2023 NBA Playoff Picture: Bulls projected matchups if season ended today

Jayson Tatum, DeMar DeRozan, 2023 NBA Playoff Picture (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
Jayson Tatum, DeMar DeRozan, 2023 NBA Playoff Picture (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images) /

With each team around the league only having five or six games left to play before the conclusion of the 2022-23 season, it’s understandable why so many fans are already chomping at the bit for some postseason action. These last few games may still dramatically affect the landscape of the league, but if you’re like me and can’t wait to see how the bracket may end up looking, here’s how the 2023 NBA Playoff Picture currently shakes out.

Before we begin, it’s important to note that we’ll be looking at the top 10 teams in each conference, instead of the usual top 8. Since its establishment in 2021, the NBA Play-In Tournament has given fringe playoff teams so much more reason to continue fighting, and the single-elimination style is something even casual NBA fans can really appreciate.

In the case of the Chicago Bulls, they must be particularly happy about the existence of the play-in tournament this year. Without it, their odds of making a trip to the 2023 NBA Playoffs would look significantly more unlikely at this point. Without further ado, here’s how the NBA Playoff Picture currently looks.

NBA Eastern Conference Playoff Picture

  1. Milwaukee Bucks (55-22)
  2. Boston Celtics (54-24)
  3. Philadelphia 76ers (51-26)
  4. Cleveland Cavaliers (48-30)
  5. New York Knicks (45-33)
  6. Brooklyn Nets (42-35)
  7. Miami Heat (40-37)
  8. Atlanta Hawks (38-39)
  9. Toronto Raptors (38-30)
  10. Chicago Bulls (37-40)

Surprisingly, the top five seeds seem all but already determined as we inch closer to the opening tip of the 2023 NBA Playoffs. The only real question mark is the top six surrounds the Nets’ ability to stay afloat in a Kevin Durant-less world with the Heat right on their heels. Teams in the play-in tournament would likely be happy to see Brooklyn slip down a spot, because they’ll be perceived as an easier target for teams to leap.

Eastern Conference Projected Play-In Tournament

  • Game 1: Atlanta Hawks @ Miami Heat
    • The winner claims the 7th seed
  • Game 2: Chicago Bulls @ Toronto Raptors
    • The loser is eliminated from the play-in tournament
  • Game 3: Winner of Bulls/Raptors @ Loser of Hawks/Heat
    • The winner claims the 8th seed

A Hawks vs. Heat matchup would make for great television, as each team has a recent Conference Finals trip under its belt and will be itching to make another run this season. The Bulls will have their work cut out for them here, as they’ll need to win both play-in games on the road if they wish to qualify for the playoffs. Given their 17-22 record on the road and 20-28 record against teams with a .500 record and above, I’m not sure that’s a very realistic ask of them here unless they manage to leap both the Raptors and Hawks to move up in the play-in seeding.

NBA Western Conference Playoff Picture

  1. Denver Nuggets (51-26)
  2. Memphis Grizzlies (49-28)
  3. Sacramento Kings (47-30)
  4. Phoenix Suns (42-35)
  5. LA Clippers (41-37)
  6. Golden State Warriors (41-37)
  7. Los Angeles Lakers (39-38)
  8. New Orleans Pelicans (39-38)
  9. Minnesota Timberwolves (39-39)
  10. Oklahoma City Thunder (38-40)

As you can see, the Western Conference playoff picture is a much tighter race, with only a shocking 3 games separating the 5th and 10th-seeded teams. With a handful of games left to play in the season, you can almost guarantee that this won’t be the exact seeding when all is said and done. That being said, it’s still roughly close to what you should expect to see, as the top three teams seem to have their spots locked up tight.

Watch out for the 11th-seeded Dallas Mavericks, however, as any team with a superstar like Luka Doncic could go on a late-season run if the cards finally align.

Western Conference Projected Play-In Tournament

  • Game 1: New Orleans Pelicans @ Los Angeles Lakers
    • The winner claims the 7th seed
  • Game 2: Oklahoma City Thunder @ Minnesota Timberwolves
    • The loser is eliminated from the play-in tournament
  • Game 3: Winner of Thunder/Timberwolves @ Loser of Lakers/Pelicans
    • The winner claims the 8th seed

This year’s Western Conference play-in tournament is projected to be filled with teams that started off hot but simmered down later on, like the Pelicans, Thunder, and potentially even the Jazz. If the Lakers do end up landing in this year’s play-in, it will make for can’t-miss television, regardless of which side you find yourself rooting for.

2023 NBA Playoffs Bracket if the season ended today

  • #1 Bucks vs. #8 Play-In Winner
  • #4 Cavaliers vs. #5 Knicks
  • #3 76ers vs. #6 Nets
  • #2 Celtics vs. #7 Play-In Winner

  • #1 Nuggets vs. #8 Play-In Winner
  • #4 Suns vs. #5 Clippers
  • #3 Kings vs. #6 Warriors
  • #2 Grizzlies vs. #7 Play-In Winner

With the cards already stacked against the Chicago Bulls entering the play-in tournament, I’m not sure I can say I’d feel very hopeful even if they do scratch and claw their way to the 2023 NBA Playoffs. A first-round rematch against the Bucks feels like a disaster waiting to happen, but perhaps offers the best chance for Chicago to make a Conference Finals run if they somehow pull off the upset of the century against Milwaukee.

Regardless, with no clear favorite to claim this year’s championship, the 2023 NBA Playoffs look to be an exciting affair. Stay tuned for more updates as we crawl closer to the big dance.

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