NESN Debates: Our ‘Experts’ Predict 2023 NBA Finals Matchup, Champion

Six of seven "experts" predicted the Bucks to represent the East

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October 18, 2022

The NBA offseason always seems to be filled with fireworks, and this offseason and the ensuing preseason were no different.

While many teams around the league continued to improve their rosters, two of the biggest storylines followed the two teams that most recently competed for a championship. The defending Eastern Conference champion Boston Celtics started their preseason just days after the one-year suspension to head coach Ime Udoka for multiple violations of workplace conduct, which reportedly stemmed from making “unwanted” comments toward a team staffer after a previous “improper” yet “consensual” relationship. And while that served as the biggest controversy for much of the last month, the defending NBA champion Golden State Warriors then entered the fray when veteran Draymond Green punched teammate Jordan Poole in a preseason practice.

All told, it certainly could be an interesting start to the season for two NBA Finals favorites, while others like the Brooklyn Nets and Los Angeles Clippers have questions to answer, as well. Despite so much uncertainty, though, we tasked our NESN Digital team with predicting who will be the last franchise standing at the conclusion of the 2022-23 NBA season.

Here are who our “experts” believe will win the NBA Finals:

Sean McGuire: Milwaukee Bucks over Denver Nuggets
The Bucks might have advanced past the Celtics in last year’s Eastern Conference semifinals if it weren’t for the injury to Khris Middleton, as you might have heard. And the continued development of superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo, arguably the best player in the world, again makes the Bucks a capable challenger for the NBA title. Milwaukee, of note, has the fifth-best odds to win the NBA Finals at 8-to-1, behind the Warriors, Clippers, Celtics (all 6-to-1) and Nets (7-to-1). The Nuggets, meanwhile, will get Jamal Murray back alongside two-time defending NBA MVP Nikola Joki?.

Ricky Doyle: Bucks over Nuggets
There’s no denying the Bucks missed Khris Middleton in the playoffs last season, otherwise they — not the Celtics — probably would have locked horns (antlers?) with the Warriors in the NBA Finals. With Middleton back at some point, along with the rest of Milwaukee’s core, the stars are aligned for Giannis Antetokounmpo and company to host another championship parade, edging the Nuggets, who make noise with a healthy Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. joining Nikola Joki? before falling flat on basketball’s biggest stage.

Keagan Stiefel: Bucks over Los Angeles Clippers
The Clippers might have the deepest NBA team in history. They’re legitimately three deep at all five positions. The Bucks have Antetokounmpo on their roster. I’m betting Los Angeles stays healthy and Giannis remains Giannis, with these two teams meeting up in June. Then, give me the best player on the planet to take home the title.

Mike Cole: Bucks over Golden State Warriors
Assuming they can stay healthy, Milwaukee might present the most challenging matchup of any team in the NBA. Giannis Antetokounmpo is obviously a handful, but the Bucks have built a roster of shooters that benefit greatly from open looks when the defense collapses on Giannis. The return of Khris Middleton is massive, and the addition of Joe Ingles (for an eventual midyear return) makes them even deeper.

Greg Dudek: Bucks over Warriors
The Bucks have the best player on the planet in Giannis Antetokounmpo, and he will remind everyone of that this season. Antetokounmpo is in the prime of his career, and that usually means another title.

Jason Ounpraseuth: Warriors over Bucks
The Warriors simply are too good, and they have an impressive array of young talent that can develop into key contributors in the postseason. Giannis Antetokounmpo remains one of the best in the league, and a full-strength Bucks squad is good enough to get through the Eastern Conference but not enough to beat the talent of the Warriors.

Liam Barrett: Nuggets vs. Philadelphia 76ers
After a one-man show last season, I expect the Nuggets to be even stronger in 2022-23. They have the poise to make a Finals run with a healthy Jamal Murray, increased depth at the center and guard positions, and, of course, back-to-back MVP Nikola Joki?. On the other hand, this should be the year the 76ers go for it all. Joel Embiid is fully healthy to start the season, and James Harden seems locked in to start the year and even took a team-friendly deal to help acquire more depth, like P.J. Tucker. The defense looks like it could rival for the league’s best, which is why anything less than an appearance in the Eastern Conference finals should be considered a failure.

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Thumbnail photo via Darren Yamashita/USA TODAY Sports Images
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