Comparing the Phoenix Suns to Each of Their Division Rivals

Danny Dukker@DannyDukkerCorrespondent IIOctober 1, 2012

Comparing the Phoenix Suns to Each of Their Division Rivals

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    For the past few seasons, the Pacific Division of the NBA has been one of the easiest to predict. The Los Angeles Lakers would finish first and the Phoenix Suns would be right behind them.

    As for the Golden State Warriors, Sacramento Kings and the Los Angeles Clippers, they would vie for the lowest rankings in the Western Conference.

    This all changed last year and will probably continue to change in the coming years. Teams are getting tougher and I am here to break down how the Suns hold up against the rest of their division.

Los Angeles Lakers

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    The biggest rival of Phoenix in the division remains Los Angeles.

    Just when things began looking bad for the Lakers, they added Steve Nash and Dwight Howard to their roster. In terms of talent, they outmatch the Suns by a long shot.

    The Suns have a solid team, but the Lakers have an all-star team on the floor. Nash and Kobe Bryant are both former MVPs and every starter has appeared in at least one All-Star Game.

    Bench play on paper seems to be leaning more towards the Suns, with Jared Dudley, Markieff Morris and Wesley Johnson backing up. The Lakers have Antawn Jamison and Jodie Meeks, but the Suns are slightly better.

    In terms of youth and potential, it's also leaning in Phoenix's favor. Nash is 38, Kobe is 34, and Pau Gasol is 32.

    The Suns, on the other hand, have four starters in their 20s as well as some younger players as back ups. However, even with the slight advantages, the starting lineup of the Lakers is just too good.

    This season, barring major injuries, don't expect the Suns to really compete with the Lakers. Los Angeles has one goal: win the title. While the Suns will still be trying to make the playoffs.

Golden State Warriors

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    This is a much closer comparison than the last slide.

    The last time the Warriors actually finished above the Suns in the standings was in 2004, the year before they acquired Nash.

    Since then, Phoenix has been in the playoffs nearly every year, while the Warriors have had much worse luck. Their team is simply overflowing with potential, but the talent is still sub par.

    Their two best players, Stephen Curry and Andrew Bogut, have both had some injury problems in their careers. This makes it really hard to predict how the Warriors will do this year.

    With that said, the future could not be brighter for Golden State. Klay Thompson had a very impressive rookie year and Harrison Barnes could be a star.

    Curry just needs to stay healthy, because if he is on the floor, the Warriors will have a very dangerous team. That considered, they still don't stack up well against the Suns.

    The front court of Luis Scola and Marcin Gortat will give them fits, as will Michael Beasley. Defense is still an issue for the Warriors and that will be a problem against Phoenix.

    The bench is pretty even, as both teams have proven contributors backing up their starters.

    I should also point out that no one on the Suns roster has shown durability issues, which is another big advantage for them. The Warriors are getting better, but this is not going to be the year they pass the Suns.

Sacramento Kings

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    The last time the Kings were a factor in the west was in 2006, and they are just starting to look up again. Much like the Warriors, this is a team that could be great in the future, but is not quite there just yet.

    DeMarcus Cousins is an All Star, and Tyreke Evans along with Isaiah Thomas have shown flashes of brilliance. The outlook for the future is better than that of the Suns, but winning will still be an issue.

    Keith Smart has not proven he can definitively lead this team into the future, and I highly doubt he is the coach that will take them to the playoffs.

    There are also some off-court distractions to talk about, mainly all the rumors about the relocation out of Sacramento, which could affect home attendance and support.

    In five years, we could be talking about the Kings as one of the top seeds in the conference. As of now, their roster is still very young and needs work.

    Once this team gets some consistent play from its starters, and a definite team identity, they could easily take down the Suns. Phoenix has proven players, and a definite identity, which gives them the edge.

Los Angeles Clippers

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    The Clippers are the perfect blend of talent and potential. Five years from now, they could be right at the top of the west, while they are also almost guaranteed a spot in the playoffs this year.

    They also match up well against the Suns. Blake Griffin will make Scola work on defense, and Chris Paul will be great as usual. Goran Dragic's defense is good, but he will be struggling with Paul.

    The front court advantage the Suns have will still be there, but the athleticism of the Clippers will cause problems. Los Angeles' bench will be an issue as well with Jamal Crawford and Lamar Odom part of the second unit.

    Fans might forget that the Clippers only finished one game behind the Lakers last year, and seven games ahead of the Suns. While the spread between them and the Lakers might increase, so will their lead on the Suns.

    Phoenix is not a bad team, but the Clippers showed how good they can be last year, and they only look better this year.

    Blake said he spent the summer working on his jumper. This is bad news for the rest of the NBA, as the guy was a consistent 20-10 threat with just an inside game.

    When all is said and done, I see the Suns finishing third in the division, trailing both the Clippers and the Lakers by a good number of games.

    This is not to say they won't make the playoffs, but they won't get any help from their divisional opponents.