Phoenix Suns: Best-case playoff matchups

Phoenix Suns, Chris Paul, Devin Booker (Photo by Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports)
Phoenix Suns, Chris Paul, Devin Booker (Photo by Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports) /

The Phoenix Suns’ long-awaited playoff appearance is 16 games away; it’s time to look ahead to potential first-round matchups.

The Phoenix Suns are currently 2nd place in the Western Conference with only 1.5 games distancing themselves from 1st place. The Suns are likely to face either the 7th or 8th seed in the first round of the playoffs.

With the advent of the play-in tournament, predicting the 1st round opponent of the Suns is challenging. However, the Portland Trail Blazers, Dallas Mavericks, Memphis Grizzlies, Golden State Warriors, San Antonio Spurs and New Orleans Pelicans are the most likely opponents for the Suns.

Below is a list of likely first-round matchups for the highly ranked Suns in order from least to most challenging.

Phoenix Suns playoff matchup No. 1: San Antonio Spurs

The Spurs, despite Saturday night’s result, would be a dream matchup for the Phoenix Suns.

Despite attempting to rebuild, the San Antonio Spurs are within reach of the 8th seed.

The Spurs lack true star power. Their best player, DeMar DeRozan, has not made an All-Star roster in four years. Granted, he had a strong case to make the team this year.

Deandre Ayton would dominate the boards and score easily in this matchup. Mikal Bridges and Devin Booker would also stand out because the Spurs lack capable wing defenders.

The Suns would beat the Spurs in 4 or 5 games.

Phoenix Suns playoff matchup No. 2: New Orleans Pelicans

This year the New Orleans Pelicans have resembled a discount version of the Brooklyn Nets. Entering Saturday, they had the 28th best defensive rating and the 8th best offensive rating.

The Pelicans have struggled with consistency, turnovers, and 3-point shooting.

The Phoenix Suns match up well enough against the Pelicans. Deandre Ayton’s rim protection would be essential in this matchup against the likes of Zion Williamson, Brandon Ingram, and Steven Adams.

The Suns would defeat the Pelicans in 5 games.

Phoenix Suns playoff matchup No. 3: Memphis Grizzlies

The Memphis Grizzlies deserve respect.  In the absence of a true star, the Memphis Grizzlies have hovered around .500 in the tough western conference.

With Jaren Jackson Jr. expected to return in a few weeks, the Grizzlies could make for an interesting matchup. Jackson will run the pick and roll with Ja Morant and stretch the floor when he returns.

However, the Phoenix Suns have veteran leadership and talent that the Grizzlies simply lack.

The Suns would beat the Memphis Grizzlies in 5 games.

Phoenix Suns playoff matchup No. 4: Golden State Warriors

The Golden State Warriors have had an interesting season.

Stephen Curry has been incredible, scoring a career-high 31 points a game with phenomenal efficiency. Unfortunately, the rest of Curry’s team has offered little support.

To make matters worse for the Warriors, their talented rookie, James Wiseman, sustained a season-ending injury earlier this month. He offered impactful rim protection and rebounding.

The Warriors have a chance to win any game because of Curry but would come well short in a seven-game series against the Phoenix Suns.

The Suns would win this game in 5 games.

Phoenix Suns playoff matchup No. 5: Dallas Mavericks

Last year, the Dallas Mavericks were a tough out for the Los Angeles Clippers, but this year, they have taken a step back.

Exchanging Seth Curry for Josh Richardson in the offseason was a mistake. On the year, Josh Richardson has shot an abysmal 31% from the 3-point line, and he has not made a significant impact on the defense. In fact, the Dallas Mavericks have regressed in terms of defensive rating.

Despite this, opposing teams should remain wary of Luka Dončić.  The third-year pro has the ability to take over any game.  His increased efficiency and playoff experience make him a scary playoff opponent.

Fortunately, the Phoenix Suns have capable wing defenders in Mikal Bridges, Jae Crowder, and Torrey Craig. These players have the ability to slow down Luka Magic.

I foresee the Suns winning this matchup in 6 games.

Phoenix Suns playoff matchup No. 6: Portland Trail Blazers

The Portland Trail Blazers are the most experienced team on this list.

The Blazers, with Damian Lillard at the helm, have made the playoffs 7 seasons in a row, featuring one trip to the Western Conference Finals.  They are poised for a break-out season.

However, the Blazers have a huge weakness: they can only play small ball. Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum, and Norman Powell, three of the Trailblazers best players, lack size and physicality.

In the playoffs, versatility is key, and the Phoenix Suns can punish teams inside and out.

The Suns would win this matchup in a hard-fought 6 games.

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