As the new season of Phoenix Suns season rapidly approaches, I feel it’s only fitting to give my prediction on where I expect the Suns to finish out West this year.

First, let me start by saying the Suns will make the playoffs this year — no doubt about it. There’s no way they won’t. There’s just too much talent on this team not to go into the postseason. With Steve Nash and Grant Hill returning, Amar’e Stoudemire coming back from an eye injury, Jason Richardson more comfortable in the lineup and the addition of Channing Frye, this team will be impossible to stop on offense. Scores in the 140s could become a regular occurrence for the guys in orange. Factor in a coach in Alvin Gentry that knows how to get his players to commit more on defense while still playing to their strengths on offense, and you have a team that can make some serious noise out West.

Can the Suns rule the West again?

Can the Suns rule the West again?

Figuring out what seed the Suns will be is an entirely different story altogether, although they won’t be any lower than the sixth seed in my opinion. For as tough as the West is this year, it’s pretty wide open after the Lakers and Spurs take the top two spots.

As I look through the rest of the conference, I see a lot of question marks. Portland will be a top-four seed because they’ll win the Northwest easily. That’s really the only other lock I see. Dallas made a few improvements, but nothing drastic. Denver was a fluke last year, and did nothing to improve over the summer. New Orleans traded for Emeka Okafor, but is he really an upgrade over Tyson Chandler? I don’t think so. Utah has the whole Carlos Boozer, will-he-or-won’t-he-leave issue to resolve. Until they do, they’ll struggle with that looming over their heads. With Yao Ming out for the entire season and Tracy McGrady scheduled to miss at least half, Houston is all but done.

After that, what teams do you have to even compete for a playoff spot? Lots of people, including Chad Ford of ESPN, seem to think the Clippers are a playoff-caliber team, but that’s absolute nonsense. I’m not sure where all this Clippers love comes from… because of No. 1 draft pick Blake Griffin? He’s not going to make a difference in his first year. At the end of the day, they’re still the Clippers, and they’re still coached by Mike Dunleavy.

If the Suns stay healthy and show even the slightest commitment on defense, they could finish as high as No. 3 out West and get home court advantage for at least a round in the playoffs.

Maybe I’m going out on a bit of a limb here, but I’m a fan, and I’m going to back my team. This preseason has shown plenty of reason for hope, and hope is all you need. This hope tells me we’re going to finish somewhere between the third and sixth seeds. If you disagree, though, I’d love to hear why.

Wear your orange Downtown this Saturday!

This Saturday, October 24, the Suns will be hosting the “R U ORNG? Suns Fest” at the US Airways Center in Downtown Phoenix. The fest runs from 11 a.m.-4 p.m. The event is free, although fans are encouraged to donate nonperishable food items at the door. There’s lots of fun to be had: the Suns annual scrimmage tips off at 1 p.m., and there will be pumpkin decorating, trick-or-treating and many more family-friendly activities.