The Phoenix Suns are finally rising in the West

Photo from Getty Images

Last season was a breath of fresh air for Suns fans as the hiring of Coach Monty Williams started the upward trend of the team. He showed that he could be a coach that could take any team into the Playoffs. There was a good reason why the Lakers and Kings were reportedly interested in hiring him before his arrival in Arizona. Under his leadership, the Suns were top-10 in pace, first in assists per game, and first in assists-to-turnover ratio during his first season in charge. All of which are stark contrasts to the isolation ball of previous seasons. The Suns have looked fluid on offense and sharp on defense under his tenure.

Prior to last season, the Suns’ personnel have looked like puzzle pieces that do not fit each other over the past decade. They had their fair share of draft busts in Dragan Bender and Josh Jackson plus questionable moves in shipping out Eric Bledsoe, Goran Dragic, and Isaiah Thomas under the previous management. General Manager James Jones, has turned things around though in Arizona by trading for the likes of Kelly Oubre Jr., Aron Baynes, and Dario Saric and found draft steals in Mikal Bridges and Cam Johnson. Some of them are not on the Suns’ roster this year, but all were instrumental in making them competitive again.

Photo from Getty Images

The Suns’ 2019-20 season was definitely a roller-coaster ride for their fans. After going 8-4 in the early portions of the season, the team skidded down the West standings with suspensions and injuries derailing their momentum before the shutdown. Knowing they had an outside shot to make the Playoffs in the restart, they miraculously went undefeated but fell short during the seeding games. Impressively, they beat Playoff contenders such as the Dallas Mavericks, Philadelphia 76ers, and the Los Angeles Clippers during their time in the bubble.

They emerged from last season as one of the league’s biggest winners with a 15-win improvement compared to 2018-19 season. The rebuilding process under new Jones is finally taking shape for the team as they started out on fire this season led by the core of Chris Paul, Devin Booker, and DeAndre Ayton. After a tumultuous decade marred with unfulfilled lottery picks and bad trades, the Phoenix Suns are looking promising again with an array of young talent and Coach Williams fitting all the pieces together.

The team has made huge strides in the Orlando Bubble and the acquisition of Paul in the offseason has put them firmly in Playoff contention in the West. Could this be finally the year the Suns end their 10-year playoff drought this season?

Photo from Getty Images

The 2020-21 version of the Phoneix Suns aren’t your title contenders yet but have looked very solid in the opening games of the season. The team currently has six players scoring double-figures and are third in the NBA in defensive rating at 100. The mixture of the young talent in Phoenix, the experience of CP3, and an effective coaching system are proving to be good foundations for a playoff run this year. The point guard duties are finally secure in Arizona with Paul being the primary playmaker and Booker running the offense if needed. Booker now has a supporting cast who can score double-digits and make an impact on defense as well. The sixth-year shooting guard is entering this season with a balanced team and the first time he has the pressure of making the Playoffs in his career. This is also the first year he has a supporting cast to help him out and will be key to his push for a postseason spot. Ayton, Mikal Bridges, and Cam Johnson are all great young pieces to support the All-Star back court duo of Paul and Booker.

Photo from Getty Images

This season will be crucial for this current Suns crop to make a leap and try to make an impact in the West Playoff picture. They currently sit at the top of the standings right now with a 5-1 record, but this is a similar story that’s unfolding as last season. Right now, the Suns join the Utah Jazz, Portland Trailblazers, Dallas Mavericks and Houston Rockets as teams who are looking like Playoff contenders. The Memphis Grizzlies, San Antonio Spurs, New Orleans Pelicans are also wildcards as they all have the talent as well to challenge for the Playoffs given their different young cores and star-duos. The Suns have nine back-to-backs in the first 37 games of the season. If they are to survive the West, they have to make sure they get a good return in the first half of the season and keep a 35-year-old Paul healthy. If the pattern holds true the past three years, the Suns will need to realistically aim for 42 wins this season or 57% win-percentage in this compressed 72-game season.

These next couple of years will be very crucial to the direction the franchise wants to take with its current core. The Suns have a four-year window to convince their superstar he can contend for a title until he becomes a free agent in 2024. They are also one of the few teams that have the cap room to possibly sign another max superstar in the star-studded 2021 Free Agency class. GM Jones and Coach Williams will have a lot on their plate in the upcoming years. But things are finally looking bright for Phoenix this year.