Phoenix Suns feel LA heat in latest NBA power rankings

Phoenix Suns, Jae Crowder (Photo by Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports)
Phoenix Suns, Jae Crowder (Photo by Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports) /

As we head toward April, the Los Angeles Clippers are closing in on the Phoenix Suns, who maintain a strong position among Western Conference teams.

Longtime fans of the Suns remember the Steve Nash-Amar’e Stoudemire days when the playoffs were a fait accompli (French for, “hey, it’s gonna happen”).

During those dynamic times, the months of February and March stirred unrest — fans just wanted to hit the fast-forward button to the playoffs and jump into the first round.

It’s been a long time, but this year’s team has engendered similar sentiments.

The Phoenix Suns appear headed to the playoffs for the first time since 2010, and the NBA power rankings show respect for this team.

Coach Monty Williams’ team was away from home all last week, fitting in four games in five and a half days. The Suns beat Miami, lost to Orlando and then finished with wins over Toronto and Charlotte.

Devin Booker’s 35 points — on an uncharacteristic 26 field-goal attempts — led the way in the finale of the trip.

ESPN’s NBA power rankings: Phoenix Suns are No. 4

There were three ways to say things didn’t change much last week:

The Suns are still No. 4 in this version of ESPN’s top teams.

The Suns lost a game (Orlando) they should have won (the week before it was that Timberwolves debacle).

The Suns, with the exception of the Torrey Craig addition, stood pat at the trade deadline.

"The Suns maintained their hold on the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference but didn’t make any moves at the deadline. Instead, they just scooped up Torrey Craig for cash considerations as a part of the P.J. Tucker-to-Milwaukee deal. In four games with Phoenix, Craig averaged 8.3 points and 4.3 rebounds in 18.2 minutes a game while shooting 52.0% from the field and 45.5% from 3."’s NBA power rankings: Phoenix Suns are No. 6

The Suns, who fell two spots this week, would love to stay among the top four seeds in the West. That would mean home court in the first round, but they should be setting their sights higher — and probably are.

The danger certainly includes the Los Angeles Clippers, who have won five straight and are beginning a long home stand. LA jumped from No. 7 to No. 3, per rankings.

"The Suns’ bench has lost some of its mojo. It still ranks as the No. 1 bench in the league (in regard to estimated aggregate NetRtg), but over their last seven games, they’ve been outscored by 7.6 points per 100 possessions in Dario Saric’s 123 minutes on the floor, a huge drop-off from how good his minutes had been prior to that (+23.7 per 100)."

CBS Sports’ NBA power rankings: Phoenix Suns are No. 6

These rankings elevated the Clippers from No. 6 to No. 4, and dropped the Suns one spot.

Looking ahead, Phoenix has nine of its next 11 games at home — and eight of the next 10 are against teams who, entering Monday, were at or below .500.

"The Suns went 3-1 this week, with their loss coming to the lowly Magic on Evan Fournier’s game-winning layup. Pre-deadline addition Torrey Craig has already carved out a role, averaging 8.3 points on 46 percent 3-point shooting in over 18 minutes per game this week. Devin Booker put up nearly 25 points per game, while Deandre Ayton added 17.8 points and 12 rebounds."

The trade deadline brought Craig, but Denver, both LAs, Portland and Dallas made bigger moves. The Nuggets added Aaron Gordon, the Lakers signed Andre Drummond, the Clippers acquired Rajon Rondo, the Blazers brought aboard Norman Powell and the Mavericks added JJ Redick.

The Suns’ key offseason prizes, Chris Paul and Jae Crowder, are seen as big-time playoff performers.

Bleacher Report’s NBA power rankings: Phoenix Suns are No. 5

BR moved the Clippers up two spots to No. 6 and dropped the Suns one position.

Phoenix continued its stunning turnaround on defense — and it was a good thing because the shooting was way off.

"The Suns have won with their defense because they have gone cold from three. Chris Paul and Mikal Bridges each shot below 30 percent from three, and Devin Booker hit just 31 percent of his threes last week.  Defensively, though, they held their opponents to 100 or fewer points in each of their wins.Deandre Ayton was a force, scoring 17.8 points, pulling down 12.0 rebounds and blocking 1.3 shots per game."

Once more, the Suns have a perfect week at their fingertips.

But we’ve seen the past two weeks that “easy wins” are not always as they appear.

Next. Phoenix Suns best and worst of the road trip. dark