Poll: Which Team Will Win 2023 NBA Finals?

The 2023 NBA Finals, which tip off on Thursday night, will pit the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference against the No. 8 seed in the East, but the matchup may not be as lopsided as their places in the standings suggest.

Despite finishing the regular season as the West’s top team, the Nuggets weren’t considered a powerhouse entering the playoffs. They lost 10 of 17 games down the stretch in March and April and had only the sixth-best net rating in the NBA (+3.3) during the season. They also didn’t have a recent history of deep playoff runs, coming off a first-round elimination in 2022 and having made it beyond the second round just once in the Nikola Jokic era.

Denver has been the most dominant team of the postseason though, winning 12 of 15 games and posting a playoff-best +8.0 net rating during a run that saw them eliminate stars like LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Kevin Durant, Devin Booker, Karl-Anthony Towns, and Anthony Edwards.

The Heat, meanwhile, battled injuries and inconsistency all season long, winning just 44 games and losing their first play-in game (to Atlanta) before completing a comeback victory over Chicago to claim the East’s final postseason berth. An early playoff exit appeared likely at that point, especially after sharpshooter Tyler Herro broke his hand in Game 1 of round one.

Instead, the Heat knocked off the title-favorite Bucks in five games, dispatched the Knicks in six games, and held off the No. 2 Celtics in a seven-game Eastern Conference Finals. Miami, whose +4.6 postseason net rating is second among all playoff clubs, has looked more like the team that came within one basket of making the NBA Finals in 2022 than the one that endured an up-and-down regular season.

The Heat may be a No. 8 seed – only the second in NBA history to make the Finals – but this is a battle-tested group that has significantly outperformed its regular season record and has plenty of playoff experience.

The Nuggets, who haven’t lost in Denver during the postseason and have looked like the NBA’s best team since the regular season ended, will have home-court advantage and enter the Finals as major favorites — BetOnline.ag has their odds to win the series at -405, with Miami listed as a +325 underdog.

Denver is also the popular pick among experts. John Hollinger of The Athletic laid out his reasoning for taking the Nuggets in six games, while a scout, a coach, and an executive who spoke anonymously to Sam Amick, Darnell Mayberry, and Josh Robbins of The Athletic all picked Denver in six too.

Over at ESPN, the Heat got a little more support, but 12 of 16 NBA reporters and analysts still chose the Nuggets to win the series, with only four – Bobby Marks, Israel Gutierrez, Nick DePaula, and Jorge Sedano – taking Miami.

The fact that the Nuggets are widely expected to come out on top will mean little to the Heat, who were considered even longer shots to beat Milwaukee or Boston. The Bucks were a -1200 betting favorite over Miami at the start of their series, while the Celtics were at -550.

With Game 1 set to tip off in a matter of hours, we want to get your predictions for this year’s NBA Finals. Will the Heat complete their improbable run and become the first No. 8 seed in league history to win a championship, or will Jokic lead the Nuggets to their first ever title?

Vote in our poll, then head to the comment section below to weigh in with your thoughts!

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