Swiping through old magazines, twiddling their thumbs, and staring off into the distance, the Phoenix Suns continue to sit around in the NBA’s waiting room, as they hang tight until the 2021-22 regular season tips off a few weeks from now.
Like a bone dry desert, a full NBA regular season can look daunting at times. Moving away from its COVID-19 affected format, the league plans to move back to that layout, featuring an 82-game slate this season for the Suns and all their opponents.
Each game carries the same weight when it comes to win/loss records and eventual playoff seeding. But even with that considered, some contests already stand out amongst the rest as more important bouts for Phoenix
What Games Will be the Most Important for the Phoenix Suns this Year?
October 22 at Los Angeles Lakers
Unless Kawhi Leonard makes a miraculous return after undergoing ACL repair surgery this summer, the Los Angeles Lakers embody the greatest threat to the Suns as reigning Western Conference champions. With the Lake Show having added Russell Westbrook, Carmelo Anthony, Dwight Howard, and a few other solid gunners along the wing, they look like an entirely different team than the one Phoenix took down during the postseason’s first round last year.
Such improvements even led Vegas to name them as favorites to win the Western Conference despite the Suns returning with almost their exact same squad from last year. WynnBet even put the Lakers at +375 to win the NBA Finals, with Phoenix trailing them at +1600 odds.
With so much hype surrounding Los Angeles, this early game into the regular season comes as an opportunity for the Suns to punch them straight in the mouth, and remind everyone that they still run the conference. Pulling off such a feat allows Phoenix to swipe back the conference’s unofficial crown, which will help them foster some powerful self-confidence to begin their campaign.
December 13 at Los Angeles Clippers
Phoenix played the Los Angeles Clippers incredibly hard during the Western Conference Finals. Things even turned ugly at times, and although instigator Patrick Beverley no longer plays for LA, you can bet that the team’s other returning players all want to enact revenge on the Suns during this contest.
With that considered, this game strikes as a the strongest test for Phoenix to undergo this year with regard to their chemistry and mental prowess as a team.
Monty Williams earned significant praise last year for to his command within the Suns locker room, and for his calming—yet also inspiring sideline speeches. During this game especially, Phoenix needs him to operate like this once more.
Put simply, the Clippers are coming, and the Suns need to remember how to keep their heads on their shoulders.
December 25 vs Golden State Warriors
As another team picked by many to beat the Suns next year, the Golden State Warriors also represent a formidable opponent for the 2021-22 season. So just like with the Lakers, beating them allows Phoenix to mount a greater defense around their throne.
But during this contest, the Suns likely see Klay Thompson for the first time since March of 2019 as well, which gives way to another opportunity.
Facing a fully healthy contender and beating them not only helps the Suns present themselves as title contenders this year, but also hushes any remaining halfwits still referring to injuries as the main reason behind Phoenix’s run to the Finals last year.
Additionally, this game takes place on Christmas Day—the biggest day for the league during its regular season, which naturally leaves the Suns with an extensive audience to play before. But even beyond that, Phoenix formerly underwent an 11 year Christmas Day drought until this point, so this contest also comes as a chance for the Suns to reintroduce themselves as a team that deserves to partake in this rich basketball tradition.
February 1 vs Brooklyn Nets
If the Suns plan to win it all this time around, the they likely need to go through the Brooklyn Nets as their final opponent. Having reloaded their “big three” of Kevin Durant, James Harden, and Kyrie Irving with a strong supporting cast, the Nets enter this season as almost unanimous title favorites.
Last year, Brooklyn also had Phoenix’s number, becoming the only team which the Suns failed to beat. Monty Williams likely knows that, as do all the returning players.
So if Phoenix takes down Brooklyn during what might end up as their last contest before the NBA Finals, they can eliminate the idea that the Nets embody an “achilles heal” for them, and gain confidence heading into the potential bout. Two birds with one stone.
April 8 at Utah Jazz
Last year, the Suns chased the Utah Jazz up the Western Conference standings seemingly all season. On a few occasions they even overtook them, but ultimately, the Jazz finished with the NBA’s best record last year and consequently earned the top seed.
With both teams having made only a few tweaks to their rotations this summer, a similar situation likely awaits these two teams, as they both look primed to go head-to-head once again for playoff seeding. That highlights this second-to-last game of the year as a potential showdown between the two squads, possibly with serious playoff implications and a semi-playoff atmosphere by consequence.