The Phoenix Suns are currently sitting in the second overall spot in a loaded Western Conference. Normally, it would be easy to classify a second-seed as a contender. With teams trailing them like the Lakers, Clippers, and Nuggets it’s fair to ask where this Suns group really fits in the West.
It’s a loaded question, but one that can be answered. There’s a reason they ranked in the top five in our latest NBA Power Rankings. Let’s dive into whether the Suns are true contenders in the West this season.
The offseason addition of Chris Paul was met with great applause. The applause was more about what it would mean for the young group in years to come, though. As it turns out, the benefit of adding a Hall of Fame point guard has paid off immediately in the teams’ record.
Chris Paul and Devin Booker form one of the league’s absolute best backcourt duos. While Paul’s age was a concern coming in he has proven he still has it yet again. Booker is benefitting from playing next to the future Hall of Famer, as well.
On the season he is averaging 25.9 points per game. While that number is a dip from recent seasons, his efficiency is up. That’s a lot more important than the slight difference in his per-game scoring. Booker is currently shooting a career-high 49.8 percent from the field.
Paul is doing his part as well. He is putting up 8.8 assists per game while only turning it over 2.3 times per game. Having a leader that not only sets teammates up but does so at that level of efficiency is valuable night in and night out. That is especially true come playoff time.
With a lethal scorer like Booker and a floor general that does everything Paul does, the Suns backcourt can hang with any other backcourt around the league. The solid play of Cameron Payne, among others, gives them the depth needed to successfully stagger their star guards’ minutes.
Defending at a High Level
The Suns have improved a ton from last year to this year on the defensive end of the court. Credit the likes of veterans CP3 and Jae Crowder for the improved effort on that end of the court night in and night out. Both vets know what it takes to win in the NBA and their leadership was a big reason they were brought in.
The defensive versatility and tenacity both bring is a great way to lead by example. Big man Deandre Ayton does his part in protecting the pain while the rest of the group gets after it on the perimeter. This has helped the Suns become one of the league’s best teams at defending the three-point shot.
Ayton’s big body and ability to use it effectively without fouling too often offers good help defense while the other four players contest any and every perimeter shot. Mikal Bridges has played a big role in that improvement as well as he has emerged as a rising stud in terms of Three-and-D players in today’s NBA.
When push comes to shove the Suns have the defensive abilities to make any team’s offense struggle. While they have concerns defensively in certain areas, such as depth at multiple positions, if healthy they will make a series grueling for any opponent.
Where they lack depth is at the five spot behind Ayton, which will make his awareness a key factor in how far they can go in the playoffs. Additionally, they lack depth in terms of wing defenders. While they have strong ones at the top, the guys behind them leave more questions than answers if called upon in a series against a team like the Lakers or Clippers.
All the Firepower to Make a Run
Yes, that’s right. The Phoenix Suns are 100 percent capable of a deep and fruitful NBA Playoff run if they remain healthy and playing at the level they currently are. There’s no reason this team can’t compete with any given opponent in the western conference in a seven-game series.
They have key traits that pay off big time in playoff basketball games:
- Taking care of the ball
- Veteran leadership
- Dynamic scorer
- Defensive commitment
Barring bad luck with injuries, this Suns group is on pace to make some noise in the playoffs. Don’t be surprised if they take down one or two teams considered the ‘true contenders’ of the NBA. At 35-14, it’s time we put some respect on the Suns name.
Contender or Pretender? Verdict: Contender
Follow Garrett Brooks On Twitter @Garrett_Brooks1
Main Image Credit: