First round: 4th seed LA vs. 5th seed Phoenix Suns
This series is going to be a battle. There is no beating around this bush. Are the Clippers yet another team Kawhi Leonard brings a Larry O'Brien trophy to? Is this the year Kevin Durant wins a ring without Steph Curry and the Warriors? Unfortunately, one of these intriguing storylines is going to die in the first round.
The LA Clippers' James Harden experiment is going incredibly well. Almost too well, maybe? The Clips' big three of James Harden, Kawhi Leonard, and Paul George are actually gelling very well and it packs a potent offense and an above-average league defense. This team is danger-RUSS. Russell Westbrook's selfless move to the bench has opened doors for this team and it's been a huge reason for their success this season.
The Clippers are a relatively deep team, especially at the guard spots. Their frontcourt is a bit thin, which the Suns could take advantage of, but the Suns aren't the deepest team in the frontcourt either. I think the three-headed beast of Leonard, George, and Harden will have to come through enormously for the Clippers to pull through a victory against the Suns' own trio of stars.
Kevin Durant, Devin Booker, and Bradley Beal headline the stars for the Phoenix Suns. These three know how to score and shoot the basketball. The Suns have sacrificed depth in order to acquire KD and Beal, and as of a couple of weeks ago, it didn't seem like a worthwhile investment. However, the Suns are 12-3 in their last 15 games and health is starting to no longer be an issue. The Suns are 9-4 when the three play together. With newfound health, there are not many teams whose defense can play with the Suns offense 48 minutes a night.
Ultimately health will play a very big factor in this series. Leonard and George have had their fair share of injuries limiting their play. Beal has as well. Since both teams rely upon their respective "big three," I think this matchup simply comes down to Harden, Leonard, and George vs. Durant, Booker, and Beal. And I'm putting my money on the Suns.
Prediction: Phoenix Suns win 4-3