Phoenix Suns: A big rise in NBA power rankings

Phoenix Suns, Cameron Johnson (Photo by Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports)
Phoenix Suns, Cameron Johnson (Photo by Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports) /

The Phoenix Suns continued their momentum on the court and across several sets of power rankings, with a strong defensive effort against the Boston Celtics in the spotlight.

All-Star Devin Booker returned and provided stability to combat the Suns’ occasional lulls in ball movement, working in 11 assists during Sunday’s 100-91 victory over the Celtics, but coach Monty Williams had a busy week manipulating the starting lineup.

Williams addressed the team’s lackluster effort in New Orleans, a 123-101 drubbing, by promoting Frank Kaminsky into the starting five over second-year wing Cam Johnson.

The move seemed to help not only the Suns — who beat Detroit 109-92 and then the Celtics — but also Johnson, who hit 11-20 in those two games off the bench.

The Phoenix Suns are now comfortably among the NBA’s top 10 teams, according to the latest NBA power rankings.

With games against Cleveland, Milwaukee, Philadelphia and Orlando this week, the Suns can’t afford to allow any lack of focus.

It wouldn’t hurt to see Booker and Deandre Ayton find a way to increase their free-throw opportunities. Their 34 combined attempts over the past eight games means about two attempts per game. Not enough. power rankings: Phoenix Suns #8

The Phoenix Suns have seen individual slumps come and go, but teammates are picking up for each other.

Mikal Bridges is 6-36 from 3-point range over the past eight games, but Cam Johnson has hit 18 of his 47 tries (38.3%) during that span.

"As a team, the Suns rank 29th in both the percentage of their shots that have come in the restricted area (23%) and free throw rate (21.2 attempts per 100 shots from the field), having seen the league biggest drop from last season in the former (33%, 13th) and its second biggest drop in the latter (27.1, eighth)."

The analysis included Booker’s continued (though not alarming) shooting struggles, underscoring dips in effective field-goal percentage and true shooting percentage from career-best marks last season.

ESPN’s power rankings: Phoenix Suns #7

The lineup shift was a popular topic.

"Williams said he made the move because teams are playing big and he didn’t want to put Johnson in a “tough spot” having to guard bigger forwards. Johnson has averaged 15.5 points off the bench while Kaminsky has averaged 12.0 points and 7.0 rebounds in his two starts."

Bleacher Report power rankings: Phoenix Suns #6

That’s a season-high ranking for Phoenix and, with two of the teams ranked ahead of the Suns, Milwaukee and Philadelphia, on this week’s schedule there’s room for further advancement.

The very fluid BR rankings are complimentary on the surface, highlighting the dramatic finish to Monday night’s victory over Dallas.

But caution for Suns fans also is included in the update.

"The Suns nearly let their poor play in clutch situations cost them against the Boston Celtics. They were up eight with less than two minutes left and let Boston cut the lead to three before closing it out. They came away with the win, but Sunday’s game should not have been as close as it was down the stretch."

CBS Sports power rankings: Phoenix Suns #7

Two weeks ago, CBS had Phoenix at No. 14. Last week it was 10.

Following three solid Ws — with the New Orleans stinker thrown in — the Suns are riding momentum and getting healthier, with Devin Booker a key catalyst.

"Booker averaged 22.5 points and 3.8 assists on 35 percent 3-point shooting, while Chris Paul continued his steady production with 19.8 points and six assists per game. It’s clear the offense still isn’t fully clicking, but the Suns defense has been tenacious enough to keep them in the win column."

Frank Kaminsky also was noticed, having contributed 10.3 points in 18 minutes per game last week with 61.5 percent field-goal shooting.

Next. Phoenix Suns' best from Celtics win. dark