This has been an amazing year for both the Phoenix Suns and the New Orleans Pelicans. The Pelicans started off the year 3-16 and was seen as one of the worst teams in the league. This all changed when they made multiple trades, including in bringing in CJ McCollum. The Suns, on the other hand, had their best year in franchise history with 64 wins. Both teams played strong towards the end of the year, creating a fun 1-8 series. There are many matchups too key in on that will determine this series.
Phoenix Suns vs New Orleans Pelicans Breakdown
Veteran Guard Matchup
The Pelicans learned mid-season they would need more scoring to maximize this teams potential. This caused the late acquisition of McCollum in February. While on this Pelicans team McCollum has averaged 24 points and 6 assists on 49% from the field and 39% from 3.
McCollum’s key matchup will be against another veteran guard in Chris Paul. Paul has been the main facilitator for this Suns team while averaging 11 assists per game. Paul has also been playing great defense this season, and will be Phoenix’s best bet on slowing down McCollum.
Amazing Scoring vs Elite Defense Matchup
The Pelicans have been carried offensively by Brandon Ingram, who this season has averaged 23 points and 6 assists. He has been there go to scorer as well as an effective ball handler on a team that doesn’t have a true facilitator. Ingram’s 7′ 3″ wingspan allows him to get to his spots effortlessly. Ingram will see problems in his scoring this series matches up against Defensive Player of the Year candidate Mikal Bridges. Bridges has been playing elite level defense this year with a defensive rating of 109.6.
For the Suns, Devin Booker is having the best scoring season of his career, which is saying something for this young star. Booker is averaging 27 points as an all-star this season and really showed off his offensive skills when Paul went out for an injury in the middle of the season. He will be matched up with either Herb Jones or Jose Alvarado. Jones has shown he can guard 1-5 effectively and Alvarado can pick any players pocket. Booker is in for a tough series.
The Role Players Matchup
The Suns matchup very nicely with the Pelicans when it comes to role players. Jonas Valančiūnas, who has been an offensive threat this entire season, will have no easy task going against Deandre Ayton. Ayton also has the benefit of playing along-side players such as Bridges, Jae Crowder, and Cameron Johnson, who have all shown they can play great help defense. Phoenix’s role players have also shown they can shoot well as they have 5 players shooting above 35% from 3.
The Pelicans have some players of their own such as Larry Nance Jr and Jaxson Hayes, who will be able to take advantage of their big frames and score down low. They also have a nice mix of veterans and young players that will allow them to play smart basketball while also having energy to push the pace.
Overall, the Suns have proven why they’re the 1 seed. They have the advantage in most of their matchups as they hope to repeat their Finals run from the year prior. Although the Suns are the better team, the Pelicans do have some skilled players that will allow this series to be more competitive than most people think.
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