Why the Phoenix Suns Will be Better Than the Boston Celtics in 2021-22

Phoenix Suns (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)
Phoenix Suns (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images) /

After punching through the West last year, it took an Eastern Conference powerhouse to finally vanquish the Phoenix Suns, as the Milwaukee Bucks brought an abrupt halt to their title quest during the NBA Finals. Giannis Antetokounmpo largely contributed to that effort, averaging an absurd 35.2 points, 13.2 rebounds, 5.0 assists, and 1.8 blocks per game during the six game series.

But going into the 2021-22 season, the Suns possess the third highest odds to win the Western Conference once again. This makes another NBA Finals matchup consequently vs an Eastern Conference team a notably strong possibility.

Looking over at the East’s most dominant teams, several groups already look like serious threats to not only the reigning champion Bucks, but anyone else hailing from the Western Conference as well.

With the Boston Celtics set to welcome back a fully healthy Jalen Brown and Jayson Tatum likely to continue improving his game, they certainly fall into that category.

Boston is slated to face off against the Suns twice during this year’s regular season, potentially offering fans a quick taste of the 2022 NBA Finals, should the chips fall that way. But luckily for the Suns, they possess a more talented roster than the Celtics—fully embodying the better team.

The Phoenix Suns are better than the Boston Celtics

After subjecting themselves to the Play-In Tournament last year, the Celtics might not strike casual NBA followers as a real contending team. But again, with Brown back and an improved Tatum, their 2021-22 team represents a true force to be reckoned with.

When judging them up against the Suns though, you need to start with Booker vs Tatum—as basketball fans somehow find the time to compare these two young guns on Twitter every single day. But the fact of the matter is, putting these two beside each other feels like looking into a mirror.

Last year, Booker averaged 25.6 points per game while shooting 48.4 percent from the floor. By a sliver, Tatum averaged more points with 26.4 per game, but also shot less efficiently at 45.9 percent. Tatum did possess a slightly higher 3-point percentage though at 38.6 percent against Booker’s 34.0 percent, and also collected a better assist to turnover ratio by 0.2 points. This clean play and more consistent ability to stretch the floor gives Tatum the slightest of nods from an offensive standpoint.

At the floor’s other end though, both Tatum and Booker amazingly finished last year with the same exact defensive win shares at 0.092. But Booker collectively put up the better defensive rating, endorsing himself barely as the better defender.

But with all these numbers so astonishingly close, the only right answer to the Booker vs Tatum debate is to just call it a toss up.

Still though, it’s the Suns up against the Celtics right now, and with the evenness between Tatum and Booker now acknowledged, each star’s supporting cast decides the better team—where the Suns begin to pull away.

At the point guard spot, even though Marcus Smart might bring more fire to the game, Chris Paul remains worlds ahead him, scoring 3.3 more points per game last year and doing so with a significantly higher true shooting percentage. Flexing Bridges up to shooting guard with Booker and Tatum already knotted together, Jaylen Brown wins that battle as the more aggressive player and lethal scorer, which outweighs Bridge’s defensive prowess.

But the Suns inflict their damage mainly down low. Al Horford has looked lost on the court ever since leaving Boston, and a “welcome back” party will not help him at 35-years-old. With far more field goal attempts per game, Horford scored more than Phoenix power forward Jae Crowder last season, but Crowder put up a much higher true shooting percentage and better defensive rating. He wins this face off, despite Horford’s more prominent career as a whole.

But worst of all, Boston does not carry a single true center on their roster at this point, setting up Deandre Ayton for an absolute field day when the teams go up against each other. Even if you slide Tatum to the four and put Horford at the five, it still feels likely to get ugly considering Ayton’s insane athleticism.

But moving past those given starters, Boston also stands equipped with Dennis Schroder, Josh Richardson, and Robert Williams. Lined up against Phoenix’s reserve options with Landry Shamet, Cameron Payne, and Cameron Johnson though, Boston’s averages 2.0 more points per 100 possessions than Phoenix. This resembles a slight nod to the Celtics, but another one outweighed by Phoenix’s greater efficiency marks.

With Robert Williams coming as the only outlier, likely because he averaged just 3.5 field goal attempts per game, all three Phoenix reserves posted better true shooting percentages than Boston’s last season.

Off the bench, consistency and efficiency always hold greater value than straight production—and Phoenix’s wide advantage in those departments certainly cancels out Boston’s slim lead in scoring averages. This points to the Suns as the better bench group, only further supporting their claim as the better team.

Next. How Does Devin Booker Compare to Kobe Bryant?. dark

At the end of the day, both the Suns and Celtics possess incredibly high ceilings though, so depending on when they peak, these groups might pass each other several times as this season progresses. But for now, the Suns take the cake.