Out of all the signs of whether or not the Phoenix Suns’ early season success is sustainable, the one that shines the brightest the fact they have the league’s toughest strength of schedule.
The Phoenix Suns have delivered a plethora of surprises this year to their fans, themselves, and the rest of the NBA at large. For a team that was supposed to dwell in the cellar of Western Conference standings, the Suns find themselves sitting at 0.500 and playing the type of chemistry and poise that makes their early season success sustainable.
Of course, what makes their success even more surprising the fact they have done this without some of their key stars. No need to recap all that. You know about Ayton, Rubio, and Baynes’ variable availability.
However, there is another statistic that makes the Suns better-than-expected season exponentially more impressive:
The Phoenix Suns have the toughest strength of schedule in the league.
According to ESPN’s RPI rankings, the Phoenix Suns have played the most difficult schedule in the league thus far, and it really isn’t even close.
They come in with a strength of schedule (SOS) rating of 0.547. The second toughest schedule belongs to the Atlanta Hawks with a rating of 0.536, and the next seven teams all hover within 0.010 of that.
Moreover, the Suns are the only team in the top three in of strength of schedule who are even close to a 0.500 record. The Hawks and third place Pelicans are 4-13 and 6-11 respectively.
This translates to what is already self-evident: the Phoenix Suns are even better than their record shows, and will be even better when they have their full complement of players available.
The team is optimistic Ricky Rubio may very well be back and at least close to this beginning-of-the-season form. That is key.
With this in mind, the Suns’ schedule, by virtue of the law of averages, will get significantly easier over the next few weeks, and if the Suns can pick back up their hot play, they can (and some would argue should) take advantage of it.
There are some fans out there afraid that this latest stretch of losses may be an indication of reality finally settling in. I would argue, however, the fact that the Suns are 0.500 while being short-handed and having the league’s toughest schedule thus far, means this team is legit and will likely prove it as the season progresses.