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ESPN projects Phoenix Suns will be No. 8 seed in Western Conference

LAKE BUENA VISTA, FLORIDA - AUGUST 13: Devin Booker #1 of the Phoenix Suns controls the ball against Trey Burke #32 of the Dallas Mavericks in the second half at AdventHealth Arena at ESPN Wide World Of Sports Complex on August 13, 2020 in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. (Photo by Ashley Landis-Pool/Getty Images)

A new era in Phoenix Suns basketball might be on the horizon.

Having not made the playoffs since 2009-10, the Valley’s oldest professional sports franchise was a Brooklyn Nets jump shot away from taking on the Memphis Grizzlies in the bubble for the right to play the Los Angeles Lakers in the first round earlier this summer.

And after adding 10-time All-Star point guard Chris Paul to the roster this offseason, Phoenix is well-positioned to make its first postseason run in over a decade.

ESPN’s Kevin Pelton on Tuesday projected that the Suns would finish as the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference with 38.6 wins.

Now, in a regular 82-game season, that win tally wouldn’t merit the 62% chance of making the playoffs that ESPN has given the Suns.

However, due to the 2020-21 NBA season being only 72 games due to the coronavirus pandemic, a 38-34 or 39-33 record would slot Phoenix above .500 for the first time in Devin Booker’s career.

Adding Chris Paul, along with the savvy pickup of Crowder in free agency, makes the Suns favorites to end a decade-long playoff drought this season. Phoenix hasn’t won 39 games since 2014-15, and if the Suns do so this season — as projected — that will put them above .500 in a 72-game schedule.

ESPN also projects that the Lakers will repeat as the Western Conference’s best regular-season team at 44.3 wins and would host the Suns in the opening round of the playoffs.

From there, the winner of Lakers-Suns would play the victor of the No. 4 Utah Jazz and the No. 5 Denver Nuggets for the right to play in the Western Conference Finals.

Pelton predicts that the Portland Trail Blazers (38.2 wins), Grizzlies (36), Minnesota Timberwolves (35), Sacramento Kings (35), San Antonio Spurs (33.2), Golden State Warriors (31.2) and Oklahoma City Thunder (24.9) will all finish behind the Suns in the regular-season standings.

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