The Circuit’s 2023 NBA Playoff Predictions
The NBA season is in the books, so it’s time to look back on the season that was, and look ahead to the playoffs that will be! Circuit Artwork Before diving into this post, make sure to check out my other NBA posts from the 2022-23 season: 2022-23 Preseason Predictions 2022-23 1st Quarter Polls 2022-23 2nd Quarter Polls 2022-23 3rd Quarter Polls Now that the 2022-23 NBA season is over, it’s time to start thinking about the NBA playoffs and who will take home the Larry O’Brien trophy. But before we talk about that, let’s look back and see how I did with my preseason predictions! Three Things I Was Big RIGHT On: Getty Images 1- 18 of the 20 Playoff Teams My over/unders were worse than last year (more on that in a bit), but I did a pretty bang-up job on predicting the 20 playoff teams! In the East, I had Washington in over Chicago and out West I had Dallas (obviously) in over Oklahoma City. If you want to criticize me for the Washington pick, go ahead. But please raise your hand if you had Dallas missing the play-in altogether. Oh you didn’t? Then piss off. I got a lot of things wrong this year, but the playoffs I pretty much nailed! 2- The Kings Would Go Way Over LIGHT THE DAMN BEAM! The Kings had a wildly successful season, their first playoff appearance in 3 Presidential registrations. More on the Kings later (sorry, Sacramento) but the Kings certainly lit all of our collective beams in 2023! That over/under was disrespectful, and they were the easiest over/under pick in the league. 3- Joel Embiid Would Win MVP Hallelujah! Sure I waivered early when Philly struggled out of the gate and Tatum seemingly couldn’t lose, but I had Embiid before the season and in the last quarter polls. He was the man this year, and deserves the award. Three Things I was Big WRONG On… Getty Images 1- Minnesota Would Be A Really Good Regular-Season Team I thought Minnesota would be first-round cannon fodder, but I thought Gobert would bolster their defense enough to win games in the regular season. Maybe if Towns hadn’t missed months (plural), they would have. But he did, and they didn’t. Them’s the breaks! 2- The Celtics Would Take A Step Back I thought Miami, Phoenix and Boston would all take considerable steps back this year. Miami did, falling from 1st to 7th (exactly as I predicted). Phoenix did, falling from 1st to 4th (but they added KD so they’ll be just fine). Boston however did not. Apparently coaching doesn’t matter? Tatum and Brown became arguably the best duo in the league, and the Celtics impressed me tremendously this season. 3- The Jazz Would Be The Worst Team In The League Speaking of coaching, shoutout to Will Hardy! Danny Ainge tried his damndest to tank but Hardy and The Finnisher simply would not stand for it. Despite missing the play-in, Utah fans should be really proud of the effort this bonafide G-League team put forth this year to stay in it as long as they did. Even though it likely cost them Wembanyama; oh well! Atlantic Division Getty Images 1- Boston Celtics (O/U 55.5) Prediction- UNDER Result- OVER (57) 2- Philadelphia 76ers (O/U 50.5) Prediction- OVER Result- OVER (54) 3- New York Knicks (O/U 40.5) Prediction- OVER Result- OVER (47) 4- Brooklyn Nets (O/U 51.5) Prediction- UNDER Result- UNDER (45) 5- Toronto Raptors (O/U 46.5) Prediction- OVER Result- UNDER (41) Central Division Getty Images 1- Milwaukee Bucks (O/U 52.5) Prediction- OVER Result- OVER (58) 2- Cleveland Cavaliers (O/U 47.5) Prediction- OVER Result- OVER (51) 3- Chicago Bulls (O/U 44.5) Prediction- UNDER Result- UNDER (40) 4- Indiana Pacers (O/U 23.5) Prediction- UNDER Result- OVER (35) 5- Detroit Pistons (O/U 28.5) Prediction- OVER Result- UNDER (17) Southeast Division Getty Images 1- Miami Heat (O/U 50.5) Prediction- UNDER Result- UNDER (44) 2- Atlanta Hawks (O/U 46.5) Prediction- OVER Result- UNDER (41) 3- Washington