Phoenix is playoff bound. What is the best spot for them to land? Bright Side panel time!
One year ago we were navigating the earlier stages of the pandemic. The NBA season was on hold, as were the aspirations of the playoff hopes for Phoenix Suns. The team was 26-39, good for the 13th seed in the Western Conference. We did not when or if the 2019-20 season would resume, but chances were the Suns would spend another year in the NBA Lottery.
What a difference a year makes. I couldn’t tell you the last time I was on Tankathon.com, endlessly refreshing the page to see what our future may hold. The future is now.
The fact that this piece referencing the first overall seed in the treacherous and daunting Western Conference does not do justice to the transformation the Phoenix Suns have experienced in the last 12 months. The Bubble. The CP3 trade. The expectations. The winning.
The Suns are now 44-18 with 10 games left to play in the NBA season. We are headed towards the promised land known as “the playoffs” and, if the Suns will have at least two rounds with home court advantage.
You can’t control what happens below or above you in the standings. All you can control is your game, your performance, and put in the effort to control the outcomes of your games. When the regular season comes to an end, you are where you are. The play in games will not only make for some interesting entertainment and talking points, they will give the Suns a week of rest as they await the winners.
That being said, where the Suns finish relative to seeding is an engaging talking point. Some don’t care; again, focus on what you can control. Some look at the path to a championship and see potential easier routes than others. Here is what the playoff picture currently looks like:
I asked the question to my fellow Bright Side of the Sun contributors, knowing that we will all have differing options and caveats as to where we want the Suns the land and why.
What seed do you ultimately want the Phoenix Suns to end with and why?
Dave King: I absolutely want the Suns to grab the top seed if possible. I don’t care about playoff matchups, who’s looming in the second round or whatever. I only care that the Suns make every last attempt to eek every win possible from this magical season. All else be damned.
Khaleel Abdullah: I agree with Dave. 100%. This season has been absolutely magical and all I care about is wins. You ask any player on the team and they will tell you the exact same thing. Also, you can’t point out any team in the West and tell me it would be an easy matchup. But, like Monty says, “Everything you want is on the other side of hard.”
Zona: I’m torn here. While making a run for the number one seed would be a thrilling, historical feat for the franchise, if the reward for getting the 1 seed is playing the healthy Los Angeles Lakers in the second round then I start to rethink that. One of my favorite scenarios would be for the Jazz to sputter into the 3rd seed, and the Clippers to move up to number one while Phoenix sits tight at number two. This way the two LA teams could beat each other up (in round 2) while on the other side of the bracket it likely comes down to the winner of Utah/Phoenix. The goal should be to create a route for yourself where you don’t have to beat both LA teams in consecutive series. That being said, if they close the season strong and end up number one overall it would be tough to complain.
Matthew Lissy: I will be on a stroke watch against any matchup really. Any matchup against any team out west is in contention for 7-games. Even with injuries to Jamal Murray of the Denver Nuggets, and the Lakers limping to the finish line, every possession will be leaking with energy from whoever is on the court. Every team in the tournament will be well earned, even the play-in teams.
I’ll preface everything I am about to type with truly, at the end of the day, I don’t care. We get playoff basketball in Phoenix. I am beyond excited. I haven’t enjoyed a Suns playoff basketball game since I was 28, consuming the games (and many, many beers) at Famous Sam’s on Scottsdale and Thomas. It’s been so long that Famous Sam’s changed their name to Maxx Sports Grille and is now a damn Whataburger. This has been an amazing ride. And I don’t want it to end.
The Suns control their own destiny. Every now and then, however, destiny reveals an ideal path to victory. Example: Had the Suns defeated the Spurs in the 2007 playoffs, they would have had to play Deron Williams, Carlos Boozer, and the Utah Jazz (who the Spurs beat 4-1) for the right to play a young LeBron James and the Cavs (who the Spurs swept 4-0) in the 2007 NBA Finals. The path was there. The Suns simply didn’t execute. I don’t want that to happen again.
If I had to care, I would like to see the Suns end the regular season slotted with the #2 seed. I recently made my while recording our post game podcast following the Monday night victory over the New York Knicks.
Do you remember the Los Angeles Lakers? You know, the team that won the NBA Finals? Prior to Anthony Davis aggravating his Achilles on Valentine’s Day, the Lake Show was 21-7 and two games behind the Utah Jazz in the standings. I know the Clippers are scary but perhaps we have forgotten how lethal the Lakers can be. I would like to put as much distance between the Suns and the Lakers as possible, and the #2 seed would accomplish that.
The #2 seed will ensure home court advantage for the first two rounds as well as ensure, if we are to see the Lakers (assuming they finish with either the #4 or #5 seed, which appears to be the case) that meeting will happen in the Western Conference Finals. The Suns would have home court there as well. The Lakers would have to survive two previous rounds: one against a beat up Denver team and one (most likely) against the Utah Jazz.
Would you rather play the Lakers when they are tired? Or play them when they are two rounds worth of tired? What if the Jazz beat the Lakers in the semifinals? Then you have to play no Lakers at all. That is why I want #2.
Again, the Suns control their own destiny. Phoenix would have to win in the First Round and (most likely) play against the Los Angeles Clippers in the Western Conference Semifinals. Who knows what will happen? In my gut, I don’t want the Lakers early. I want to avoid them for a couple of rounds, allowing them to lose to someone else or face the Suns with fatigue.
I know I am playing the “what if” game real hard here. I know that the Lakers could fall — potentially to the 6 seed and have to play the Clippers — and the Suns could rise. Nothing is set yet. So many scenarios still exist.
No path is easy.