2022-23 NBA Finals Predictions: Expert picks range from Clippers to Bucks to Celtics to Nuggets to Warriors

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It seems like every year since the Warriors-Cavs saga of the mid-2010s, we’ve been saying, “This is the most pervasive the NBA has ever been.” Well folks, with a new season about to tip over Tuesday night, the 2022-23 campaign has kindly asked you to hold onto that thought.

There are at least nine teams in the Eastern Conference that most would consider for a playoff spot — that means one of them won’t even make it out of the play-in. In the west, the competition is just as fierce, with 11 teams having a legit case to make the postseason.

The return of Kawhi Leonard to the Los Angeles Clippers and Jamal Murray rejoining the Denver Nuggets means there will be an important battle for first place in the Western Conference, especially given that the 64-win Suns take the lead. returning most of their core and the defending champion Golden State Warriors could be even better than they were a season ago.

In the East, the battle for the No. 1 seed will be just as brutal, with the Philadelphia 76ers making significant improvements and the Brooklyn Nets potentially having Ben Simmons for a full season. They will pose a serious threat to the defending Eastern Conference champions Boston Celtics, the Giannis Antetokounmpo-led Milwaukee Bucks and last year’s No. 1 Miami Heat. Not to mention the Atlanta Hawks and Cleveland Cavaliers, who have both been awarded All-Star guards to bolster their roster.

If the races at the top weren’t intriguing enough, this season also features a riveting descent to the bottom, with rebuilding teams hoping to have a shot at two of the most coveted design prospects in recent memory – Victor Wembanyama and Scoot Henderson. Teams like the Houston Rockets, Oklahoma City Thunder, Utah Jazz and Orlando Magic are likely to pile up losses in hopes of getting a potential franchise changer.

That makes forecasting an extremely difficult and rewarding exercise, so our NBA writers at CBS Sports decided to give it a shot. We’ve picked our favorites to emerge from each conference, who will be the last team standing and the player who will hold up both the Larry O’Brien Trophy and Bill Russell Award for the NBA Finals MVP. As you can see, there is no clear consensus on the direction of this postseason.

Mike Meredith/CBS Sports

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