Are the Hot Phoenix Suns Legitimate Threats for the Eighth Seed?
Two weeks into the NBA’s restart, there remains just one perfect team in the fold and it’s most definitely not the team anyone could have possibly expected.
The Phoenix Suns.
Yes, the team that has been one of the league’s laughing stocks for nearly a decade. One of the more dysfunctional NBA franchises in recent memory. The team that barely squeezes out 20 wins in a normal 82-game long regular season. Yes, those Phoenix Suns are currently 6-0, on the doorstep of taking over the final playoff spot in the mighty Western Conference.
“We haven’t accomplished anything,” Head coach Monty Williams said after the Suns latest win against the Oklahoma City Thunder. “It may sound like coach speak, but we dug ourselves a hole with our record. … We’re here and we’re thankful for that. But we haven’t accomplished anything as far as the main goal. Everybody is trying to get to the playoffs and we’ve just said we’re going to take it one step at a time.”
The crazy thing is, they have.
The fact that the Suns are still standing is truly remarkable and that is not only a testament to Williams’ coaching, which has been lauded all season, or Devin Booker’s advanced level of play. The Suns are starting to find something and no matter the outcome of this regular season, the Suns may finally be on the correct trajectory – on the up and up.
“It’s been fun,” Booker said after leading his Suns squad to a blowout 128-101 victory. “We’ve been playing really good basketball. We’ve been having fun on and off the court with each other. We’re becoming closer. We’re learning each other. And we’re communicating with each other.
“So, we’re taking it one game at a time. That’s been our mindset since we got here and we’re sticking with that. So, it’s been a competitive environment, a focused environment since we got down here. So we’re trying to maintain that, keep that going and finish this thing out strong.”
So where is this all coming from?
If you remember, the Suns got off to a hot start at the very beginning of the season, but of course, as the sample size grew, they didn’t have enough talent to keep up the torrid pace. Nevertheless, they have upped their win total by 13 games from last season – in a shortened, global pandemic stricken year no less.
Their offensive rating and defensive rating ranked third and second worse in the NBA last year, but this season, it has ticked up to 15th and 18th in the league respectively. While that is merely the middle of the pack, the massive jump is a pleasant upward trend for a team that has been in desperate search for a way to appease to franchise cornerstone, Devin Booker.
“I wouldn’t say it’s a surprise,” Booker said. “From the moment we got down here, it’s been high energy and competitive. I don’t know if we’re going to win or lose, but I know we have some guys in this locker room that aren’t going to back down from any matchup or any competition.”
Outside of Booker, the Suns have been receiving help from just about everywhere you may look.
DeAndre Ayton is emerging into a franchise big man in his second season out of Arizona. Kelly Oubre has proven to be an incredible pick up, while the addition of savvy veterans such as Ricky Rubio and Aron Baynes has added some much needed stability and depth. Moreover, the young duo of Mikal Bridges and Cameron Johnson have shown upside as versatile perimeter threats. Hell, even journeyman Cameron Payne has stepped in and has played very well inside of the bubble.
The Suns are a completely different team.
No longer are they young, immature, and in need of development. Sure, the Suns do have plenty of young pieces, but with the leadership of mentorship and the veterans who now round out this team, the Suns are making strides to get back to their glory days.
It may not be this year or next, and they may not make it into this year’s postseason, but the Suns are ready to take the next step forward.