Phoenix Suns punished in latest NBA power rankings

Phoenix Suns, Devin Booker (Photo by Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports)
Phoenix Suns, Devin Booker (Photo by Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports) /

It’s hard not to take the Phoenix Suns’ stunning 2020-21 season for granted. They just keep showing up and — for the most part — doing what’s expected of a title-contending team.

Their Tuesday night dismantling of the Miami Heat was the team’s seventh consecutive road victory, a run that fake contenders can not accomplish. But the home loss to Minnesota cost them in the NBA power rankings.

The national NBA industry long ago began to take seriously this Monty Williams-and-James Jones-built group, which now must decide on a trade-deadline approach.

The Phoenix Suns approach Thursday’s trade deadline as Pacific Division leaders and as a consistent top-five team among the NBA power rankings.

The road trip continues Wednesday night in Orlando, with games at Toronto (in Tampa) and Charlotte next up.

ESPN power rankings: Phoenix Suns are No. 4

The world leader highlighted Chris Paul’s monumental accomplishment while sliding the Suns down one notch.

"In Sunday’s game against the Lakers, Suns point guard Chris Paul joined an exclusive club. With his ninth assist, Paul became the sixth player in NBA history to reach 10,000 career assists, joining John Stockton (15,806), Jason Kidd (12,091), Steve Nash (10,335), Mark Jackson (10,334) and Magic Johnson (10,141). At his current average, Paul will pass Johnson later this season."

Paul and Devin Booker took advantage of the Tuesday night blowout of the Heat, earning a fourth quarter rest as the second of a back-to-back awaits them in Orlando.

After Wednesday’s game, it’s time to double down on what the Suns believe is the best way to navigate the NBA’s trade deadline. And there are some moves to strongly consider. power rankings: Phoenix Suns are No. 4

Another one-notch drop. That home loss to the lowly Minnesota Timberwolves, while checking the Suns’ overconfidence and lapses in focus, hurt the rankings performance.

"There are two teams that rank in the bottom five in both free throw rate and the percentage of their shots that have come in the restricted area. One of the two is the Orlando Magic (27th and 30th), who rank 27th in offensive efficiency. The other is the Suns (30th and 27th), who rank eighth offensively, making up for their lack of layups and free throws by taking care of the ball and shooting well away from the basket.In their first of two meetings with the Wolves last week, the Suns were outscored, 68-38, on restricted-area buckets and free throws. They shot well from the perimeter, but turned the ball over 22 times and couldn’t make up that 30-point discrepancy.", entering Tuesday, had the Suns at 23rd in Pace: 98.4, eighth in Offensive Rating at 114.8 and third in Defensive Rating at 108.2 for a Net Rating of third, at +6.5.

Bleacher Report power rankings: Phoenix Suns are No. 4

The first three sites are nothing if not consistent, as B/R also has the Suns dropping one position in the latest rankings. The Wolves stumble was the primary culprit, but the free-throw visits are an open secret.

"Taking a look at the bigger picture, Phoenix’s lack of free-throw attempts is a concern. The Suns are dead last in attempts at 18.4 a game. Some of that is a product of having deadly mid-range shooters in Chris Paul and Devin Booker."

At least the mid-range shooting from Booker and Phoenix Suns on-court coach Chris Paul is something not likely to go away, even if the free-throw visits don’t show much improvement.

CBS Sports power rankings: Phoenix Suns are No. 5

You just can’t lose a game to the Timberwolves at home. OK, we get it. CBS already had the Suns down at No. 5 and decided that was punishment enough. No change this week.

"Devin Booker got loose for 26 points per game this week while the bench made major contributions behind Langston Galloway and Cameron Payne. New addition Torrey Craig got into his first game in Sunday’s win over the Lakers, and could carve out a rotation role with his defensive ability."

There’s a lot of discussion about improving the Phoenix Suns’ existing roster, planning for immediate and long-term help as Thursday’s noon trade deadline nears.

More than anything for the Suns right now, though, is the importance controlling that which they can control.

That means finishing up the road trip on a high note.

Next. Phoenix Suns best 4 trade-deadline options. dark