Wizards (O/U 35.5) Prediction-OVER Result- UNDER (35) 4- Orlando Magic (O/U 26.5) Prediction- OVER Result- OVER (34) 5- Charlotte Hornets (O/U 36.5) Prediction- UNDER Result- UNDER (27) Pacific Division Getty Images 1- Sacramento Kings (O/U 34.5) Prediction- OVER Result- UNDER (48) 2- Phoenix Suns (O/U 53.5) Prediction- UNDER Result- OVER (45) 3- Los Angeles Clippers (O/U 52.5) Prediction- UNDER Result- UNDER (44) 4- Golden State Warriors (O/U 53.5) Prediction- OVER Result- UNDER (44) 5- Los Angeles Lakers (O/U 45.5) Prediction- UNDER Result- UNDER (43) Southwest Division Getty Images 1- Memphis Grizzlies (O/U 49.5) Prediction- UNDER Result- OVER (51) 2- New Orleans Pelicans (O/U 44.5) Prediction- OVER Result- UNDER (42) 3- Dallas Mavericks (O/U 48.5) Prediction- UNDER Result- UNDER (38) 4- Houston Rockets (O/U 24.5) Prediction- OVER Result- UNDER (22) 5- San Antonio Spurs (O/U 23.5) Prediction- OVER Result- UNDER (22) Northwest Division Getty Images 1- Denver Nuggets (O/U 51.5) Prediction- OVER Result- OVER (53) 2- Minnesota Wolves (O/U 49.5) Prediction- OVER Result- UNDER (42) 3- Oklahoma City Thunder (O/U 22.5) Prediction- OVER Result- OVER (40) 4- Utah Jazz (O/U 25.5) Prediction- UNDER Result- OVER (37) 5- Portland Blazers (O/U 40.5) Prediction- UNDER Result- UNDER (33) 17-13 is not what I shoot for, but it’s over .500 so guess what? That means I made some money! That’s all that really matters in the end. A bit of a dip from my 23-7 record from 2022, but I fully plan to get back up over 20 in 2024! Lastly, before we get to the awards, let’s take another look at the Wemby Vibe Index; which team has the best juju heading into the draft? Who deserves Wembanyama and why isn’t it Portland? Here are the top 5! (we’re only looking at teams with realistic chances of landing the French Alien. Obviously we all want Golden State to get him, but that isn’t happening) 5- Dallas Mavericks The odds of this happening are quite thin. BUT COULD YOU IMAGINE? Luka and Wembanyama would be maybe the most terrifying duo in NBA history in 3 years time. They don’t deserve him, the stink of how this season ended will hurt their karma tremendously, but if it did… I would be pretty thrilled. 4- San Antonio Spurs Popovich. That’s literally the only reason this team deserves him at all. 3- Charlotte Hornets Bad roster. Awful coach. Horrific owner. However, I think Ball could fit nicely with Wemby, and they have cool uniforms. Plus, their karma is looking good after refusing to tank and winning games down the stretch, so that’s a plus. 2- Houston Rockets I hate this team. They fucked Stephen Silas over time and time again. However, they have some young pieces, and if Harde does come back this summer, pairing him with Wemby could be pretty fun to watch. 1- Orlando Magic Getty Images They deserve him! They crushed the Wagner and Banchero picks, and with Wemby they could become a legit Finals contender in 2 years. They played hard, drastically improved, they have decent uniforms and a rich history at center. The Magic are in the pole position here in the Wemby Vibes Index. Now let's hand out some awards! MVP: Joel Embiid (Philadelphia 76ers ) Getty Images Thank basketball Jesus, Joke-ic isn’t winning a third straight MVP! Embiid is the scoring champion again at over 33 ppg, a far better defensive player than Joke-ic and spoiler alert: the 76ers have a better record. Throw in demolishing him head-to-head, a full-court buzzer beater against the Celtics (yes I understand it didn’t count, but it was a moment), and the fact that no player in history has multiple runner-ups and no wins, Embiid is the deserving winner. 