA players

Western Conference NBA Playoff predictions and seeds

NBA: Golden State Warriors-Championship Parade
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  1. Golden State Warriors (60-22)
  2. Denver Nuggets (55-27)
  3. Phoenix Suns (53-29)
  4. Memphis Grizzlies (50-32)
  5. Minnesota Timberwolves (49-33)
  6. Los Angeles Clippers (48-34)
  7. Dallas Mavericks (43-39)
  8. Los Angeles Lakers (42-40)

The losses of Otto Porter Jr. and Gary Payton II from last season’s championship team could hurt Golden State. It seems that the team is relying on Moses Moody and Jonathan Kuminga to pick up the slack. Both were impressive as rookies and could take that next step in 2022-23. The additions of Donte DiVincenzo and JaMychal Green will also help from a depth perspective.

But let’s be clear here. As long as Stephen Curry is doing his thing, Andrew Wiggins continues to improve and Klay Thompson finds his groove, these Warriors will be the odds-on favorite to repeat as NBA champions in 2022-23.

It’s rather interesting behind Golden State in the Western Conference. We’re going with the Denver Nuggets as the No. 2 team assuming Michael Porter Jr. and Jamal Murray return 100% from injury. Adding them to the mix to go with two-time reigning NBA MVP Nikola Jokic has the Nuggets as a legit title contender, and our most-reecnt NBA Playoff predictions take that into account.

Unfortunately for Ja Morant and the Memphis Grizzlies, they will be without star forward Jaren Jackson Jr. for well into the 2022-23 season due to yet another injury. Despite winning the second-most games in the NBA last season, this will impact their standing come playoff time.

Speaking of this summer having an impact on next season, the decision to match Indiana’s offer to Deandre Ayton could have ramifications. Devin Booker teaming up with a watered-down Chris Paul has Phoenix taking a step back in our most-recent NBA Playoff predictions.

It really is hard to project the rest of the Western Conference in our latest NBA Playoff predictions. Assuming Paul George and Kawhi Leonard are healthy, the Clippers will give Golden State a run for its money in the Pacific Division. Relying on John Wall to remain healthy and improve the point guard position is foolhardy.

We’re also intrigued to see how the Karl-Anthony Towns and Rudy Gobert dynamic is going to work in Minnesota after the Wolves surprised with 46 wins a season ago. They could be dominating. It could also be like fitting a square peg in a round hole. Either way, Minny has a very talented core four with Towns, Gobert, Anthony Edwards and D’Angelo Russell.

Dallas’ loss of Jalen Brunson is going to hurt Luka Doncic big time. It wasn’t until the Mavericks found a legitimate second scorer out on the perimeter that they made a run to the conference finals. Is Christian Wood going to make up the difference?

As for the Lakers, the remainder of this summer will tell us whether this team is able to rebound from a 49-loss season. Pressure is on general manager Rob Pelinka. That’s for sure.

Related: Top 2023 NBA free agents

NBA Playoffs bracket predictions: Matchups and winners

Eastern Conference, first round

nba playoff predictions: philadelphia 76ers, atlanta hawks
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1. Milwaukee Bucks over 8. Toronto Raptors (4-2)

4. Cleveland Cavaliers over 5. Brooklyn Nets (4-3)

2. Boston Celtics over 7. Atlanta Hawks (4-2)

6. Philadelphia 76ers over 3. Miami Heat (4-3)

Western Conference, first round

1. Golden State Warriors over 8. Los Angeles Lakers (4-0)

4. Minnesota Timberwolves over 5. Memphis Grizzlies (4-3)

2. Denver Nuggets over 7. Dallas Mavericks (4-2)

6. Los Angeles Clippers over 3. Phoenix Suns (4-3)

NBA Playoff predictions: Conference semifinal results

Eastern Conference

1. Milwaukee Bucks over 4. Cleveland Cavaliers (4-3)

2. Boston Celtics over 6. Philadelphia 76ers (4-3)

Western Conference

NBA: Denver Nuggets at Golden State Warriors
Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

1. Golden State Warriors over 4. Minnesota Timberwolves (4-3)

2. Denver Nuggets over 6. Los Angeles Clippers (4-2)

Related: These Basketball Card Prices Will Leave You Speechless, Including $90,000 For A 1948 George Mikan

NBA playoff predictions: Conference finals

Eastern Conference

1. Milwaukee Bucks over 2. Boston Celtics (4-3)

Western Conference

1. Golden State Warriors over 2. Denver Nuggets (4-2)

2022 NBA Finals predictions: Golden State Warriors over Milwaukee Bucks (4-2)

NBA: All Star Game-Team Lebron vs Team Durant
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