NBA playoff predictions: Bracket picks & 2023 Finals champion

Now that the 2021-22 season is in the books, 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 the first wave of free agency is behind us and the trade market has picked up. Can the Boston Celtics maintain their status as the top dog back east? 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

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  1. Milwaukee Bucks (57-25)
  2. Boston Celtics (55-27)
  3. Miami Heat (53-29)
  4. Philadelphia 76ers (51-31)
  5. Atlanta Hawks (47-35)
  6. Brooklyn Nets (45-37)
  7. Chicago Bulls (44-38)
  8. Toronto Raptors (42-40)

The Celtics’ acquisitions of Malcolm Brogdon and Danilo Gallinari after coming out of the Eastern Conference last season would seem to set them up as the odds-on favorites to repeat. We’re just not buying it.

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. While it’s close, we’re going to give the Bucks the slight advantage here.

As for the defending conference runner-ups, these Heat are looking to make a big splash. That includes being linked to both Kevin Durant and Donovan Mitchell in trade talks. Should general manager Pat Riley and Co. make a move of that ilk, it changes the dynamics big time.

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!

We’re 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 has requested a trade. Kyrie Irving has been the subject of trade talks. Ben Simmons continues to be an embattled figure without having played a single game with the team.

Assuming for some reason that all three return, the Nets are likely not a top-end title contender back east. If Irving or KD depart, this squad will struggle to earn a playoff spot. If both are gone, we’re looking at a complete rebuild in the Big Apple.

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 (56-26)
  3. Memphis Grizzlies (53-29)
  4. Phoenix Suns (52-30)
  5. Los Angeles Clippers (50-32)
  6. Minnesota Timberwolves (48-34)
  7. Dallas Mavericks (45-37)
  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 addition of Donte DiVincenzo 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 Deandre Ayton situation has Phoenix in flux. It could end up using him to acquire Kevin Durant in a blockbuster trade with the Nets. If that were to happen, Phoenix would be the overwhelming favorites out west. For now, we’re assuming Durant doesn’t head to the desert and Ayton departs. If so, Devin Booker teaming up with a watered-down Chris Paul has the Suns taking a step back.

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
Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

1. Milwaukee Bucks over 8. Toronto Raptors (4-2)

4. Philadelphia 76ers over 5. Atlanta Hawks (4-3)

2. Boston Celtics over 7. Chicago Bulls (4-2)

3. Miami Heat over 6. Brooklyn Nets (4-2)

Western Conference, first round

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

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

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

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

NBA Playoff predictions: Conference semifinal results

Eastern Conference

1. Milwaukee Bucks over 4. Philadelphia 76ers (4-3)

2. Boston Celtics over 3. Miami Heat (4-2)

Western Conference

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

1. Golden State Warriors over 5. Los Angeles Clippers (4-2)

2. Denver Nuggets over 6. Minnesota Timberwolves (4-2)

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
Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

This article was originally published on and is republished here with permission.

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