2- Giannis Antetokounmpo 3- Nikola Jokic 4- Jayson Tatum 5- Donovan Mitchell Defensive Player of the Year: Brook Lopez ( Milwaukee Bucks ) Getty Images Jaren Jackson Jr is a deserving winner, but I just can’t get there with him. He fouls way too much to convince me he’s the best defensive player in the league. If you want to argue that Lopez is the third best Buck in this category (Giannis, Holiday), I wouldn’t say you’re wrong. I went with Lopez mainly because of the career arc here; a below-average defender who only played in the post to a three-point bombing defensive stopper on the best team in the league. He’s just deserving enough, so I’ll give it to Big Buck himself! 2- Jaren Jackson Jr (Memphis Grizzlies) 3- Giannis Antetokpounmpo (Milwaukee Bucks) 4- Draymond Green (Golden State Warriors) 5- Jrue Holiday (Milwaukee Bucks) Rookie of the Year: Paolo Banchero ( Orlando Magic ) Getty Images Williams has been fun and he’s on a team that exceeded expectations. However, I don’t really put much stock in win totals for RoY. The whole point is these guys are typically on shitty teams. Paolo has been the guy in Orlando since the opening tip, and he delivered All-Star quality numbers. Paolo is flatly better than Williams, so he wins. And shoutout to Kessler! Should Williams finish 2nd? Probably. But Kessler has been a one-man block party, and single-handedly made the Gobert trade lopsided, so he got my second place vote. 2- Walker Kessler (Utah Jazz) 3- Jalen Williams (Oklahoma City Thunder) 4- Keegan Murray (Sacramento Kings) 5- Christian Braun (Denver Nuggets) Sixth Man of the Year: Malcolm Brogdon ( Boston Celtics ) Getty Images This is a 2-horse race and I refuse to even finish the ballot. Okay, it’s less me refusing and more me struggling to come up with 3 names yet alone 5. I refuse to put Poole on there for how ugly he plays now. Kevin Love got traded. And Russell Westbrook… HAHA. Remember when we all thought he might win this 4 months ago? Good fucking luck with that head case Clippers. Brogdon and Quickley are pretty even, but I wanted to give the Celtics an award, so here we are. 2- Immanuel Quickley (New York Knicks) 3- 4- 5- Coach of the Year: Mike Brown ( Sacramento Kings ) Getty Images LIGHT THE DAMN BEAM! Kings fans are going to hate me in a few paragraphs, but I want to give them plenty of love here. Brown turned a woesome franchise into a legitimate team, and I give him all the credit in the world. It’s crazy how having an adult in the room can really help things! 2- Joe Mazzula (Boston Celtics) 3- Will Hardy (Utah Jazz) 4- Mark Daigenault (Oklahoma City Thunder) 5- Jacque Vaughn (Brooklyn Nets) Stan Van Gundy Worst Coaching Award: Steve Clifford ( Charlotte Hornets ) Getty Images Quick disclaimer: I’m not considering any coach that had Kyrie Irving on his team for this. Steve Nash and Jason Kidd, you’re safe. Did the Hornets have a bottom-3 record? Nope. Did they make the play-in? Also no. They won just enough games to likely cost themselves Wembanyama, while simultaneously not being anywhere close to the playoffs. Clifford, what the hell are you doing? You had one job: lose as many games as possible. And yet, even without LaMelo Ball for most of the season, you couldn’t even do that. Allen Iverson Most Exciting Player to Watch Award: Joel Embiid ( Philadelphia 76ers ) This was difficult because the traditionally exciting players disappointed this season. Curry missed a lot of time, Luka was leaking sweet tea for the last 2 months of the season, and Ja got himself suspended. So I guess I’ll give it to the big fella! He had a lot of Heisman Moments, and it’s fun to see great players dominate. Rasheed Wallace Biggest Trade-Impact Player Award: Kevin Durant to Phoenix Suns Getty Images Really? Did I even need to write his name? Did you think I would put Reggie Jackson to Denver? Come on! Durant changed the title race in a way I can’t ever remember a mid-season trade has. Did you really expect me to say Russell Westbrook here? Jeremy Lin Hottest Two-Week Stretch Award: Austin Reaves ( Los Angeles Lakers ) Getty Images I fucking love this guy. I loved him last season, when I