Phoenix Suns are officially in! 3 best playoff scenarios

Phoenix Suns and the playoffs. For most of the early years of the millennium, this was a near certainty.

Then the drought happened. When Kobe Bryant and the Lakers extinguished the flickering embers of a spectacular run of success, nobody thought Phoenix would miss the playoffs for 10 consecutive seasons.

But it happened. And the Suns entered 2021 with the second-longest drought in the league (behind the Sacramento Kings).

Then, Devin Booker was drafted. Then the Suns landed the No. 1 overall pick and turned that into Deandre Ayton. Then Mikal Bridges and Cam Johnson came aboard.

And then, after the 8-0 bubble sparked by some guy named Cameron Payne, GM James Jones pulled off the Chris Paul trade.

The Phoenix Suns beat the Los Angeles Clippers to secure their first playoff appearance since 2010, and now, Suns fans: What do you want?

With the win over the Clippers, the Suns own the No. 2 seed with the chance to move into the No. 1 spot by beating the Utah Jazz in Phoenix on Friday.

And that’s worth celebrating.

The Suns are now nationally recognized as legitimate title contenders.

The Clippers are solidly No. 3, the Denver Nuggets are solidly No. 4 and the Lakers are in danger of falling to No. 7 or worse — and into the play-in scenario.

No. 5 Lakers 36-26

No. 6 Mavericks 34-27

No. 7 Blazers 34-28

No. 8 Grizzlies 32-30

No. 9 Spurs 31-30

No. 10 Warriors 31-31

Phoenix Suns playoff bracket No. 1

The preferred approach would be to avoid the Los Angeles Lakers and the Los Angeles Clippers (assuming full health for LeBron James and Kawhi Leonard) until the conference finals. That is a long-shot scenario.

A top-seeded Suns team would face the No. 8 seed from among the play-in teams, which could mean the Lakers if LeBron doesn’t return soon.

More likely, it would be Portland or Memphis. Tough matchups, but better than a first-round showdown with the Lakers.

With a first-round victory, the Suns would face the Nuggets or the Lakers/Mavs fifth seed, though the Blazers have an outside chance to capture that, too.

Ideally, it’s the Spurs and then the Nuggets or Mavs.

Phoenix Suns playoff bracket No. 2

That was a big victory over the Clippers. The fight to the wire with the Jazz could come up short, but the second seed in the loaded Western Conference is still pretty impressive.

This team is ready for the NBA playoffs.

The Suns would draw the No. 7 seed, surviving the play-in round. As mentioned, any one of the Lakers, Blazers, Spurs, Mavs or Grizzlies — or even the Golden State Currys — could be waiting.

This is why it feels important to chase the No. 1 seed. Not because the Suns are scared to face the Lakers — L.A. figures to be around for a conference finals matchup anyway — but because the second-round opponent would not likely be the Clippers (assuming full health for Kawhi Leonard, again).

Phoenix Suns playoff bracket No. 3

Let’s hope for the best and prepare for the worst.

The Suns could still slip to No. 3 in the West, given the Clippers’ grip on the season series and, as such, the tiebreaker over Phoenix.

If that happens, a first-round matchup with the Lakers is a strong possibility (though Dallas could find its way there).

Regardless, if the Suns should win their way to Round 2, those Clippers — and the home-court advantage — would be waiting.

Bottom line: Make the most of the remaining 10 games. Barring injury, there’s really no excuse for failing to grab a W in seven of these games (in order):

Road: OKC, Cavs, Hawks

Home: Knicks

Road: Lakers, Warriors

Home: Blazers

Road: Spurs, Spurs

So, there you go.

What option do most Suns fans want?