NBA Playoff Predictions: Expert Picks for the 2024 NBA Playoffs and NBA Finals

The playoffs have arrived and the picks are in. See how Covers staff members think the 2024 NBA Playoff bracket will shake out.

May 22, 2024 • 15:15 ET • 4 min read
Jayson Tatum Boston Celtics NBA
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The 2024 NBA Playoffs are in full gear as we reach the Conference Finals.

The Denver Nuggets are no more, which is bad news for many bettors. The Boston Celtics remain strong in the East as they battle the underdog Indiana Pacers. The Minnesota Timberwolves survived Denver but now must turn around and figure out an answer for Luka Doncic, Kyrie Irving, and the Dallas Mavericks.

We turned to our Covers NBA experts for their insights and they didn't hold back! Check out their NBA picks for the winners of the Eastern and Western Conference Finals, the NBA Finals, and the NBA Finals MVP award below.

NBA Playoffs picks

Writer Western Conference Finals winner Eastern Conference Finals Winner NBA Finals Winner NBA Finals MVP
Jason Logan Rory Breasail Timberwolves Celtics Timberwolves Anthony Edwards
Andrew Caley Andrew Caley Mavericks Celtics Mavericks Luka Doncic
Joe Osborne Douglas Farmer Timberwolves Celtics Timberwolves Anthony Edwards
Jason Logan Jason Logan Timberwolves Celtics Celtics Jayson Tatum
Jon Metler Jon Metler Mavericks Celtics Celtics Jayson Tatum
Ryan Murphy Ryan Murphy Timberwolves Celtics Celtics Jayson Tatum
Rohit Ponnaiya Rohit Ponnaiya Timberwolves Celtics Celtics Jayson Tatum

Picks made prior to the conference finals.

NBA Playoffs exert analysis

Rory Breasail: Ant Man to the rescue

Western Conference Finals winner: Minnesota Timberwolves
Eastern Conference Finals winner: Boston Celtics
NBA Finals winner: Minnesota Timberwolves
NBA Finals MVP winner: Anthony Edwards

When I originally believed that the Denver Nuggets would repeat, it was largely because no other team had shown they could get to an elite enough level on both sides of the ball to take them down. Lo and behold, the Minnesota Timberwolves did just that in a seven game series for the ages.

The Wolves have answered every question through the playoffs so far. Anthony Edwards has proven he’s a playoff caliber decision maker and leader. Their defense, captained by Rudy Gobert on the inside and Jaden McDaniels on the outside, is built to snuff out elite, multifaceted offenses. And Karl-Anthony Towns has shown growth on both sides of the ball that has him looking like the player so many dreamed he’d be as the No.1 overall pick.

While their remaining path through the NBA Finals is no given, the Wolves have proven more than any other team and their confidence should be sky-high.

Andrew Caley: Cool Hand Luka

Western Conference Finals winner: Dallas Mavericks
Eastern Conference Finals winner: Boston Celtics
NBA Finals winner: Dallas Mavericks
NBA Finals MVP winner: Luka Doncic

I believed an inexperienced team could win the NBA Finals when I picked OKC the first time around. I was wrong. So, I can’t go with the Timberwolves now, can I? No, I can’t. While Minny can give Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving some problems, they are so skilled it might not matter. The Mavs also played sneaky good defense against a very good offensive OKC team.

I’ll stick with the Celtics in the East, particularly after the Pacers choked away the win in Game 1. Luka and Kyrie against the Celtics would be a hell of a series, but I just see Kyrie hitting some monster clutch shot against his former team, while Luka nabs Finals MVP as the Mavs win their second title.

Douglas Farmer: Timberwolves knock off Celtics

Western Conference Finals winner: Minnesota Timberwolves
Eastern Conference Finals winner: Boston Celtics
NBA Finals winner: Minnesota Timberwolves
NBA Finals MVP winner: Anthony Edwards

When healthy, the Denver Nuggets are the most talented team in the NBA and one that can match nearly any playing style. But they are not healthy. Needing to put in effort to get by the Lakers doomed the rest of Denver’s playoff hopes, putting too much stress on Jamal Murray’s already balky calf.

That opened the door for the Minnesota Timberwolves to blow through the West. Minnesota has enough depth to sustain a two-month run, and the Timberwolves are starting to believe in that run.

That belief is leading to more and more confidence, the one thing opponents need to keep Anthony Edwards from building further. Combining the Wolves’ relentless defense with locker-room confidence should lead to the first title in franchise history.

Jason Logan: This season belongs to the Celtics

Western Conference Finals winner: Minnesota Timberwolves
Eastern Conference Finals winner: Boston Celtics
NBA Finals winner: Boston Celtics
NBA Finals MVP winner: Jayson Tatum

The NBA futures are forecasting this matchup and why not? The biggest threats to Boston in the East are all banged up or playing without their stars. The Celtics retooled the roster in the offseason with postseason planning in mind and are a much better fit to fight the Timberwolves in the finals. Boston has more tread on the tires and, as much as the Lakers fan in me hates to see another banner in the Garden, this is the Celtics’ season.

Jon Metler: Celtics hang banner No. 18

Western Conference Finals winner: Dallas Mavericks
Eastern Conference Finals winner: Boston Celtics
NBA Finals winner: Boston Celtics
NBA Finals MVP winner: Jayson Tatum

If we're picking regardless of the odds, I'm going with the Boston Celtics to win the NBA Finals. They had the easiest path to the Conference Finals and the best starting five in the NBA. They have also been able to manage everyone's minutes throughout the regular season while capturing the No. 1 seed with ease, so they should be healthier than most teams when they reach the NBA Finals. If everyone remains healthy, and Kristaps Porzingis is back soon, it's hard to imagine anyone defeating the Celtics in a best-of-seven series.

