How the Suns are a legitimate Western Conference contender

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

When team makes a quick jump in record from the previous year, many experts call into question their abilities and potential to make it far into the playoffs.

Some notable teams in recent years to do this have been the Atlanta Hawks in 2015, the Milwaukee Bucks in 2017, and the Utah Jazz this year.

Although each of these teams has been solid throughout the past five years, they made major jumps in regular season record very surprisingly. And, the Hawks and Bucks have not been able to capitalize on that success, with the Hawks falling back into the lottery and the Bucks having to re-tool every year to try to keep up with the Celtics, Raptors, and 76ers.

Why will the Phoenix Suns break this pattern and jump into conference title contention? Here are a few reasons.

1.       Team Chemistry

It’s no surprise that chemistry will play a large role in the success of this team, with many new players entering the mix this year. Most notably Chris Paul, Jae Crowder and recently acquired Torrey Craig. Other then Craig, Paul and Crowder have proved to fit in nicely along the young Suns lineup that has been playing together for years led by Devin Booker. The first half of the season indicates that the Suns additions have shown great chemistry to go along with the rest of the lineup that is used to playing together.

2.       Two-Way Lineup

A major factor for why the Suns are as good as they are is their ability to play both offense and defense when it matters. Devin Booker has the ability to score at any given time, and the Suns have surrounded him with other offensive weapons as well when he gets double-teamed, or in some cases, triple-teamed. The major difference between last year and this year however is their capability to defend down the stretch. Plus, their best defensive players, are all capable of making big plays offensively as well. The improvement of Mikal Bridges, Cam Payne, Deandre Ayton, Cam Johnson, and the acquisition of Chris Paul, Javon Carter, and Jae Crowder, have turned the Suns into a legitimate defensive team that has one of the best offensive players in the NBA in Booker.

3.       Depth

In previous years, the Suns would get off to a great start in games, but fall behind when Devin Booker goes to the bench. This year however, they have enough star power and skilled bench players to continue to produce when Booker leaves the court. This has allowed the Suns to maintain leads and, in some cases, even extend leads while Booker rests.

4.       Mix of Experience and Youth

A major factor in the Buck and Hawks inability to transfer their regular season success to the playoffs is their lack of playoff experience. The Suns have this experience in Chris Paul, Jae Crowder, and Torrey Craig, leading many fans to believe that their youth will not be detrimental in the playoffs. The only remaining question is whether or not this experience is enough to take the team to the next level.

5.       Avoiding Injuries and Old Tendencies

While staying healthy can be a pretty obvious objective to play great basketball deep into the playoffs, the Suns need to remember their new weapons, instead of reverting to their old tendencies. If they are struggling down the stretch of a game, they cannot force Devin Booker to win by himself. They now have a plethora of offensively capable players, namely Chris Paul, to help Devin Booker win games. As long as they continue to play team basketball late in games, they will not lose as many games down the stretch as they have in previous years.

Although it is no guarantee, the Suns roster is constructed in a way that will allow them to compete to be the best team in the West if they continue to perform, and hopefully for years to come.

Next. Phoenix Suns and the playoff push. dark