thought he was the only Laker aside from LeBron that actually wanted to win games. I was firmly with Pelinka in not putting him in a trade for Kyrie (Christie on the other hand… come on man). Reaves is just a really good NBA player who knows his role, plays hard and has an extremely high hoops IQ. So when he started erupting for 30+ a night in March, I watched on as a proud parent. This dude is a legit 3rd option on a title team, and I’m so glad he’s blossoming into what I knew he could be! All-NBA First Team: Getty Images G- Shai Gilgeous-Alexander ( Oklahoma City Thunder ) G- D onovan Mitchell (Cleveland Cavaliers ) F- Jayson Tatum ( Boston Celtics ) F- Giannis Antetokounmpo ( Milwaukee Bucks ) C- Joel Embiid ( Philadelphia 76ers ) All-NBA Second Team: Getty Images G- Luka Doncic ( Dallas Mavericks ) G- De’Aaron Fox ( Sacramento Kings ) F- Jaylen Brown ( Boston Celtics ) F- Julius Randle ( New York Knicks ) C- Nikola Jokic ( Denver Nuggets ) All-NBA Third Team: Getty Images G- Steph Curry ( Golden State Warriors ) G- Jrue Holiday ( Milwaukee Bucks ) F- Jimmy Butler ( Miami Heat ) F- LeBron James ( Los Angeles Lakers ) C- Domantas Sabonis ( Sacramento Kings ) Now let’s take a look at the playoff bracket and predict how the 2022 NBA playoffs will unfold: East Play-In: Getty Images 7 Miami Heat def 8 Atlanta Hawks 9 Toronto Raptors def 10 Chicago Bulls 9 Toronto Raptors def 8 Atlanta Hawks Is Trae Young a serious basketball player? Or did he just benefit from Ben Simmons having the second biggest mental breakdown of the last 15 years (don’t worry JR, no one is touching yours)? Heat Culture alone should be enough to get by Atlanta. Again, the pedigree of the Raptors is what I’m leaning on here. Chicago played pretty well to end the season, but they have Pat Bev so I physically cannot pick them. Fuck Patrick Beverly. Toronto vs. Atlanta should be a great game, but I’m going with the experience of the Raptors over the dysfunction of the Hawks. West Play-In: Getty Images 7 Los Angeles Lakers def 8 Minnesota Timberwolves 9 New Orleans Pelicans def 10 Oklahoma City Thunder 9 New Orleans Pelicans def 8 Minnesota Timberwolves The Lakers are on fire and the Timberwolves are punching each other in the huddle. This game shouldn’t be all that close. This Thunder team is really fun, and I’m excited to see what Holmgren looks like with the next season, but I gotta believe the Pelicans can get through this game just like they did a year ago. Pelicans-Wolves should be fun, but I just don’t like the juju around the Wolves right now. Give me the Pelicans getting into the playoffs out of the 9 vs 10 game for the second straight season, and maybe (hopefully) a Zion return! East 1st Round: Getty Images 1 Milwaukee Bucks def 9 Toronto Raptors 4-1 2 Boston Celtics def 7 Miami Heat 4-2 3 Philadelphia 76ers def 6 Brooklyn Nets 4-0 4 Cleveland Cavaliers def 5 New York Knicks 4-3 The Raptors are scrappy and I wouldn't want to play them, but they are no match for Giannis and the Bucks. The Heat nearly beat Boston in the conference finals a year ago, and with the addition of Kevin Love I think they’ll give them a fight again this year. But ultimately, too much Tatum and too much Brown for Boston to ever be in any real danger. Brooklyn should be thrilled to be here, but this team can’t actually contend with Philadelphia. This will be the lone sweep of the 1st round. Cavs-Knicks is a genuinely exciting matchup of the two teams that wanted Mitchell. I like the Cavs mainly because they have home-court and the best player in the series, but if you told me the Knicks won I wouldn’t be shocked. West 1st Round: Getty Images 1 Denver Nuggets def 9 New Orleans Pelicans 4-2 7 Los Angeles Lakers def 2 Memphis Grizzlies 4-2 6 Golden State Warriors def 3 Sacramento Kings 4-2 4 Phoenix Suns def 5 Los Angeles Clippers 4-3 God I wanted to pick against Denver here. Had they been