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NBA Finals Predictions 2023: Nuggets on Brink of First NBA Championship in Franchise History

Game 5 of the 2023 NBA Finals has arrived! Get expert picks and predictions for the league's championship round between the Miami Heat and Denver Nuggets.

Last Updated: Jun 12, 2023 12:04 PM ET Read Time: 4 min

Basketball fans have been treated to an NBA Finals that few would have predicted when the 2022-23 season began. The Miami Heat had +6,000 NBA Finals odds at the All-Star break in late February and needed to survive two play-in games just to secure a playoff berth. The Denver Nuggets, meanwhile, were largely overlooked in a crowded Western Conference full of flashier teams.

It may not be the sexiest series or the one that broadcasters were praying for, but Nuggets vs. Heat has already delivered plenty of intrigue nonetheless. Can Miami continue to defy the odds and complete its Cinderella run? Will NBA Finals MVP odds favorite Nikola Jokic win his first championship and cement his place as one of the greatest players of all-time?

We have answers to those questions and more as we gear up for Game 5 of the league's championship round tonight in Denver.

NBA Finals odds

2023 NBA Finals Schedule

Game Date/Time Venue
Game 1 June 1 @ 8:30 p.m. ET Ball Arena
Game 2 June 4 @ 8:00 p.m. ET Ball Arena
Game 3 June 7 @ 8:30 p.m. ET Kaseya Center
Game 4 June 9 @ 8:30 p.m. ET Kaseya Center
Game 5 June 12 @ 8:30 p.m. ET Ball Arena
Game 6 (if necessary) June 15 @ 8:30 p.m. ET Kaseya Center
Game 7 (if necessary) June 18 @ 8:00 p.m. ET Ball Arena

NBA Finals format

The champions of the Eastern and Western Conferences face off in the NBA Finals. The series follows a best-of-seven format, with the first team to win four games being crowned the new NBA champion. The team with the superior regular season record has home-court advantage and hosts Games 1, 2, 5, and 7, while the opposing team hosts Games 3, 4, and 6.

How we got here

Miami Heat

No team faced a harder path to the NBA Finals than the Heat, who struggled to a 44-38 regular season record and just barely qualified for the play-in tournament. Miami lost to Atlanta by 11 points in its opening play-in game, before securing a playoff berth with a gutsy 102-91 win over Chicago. That's when things got really interesting. Jimmy Butler & Co. took down Giannis Antetokounmpo and the heavily favored Bucks in just five games and then polished off the fifth-seeded Knicks in six.

The Heat looked like they were going to breeze to the NBA Finals against the Celtics, winning the first three games of the series, including two on the road. However, Boston clawed its way back with a pair of double-digit wins in Games 4 and 5 and a miraculous last-second basket by Derrick White in Game 6. Miami finally punched its ticket to the championship round on Monday night with a 103-84 victory that was never in doubt after Jayson Tatum injured his ankle in the game's opening minutes.

Denver Nuggets

The Nuggets' mile-high ascent to the top of the league has looked easy compared to the Heat. Denver secured the No. 1 seed in the West after compiling an impressive 53-29 record during the regular season. The Nuggets' dominance earned them a first round date with the No. 8 Timberwolves, whom they cast aside in just five games. Up next was the Suns, whom Denver eliminated in six games, winning the last two by a combined 41 points.

The Lakers were expected to present a much stiffer challenge in the Western Conference Finals, but Nikola Jokic big-boyed Los Angeles en route to a clean sweep and the first NBA Finals appearance in franchise history.

Expert NBA Finals Predictions

Writer Pick (odds)
Andrew Caley Browns Nuggets in 6 (+400)
Jason Logan Browns Nuggets in 5 (+265)
Ryan Murphy Browns Nuggets in 6 (+400)
Rohit Ponnaiya Browns Nuggets in 6 (+400)
AJ Salah Browns Nuggets in 5 (+265)

Odds courtesy of DraftKings as of June 1, 2022.

Andrew Caley: Nuggets in 6 (+400)

I bet the Nuggets to win the NBA title at 7/1 following their impressive Game 1 win over the Phoenix Suns in the Western Conference semifinals. I always knew they were better than they were getting credited for, but that performance made me think, “they can win this whole thing.”

So, I’m riding that bet for the same reasons I made in the first place. The Nuggets will have the best player on the court in Nikola Jokic. Jamal Murray is a perfect Robin to his Batman… or Joker. Whatever. They have a deeper bench. And the defense is underrated.

Jimmy Butler and the Heat’s “dawg” mentality steals them a win or two. But this is Joker’s time to shine.

Jason Logan: Nuggets in 5 (+265)

Home-court has been impenetrable in Denver and the thin mountain air will sap the momentum out of Miami, who are coming down off an emotionally draining East finals.

The Heat don’t have the beef to battle with Nikola Jokic and their suddenly-scorching 3-point shooting has watched its wheel wobble the past four games. Denver’s defense isn’t locking foes down, but they don’t give up anything cheap either.

I could see Miami winning one at home, as we’ve watched the Nuggets absolutely lay some eggs on the road in the postseason. But there’s just too much working against the Heat, who would have been in much better shape had they’d slammed the door on the Celtics earlier.

Ryan Murphy: Nuggets in 6 (+400)

This isn't the lopsided David vs. Goliath matchup that some talking heads are making it out to be. Yes, the Nuggets won both of their regular season dust-ups with the Heat in 2022-23, but they did so in less than convincing fashion, with both games being decided in the final minute. The Heat have since dispatched the top two seeds in the Eastern Conference and could have sharpshooter Tyler Herro back in the lineup as early as Game 3 in South Beach. The 23-year-old averaged 20.1 point per game this year and would give Miami a much-needed dose of instant offense.

