With the 2020-21 NBA season approaching, the Phoenix Suns have their eyes set on making their first playoff appearance since the 2009-10 campaign. Adding veteran players like Chris Paul and Jae Crowder to their mix of young studs is going to play a big role in getting the Suns to the promised land. Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton will look to take the next step towards being the desert’s version of Shaq and Kobe. But in the always competitive western conference the road will not be easy.
The Suns play in the same division as the Los Angeles Clippers and Lakers. Winning the division may not be the most realistic route to the postseason. The Lakers are the defending champions and look even better than last year on paper. How well the Clips play together this season might pose a possibility of finishing second in the Pacific Division. The Warriors are going to be the biggest question mark in the divisional race. Klay Thompson as we know will miss the season due to an achilles injury. Stephen Curry is back and assuming he plays in more than five games this season the Warriors win total will rise from the 15 they won last year. At the age of 32 however, it will be interesting to see what version of Steph returns.
As mentioned above the Western Conference is going to be tough. The Lakers, Nuggets, Rockets, Jazz, and Mavericks I feel are locks to make the playoffs. That only leaves three spots for the Suns to slide into. The Clippers having Kawhi Leonard and Paul George makes them seem like a lock for the playoffs but the locker room chemistry has come into question as of late. They lost Sixth Man of the Year, Montrezl Harrell, and fired coach Doc Rivers. If either of the Clippers star players miss time things could get shaky for them really quickly.
Assuming the Clippers make it with their star power that leaves us with two playoff spots remaining. It’s not going to come easy. As the following teams are going to be just as hungry as the Suns will be.
Portland Trail Blazers
(35-39) last season
Damian Lillard enough said, right? The superstar point guard led his team to the eighth seed last season through the bubble play. Portland courts a roster featuring stars CJ McCollum and Carmelo Anthony along with fan favorite role players in Jusuf Nurkic and Rodney Hood. They have Hassan Whiteside eating up rebounds down low and also added Robert Covington in the offseason. Dame is the game’s best example of a pure competitor. With the supporting cast he has this year the Blazers are almost sure to make the playoffs.
(34-39) last season
Reigning Rookie of the Year Ja Morant is going to want to see playoff basketball in his sophomore campaign. The question here is if the rest of the roster is ready. Memphis played well above expectations last year. Seeing Dillion Brooks and Jonas Valanciunas play well was awesome, but can they keep it going into this season? Morant is going to need all the help he can get.
Oklahoma City Thunder
(44-28) last season
The Thunder seem to be taking a step back after this past offseason. They let go of Chris Paul (Thanks btw), Dennis Schroder, and Steven Adams. Outside of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander they don’t seem to have much going for them this season. Their eyes are set on the future after accumulating a king’s ransom of draft capital.
San Antonio Spurs
(32-39) last season
Last season was the first time the Spurs missed the playoffs since the 1996-97 season. Can one even imagine Greg Popovich missing the playoffs twice in a row? DeMar DeRozan is back and LaMarcus Aldridge should be healthy and ready to contribute. Other than those two players and Dejounte Murray the Spurs don’t have much fire power. Outside of a Coach of the Year performance from Pop I think the Spurs will miss the playoffs again this year.
Honorable Mention: New Orleans Pelicans
When the regular season is all said and done I see it shaping out like this: Lakers, Nuggets, Rockets, Mavericks, Clippers, Suns, Jazz, Blazers. A first round matchup against the Rockets will be winnable. Big things are happening in Phoenix. Are the Suns title contenders yet, unfortunately not yet. But the eras of basketball are changing and the landscape is shifting. Book and Ayton are franchise cornerstones and in their early 20’s. Chris Paul joining this squad will have ripple effects long after he’s gone. Small steps at a time. Be patient Suns fans. In the meantime it will be nice to enjoy some playoff basketball.