The 2023-24 NBA season will become compelling for two reasons.
The league has become rich with generational talent, both with incumbent stars and intriguing prospects. The league also has about half a dozen teams that have a legitimate chance to win an NBA championship and about a dozen from each conference that could make the playoffs.
Time will tell whether the NBA’s new resting policy and In-Season tournament will add more regular-season spice. Nonetheless, trust that the on-court product will stay high because of the vast talent and parity.
That makes the following exercise pretty difficult: how to choose which teams will make the NBA Playoffs, the Finals and actually win the championship. We’ll take a stab at it, anyway.
Related: Updated NBA power rankings
NBA Playoff predictions 2023-24
Eastern Conference play-In teams: Chicago Bulls, Atlanta Hawks, Brooklyn Nets, Indiana Pacers
The Pacers and Nets are heading in the right direction, but don’t have enough star power. The Bulls and Hawks have the talent, but their chemistry will stay inconsistent.
Western Conference play-In teams: Memphis Grizzlies, Dallas Mavericks, Minnesota Timberwolves, Oklahoma City Thunder
All of these teams would make the playoffs, if not for a crowded Western Conference. But Memphis (Ja Morant’s 25-game suspension), Dallas (depth), Minnesota (depth) and Oklahoma City (youth) will have to compete in the Play-In tournament for various reasons.
Eastern Conference Playoff teams: Milwaukee Bucks, Boston Celtics, New York Knicks, Cleveland Cavaliers, Philadelphia 76ers, Miami Heat, Chicago Bulls, Atlanta Hawks
The Bucks and Celtics will have clear separation over the rest of the field. Cleveland and New York will stay competitive, while Philadelphia and Miami will have mixed success dealing with their roster turbulence.
Western Conference Playoff teams: Denver Nuggets, Phoenix Suns, Golden State Warriors, Los Angeles Lakers, LA Clippers, Sacramento Kings, Dallas Mavericks, Memphis Grizzlies
The seedings will fluctuate constantly for both better (roster depth) and for worse (injury uncertainties). The Nuggets, Suns, Warriors and Lakers will finish the season as the most viable Western Conference contenders because of their talent and depth.
Eastern Conference Finals: Milwaukee Bucks-Boston Celtics
This matchup seemed inevitable after two blockbuster trades. The Bucks paired Giannis Antetokounmpo with Damian Lillard to form an unstoppable duo. The Celtics then acquired the Bucks’ former two-way star (Jrue Holiday) partly in hopes to slow down the Bucks’ new pairing.
Western Conference Finals: Denver Nuggets-Los Angeles Lakers
The Nuggets and Lakers will exemplify the value of prioritizing continuity and roster depth around their star player. The Warriors and Suns will have strong chemistry, but more growing pains with integrating their new pieces.
NBA Finals: Milwaukee Bucks-Denver Nuggets
Expect an epic seven-game series in both the West and East Finals. Though either outcome could happen, Boston will struggle with defending Antetokounmpo and Lillard because of their strong talent and chemistry. The Lakers will seriously threaten the Nuggets, but the injuries could become a more pressing concern for the Lakers than for the Nuggets because of the age of their respective star players.
NBA Champion: Milwaukee Bucks
Both teams are so loaded, but a Lillard- Antetokounmpo duo seems a tad more difficult to defend than the Jokic-Jamal Murray pairing. Both teams will rely on their depth, but Lillard and Antetokounmpo will make the difference.