Denver is the superior squad, but Miami is a little like John McClane: they simply refuse to die. The Heat's grit and resiliency should be good for a pair of wins before this series reaches its inevitable conclusion.

Rohit Ponnaiya: Nuggets in 6 (+400)

The Nuggets are massive favorites to win this series, and while I don't see the Heat pushing this to seven games, I also don't think they'll roll over in four. This is an experienced Heat squad that has been thriving in an underdog role all postseason and the Nuggets could have some letdown performances after building an early series lead. With Denver in six games (+400) paying out significantly higher than Denver in five (+265), I'll take the Nuggets to win 4-2 and hope that Jimmy Butler can help Miami steal a couple of games.

AJ Salah: Nuggets in 5 (+265)

The Heat’s run has been inspiring, but they’ve also benefitted from varying degrees of self-sabotage against every opponent. They won’t be so lucky against Denver, who is peaking at the right time (pun not intended), and has been resting for over a week while Miami was visibly gassed by the end of the Eastern Conference Finals.

Miami’s tired, it doesn’t have homecourt (against Denver of all locations), gives up serious depth and talent edges, matches up fairly poorly with the Nuggets, and has to contend with the best player in the world (let’s stop pretending this is a debate anymore at this point) playing out of his mind right now. There’s not much cause for optimism.

Jimmy Butler is Jimmy Butler, Caleb Martin is legitimately leaping, and Tyler Herro may return, so I’ve got to give the Heat credit for a home win once Denver gets up 2 or 3-0 and desperation starts to set in. But the Nuggets have had the tougher road to these NBA Finals, and have looked way more clinical in getting here. This may not be much of a fight. 

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NBA Finals X-factors

Denver Nuggets: Bruce Brown

Although all eyes will be on Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray, this series could be decided by Bruce Brown, a 6-foot-4 wrecking ball who's built like a shooting guard but plays like a power forward. The hard-nosed tweener has averaged 12.2 points and 3.9 rebounds per game during the postseason and exploded for 25 points in 26 minutes in Game 5 of the Western Conference semifinals against the Suns. Brown is a walking mismatch who draws fouls, disrupts defenses, and gets under the skin of opponents. Expect him to wreak havoc all series long.

Miami Heat: Caleb Martin

Jimmy Butler was named MVP of the Eastern Conference Finals, but a case could have been made for Caleb Martin. The 27-year-old small forward averaged 18.2 points per game against the Celtics and consistently stretched Boston's D to the breaking point with his dead-eye shooting from beyond the arc. Martin hit a staggering 18 3-pointers during the seven-game series and could be a serious thorn in the side of the Nuggets if he continues to remain locked in.

NBA Finals game picks and predictions

Covers Senior Industry Analyst Jason Logan is expecting a big night from Aaron Gordon in Game 4. The burly power forward contributed 11 points, 10 rebounds, and five assists in Wednesday's lopsided win and is poised to continue to take advantage of Miami's lack of size in the paint. JLo is projecting 19 combined points and assists for Gordon this evening and is jumping all over the Over 14.5 points + assists available at FanDuel (-115). Read his Nuggets vs. Heat predictions to gain more valuable insights.

Visit our NBA picks page to see a full range of expert predictions and prop picks from other members of our Covers team.

Past NBA Finals winners

Here are the last 10 NBA Finals winners along with their opening odds in mid-June.

Season NBA Finals Winner Opening odds  Runner up
2021-22 Golden State Warriors +1,200 Boston Celtics
2020-21 Milwaukee Bucks +500 Phoenix Suns
2019-20 Los Angeles Lakers +1,800 Miami Heat
2018-19 Toronto Raptors +6,600 Golden State Warriors
2017-18 Golden State Warriors -168 Cleveland Cavaliers
2016-17 Golden State Warriors +215 Cleveland Cavaliers
2015-16 Cleveland Cavaliers +300 Golden State Warriors
2014-15 Golden State Warriors +2,500 Cleveland Cavaliers
2013-14 San Antonio Spurs +1,000 Miami Heat
2012-13 Miami Heat +250 San Antonio Spurs

NBA Finals highest scoring performance odds

Player Odds
Nikola Jokic -2500
Jimmy Butler +1,200
Jamal Murray +1,500
Bam Adebayo +15,000
Michael Porter Jr. +30,000
Gabe Vincent +30,000
Aaron Gordon +35,000
Caleb Martin +40,000
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope +50,000
Max Strus +50,000

Odds courtesy of DraftKings as of June 12, 2022.

Joker is averaging 30.5 points per game in the 2023 NBA Playoffs and torched the Suns for 53 points in Game 4 of the Western Conference semifinals. He remains at the top of this list after erupting for 41 points in Game 2 in Denver on June 4.

NBA Finals total games prop

Games Odds
5 games -400
6 games +700
7 games +800

Odds courtesy of FanDuel as of June 12, 2022.

Most made 3-pointers in the NBA Finals

Player Odds
Jamal Murray -300
Gabe Vincent +275
Duncan Robinson +1,600
Max Strus +10,000
Michael Porter Jr. +10,000
Kyle Lowry +10,000

Odds courtesy of bet365 as of June 12, 2022.

Vincent has been lethal from beyond the arc to start the series. The undrafted point guard has connected on 10 of his 22 3-point attempts against the Nuggets, and has continually risen to the occasion during the 2023 NBA Playoffs.

2023 NBA Finals

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