The Phoenix Suns are entering its third consecutive postseason. This stretch comes after a decade of mediocrity.
Fans have a reason to enjoy this ride for what it is. So far it’s a Finals loss and a 64 win season that ended in a disappointing second round exit.
This year, it should end with a parade.
Devin Booker has been here to experience the lowest of lows with this franchise. And is now seeing the highest of highs. A ring would mean more to him and this city than anything.
Last year was supposed to be the year. From November 2021 through April 2022 many felt like they were watching the greatest Suns team ever. Yet that season ended getting throttled by the Dallas Mavericks.
Monty Williams recently said he felt like last year’s team fell short because adversity didn’t come knocking during the regular season.
That leads into three reasons why this year’s squad is different heading into the postseason.
- Kevin Durant. There’s no reason to say more about his presence on this team (8-0 with him). Superstars win championships. Superstars (Durant, Booker) + Stars (Chris Paul, Deandre Ayton) should = a ring. Simple.
- Adversity persisted all year long. A 45-37 record is a testament to how well coached this team is. Mat Ishbia became the new owner mid season. Devin Booker missed significant time. So did Chris Paul. Role players stepped up in many different situations. There also isn’t a time in recent memory that a team trades for a superstar before the deadline and still keeps winning games while he only plays in eight, while also looking even more in sync when he did play. Overcoming adversity this season makes this team more ready for a deep playoff run.
- Being the 4 seed has an advantage over being the top seed. Last year, the Suns had a full week off while waiting to find out who its opponent would be just 48 hours before round one began. It ended up being a hungry Pelicans team that was hot at the right time. The Suns escaped after getting punched in the mouth. Now as the four seed, Phoenix knows the Los Angeles Clippers are on deck starting April 16. There is still a full week off, but Williams says there’s a better plan in place this year to keep this team ready. Conditioning is his top priority.
As a bonus, the Western Conference doesn’t feel as strong this year. The top 3 seeds (Denver, Memphis, and Sacramento), could all be vulnerable in the first round to lower seeded teams. Even if they do advance to round two and/or the Western Conference Finals, no one has a starting four to match the Suns. The Nuggets have Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray, but have consistently struggled as a team in the postseason. The Grizzlies are still dealing with Ja Morant’s off-court issues. The Kings had a regular season similar to the 2020-21 Suns, but don’t have the star power that team had to reach the Finals.
The remaining teams are the defending champion Golden State Warriors, the Los Angeles Lakers, the Minnesota Timberwolves, and the Oklahoma City Thunder. Don’t be surprised if the Suns meet the Warriors or Lakers in the Western Conference Finals.
THE BRACKET IS SET 🍿 pic.twitter.com/j7Dn0yxXyy
— NBA (@NBA) April 9, 2023
Out of the Eastern Conference (if the Suns return to the Finals for the second time in three years), the Boston Celtics and the Milwaukee Bucks are the favorites. Both could matchup well with the Suns and present problems that teams in the West don’t appear to offer.
There are both internal and external reasons for the Phoenix Suns (if healthy) to win its first title in franchise history.
Anything short of that will be another tick on the long list of disappointing Arizona sports teams. It also isn’t the end of a championship window, but that feels like an excuse more than anything.