Ryan Murphy: Celtic Pride

Western Conference Finals winner: Minnesota Timberwolves
Eastern Conference Finals winner: Boston Celtics
NBA Finals winner: Boston Celtics
NBA Finals MVP winner: Jayson Tatum

No team has gone unscathed in the 2024 playoffs, but the Celtics have looked better than most, dropping just two games en route to the conference finals. Boston is second in offensive rating and first in defensive rating among all remaining teams and is sporting a ridiculously high +11.4-point differential, a true testament to the team's ability to rise above the competition.

Kristaps Porzingis' injury status is admittedly worrisome, but the Celtics have more than enough talent to outlast the vastly overmatched Pacers and should have the Latvian big man back when it matters most in the NBA Finals.

Rohit Ponnaiya: Going Green

Western Conference Finals winner: Minnesota Timberwolves
Eastern Conference Finals winner: Boston Celtics
NBA Finals winner: Boston Celtics
NBA Finals MVP winner: Jayson Tatum

This is about as chalky as it gets, but the NBA is a league where the cream often rises to the top. The Celtics have been easily the best team in the league all season while the Timberwolves proved themselves in a hard-fought seven game series against the defending champs. The Celtics are deep, talented, and experienced, and have the highest-rated offense in the league along with the second-best defense.

Minnesota won't have the playoff experience to beat Boston and not having the home-court advantage in a hypothetical finals matchup could be the deciding factor.

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NBA Finals exact result odds

  • Celtics to beat Timberwolves: +150
  • Celtics to beat Mavericks: +240
  • Timberwolves to beat Celtics: +350
  • Mavericks to beat Celtics: +650
  • Timberwolves to beat Pacers: +2,000
  • Mavericks to beat Pacers: +3,000
  • Pacers to beat Timberwolves: +6,000
  • Pacers to beat Mavericks: +8,000

Odds courtesy of DraftKings as of May 22, 2024.

The Celtics have been significant favorites to win since the onset of the NBA playoffs, and while they've hit a couple of bumps in the road, it has largely been smooth sailing, taking their series vs. the Heat and Cavs each in five games.

The defending champion Nuggets looked to have bounced back from certain defeat after losing the first two games of the Western Conference semis but ultimately fell to the Timberwolves in seven games.

Now, can either the Mavericks or Pacers spoil the expected outcome or will chalk win out with the Celtics looking to topple the Timberwolves for their 18th title?

NBA winning conference odds

  • Eastern Conference: -180
  • Western Conference: +145

Odds courtesy of DraftKings as of May 22, 2024.

NBA winning division odds

  • Atlantic Division: -145
  • Northwest Division: +180
  • Southwest Division: +750
  • Central Division: +9,000

Odds courtesy of DraftKings as of May 20, 2024.

It's no surprise to see the Eastern Conference and Atlantic Division atop both of these odds boards. The Celtics were the class of the NBA in 2023-24, compiling a league-best 64 wins in the regular season while leading the league in point differential and offense rating. Boston's remarkable efficiency and poise has the team well positioned to bring home banner No. 18 in June. 

Ways to bet on the 2024 NBA Playoffs

Game odds

If you're looking to bet on NBA playoff odds, Covers shows you the best NBA odds for the moneyline, spread, and Over/Under for every game of the playoffs.

Player props

Covers shows a wide array of NBA player prop odds for every game of the playoffs from a variety of popular legal sportsbooks. 

Playoff series odds

Make futures bets on who will win each series in the NBA Playoffs and how many games they will win. We bring you updated odds for every NBA playoff series.

NBA Finals futures

See which teams have the best odds of winning the NBA Finals.

NBA picks

Get expert betting NBA picks for every game of the NBA Playoffs.

Recent NBA Finals Matchups 

Over the past decade, a handful of teams have dominated the NBA Finals. In fact, with the exception of the Toronto Raptors and the San Antonio Spurs, all the teams below are in the 2024 NBA Playoffs or Play-In Tournament, speaking to the organizational smarts (and purse strings) of these elite franchises. 

Year East Team West Team Champion
2023 Heat Miami Heat Nuggets Denver Nuggets Nuggets Nuggets
2022 Celtics Boston Celtics Warriors Golden State Warriors Warriors Warriors
2021 Bucks Milwaukee Bucks Suns Phoenix Suns Bucks Bucks
2020 Heat Miami Heat Lakers Los Angeles Lakers Lakers Lakers
2019 Raptors Toronto Raptors Warriors Golden State Warriors Raptors Raptors
2018 Cavaliers Cleveland Cavaliers Warriors Golden State Warriors Warriors Warriors
2017 Cavaliers Cleveland Cavaliers Warriors Golden State Warriors Warriors Warriors
2016 Cavaliers Cleveland Cavaliers Warriors Golden State Warriors Cavaliers Cavaliers
2015 Cavaliers Cleveland Cavaliers Warriors Golden State Warriors Warriors Warriors
2014 Heat Miami Heat SpursSan Antonio Spurs Spurs Spurs
2013 Heat Miami Heat SpursSan Antonio Spurs HeatHeat

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