NBA Playoffs 2023: Why the Phoenix Suns are a good bet to win the title

By Zachary Cohen  ( 

April 11, 2023 12:18 PM

Why the Phoenix Suns are a good bet to win the 2022-23 NBA title

In February, the Phoenix Suns traded Mikal Bridges, Cam Johnson, Jae Crowder, four first-round picks and a pick swap to get Kevin Durant from the Brooklyn Nets. Since then, Durant has played only eight games for a Phoenix team that made it to the NBA Finals two years ago. The two-time NBA champion and two-time Finals MVP would have played more games if not for a sprained ankle that he suffered in warmups in the beginning of March, and that seriously cut down on the amount of time this Suns team had to build chemistry. However, Phoenix is 8-0 with Durant in the lineup, and the regular season played out in a way that makes it hard not to back the Suns to win a title at +425 with DraftKings Sportsbook.

For starters, the Suns have just been flat-out special offensively with Durant in the lineup. Now that shouldn’t come as much of a surprise to anybody, as Durant is one of the best scorers in the history of the game and happens to be averaging 29.1 points per game this season. But the fit has been seamless right off the bat, as Durant is getting nothing but open looks in Phoenix’s “0.5 offense.” Phoenix’s two-man lineup of Durant and Devin Booker has an offensive rating of 121.7, which is about as exceptional as people expected. An argument can also be made that the Suns are a better defensive team with Durant, as his weak side shot-blocking is a much-needed skill for a Phoenix team that has lacked size at the power forward spot in recent seasons.

A lot of people will probably combat that Suns praise by saying that the team didn’t play great competition, but you can only beat the team that’s in front of you. But the reality is that the duo of Booker and Durant is going to be a nightmare for every opponent Phoenix will face from here, as opponents don't have the luxury of doubling either one of them. Also, the mere presence of those two assassins makes life on Chris Paul and Deandre Ayton a lot easier. Paul has taken nothing but open triples with Durant in the lineup, while Ayton is constantly in position to finish bunnies at the rim or work the post against smaller defenders on switches.

With Durant fitting like a glove so far, it’s impossible not to think about the road ahead for the Suns. Phoenix gets the Los Angeles Clippers in the opening round of the playoffs, and the Suns are listed as -600 favorites to beat them right now. Los Angeles isn’t a bad team or anything, but Paul George is likely to miss most of this series for the Clippers. That essentially dooms Los Angeles in a series like this one, as long as Phoenix is able to stay healthy. Kawhi Leonard can go toe to toe with Durant over the course of seven games, but missing his running mate makes it hard to believe he’ll find a way to drag Los Angeles to a win over a Phoenix team that arguably has the three best players in the series outside of them.

The Suns would then presumably face the top-seeded Denver Nuggets in a second-round series, which does pose some challenges. The Nuggets are as elite as they come offensively, and they were 34-7 at home during the regular season — which is significant considering Denver would have home-court advantage. But Phoenix is an extremely tough matchup for Nikola Jokic and Co. While the Suns are one of the better defensive teams in the league — even after dealing Bridges — the Nuggets are miserable on that end of the floor. Phoenix should be able to pick apart Denver in pick-and-roll actions, as Jamal Murray, Michael Porter Jr. and Jokic are three highly exploitable defenders. The Suns don’t present the same mismatch hunting opportunities, and Ayton also happens to defend Jokic as well as anyone. With that said, Phoenix would be the favorite to win that series and it’d really be somewhat surprising if the team lost that one.

The potential Western Conference Finals matchup would also be far less daunting than a meeting with the Nuggets, unless it ends up being the Golden State Warriors or Los Angeles Lakers. But the Suns would have home-court advantage against either one of those two opponents, and Phoenix would also be a more cohesive unit after having endured two series-long battles with one another. This is one of the few teams in the playoffs that should get stronger as the postseason progresses, as the chemistry is only going to get better and better from here. Phoenix should also have fresher legs than most because quite a few Suns players missed time during the regular season. While dealing with an injury isn't exactly ideal in the moment, it does result in less minutes and mileage on the body — which is crucial for a guy like Paul, who usually runs out of steam late in the postseason.

The beauty of taking the Suns now is that you’d likely have a great shot at hedging and guaranteeing yourself a nice chunk of change if the team does make it to the NBA Finals — or even takes an early lead in the Western Conference Finals, where live series betting could be your friend. By the time the Suns have to play one of the Eastern Conference’s best, the betting public and oddsmakers will have forgetten that Phoenix doesn’t have much continuity. By that point, the Suns will just be looked at as an elite team that boasts a lineup that features Durant, Booker, Paul and Ayton — along with role players that fit the team extremely well. That means that the Suns would be very small underdogs in the NBA Finals, if they're 'dogs at all. That would make for a very clean hedge, especially if you risk 1.5 or 2 units on the Suns to win it all before the playoffs begin. You’d be able to bet the Eastern Conference foe to win a couple of units and either guarantee a profit, or just completely mitigate risk.

All in all, the point of this is that you shouldn’t be afraid to back the Suns at their current odds. Obviously, it’d be nice if they were priced more like the Warriors, who are currently +950 to win the title. But Phoenix is every bit as good as the top teams in the Eastern Conference, on paper. And the Suns are going to have some time to get themselves settled into these playoffs, which should allow the on-court production to begin matching the group's potential. That would mean that you’d have good value on a Phoenix team that has as good a shot at winning as anybody, if not better. And the reality is that you need to back the Suns now if you want to get any value on them at all. Given the -600 tag on them to beat the Clippers, you’re not going to have the opportunity to get a good pre-series price on them along the way.

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