The postseason begins in a week for the Phoenix Suns and, as they have locked up the fourth seed, they find themselves like 50 Cent. Patiently waiting to find out who they will be playing for in the First Round.
The Golden State Warriors have one game left, playing the Portland Trail Blazers on Sunday afternoon. The Los Angeles Clippers have two games left, playing the Blazers today and their final game tomorrow against the Suns, who most likely will be resting players in preparation for their postseason run.
If both the Clippers and the Warriors win their remaining games, the Clippers will win the fifth seed and will face the Suns in the first round. Los Angeles holds the tie-breaker due to their better division record.
Is that what we want? Do you want a first round series against the Los Angeles Clippers? Or would you rather play the Golden State Warriors?
Who would you rather play in the First Round?
This poll is closed
The Case for Playing the Clippers
The Clippers are without All-Star forward Paul George, who sprained his right knee in a game against the Oklahoma City Thunder on March 21. While he may have avoided major injury, the prognosis was that he would miss the remainder of the regular season and be re-evaluated in two to three weeks.
George is expected to be out for the rest of the regular season's nine games, but his timeline for a possible return in the playoffs will be clearer when he's re-evaluated. https://t.co/dggAJipTm9— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) March 22, 2023
Losing George means the Clippers lost 23.8 points and 6.1 rebounds, as well as a 37.1% three-point shooter. That’s a big chunk of the team. In his absence, the team has gone 4-3, but they’ve also averaged 119.3 points (7th best in the league). They were averaging 112.8 before George's injury.
Russell Westbrook, who is putting up solid numbers in his 19 starts with the Clippers — 15.1 points, 7.6 assists, and 4.7 rebounds — is doing so on 53.3/33.3/65.2 splits. His defensive rating since joining the Clippers is 113.3.
Both Ivica Zubac and Mason Plumlee present a sizable advantage on the boards and on the block. This makes them much different than the Clippers we saw in the Western Conference Finals two years ago. That team was known for playing a five-out offense. Zubac would start the game, but like a chameleon, they would morph into a different team as it met their needs.
The Clippers are much more traditional these days, and with Kawhi Leonard roaming as a scorer and plus-defender, they found their niche in the last 20 games. They’re second in the NBA over the past 15 games in three-point shooting, making 40.5% of their attempts.
Their size hasn’t equated to much on the boards. They’re 17th in total rebounds, and 24th in rebounding over the past 15 games. They shoot 33.5 field goal attempts inside 10 feet, fourth worst in the league (note that Phoenix shoots 33.3 attempts, third worst in the league).
The injury of Bismack Biyombo on Friday night against the Los Angeles Lakers looms large, especially if you have to play against a team like the Clippers. We witnessed this last season in the First Round against the New Orleans Pelicans. When interior size occurs against Phoenix, it just makes things a little bit harder.
The Case for Playing the Warriors
It’s not every day that you want to sign up to play against the defending champions. Coupled with the fact that this team has won four championships in the last eight years, and you know that they are playoff-tested, resilient, and possess the ability to have the confidence to win in any situation.
The Warriors possess one of the worst road records in the NBA. The defending NBA champs are 10-30 away from Chase Center. Only the Detroit Pistons, San Antonio Spurs, and Houston Rockets were worse. And those teams could fall 1, 2, and 3 in the NBA Draft.
Obviously, as the fourth seed, the Suns would have home court advantage in the series.
While they don’t possess interior depth – Kevon Looney is their most sizable defender – they do possess devastating shooting. They attempt the most three-point attempts (43.1), three-point makes (16.5) on the second-highest percentage (38.3%) in the league.
Steph Curry and Klay Thompson are elite, and Jordan Poole can get hot at any moment. They are never out of the game, so it’s understandable that that is a First Round opponent that you might want to avoid.
What makes them a desirable opponent is they are in the process of reintegrating key pieces to their lineups. Gary Payton II has recently returned. His defense-first mentality is a piece that the team has been missing throughout the season.
Andrew Wiggins, arguably the second best player in the NBA Finals for the Warriors last season, is slated to return as well.
After spending time away from the team due to personal reasons, Andrew Wiggins is finally back in the Bay Area.— Legion Hoops (@LegionHoops) March 31, 2023
(via @JDumasReports) pic.twitter.com/C7BzLLJDwL
Doesn’t necessarily sound like a recipe for an opponent you want to play, right? Or is it?
They are both returning from long periods of being off, so if you’re going to catch Golden State, now might be the time. It’s similar to the Lakers in the First Round of the 2021 NBA Playoffs. Anthony Davis was coming off of an injury, so if you wanted to play them, if you wanted to get at Davis early. It worked out then, and it could work out now.
Phoenix is a tough matchup for Golden State. They defeated the Warriors three out of four times this season. Add the KD storylines, and it would make for one heck of a series.
As the Rock says, “It doesn’t matter!”. Either opponent can be beat by the Suns. It’s simply a preference on how the series would play out that dictates who’d you rather the Suns play.
We’ll know shortly, how it’s all going to play out. Regardless of the opponent, Phoenix should handle their first round opponent with ease. Should. The expectations are back. With those expectations comes stress. With the stress comes living in dying with every possession.
Damn, isn’t it great to be back in the postseason!