The Phoenix Suns were the talk of the NBA bubble last summer. They went undefeated and almost turned their season-ending run into a playoff berth. This year they have carried that momentum over and currently sits fourth in the Western Conference. The addition of Chris Paul has helped solidify this team, and now they are climbing the ladder out west. The veteran point guard is having an excellent season, with no signs of slowing down even in his 16th NBA season. Coach Monty Williams has this group playing well on both ends of the floor.
Phoenix Suns Climbing the Ladder out West
Transitioning from a lottery team to a playoff contender is not always the easiest move to make. However, the Phoenix Suns are doing so smoothly this season. They are currently in the top half of the standings out west, which would secure them a home seed in the first round. Granted there is a long way to go in this campaign, but a thirty game sample size is enough to know this team is for real.
After falling just short of a playoff berth last summer, the Phoenix Suns elected not to stand pat with what they had. One of the keys to building a team is not just adding players through free agency, but adding the right players. This franchise did just that during the offseason. Not only did they acquire one of the league’s elite point guards in Paul, but they addressed some of their defensive deficiencies as well. Jae Crowder and E’Twaun Moore were also brought in to bolster this roster. All three additions are excellent defensive players and have elevated the Suns’ performance on that end. They are also veteran players with high on-court IQs, which has benefited the young core of this roster.
Finding consistency and focus on defense is often one of the hardest steps for a young team to take. Phoenix helped bridge that gap with their veteran additions in free agency, and it is paying off. This team is in the top seven in the NBA in both points allowed and defensive efficiency. They have good length and versatility on the perimeter with Crowder, Moore, and Mikal Bridges. The importance of Paul both on the court and off in connection with the defensive improvement cannot be overstated. His leadership helps just as much on that end as it does when he is running the show on offense.
Star Power and Balance
The Phoenix Suns have one of the NBA’s most gifted scorers in Devin Booker. He can score at all three levels and has the ability to take over a game when he gets hot. Somehow Booker was left off the Western Conference All-Star reserve list this past week. The sixth-year pro will still likely get the call to be in the game because the Lakers’ Anthony Davis is out injured. He is on pace to have his fourth straight season averaging over 24 points a game. His efficiency has also improved, as he is shooting a career-high 50% from the floor.
Booker is the star man, but this team is not a one-man show. They have six other players scoring in double figures behind him. The Suns spread the ball around and play an unselfish brand of basketball. Paul’s presence has helped this team rank sixth in the league in assists. When the leader of the offense is a pass-first player, that mentality can spread to the rest of the team. This unselfish nature also increases efficiency. This team is top 10 in the two-point, three-point, and overall field goal percentage.
Phoenix Suns Transitioning to a Playoff Team
Monty Williams’s team was expected to take a step forward after how they finished last season. However, their level of improvement is greater than what was forecast. They have one of the most talented backcourts in the NBA with Paul and Booker, plus an improving post presence in Deandre Ayton. With Booker leading the way, this team can score with anyone. The improvements on defense have been the major key to seeing this team rise up to fourth in the West.
Embed from Getty Images