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NBA First Round Playoff Predictions: Western Conference

The NBA regular season has concluded, and the playoffs are about to begin. With 16 teams fighting for the Larry O'Brien Championship Trophy, there are many exciting first-round playoff matchups in the Western Conference to watch.


From LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers taking on the defending champion Denver Nuggets to the surprising Minnesota Timberwolves taking on Devin Booker and the Phoenix Suns. Who will move on to the second round? Here are my 2024 NBA Playoff Western Conference First Round Predictions and analysis.

*note: at the time this article was written on April 18, the eighth seed had not been determined yet due to the ongoing play-in.


Western Conference:

#1 Oklahoma City Thunder vs #8 New Orleans Pelicans/Sacramento Kings

Playoff experience is always the argument why the Thunder are not a huge favorite to win the NBA Finals despite being the first-seed. But Oklahoma City has a lot of stars on the team led by Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who has had an MVP caliber season. A test against Sacramento or New Orleans could be tough, but OKC should easily move on.

Thunder over the Pelicans/Kings in five games.


#2 Denver Nuggets vs #7 Los Angeles Lakers

These two teams met in the Western Conference Finals last spring with Nikola Jokic and the Nuggets sweeping the Lakers in four games. Now the Nuggets are favored to win back-to-back championships while LA is also hungry to win as well after underperforming since the team's last championship in 2020. LeBron James is still one of the best players in the NBA, but he will be sent home early this season.

Nuggets over Lakers in six games.


#3 Minnesota Timberwolves vs #6 Phoenix Suns

The Timberwolves are back in the playoffs for the third season in a row but will look to avoid a third-straight first-round exit. With 56 wins on the season, the most since 2004, the expectations are high in Minnesota. But don't sleep on the Phoenix Suns, who enter with stars in Devin Booker, Kevin Durant and Bradley Beal. I think this will be the closest series, with the Suns upsetting in the end.

Suns over Timberwolves in seven games.


#4 Los Angeles Clippers vs #5 Dallas Mavericks

The Clippers and Mavericks finished the season one win apart in the standings, with the Clippers taking the season series 2-1. With LA hoping to get Kawhi Leonard back from injury after being out since March 31, the Clippers hope to go on a championship run with their trio of Leonard, James Harden, and Russell Westbrook.


Meanwhile, the Mavericks have former first-overall pick Kyrie Irving and superstar and MVP candidate Luka Doncic, who have been outstanding this season. Kawhi's health will be a significant factor in who wins, but I see Dallas as a team that can realistically come close to a championship this season.

Mavericks over Clippers in six.


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