2023 NBA Western Conference First Round Playoff Predictions

The 2022-23 NBA regular season ended in anticipation for a thrilling western conference playoff race. MVP runner-up Nikola Jokic and the Denver Nuggets are the favorites to make a deep run to the championship while the Clippers and Grizzlies were plagued with drama involving who would step up and lead besides their franchise stars. No one should underestimate the resurgence of Sacramento and Phoenix is still the team everyone wants out in order for a fair chance at the finals. Four deeply talented teams will advance to the second round. Time to break down which four have the best chance.

#6 Golden State Warriors v. #3 Sacramento Kings

The Steph Curry led Warriors dominated most of their home state rivals. That includes resounding wins versus the Sacramento Kings.

First off, congratulations to the Sacramento Kings for their first playoff berth since 2006. The franchise went through unprecedented hardships until this season. Coach Mike Brown should be the unanimous coach of the year winner for how well he’s led and guided the team.

Good feelings aside, the current NBA champion Golden State Warriors had a roller coaster regular season but look to bounce back with the return of Andrew Wiggins and the full health of Klay Thompson, Steph Curry and Draymond Green. It will be hard for Sacramento to outperform a veteran Warriors unit that has better depth at guard and forward. Golden State also won the regular season series despite missing two of their three stars at various points. Expect veteran leadership of the core players to make this a fast series.

Prediction: Warriors win series 4-1

#5 Los Angeles Clippers v. #4 Phoenix Suns

This heavy-weight Pacific division rivalry should reach new heights by game three. If the Clippers have any chance of making it to the second round, they have to overwhelm Phoenix early and often.

Whoever loses this series will carry the most disappointment of any first round elimination in either conference. Both teams are healthy, have elite starting units and coaches who know how to make changes when needed. It’s a shame one of these Pacific division teams will be eliminated after one round, but there are a few factors determining the favorite.

The guard tandem of Russell Westbrook and Paul George v. Chris Paul and Devin Booker will elevate both teams’ play. Nicolas Batum and Kawhi Leonard look to clamp Torrey Craig and Kevin Durant’s production. The Clippers also have better depth with Eric Gordon, Robert Covington, Marcus Morris Sr. and Norman Powell.

This will be one of a few series where coaching determines who advances. Tyronn Lue hasn’t replicated previous season successes nor utilized the roster to its best efforts consistently. The Los Angeles Clippers are the western conference version of the Philadelphia 76ers. The Suns with Monty Williams are more sound. His decision to limit Kevin Durant’s minutes and easing the starting roster into a playoff transition before the regular season ended gives Phoenix the second round nod.

Prediction: Suns win series 4-2

#7 Los Angeles Lakers v. #2 Memphis Grizzlies

The popular Los Angeles Lakers are a quiet underdog versus a young and growing Grizzlies team that’s been through a lot of drama this season. It’s possible Dennis Schroder (17, yellow) and the Laker bench steal a series and advance to the second round.

Three months ago many fans and analysts would’ve said the Memphis Grizzlies would steamroll Los Angeles in four or five games of a playoff series. It’s a much different discussion in April compared to January. The Lakers are playing their best basketball with a healthy Anthony Davis and LeBron James together for the first time since 2021. Dennis Schroder plays better defense in his second stint back and coach Darvin Ham found ways for this team to beat a healthy Grizzlies squad when injuries took a toll before the All-Star game.

Memphis will win a few games but the trash talk of the western conference early in the season could come back to knock the Grizzlies out of the playoffs again when the team is struggling internally. Steven Adams will be out the rest of the year and the Laker’s centers and forwards have to take advantage on both defense and offense.

Upset prediction of the first round: Lakers win series 4-2

#8 Minnesota Timberwolves v. #1 Denver Nuggets

Nikola Jokic (left) will have to play at an MVP level past Karl-Anthony Towns (right) and Rudy Gobert

One of the few first round series where the one and eight seeds look similar and mirror each other, at least on paper. Reigning MVP Nikola Jokic will have Rudy Gobert in his face the whole series while guards Anthony Edwards, Mike Conley, Jamal Murray and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope elevate the offenses. Karl-Anthony Towns and Aaron Gordon have to step up at forward and play their best series after last year’s discussions on their postseason performances under pressure.

Both teams are even in scoring depth. This is another series in the conference where coaching should be the deciding factor in advancing to the second round. Coach Michael Malone outdoes Chris Finch in a lot of categories ranging from timeout management to playoff experience. Minnesota can still find ways to advance but it’s difficult for eight seeds to top one seeds for many reasons.

Prediction: Nuggets win series 4-3

Regular season playoffs and play-in Predictions record: 6-4


6 thoughts on “2023 NBA Western Conference First Round Playoff Predictions”

      1. Same here. Guess our round 1 predicts are similar. My Ws include Denver, Philly and Phoenix. My Ls are: Milwaukee and Cleveland. There’s just so much parity in the league, with a 1-seed taken down, a 2 and a 3 seed in danger of getting booted out. Interesting times indeed.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. We both have the same exact picks on this. Stunned New York is hosting a playoff series second round and Boston-Atlanta could go seven games. Here’s for a fantastic second round of basketball

        Liked by 1 person

      3. The east has gone crazy!!! I thought they’d have the more predictable picks for the 1sr round. If the Celts get clobbered by the Hawks, then the 76ers get a clearer path to the finals! How crazy is that?!??

        Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s