There's a belief that the NBA produces a somewhat predictable postseason. The thought is that across a seven-game series, the best team has a longer sample to prove its worth than in, say, the single-elimination format of football. Hot pitching and goaltending can produce wild results in baseball and hockey, but basketball is widely considered to be a more stable sport. The best team, more often than not, will emerge victorious.

Well, lately at least, that belief has proven misguided. Remember, a play-in team reached the NBA Finals only a year ago when the Miami Heat won the Eastern Conference. Yet another play-in team in the Los Angeles Lakers reached the conference finals. Since 2009, we have seen only one NBA Finals series in which both No. 1 seeds won their conferences. That came all the way back in 2016. The No. 1 overall seed has not won a championship since the Golden State Warriors did so in 2017.

The modern NBA playoffs are a minefield. One sprained ankle can end a season. Shooting variance has never mattered more in a 3-pointer-obsessed league. No sport is as matchup-dependent. No sport changes as much between the regular season and the playoffs.

So keep that in mind as you browse our staff brackets for the 2024 NBA postseason. We all may have taken different roads to get there, but we all emerged in the same place. If recent history tells us anything, it's that the actual postseason will be far more complicated than our brackets suggest they will be.

Brad Botkin's bracket

Kim O'Reilly, CBS Sports

NBA Finals pick: Nuggets over Celtics. Denver spending the majority of the season on autopilot doesn't change the fact that it is the best team and Nikola Jokic is the best player. What a series this would be, but in the end the Nuggets are just more reliable in the high-leverage possessions. Jokic is an indefensible dilemma: Cover him straight up and he bludgeons you as a scorer, double him and he slices you up as a passer. And on the rare possessions that the Jokic riddle gets solved, I'll take Jamal Murray creating individual offense over any Celtic. That's not a knock on Jayson Tatum; Murray is just that deadly in the playoffs. If you broke this series down with a ledger, Boston might well have more check marks on its side. But on the court, Denver still ends with the ring. 

Jack Maloney's bracket

Kim O'Reilly, CBS Sports

NBA Finals pick: Celtics over Nuggets. Brad Stevens' offseason maneuverings have given the Celtics all the tools to finally break through and win a title with the Jayson Tatum-Jaylen Brown core. Are there still concerns about their late-game offense? Of course. But they have been the best team in the league all season long because they have five legitimate options on offense, shoot 3-pointers at an elite rate and can dial it up defensively to a level most cannot reach. Having home-court advantage the entire way is also a massive boost to their chances. They went 37-4 at home this season with a plus-15.5 net rating, and shoot the ball far better at TD Garden -- 40.3% at home compared to 37.4% on the road. Furthermore, the bracket appears to be set up in their favor, especially if the Sixers win the 7 vs. 8 Play-In Game, as everyone here expects they will. 

James Herbert's bracket

Kim O'Reilly, CBS Sports

NBA Finals pick: Celtics over Nuggets. If these two teams were playing this week, I might pick the Nuggets, even though Boston's statistical profile is more impressive. Their path to the Finals will likely be more taxing, though, and they have less room for error - if any of Denver's starters has to miss any amount of time, I'll be extremely concerned. The Celtics will have their hands full if this is indeed the matchup, but they feel like the safer pick to me.

Sam Quinn's bracket

Kim O'Reilly, CBS Sports

NBA Finals pick: Nuggets over Celtics. The Nuggets were last year's best team. The Celtics have been this year's best team. The statistical gap between the two has been enormous. Boston's net rating (+11.7) more than doubles up Denver's (+5.5). I'm willing to hand wave that to an extent because of the easier schedule Boston played in the East and the fact that Denver spent so much of the early season playing with its food instead of just eating it. The Nuggets went 6-3 on the road last postseason. They've beaten Boston on the road already this season. And twice already we've seen Nikola Jokic pick the Celtics apart late in a game as he does basically everybody else. I'm sticking with the champs until someone knocks them off.

Colin Ward-Henninger's bracket

Kim O'Reilly, CBS Sports

NBA Finals pick: Celtics over Nuggets. It goes against my better judgment to pick the Clippers to advance to the conference finals, but I'm banking on Kawhi Leonard coming back and on Ty Lue's masterful postseason acumen. I'm also picking the Suns to beat the Wolves, just because if any team can break down such an elite defense, it's a team with two unstoppable individual scorers. Ultimately, though, it's the Nuggets-Celtics matchup that everyone wants to see, and I believe it's what we'll get. Both of these teams are so good that it's a toss up, but I think the sheer number weapons Boston has, in addition to home-court advantage, will help the Celtics break through and complete a historic season.

Jasmyn Wimbish's bracket

Kim O'Reilly, CBS Sports

NBA Finals pick: Celtics over Nuggets. Boston has been the best team all season, and it feels like they have the right pieces to capture another title. The addition of Kristaps Porzingis has been seamless, and he's quietly having arguably the best year of his career, even if statistically it's not near his peak numbers. Jrue Holiday has done wonders for the defense and getting things settled on offense, and while Jayson Tatum's MVP candidacy faded over the final couple months of the season, he's still operating as one of the best players in the league. The Nuggets won't be easy, and the Celtics still have to get through the East that proves to be difficult, but I think Boston learned from last season's disappointing conference finals exit, and the experience from playing in the NBA Finals two seasons ago will only help them in getting over a Denver team that very well could repeat.