This definitely isn't where Brooklyn Nets executives thought their team would be come April 2023 when they went on a tear back in December, but here they are, back to where they were before they signed Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving — the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference.

In fact, the parallels go beyond the Nets' status as the sixth seed. They will also be facing the Philadelphia 76ers in the first round of the playoffs, and they will be boasting a ragtag group led by a fringe All-Star talent (Mikal Bridges, D'Angelo Russell), a young, ascendant center (Nicolas Claxton, Jarrett Allen), and a burgeoning scorer on the wing (Cameron Johnson, Caris LeVert). Even Spencer Dinwiddie and Joe Harris are here.

The Sixers, like in 2019, are heavily-favored to take the series, and justifiably so, given how dominant Joel Embiid has been throughout the 2022-23. Too bad Ben Simmons won't be able to suit up for the Nets, as that would have elevated the drama levels in a series that many expect to become one-sided.

Nevertheless, the Nets have a few pieces on their roster to, at the very least, make it a competitive series. But will they be able to vanquish a motivated Sixers squad?

Here are three bold predictions for the Nets as they attempt, in the 2023 NBA playoffs, to avenge their defeat against the Sixers four years ago

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3. Mikal Bridges cements himself as a future star

When the Sixers decided to trade away Mikal Bridges on draft night for Zhaire Smith and a first-round pick, not many analysts batted an eye. After all, Smith projected to be an athletic 3 and D wing who's three years younger than Bridges. The Sixers also viewed Smith as someone who could, someday, develop his off-the-bounce game.

However, five years later, and the Sixers could not have been more wrong with their decision. Not only is Bridges the league's most preeminent iron man, having missed a grand total of zero games for his career (other than the time he missed a Nets game because he only recently arrived on the team), he has also become one of the most stifling perimeter defenders in the NBA.

And to make matters worse for the Sixers, Mikal Bridges has now expanded his shot-creating repertoire, blossoming as the Nets' first scoring option.

Some would argue that Bridges has already done enough to earn his status as a current star. But he very well may have another level to reach. He could become a star that can guarantee a winning season, and the stage will be set for him against the Sixers to take that next step.

It may be tough for Mikal Bridges to be his efficient, volume-scoring self if PJ Tucker or De'Anthony Melton end up taking him on defensively, but Bridges will the opportunity under the bright lights of the playoffs to show the world that he's already one of the best players in the league.

2. Nic Claxton has a huge series

Back in 2019, Joel Embiid did not have the best of series, although the Sixers' loaded lineup back then including Jimmy Butler meant that the presumptive 2023 MVP frontrunner did not have to shoulder too heavy of an offensive burden.

However, in 2023, Embiid is a different animal, a perimeter scorer who moves like a guard while boasting a 7'0, 280-lb. frame. Even for the best defensive players, Embiid is too elite of a scorer to stop, as he can roast bigger yet slower defenders with his silky midrange game while dominating lankier big men on the block and on the glass.

But the Nets boast the services of one of the few players in the NBA who has the tools to bother Joel Embiid in Nic Claxton.

While Embiid will get his no matter what, Claxton has the ability to slow the Sixers star down, like he did during their January 25 matchup. During that contest, Embiid shot an uncharacteristic 6-18 from the field (33.3 percent), which was the third-lowest shooting percentage he had in a game this past season.

For the Nets to have a puncher's chance of making the series competitive, they will need Nic Claxton to stay out of foul trouble and have a big series.

1. Nets push the series to 7 games

Asking the Nets to beat the Sixers may be too tall of a task to ask of them.

But there will be games in the series where Bridges holds James Harden to a poor shooting night, and there will be nights where Nic Claxton becomes too overwhelming of an athletic presence for Joel Embiid to deal with.

While the Sixers may have too much firepower for the Nets to overcome in the end, expect Brooklyn to give it their all and not roll over in the 2023 NBA playoffs.