Last season’s NBA Finals run was a landmark moment for the Phoenix Suns. It was just the franchise’s third appearance in a championship series and the first since 1993.
While the players, led by their backcourt duo of Chris Paul and Devin Booker, along with head coach Monty Williams were lauded for their achievement, there were plenty playing it down saying they caught ‘lightning in a bottle’ or the fact that the Suns, in each round of the Western Conference playoffs, faced teams that were majorly handicapped with injuries.
Now, both those points are true. In a truncated 2020-21 season where plenty of teams, including those considered among the contenders, were forced to overcome injuries or multiple postponed games, the Suns enjoyed a healthy roster for a majority of the season and were only impacted for a week by ‘postponed games’.
That said, Phoenix has responded strongly to all those naysayers with a strong start to the season. By surviving a late surge from the Nets, on the second night of a back-to-back, the Suns extended their win streak to 16 – the second-longest in franchise history.
Roster stability key to improved play
Last season, the Suns were one of only three teams to rank in the Top 10 in offensive (7th) and defensive rating (6th). This season so far, the Suns have improved the rankings.
After the games on Saturday night, Phoenix is ranked sixth in offensive efficiency and third in defensive efficiency, making them one of only two teams (Golden State Warriors) to rank among the top six in both categories.
They have brought back a majority of their roster from last season with their only additions being guard Landry Shamet and JaVale McGee. The duo is averaging 17.3 points in 34.8 minutes per game off the bench on an efficiency upwards of 50 percent.
The roster stability has led to some phenomenal play, as the Suns rank third for points per game and assists per game while ranking sixth for their nine steals per game.
Of their 16 wins, it’s an even split on home (8) and road (8).
Hunger for more vs. Warriors
What’s impressive is that the Suns have gotten off to a 17-3 start despite Deandre Ayton missing six games and their backup forward in Dario Saric is still being out with the ACL injury he suffered in the 2021 Finals. That said, despite all they have achieved, there’s still room for skepticism.
The Suns have once again been very lucky with their health this season and to top it off, they have played the easiest schedule in the league so far, as per powerrankings.com as of Nov. 27.
However, that criticism will also be shut down if the Suns win their next game back at home after a couple of days off.
It’s against the league-leading 17-2 Golden State Warriors with a chance to tie the franchise’s longest win streak at 17.
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