facing a different play-in team, I would have. But without Zion, I don’t see the Pelicans having enough firepower to win this series. But like last year, they make it way more difficult than the top-seed would like. Oh yeah! I did it. Is this a homer pick? Absolutely. And you can tell me “well if Davis or LeBron gets hurt they don’t stand a chance”. Yeah no shit, Sherlock. If Durant gets hurt Phoenix is out. Same with Curry in Golden State or Joke-ic in Denver. If the Lakers can stay healthy, they’re going against a team who have lost 2 of their best 3 bigs, and the one who’s left fouls more than anyone in the league. Davis should be able to devour the Grizzlies front line, and LeBron is still one of the very best in the league (if you don’t believe me, I guess you just don’t like points, assists, rebounds, or IQ? Seems like a you problem). Sorry Kings fans. Call me crazy, but I value championship experience and good defense? I know most people don’t, but they seem kind of important to me. The Warriors have won 4 titles in the last 8 years, they have the best lineup in the NBA (statistically speaking, not just me saying that) and the best player in the series. The Kings have the 26th best defense in the NBA (or in other words, the 5 worst) and haven’t been in a playoff game since I’m pretty sure Titanic was still in theaters. If you want to tell me this is the Harrison Barnes revenge series, best of luck. If I’m wrong I’ll own it. But I will not be wrong. And the Clippers gone’ Clipp. East Semis: Getty Images 1 Milwaukee Bucks def 4 Cleveland Cavaliers 4-1 3 Philadelphia 76ers def 2 Boston Celtics 4-2 Great season Cleveland, but this is the end of the road. Milwaukee is too experienced and just flatly too good. I do not feel great about this one. Boston is awesome, and Harden has had his… issues, let’s say, in the playoffs. I am only picking the 76ers here because I picked them to win the East before the season. I would be less than surprised if Boston wins. West Semis: Getty Images 4 Phoenix Suns def 1 Denver Nuggets 4-2 6 Golden State Warriors def 7 Los Angeles Lakers 4-3 Durant and Booker will eviscerate the Nuggets defense, and Joke-ic will once again have everyone making excuses for him. But in the end, you can win with Durant and you can’t with Joke-ic. Simple arithmetic. And to prove I’m not completely biased, the Lakers fall in the 2nd round. Had they been playing Denver, I would pick the Lakers. But against the Warriors, with their experience and home-court, I really can’t justify picking the Lakers. But God I want to. East Finals: Getty Images 1 Milwaukee Bucks def 3 Philadelphia 76ers 4-1 Pick integrity dies here. Philly, I rode you as long as I could but I just can’t pick against Milwaukee. I want to, I really want to. But Giannis is the best player in the world, and Holiday is on fire. Give me the Bucks! West Finals: Getty Images 4 Phoenix Suns def 6 Golden State Warriors 4-3 Jesus Christ how fun would this be? Durant vs. the Warriors? Come on! The narratives write themselves. Ultimately I will always have Curry higher than Durant on my all-time list, but it’s close. This win wouldn’t put him over the top, but it wouldn’t hurt! In an all-out-war, give me the Phoenix Suns! NBA Finals: Getty Images 4 Phoenix Suns def 1 Milwaukee Bucks 4-2 (Finals MVP: Kevin Durant ) The rematch! I picked this Finals last year as well, so I might as well go back to it this year! Milwaukee has the best player, but the next two will be wearing orange (or white or black or purple, who knows what hideous uniform concoction these teams will put together). It feels awful picking against Giannis, but I think this is the time for the Suns to win it and CP3 to finally capture the brass ring! And of course, Durant is the Finals MVP. There you have it! All my predictions and awards for the 2022-23 NBA postseason. We’ll see you next season; happy playoffs!