As the 2023 NBA Eastern and Western Conference Finals approach us, it is time to make predictions. The Cinderella story of the Los Angeles Lakers continues, as they are currently up 3-1 against the Golden State Warriors. Thanks largely to Anthony Davis‘ dominant, albeit inconsistent play on both ends of the court, the Lakers find themselves as one of the dark horse contenders for a Finals run after a forgettable season. Barring a complete meltdown, they are an easy pick for advancing to the NBA Western Conference Finals.
Staying in the Western Conference, the Denver Nuggets are currently up 3-2 against the high-powered Phoenix Suns. Perhaps in part because the Lakers are having an easier going against the Warriors, and perhaps partially because the Nuggets are leading against the once favored Suns – the Lakers are not favored to come out of the West, and even win it all. This is a mistake. The Nuggets and Suns both had a tougher road in the playoffs than the Lakers. This is reflected in their respective records. However, once the Nuggets advance to the Conference Finals, they will prove to be a serious challenge for the Lakers.
In many ways, Nikola Jokic represents what LeBron James used to be, an NBA system unto himself. Jokic is basically the entire offense for the Nuggets, and he is an ultra-efficient machine. This isn’t to say that the Lakers cannot oust the Nuggets, however Jokic and Murray are firing on all cylinders, and with the Serbian big man in his prime, it may be hard to deny him this year.
Heading over to the Eastern Conference, we have the Miami Heat enjoying a 3-1 lead over the New York Knicks. The Knicks getting as far as they have already exceeded expectations for many, and no one really expects them to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals. And while Playoff Jimmy Butler is indeed a very real phenomenon, do not expect the Heat to make it past the Eastern Conference Finals.
The Celtics and Sixers are definitely the most interesting and confounding series in progress right now. While the 76ers are currently enjoying a 3-2 lead over the Celtics, the Celtics were favored going into the series and are still favored by many to beat the Sixers. Reigning NBA MVP, Joel Embiid continues to cement himself as one of the best players in the league alongside the other two members of the triumvirate – Nikola Jokic and Giannis Antetokounmpo.
As talented as the Celtics are, they just seem to falter at the worst times, and currently the Sixers should be favored to advance to the Conference Finals, wherein they should make relatively quick work of the Heat.
This ultimately leads to the Denver Nuggets and the Philadelphia 76ers facing off for the Larry O’Brien Championship Trophy. Two of the three premier big men in the league, in their primes right now with the chance to win it all. Basketball is a team sport however, and the Denver Nuggets are just a little bit better as a cohesive unit, largely due to how Jokic plays.
Nuggets in 7.