2023 NBA playoffs

A wide open playoff field combined with an immense star power on every team leaves fans with the chance at a playoffs for the ages.



Ryan Doody

When the NBA playoffs come around each year, every ESPN expert thinks they have it all figured out, and each time, they are proven wrong in some extreme way. This year, however, there is no consensus on which team will win the championship, or even who will be there. A lot of this has to do with the regular season being filled with a high level of star players injured, the use of load management, and mid-season shakeups for certain teams. In the new-age NBA, the regular season is becoming less and less meaningful, making playoff predictions and speculation more difficult. You can thank load management for that, led by star players like Kawhi Leonard, Kevin Durant, and Anthony Davis. Load management is a widespread player movement where they can seemingly “take off” whenever they feel the load is getting to be too strenuous. While playoff speculation may be more difficult, it won’t stop people from putting forth their opinions on how they think the playoffs will function.

There are always major storylines going into the playoffs, and this year is no different. The biggest regular season storyline was the MVP race which has been so closely contested by Giannis Antetokoumpo, Joel Embiid, and Nikola Jokic, with Joel Embiid leading the race after a late season surge. There were a few teams who rose from missing the playoffs last year to playoff contention this year, like the Sacramento Kings, who are making their first playoff appearance in 17 years. Along with the Kings are the Jalen Brunson-led New York Knicks and the revitalized Cleveland Cavaliers. In the eastern conference, there are three major contenders: the Milwaukee Bucks led by Giannis Antetokoumpo, Philadelphia 76ers led by Joel Embiid and James Harden, and the Boston Celtics led by Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum. While there could be some disruptors like the Knicks or Cavs, it is hard to see a team other than the top three making it to the finals based off of their regular season dominance. The western conference does not have a clear favorite with many strong teams that have very apparent flaws. The Denver Nuggets were the best regular season team but have never made it to the finals with this roster. The Phoenix Suns have only played 8 games together where Chris Paul, Devin Booker, and Kevin Durant were all suited up. The Clippers, Lakers, and Warriors are all wild cards who have the experience and star power to make a run despite their poor regular seasons. The Grizzlies and Kings have never really been there before with their current team, but both cities are thrilled to be back in the playoff mix.


The first round matchups this year have large upset potential that could alter the landscape of the entire playoff picture. The most intriguing matchups start with the Sacramento Kings vs Golden State Warriors. The Kings are the 3-seed, but are seemingly an underdog to the 6-seed defending champs—theGolden State Warriors. It will be a duel between two styles of play: De’Aaron Fox’s speed and pick and roll game with Domantas Sabonis against the well-oiled machine that is the Warriors with Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson shooting threes, with role players Draymond Green and Andrew Wiggins doing the little things to bring it all together. Another intriguing matchup is the New York Knicks versus the Cleveland Cavaliers. This series is almost destined to go to a seventh game. The teams are very evenly matched. A younger Cavs team with guys like Darius Garland, Evan Mobley, and Caris Levert paired up with a playoff-tested Donovan Mitchell leaves this team’s fate up in the air. This Knicks team is led by Jalen Brunson, who in his first year solidified himself as a star point guard in the Big Apple for years to come along with a rejuvenated Julius Randle who bounced back this season after a struggle the season before. This series is a toss up, which is guaranteed to have ultra-competitive games from these two up-and-coming teams. The final most intriguing matchup comes with the Lakers and Grizzlies. A mid-season revamp of a Lakers team that started the season 2-10, parted ways with Russell Westbrook, and welcomed in a plethora of role players in D’Angelo Russell, Malik Beasley, and Jarred Vanderbilt lead to a strong end to the season. The Memphis Grizzlies have quickly become one of the most hated teams in the league after some Dillon Brooks chatter mixed with the Ja Morant saga saw fans turn on the franchise, making them the perfect villains to ruin the Lakers’ comeback story. This matchup will lie on the shoulders of Anthony Davis to dominate this entire series. Steven Adams is out, which leaves the Grizzlies high and dry when it comes to centers, putting a lot on Defensive Player of the Year candidate Jaren Jackson, Jr. to produce both offensively and defensively. LeBron James and the Lakers will look to shut the arrogant Grizzlies down. The Lakers are the better team with the better roster but anything can happen in a seven game series, and there is a reason the Grizzlies are the number two seed. This series should go all seven, with thrillers along the way. As far as the other first round matchups, all of the top seeds will win. It would take an injury to a key player for any of the Bucks, 76ers, Nuggets, Celtics, or Suns to not advance to the next round. The only series that could be interesting is the Suns vs theClippers being that it is a series between two of the ten best forwards of all time, Kawhi Leonard and Kevin Durant, and sometimes star power goes a long way. 


The big picture of this year’s playoffs is the old superstars potentially being replaced by the new-age superstars. Steph Curry, Kevin Durant, Lebron James, and Kawhi Leonard could be beat out and surpassed by new era stars like De’Aaron Fox, Jayson Tatum, Nikola Jokic, Joel Embiid, Jalen Brunson, and others. This year that could also be the last run for teams the way they are currently constructed. Golden State has a chance to continue their dynasty, or it could possibly come to an end. The same thing could happen with the Clippers and Lakers. The lack of a consensus top team is what leaves a chance of a team making one last run, whether it be Lebron putting his team on his back or Jimmy Butler revitalizing the Heat. That’s what the playoffs are all about. 


For more breaking news and photos, follow The Wingspan on Instagram and Twitter @CHSWingspan