Why the 2021-22 Phoenix Suns are Better than Last Year’s Finals Team

Phoenix Suns, Devin Booker (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)
Phoenix Suns, Devin Booker (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images) /

The Phoenix Suns are still waiting for their first round dance partners to reveal themselves. With the Play-In tournament taking place this week, not much exists for the Valley Boys to do from a competitive basketball standpoint.

The Suns are no strangers to this situation though. After putting together another fine regular season last year, they earned the Western Conference’s two seed, again needing to wait for an opponent to emerge from the Play-In.

With that prior successful regular season in the rear view mirror though, and all this time to pass, one cannot help but wonder—which Suns team is better?

This is not as far fetched a question as one might think, even with this year’s Phoenix team winning more games. However, it’s something to dive into with the Suns coming so close to tasting victory last season, only to have it taken away.

Nobody outside the desert wants a repeat of that, so to break down this comparison, we’ll start before the Suns became the team we know today.

The 2019-20 Phoenix Suns: The Bubble Gets Things Started

The COVID-19 pandemic shut down the entire world in 2020, including the NBA. When the league hit the brakes with just a few games to go until the postseason, Phoenix could be seen sitting tight outside the playoff picture with a 26–39 record.

Once the league resumed in Orlando, the first Play-In Tournament took place, giving the Suns a chance to possibly make it. As we all know, they did just about everything they could to do so.

Phoenix went on to win all eight games that they played in the bubble. They easily resembled the sharpest team following the restart, even despite playing without two key players in Kelly Oubre Jr. and Aron Baynes.

But even with all that, they still missed out on the playoffs, as the Memphis Grizzlies held a tie-breaker over them.

The 2020-21 Phoenix Suns: Reloading with Chris Paul

If Suns fans were excited for the 2020-21 NBA season based off how their team played in the bubble, the addition of Chris Paul took those feelings to an entirely new level. Phoenix traded Ricky Rubio, Kelly Oubre Jr., Ty Jerome, Jalen Lecque, and a 2022 first-round pick to get Paul—and they never looked back.

CP3 resembled a perfect fit on Phoenix’s young roster. His leadership and play style helped everyone, especially star guard Devin Booker.

The Suns quickly announced themselves as a team to the beat during the 2020-21 NBA season. They finished the year with the second-best record at 51-21. That made them NBA Finals contenders, as did their ensuing playoff run.

Phoenix opened those 2021 playoffs with a matchup against the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers and stars LeBron James and Anthony Davis.

Most picked the seventh seeded Lakers to beat the Suns, and that narrative grew louder when Paul injured his shoulder in Game 1. But Phoenix’s remaining players did not panic, and Paul continued to play despite the injury, leading the Suns to a 4-2 series victory.

Phoenix rode that momentum through their next two series, playing the game at an even higher level than before and making it to the NBA Finals for the first time since 1993. After winning the first two games though, they lost four straight—and the title to the Milwaukee Bucks.

The 2021-22 Phoenix Suns: Out for Revenge

Returning the following year with a similar roster, the Suns wanted nothing more than to get the taste of that loss out of their mouths. However, they needed to wait a few extra days to do so, jumping out to an unimpressive 1-3 start.

But after stumbling through the gates, the Suns quieted their critics by going on an 18-game winning streak. The team never took its foot off the gas, finishing with a league-best 64-18 record.

The Suns clearly stood as the NBA’s best team all season without much of a challenge. Even when injuries and COVID-19 related issues, Phoenix illustrated their depth with an almost constant win rate.

These Suns look to be a much better team than last year’s mainly due to experience. Perhaps the largest knock on last year’s Phoenix team was their almost nonexistent playoff experience minus Chris Paul.

But that is no longer the case. These players are a year older and not only have playoff experience, but NBA Finals experience on their resumes.

This Suns Player will Dictate Playoff Success. dark. Next

At the end of the day though, how far Phoenix makes it during this year’s postseason will unequivocally resolve this question. We’ll have our answer in the coming months, but for now, let the debate rage on.