The Western Conference has been drastically changed in the past three days and the playoff picture has definitely changed.
With Carmelo Anthony and Deron Williams leaving teams on the lower half of the playoff picture, teams like Utah and Denver could be on the decline with Memphis and Phoenix on the rise.
Does Phoenix have enough to come from 10th place to get a playoff spot? They have a very good opportunity and in my opinion, they can do it. Read on to see the Suns chances against teams in the bottom half of the playoff picture.
The Utah Jazz have been in free fall ever since old time coach Jerry Sloan resigned and have lost five straight games since then. They traded away superstar Deron Williams and could be on the decline. They fell from middle of the West to ninth place and a half game out of eighth place.
How the teams match up
PG: Devin Harris PG: Steve Nash
SG: Raja Bell SG: Vince Carter
SF: Andrei Kirilenko SF: Grant Hill
PF: Paul Millsap PF: Channing Frye
C: Al Jefferson C: Robin Lopez
Overall both teams matchup fairly even and bench play could be a huge factor in this matchup. The Suns have Jared Dudley, Aaron Brooks, Marcin Gortat, Mickael Pietrus, and Hakim Warrick. The Jazz have Ronnie Price, Earl Watson, C.J. Miles, Gordan Heyward, and Derrick Favors. I think the Suns win the battle of the benches and therefore the roster comparison.
Phoenix's chance to overtake the Jazz
I like Phoenix's chances to overtake the Jazz with the recent turmoil of the Jazz and by comparison of the two rosters. I give the Suns a solid 80% chance to overtake the Jazz.
The Memphis Grizzlies are 19-11 in their last 30 games and have been a team on the rise. They have played their way into the playoff race and should only get better when Rudy Gay returns from energy.
How the teams matchup
PG: Mike Conley PG: Steve Nash
SG: Sam Young SG: Vince Carter
SF: Shane Battier SF: Grant Hill
PF: Zach Randolph PF: Channing Frye
C: Marc Gasol C: Robin Lopez
Memphis is notably missing Rudy Gay but still both team's starters matchup well. While the Suns have more scorers, the Grizzlies have most a presence down low. This matchup could be decided by defense and bench play. Both teams have increased their defensive intensity but the Suns have a noticeable advantage from the bench. I give the Suns the advantage based on their better bench and more offensive firepower.
Phoenix's chances to overtake the Grizzlies
The Grizzlies won the season series, winning two out of 3 games, with each game being within 10 points. The Suns seem to have problems with the Grizzlies and could have trouble overtaking them. I could easily see this matchup going either way and intangibles could determine the winner. I give the Suns a 70% chance to overtake the Grizzlies.
The Portland Trailblazers are currently in seventh place in the West and have once again been hit with the injury bug. Brandon Roy, Greg Oden, and Marcus Camby have all missed time with injuries and still the team has stayed in the playoff race.
How the teams matchup:
PG: Andre Miller PG: Steve Nash
SG: Wesley Matthews SG: Vince Carter
SF: Nicolas Batum SF: Grant Hill
PF: Lamarcus Aldridge PF: Channing Frye
C: Marcus Camby C: Robin Lopez
The Portland Trailblazers today traded Joel Przybilla, Dante Cunningham, Sean Marks, two first round picks, and cash for Gerald Wallace and drastically changed the look of their roster. It is yet to be seen if Wallace will start or come off the bench but I would guess he would be starting. With Wallace the Trailblazers get smaller but gain some toughness on the wings. The Blazers will absolutely be stacked on the wings with Brandon Roy, Gerald Wallace, Nicolas Batum, Rudy Fernandez, and Wesley Matthews. The Suns will have more depth on the blocks than the Blazers with the Wallace trade but the Blazers have better wings.
Phoenix's chances to overtake the Trailblazers:
Both teams have changed drastically since they met in the playoffs and both have struggled since then. The Suns have had some problems containing the wings of the Blazers and should only have more with Gerald Wallace. The Suns advantage down low could be the difference maker in this matchup and should help the Suns dramatically. I give the Suns a 45% chance to overtake the Trailblazers.
The Denver Nuggets have drastically changed with the Carmelo Anthony trade and could have possibly changed the landscape of the West playoff race. The team is playing it's first game tonight with the new players and it is yet to be seen how effective the team will be.
How the teams matchup:
PG: Ty Lawson PG: Steve Nash
SG: Aaron Afflalo SG: Vince Carter
SF: Danilo Gallinari SF: Grant Hill
PF: Kenyon Martin PF: Channing Frye
C: Nene Hilario C: Robin Lopez
Like I mentioned earlier, the Nuggets have not yet been seen with their new players and could be very deadly with the newly acquired Raymond Felton, Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler, and Timofey Mozgov. From top to bottom, Denver could be the team that could matchup the best with the Suns. Both teams have great shooter, good defenders, solid low post players, and smart point guards. This is a total toss up and could depend on the which team gets more scoring from the starting shooting guard position.
Phoenix's chances to overtake the Nuggets:
This could be the hardest opponent for the Suns to overcome with the new-found depth at all positions for Denver. I give the Suns a 30% chance to overtake the Nuggets. It will be interesting to see the impact Carmelo's trade has on this Denver team and if they fold or continue to climb the ranks of the West.
After looking at the schedules and stats for each team mentioned, I've realized that really each team controls their own destiny. Each team has a pretty tough schedule and could easily move up or down.
I think the Suns will rise to the occasion and get at least the eighth seed and maybe even the seventh.