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Suns-Clippers Preview Predictions ROUNDTABLE

The Phoenix Suns and Los Angeles Clippers compete in the first round of the 2023 Playoffs

Denver Nuggets v Phoenix Suns Photo by Barry Gossage/NBAE via Getty Images

We are just over 24 hours away from the Phoenix Suns first playoff game of 2023, at home versus the Los Angeles Clippers.

I asked our staff to weigh in on some predictions and thoughts about series. Enjoy! Then weigh in with your own answers in the comments below.

Rapid fire

Question 1: Who will be the series leading scorer?

DK: Durant

SP-G: Booker

KG: Durant


Zona: Kevin Wayne Durant

Question 2: Who will be the Suns THIRD leading scorer, after Booker and Durant?

DK: Ayton

SP-G: Ayton (watch for Paul, though)

KG: Ayton

JV3: CP3

Zona: Playoff Ayton

Question 3: Who, besides Durant, will be the clutch player of the series?

DK: Paul

SP-G: Paul

KG: Booker

JV3: CP3

Zona: Book

Question 4: What stats will Josh Okogie post in the series?

DK: 7/4/3 with 25% 3P shooting — he won’t be very impactful.

SP-G: 8/6/3/2 — his value will come defensively, with rebounds, deflections + stocks

KG: 7/4/2 - Playoff ball isn’t conducive to a player like him putting up big numbers.

JV3: 6/6/1

Zona: 10/5/3/2 and he WILL have one “Josh Okogie” game

Question 5: Who will be the Suns best bench player and why?

DK: T.J. Warren — the Suns will need his shot creation when Book and KD are on the bench, and he’ll close some games as the weak side three point shooter big enough to defend the Clips wings

SP-G: Jock Landale — his short-roll playmaking and ability to play off the “pop” against the Clippers aggressive defense, while also punishing switches in the paint, and keeping flow will be invaluable behind Ayton.

KG: Warren - He’s the only true “scorer” the Suns bench has, and they’ll need it.

JV3: Terrence Ross — Be prepared for The Human Torch to got hot at home games and put together at least one 15-point performance. His offense will help sustained success for Phoenix in the First Round.

Zona: I’m going to go bold here. Cam Payne comes to life in this series. Or maybe he doesn’t play at all. That 29-point, 9-assist, 0-turnover start against LAC in game 2 of the WCF is stuck in my head.

Question 6: Who will be the Clippers second-leading scorer?

DK: Norm Powell, about 17 per game

SP-G: Norm Powell — the absence of George will net him plenty of attempts, especially in Kawhi's resting periods

KG: Norm Powell - After Kawhi, who else could it be?

Zona: Westbrook due to volume. Powell seems more likely but I’ll switch it up a bit here.

Question 7: Predict the series outcome — winner, and number of games

DK: Suns in 5

SP-G: Suns in 5

KG: Suns in 6

JV3: Suns in 5

Zona: Suns in 6

Now longer answers...

Question 8: What will be the Suns biggest strength — make it a surprise (so, not ‘Kevin Durant’s shotmaking’)

SP-G: Defending the Clippers. The Suns defense had perked up increasing the last three weeks of the regular season and saw their activity levels rise. The Clippers had a turnover percentage of 14.6 post All-Star. Playing in flow, off of their defense, and garnering the pace will be in their crosshairs.

KG: Perhaps surprisingly, I think it’s the Suns’ depth. The injuries the Suns dealt with this year helped them discover a number of fairly unheralded players they can feel good about rolling with while starters rest, and who can actually contribute positively.

JV3: Monty’s adjustments. Everybody gives Ty Lue credit for his ability to make in-game and in-series adjustments. As Monty Williams enters his third post-season with the Suns, and knowing that he has both Kevin Durant and Devin Booker on his roster, I believe his experience will begin to show. I feel that decisions he made throughout the regular season displayed a coaching maturity that Monty doesn’t get enough credit for. How he manages his rotations will be key to the success for the Suns, and they will be dictated by the adjustments that Monty makes.

Zona: While the unpredictability of the role players can be viewed as either a weakness or a strength, that will be my answer. When you have Kevin Durant and Devin Booker, if any of those role players have a massive game it feels like an unexpected bonus that makes Phoenix unbeatable. The Suns may not have the deepest team, but they have a group of guys that can explode at any moment. We’ve seen monster nights from Okogie, Ross, Payne, etc. throughout the season/over the years, and that type of potential to swing a game plays in the Suns’ favor. Hell, it could even be Ish Wainright simply hitting a pair of corner threes and playing solid defense that puts them over the top. It doesn’t take a ton from their bench to get it done, and that should scare teams if they DO come to play.

Question 9: What’s going to drive you crazy?

SP-G: Clippers potential catch-and-shoot proficiency, from three. Post-All-Star, they were third-best as a team (40.3%), tying with the Suns. They have a veteran rotation with four players north of 40% in this scenario. There will be many possessions where the Suns play great defense, and the Clippers knock down late-clock catch-and-shoots.

KG: Fouls. Kawhi wasn’t his usual self in getting to the line this season, but I think the playoff version of him will probably manage to get there close to 8 times per game, and it will be pretty annoying.

JV3: It’s always allowing offensive rebounding, especially in the playoffs. Allowing the opposition to extend possessions on the offensive side of the ball will drive us nuts. Sure, the Clippers ranked 19th in the league in offensive rebounding. But with Ivica Zubac and Mason Plumlee playing the five, they will get their offensive boards. And will be screaming at her television sets every time they do.

Zona: The ‘Clippers' ability to make the game ugly. They will do everything they can to ruin the flow of the game. I’m already annoyed just thinking about it.

Question 10: What single weakness could lose the Suns multiple games in this series?

SP-G: Three-point attempts. The Suns keeping their shot profile balanced, even when the mid-range shots are falling in unison for Durant/Booker/Paul/Ayton, will be important. The Clippers knock down 13.9 three's, on 34% in their wins, and have pyrotechnic-like stretches as a byproduct of their compilation of catch-and-shoot players. Keeping tabs on the “math” will be important

KG: Tacking on to Stephen’s point - lazy perimeter defense. We’ve seen this with the worse version of the Suns this season, they just don’t come with that energy on the perimeter and they close out lackadaiscially. That will be a problem against the sharpshooting Clippers.

JV3: Like Leonardo DiCaprio in Catch Me if You Can, I concur with both Stephen and Kyle’s observations. The three-point line will lose a game against the Clips, with the Suns falling in love with in a game in which the Clippers are en fuego from deep.

Zona: Eric Gordon & Norman Powell turning into the splash brothers and the Suns’ closeout defense being lazy. Westbrook and Kawhi will have attention on them as they get downhill to create clean

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