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NBA Disney Contenders or Pretenders: Phoenix Suns

Following a four-month hiatus as a result of COVID-19, the NBA is getting ready for a long-anticipated league restart. Beginning on July 31st, the top 22 teams will compete at Disney World’s Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando. Given that there will be a secured “bubble”, concerns over the spread of COVID-19, and no fans, it’s safe to say that this will be a season unlike any other. Taking the unique NBA landscape into consideration, the Last Word on Pro Basketball staff continues this contender or pretender series with the Phoenix Suns.

NBA Disney Contenders or Pretenders – Phoenix Suns

Two Young Stars

The Phoenix Suns have two budding young stars in Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton. They’re not an elite duo just yet, but all signs point to them growing into one.

Booker is already one of the top scorers in the league and finally got his first All-Star call-up this season. This season he’s averaging roughly 26 points, seven assists, and four rebounds per game. The point total speaks for itself and puts him in the top 10 in the NBA in terms of points per game. Booker’s assist total, however, is an underrated asset of his game as he is a shooting guard. The Suns already have one of the best passers in the league in Ricky Rubio, but Booker is an excellent combo guard.

There’s an argument to be made that Ayton is underrated. This, of course, is due in large part to him being the first overall pick in a draft that included both Luka Doncic and Trae Young. Ayton isn’t an All-Star just yet, but his production should be recognized more.

He’s putting up averages of about 19 points, 12 rebounds, and two blocks per game. Traditionally that would be exactly what a team would want from their starting center. Ayton, however, is more of an “old-school” type of center, as he lacks perimeter shooting and the ability to stretch the floor. With that being said, his production still brings plenty of value.

The Phoenix Suns’ young stars will be integral to the team vaulting into the playoff conversation.

Lack of Firepower

Outside of the Suns’ two budding stars, the team lacks real firepower to truly be a solid team. The three other members of their starting five are good, but not great. The bench is below-average.

Rubio has exceeded most expectations this season. He’s the floor general for the Phoenix Suns averaging 13 points and nine assists per game. Rubio has never been a playoff factor in his career, however. Kelly Oubre is also a very solid wing scorer but can improve in other aspects of his game. In a conference full of elite wings, Oubre doesn’t quite stack up. Lastly, Dario Saric would be coming off the bench for the majority of Western Conference teams.

Names off the Phoenix bench include Aron BaynesFrank KaminskyMikal BridgesCameron Johnson, and Jevon Carter. That’s not ideal.

The Playoff Gap

The Phoenix Suns are six games behind the eighth seed. They’re 2.5 games behind the ninth seed. In only eight games, that’s quite a lot of ground to cover. It’s not impossible, but they’d have to be playing their best basketball of the season and hope for other favorable results.

Their bubble schedule is also quite tough. They’ll face the Los Angeles Clippers, the Miami Heat, and the Dallas Mavericks twice, to name a few. The only game in which they should enter as the favorites will be their first game versus the Washington Wizards.

Phoenix Suns Verdict: Pretender

The Suns simply have the odds stacked against them. It came as a surprise to many that they were invited to the bubble in the first place. There’s clearly talent on the team, but not enough for them to make a playoff run.

This should, however, be a great experience for their two building blocks in Booker and Ayton. It’s important to remember that another eight rebuilding teams will not be present, but at least the Suns get to take part in the tournament.

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