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The Wingspan

2024 NBA playoffs preview

The 2024 NBA playoffs are underway, and with recent surprises in the postseason who knows what this year could hold.

Eastern Conference

#1 Boston Celtics vs #8 Miami Heat:

In a repeat of last year’s Eastern Conference Finals, the Heat will take on the Celtics once again, but this time they will not have their leader, Jimmy Butler. Butler was crucial in their victory last year to advance to the finals and some are skeptical the team can beat the 64 win Celtics without him. Miami does have all-star Bam Adebayo holding down the paint, and young star guard Tyler Herro to run the offense, but is that enough against All-NBA players, Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown?

My Prediction: Celtics win, 4-2

Result: Celtics win, 4-1

#4 Cleveland Cavaliers vs #5 Orlando Magic

The Orlando Magic are back in the playoffs for the first time since 2020 and they are looking to make the most of it. They come in as the number five seed led by first time all-star Paolo Banchero and co-star Franz Wagner, both averaging over 19 points a game. Their matchup is interesting, as they face the four seeded Cavaliers. The Cavs are headlined by superstar and near 27 point per game scorer in Donovan Mitchell, as well as former all stars Darius Garland and Jarrett Allen. The Cavs have one of the best defenses in the league, which could give trouble to a young, inexperienced Orlando team. Many will write this series off in favor of the popular matchups, but do not sleep on either of these two teams to make a deep playoff run. 

My Prediction: Cavaliers win, 4-3 

Result: Cavaliers win, 4-3

#3 Milwaukee Bucks vs #6 Indiana Pacers

The Bucks come back to the playoffs after falling to the 8 seeded Miami Heat last year as the 1 seed. Milwaukee brought in All-NBA Point Guard Damian Lillard to pair with two time MVP, Giannis Antetokounmpo this offseason, looking for playoff vengeance. Their search may have to wait however, as the Pacers are led by young star Tyrese Haliburton and plenty of sufficient pieces around him including former All-star and trade deadline acquisition, Pascal Siakam. In crushing news for Bucks fans, Giannis Antetokounmpo is out for the early game of this series giving the Pacers a chance to go up early. In my eyes, if Indiana gains momentum they could become a deadly opponent.

My Prediction: Pacers win,  4-3

Result: Pacers win 4-2

#2 New York Kincks vs #7 Philadelphia 76ers

New York is back in the upper tier of the NBA, but they drew a short straw in their first round matchup. The 76ers, led by last year’s MVP, Joel Embiid landed the seven seed after Embiid went down for half the season with a knee injury. Embiid is back for this series, along with the Most Improved Player this season, Tyrese Maxey. While the 76ers are a tough matchup, the Knicks are no team to blow over. Led by 28 points per game scorer, Jalen Brunson and a tough defensive gameplan the Knicks could put heavy pressure on Embiid and stifle Philadelphia’s aspirations. New York is without their second star, Julius Randle which could cause problems later in the series, but with Josh Hart and Donte Divencenzo stepping up, the Knicks look good. 

My Prediction: Knicks win, 4-2

Result: Knicks win, 4-2

Western Conference

#1 Oklahoma City Thunder vs #8 New Orleans Pelicans

The Thunder won the rights to the one seed in the western conference with a tremendous season under Coach of the Year, Mark Daigneault. Oklahoma City has the youngest average age for any one seed in NBA history with 23.9 years, but that could come to be the major negative in their playoff run. The Pelicans are not an “old team” themselves however, led by former all stars, Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram. Sadly for Pelicans fans, Williamson injured himself in the play-in game before the series. Many (including myself) do not think this will be much of a matchup for the Thunder, led by MVP candidate, Shai Gligeous-Alexander, but the Thunder’s future in the playoffs is unpredictable and many are excited to see them against a fully healthy team.

My Prediction: Thunder win, 4-1

Result: Thunder win, 4-0

#4 Los Angeles Clippers vs #5 Dallas Mavericks 

In one of the most even matchups of the first round, the Los Angeles Clippers will take on the Dallas Mavericks. Both teams have star players, the Clippers’ big three of Kawhi Leonard,  Paul George, and James Harden and the Mavericks stellar duo of Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving. The Mavericks’ playoff struggle in the past has come from a subpar supporting cast around MVP candidate, Luka Doncic. However, with Irving finally fitting in with the team and the bench play improving, the Mavericks could go far in the playoffs. To do that however, they will have to get past the Clippers. Led by Leonard’s defense and George’s top tier scoring efforts it’s not an easy matchup for Dallas. This one could go either way, and whoever wins could very well make it to the finals.

My Prediction: Mavericks win, 4-3

Result: Mavericks win, 4-2

#3 Minnesota Timberwolves vs #6 Phoenix Suns

After a pleasantly surprising year from Minnesota to secure the three seed, and an extremely disappointing season from the Suns to fall into the six seed, this matchup has a lot of fans excited. 

Emerging star Anthony Edwards and all-star Karl-Anthony Towns anchor the high powered offense while three time defensive player of the year, Rudy Gobert mans the paint on defense. The defense of the Timberwolves may not be able to stop the Suns’ big three of Kevin Durant, Devin Booker, and Bradley Beal. Phoenix’s acquisition of these players has not come without controversy. With the hefty price paid for both Durant and Beal, many wonder if a loss in this series means the end of the Sun’s Championship window. Minnesota has a chance to shut the window and prove to the NBA and the fans how good of a team they are.

My Prediction: Timberwolves win, 4-2

Result: Timberwolves win, 4-0

#2 Denver Nuggets vs #7 Los Angeles Lakers

In a rematch of last season’s Western Conference Finals, the Lakers look to avoid the same fate that crushed them last year. The Lakers, led by LeBron James and Anthony Davis take on the defending champion, Denver Nuggets. Two time MVP, Nikola Jokic led Denver to the two seed as they search for a back to back championship. The Nuggets beat the Lakers in four games last year in a season which many thought was LeBron James’ last. It has been a year since that series and the Lakers are seeking revenge. However, the Lakers lack of depth could be a problem in comparison to one of the deepest teams in the association. The series will come down to how well Davis and limit Jokic and the Lakers’ ability to finish games strong. Both teams are seriously dangerous when they gain momentum, so whoever wins this series could be in for a long summer. 

My Prediction: Nuggets win, 4-2

Result: Nuggets win, 4-1


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About the Contributor
Charles Sandersen, Sports Writer