KD vs. Warriors? Juiciest Suns playoff matchups ranked by The Ringer

Apr 6, 2023, 11:35 AM

Anthony Davis #3 of the Los Angeles Lakers drives the ball against Deandre Ayton #22 of the Phoenix...

Anthony Davis #3 of the Los Angeles Lakers drives the ball against Deandre Ayton #22 of the Phoenix Suns during the second half of the NBA game at Footprint Center on November 22, 2022 in Phoenix, Arizona. The Suns defeated the Lakers 115-105. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

The Phoenix Suns clinched the No. 4 seed of the Western Conference, but there is quite a bit to sort out over the final days of the regular season when it comes to their opponent.

What is clear is Phoenix will likely see an opponent that has recently gone on a deep run with superstars on the roster.

The Ringer’s Zach Kram ranked the best possible first-round matchups on Monday, and he gave the Suns their own tier of three potential matchups at the top of the list.

He ranked Suns-Lakers No. 1, Suns-Warriors No. 2 and Suns-Clippers No. 3. All four teams have megastars in their 30s and need to win a title sooner rather than later.

The No. 5 seed after Wednesday night’s games are Kawhi Leonard and the Los Angeles Clippers. Just behind them are Stephen Curry and the defending champion Golden State Warriors. Could we get Kevin Durant taking on his former team with trash-talking galore?

The Lakers’ loss to the Clippers Wednesday drastically hurt their chances of opening the playoffs against the Suns. They are currently the No. 7 seed boasting LeBron James and Anthony Davis.

Will we see James vs. Durant in the playoffs for the first time since the 2018 NBA Finals? More “Beat L.A.” chants?

The current no. 5 seed is the Clippers, who are missing Paul George, but the story lines for a potential Suns series pop off the page regardless: Durant vs. Kawhi, Chris Paul vs. the Clippers, KD vs. Russ. Or, if the Warriors land the no. 5 seed instead, how about Durant vs. his old team, Paul vs. Curry, and Devin Booker vs. Klay Thompson? Or maybe the hottest team of the bunch will push up to the no. 5 seed, and Durant will face LeBron—whom he’s met on three previous playoff occasions, all in the Finals—right from the playoff jump.

The strangeness of the 2022-23 Western standings are perhaps best encapsulated by this section, all the way atop the list of compelling first-round matchups. The Suns are Vegas favorites to win the conference because they traded for Durant to win now. The Clippers are also in win-now mode, in Year 4 with Leonard and George. The Warriors, too, are trying to win now because they’re the defending champions, with a leading man still producing as if in his prime. And the Lakers, of course, are hoping to win now in an attempt to maximize LeBron’s window and seize another ring.

Kram placed the matchup of Suns-Pelicans No. 19 and in the category of a New Orleans series that would be better with a healthy Zion Williamson.

The Suns have fared well against the California trio this season, winning two of three against each of the L.A. teams and three of four over the Warriors. Phoenix will take on the Lakers on Friday and the Clippers in Sunday’s regular-season finale.

The Suns beat the Lakers and Clippers en route to the NBA Finals in 2021, but the L.A. teams look different this time.

The Lakers are perhaps the hottest team in the league having won seven of nine games with a revamped roster after the trade deadline.

The Clippers have Leonard back, who is playing well, but Paul George is on the shelf with a knee injury for possibly the entire first round. Plus they have Russell Westbrook, another wrinkle in the matchup.

Durant and Westbrook, once teammates on the Oklahoma City Thunder, have not met in the playoffs as foes yet.

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KD vs. Warriors? Juiciest Suns playoff matchups ranked by The Ringer