2023 First Round NBA Playoff Brackets and Picks

LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers look forward to a deep playoff run. Photo Courtesy: Michael Kolch

By DaVince “Dino” Wright

This is one of my favorite times of the year! This time ranks near my birthday and Christmas. This time of the year tells the basketball world who really are the kings of this NBA season. We have our favorite players and team but the team that jells well in the last 7-8 games of the season is usually the winner. Last season, the Dallas Mavericks made it to the Western Conference Finals and this year with the addition of Kyrie Irvin, the Mavs missed the playoffs by 5 games, but that’s a story to dive into later… Let’s take a closer look at this years team, series and predictions in the first round.

Eastern Conference
The Eastern Conference is pretty close this season. Favorites like: Philadelphia, Boston and Milwaukee top the list of potential champions. Keep an eye on Philly! The safe bet will be on Milwaukee or Boston.

Miami Heat (8) vs Milwaukee Bucks (1)
This series will be one of the best to watch. Milwaukee’s forward Giannis Antetokounmpo will be the player to watch for the Bucks. I like point guard Jrue Holiday running the show. The Bucks have the best record in the NBA and are looking for another championship. The Miami Heat Guard Jimmy Butler loves to dominate both on the offensive and defensive side of the floor. This series will boil down to how teams manage their stars. My Prediction: The Milwaukee Bucks in 5 games!

Boston Celtics (2) vs Atlanta Hawks (7)
This series will fall on the shoulders of Celtics guards Marcus Smart, Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum. The Celtics are poised and ready to get another banner for the Celtic faithful. Boston has the more experienced team in this series. The Atlanta Hawks are led by a young, talented backcourt as well. Trae Young and former Spurs guard Dejounte Murray. If you like guard play tune in to this one. My Prediction: The Boston Celtics will win in 4 games!

Philadelphia 76ers (3) vs Brooklyn Nets (6)
This series will feature 76ers big man and potential league MVP Joel Embiid. He’s the most in intriguing player in the playoffs. He has lived up to his full potential because loves shooting 3’s. 76ers guards James Harden and Tyrese Maxey will give the team the fire power they need to get to the next round. The Brooklyn Nets surprised me by limping into the playoffs this season. Keep an eye on guards Seth Curry, Spencer Dinwiddie and Joe Harris. My Prediction: The 76ers will win in a sweep – 4 games!

New York Knicks (5) vs Cleveland Cavaliers (4)
The Knicks became a better team by signing Jalen Brunson heading into this season. He has been a catalyst for the resurgence of the Knicks along with PF Julius Randle and G Josh Hart. This series will be as close as anyone that loves the game can predict it. Cleveland has a star that can score and play defense in Donovan Mitchell. He will be the x-factor for the Cavaliers in this series. Keep an eye on Jarrett Allen, if the Cavaliers play tough defense; this series will go 7 games easily. My Prediction: I’m taking the Cavaliers in 6 games!

Western Conference
The Western Conference is represented by some young and hungry teams like Memphis and Sacramento. You would think this this would be a cake walk for more experienced teams, but no one has told these guys that they are sacrificial lambs. Let’s take a look at each series.

Denver Nuggets (1) vs Minnesota Timberwolves (8)
This series will come down to how well the Nuggets play in the fourth quarter. Center and league MVP Nikola Jokic has his back court running mate Jamal Murray back to help run the offense. Keep an eye on Aaron Gordon, Jeff Green and Michael Porter, Jr. Minnesota will give the Nuggets problems during this series because they match up well against the Nuggets. Keep an eye on PG Mike Conley Jr., SG Anthony Edwards and C Rudy Gobert. Conley has plenty of playoff experience that this team needs. My Prediction: I’m taking Denver in a sweep!

Los Angeles Lakers (7) vs Memphis Grizzlies (2)
This series is extremely surprising to everyone. The Grizzlies are a second-place seed while the Lakers are 7th. Well the Grizzlies are for real and have played solid ball all season even in the absence of PG Ja Morant. The Lakers got in through the back door and are poised to make run. We all know Anthony Davis and LeBron James, but keep an eye on Austin Reaves and D’Angelo Russell. They will be the x-factors for the Lakers moving on to the next round. My Prediction: LA Lakers in 6 games!

Sacramento Kings (3) vs Golden State Warrior (6)
The Kings will have their hands full with the defending champion Warriors. Keep in mind that the Kings beat the Warriors this year and former assistant coach Mike Brown has some titles with the Warriors. He will be the x-factor for the Kings in this one. The Warriors have the “Splash Brothers” ready to hoist another trophy. Keep an eye on F Andrew Wiggins to get the Warriors over the hump. My Prediction: The Warriors in 6 games!

LA Clippers (4) vs Phoenix Suns (5)
The Clippers are a snake bitten team. They have 2 superstars in Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. This team hasn’t had both guys playing at the same time in months! Paul George is out and Leonard scored 38 points in the first game of this series. The Sun’s Kevin Durant will need to lift this team in the 4th quarters of this series. Keep an eye on Suns guard Devin Booker, I predict he will be the x factor for the Suns moving on the next series. My Prediction: The Suns in 6 games!