The Lakers gave the Suns a great battle last season in the first round before falling in 7 games. But, the Suns didn’t have Amare Stoudemire and that changes the whole complexion of this season’s playoff series. Here’s a look at the matchups in this series:
POINT GUARD: The Suns have the two time reigning MVP of the NBA. He’s the player that makes the Suns go as he’s an excellent passer and shooter. He averaged 18.6 points, 3.5 rebounds and 11.6 assists per game during the regular season. He will dominate this series. Rookie Jordan Farmar is likely to be the starting point guard for the Lakers as Smush Parker is in Phil Jackson’s doghouse. Farmar averaged 4.4 points, 1.7 rebounds and 1.9 assists per game. He’s going to get abused by Nash in this series. EDGE: GIGANTIC FOR THE SUNS
SHOOTING GUARD: Kobe Bryant might be the best player in the NBA right now. But what makes him great alienates his teammates as he often turns into a selfish ball hog. But when looking at the rest of the Lakers roster, giving Kobe the ball is usually the best recipe for success. He averaged 31.6 points, 5.7 rebounds and 5.4 assists per game this season. Look for him to have a fantastic series. Raja Bell will try to keep up with Bryant and that will be a chore. Bell is very physical on defense and he will foul Kobe really hard a couple of times in every game of this series. He averaged 14.7 points, 3.2 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game this season. Bell is an excellent shooter who will make Kobe work on defense. EDGE: GIGANTIC FOR THE LAKERS
SMALL FORWARD: Luke Walton is a player that does a little bit of everything. He really improved as a basketball player this season and has earned every minute on the floor that he has received. Walton averaged 11.4 points, 5.0 rebounds and 4.3 assists per game this season. James Jones looks like he will be the starter at small forward for the Suns in this series. He only averaged 6.4 points, 2.3 rebounds and 0.6 assists per game this season. EDGE: SLIGHT FOR LAKERS
POWER FORWARD: For the pure basketball fan, this will be the best matchup on the court in this series. Shawn “The Matrix” Marion is a fantastic all-around basketball player. He’s a fine shooter, rebounder and defender. Marion averaged 17.5 points, 9.8 rebounds and 1.7 assists per game this season. Lamar Odom has a very similar skill set to the one that Marion has. Odom averaged 15.9 points, 9.8 rebounds and 4.8 assists per game. He’s a good second option on offense for the Lakers and he’s an excellent passer that helps out the point guards of the Lakers quite a bit on the floor. EDGE: EVEN
CENTER: Amare Stoudemire came all the way back from his major surgery of a couple of seasons ago. He averaged 20.4 points, 9.6 rebounds and 1.0 assist per game this season. He’s a fantastic finisher on the fast break and he’s an outstanding shot blocker. The Suns are a much better team than the one the Lakers almost knocked out last season because Stoudemire is back ruling the paint. Kwame Brown will start against the Suns in this series and he’s never blossomed into the basketball player that a lot of people expected him to. He averaged 8.4 points, 6.0 rebounds and 1.8 assists per game this season. EDGE: HUGE FOR THE SUNS
BENCH: The Suns will only likely use three players off the bench in this series and they’re all good basketball players. G/F Leandro Barbosa is probably the best sixth man in the NBA. He does everything well on the court and he’s a fantastic outside shooter. He averaged 18.1 points, 2.7 rebounds and 4.0 assists per game this season. G/F Boris Diaw was actually the starting center for most of last season. He averaged 9.7 points, 4.3 rebounds and 4.8 assists per game this season. F/C Kurt Thomas gives the Suns another big body in the paint. He averaged 4.6 points, 5.7 rebounds and 0.4 assists per game this season.
The Lakers will use their bench a lot in this series as they try to wear the Suns down. Smush Parker started most of the season but now he will be coming off of the bench. He averaged 11.1 points, 2.5 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game this season. Center Andrew Bynum will also be very important as he will likely split time with Kwame Brown. Bynum averaged 7.8 points, 5.9 rebounds and 1.1 assists per game for the Lakers this season. Maurice Evans (8.4 points, 2.9 rebounds and 1.0 assist), Brian Cook (6.9 points, 3.3 rebounds and 1.0 assist) and Ronny Turiaf (5.3 points, 3.6 rebounds and 0.9 assists) will backup Lamar Odom and Luke Walton in this series. EDGE: SUNS
PREDICTION: The Lakers will win a game at home, but the Suns will win this series rather easily in 5 games.