I know, I know, another Phoenix Suns what-if, but honestly, let’s perchance to dream here for a bit.
The Portland Trail Blazers are down 2-1 and look absolutely gassed. Watch Jusef Nurkic labor up and down the floor one time. Look at how absolutely valiant Damian Lillard has been, playing with that dislocated left index finger. Other Blazers have also had their moments. And it hasn’t been enough. The Blazers have just been through the wringer just to get to this point, and they’re gassed. What if the Suns had made it through? Would they have matched up with the Lakers better?
I know it’s a painful thing but let’s get a super quick recap: The Phoenix Suns won eight games in a row and were the only team to do so, and yet didn’t make the playoffs. It was rough. I may have cried (may have).
Portland has held their own against L.A., but when it comes to health and overall personnel, Phoenix has the edge.
A hypothetical playoff matchup with L.A. would present similar matchup advantages for both teams. For the Lakers, it would be LeBron James and Anthony Davis. As for the Suns, their strength is in Devin Booker, plain and simple, but also Deandre Ayton and a stronger bench than Portland can bring to the table.
Think about this. Coming off the pine, who would you rather have: Cameron Payne and Jevon Carter and Dario Saric, or Gary Trent Jr., (solid player) Hassan Whiteside, and Mario Hezonja? You don’t have to think too hard about this. Obviously Phoenix.
The Suns shooting ability and defensive grit off the bench could definitely make things tougher for the Lakers. Devin Booker would absolutely cook against Kantavious Caldwell-Pope, Danny Green, or Alex Caruso with his unique blend of size, strength, tremendous shooting ability, and overall shotmaking craft.
LeBron and Anthony Davis would definitely get their points no question; that duo is two of the top ten players in the league currently, it is no question that they will make an impact. However, it probably isn’t a stretch to think that Mikal Bridges and Ayton would make things tougher than Carmelo Anthony and Nurkic have. I would personally be very intrigued by a Bridges vs James matchup, with Bridges bringing the same defensive tenacity that Trent Jr. is attempting to in the series, but with better size, frame, and overall defensive instincts. James would be worked from the opening frame to create offense for himself and others, and although he is a cyborg, he could very well become more taxed as the game went on.
Rubio’s playmaking and overall playoff poise would have an impact, and Cameron Johnson would most assuredly make a difference with his ability to stretch the floor, punishing the Lakers defense for giving him airspace while also taking advantage of points that L.A. wouldn’t replicate on their end given their cold three-point shooting up to now.
Obviously there are a ton more elements to dive into the matchup, and L.A would still be a heavy favorite, but while watching this series I just couldn’t get this thought out of my head. And now, you’ll probably be thinking about it as well.