Why the Phoenix Suns should be considered championship favorites

As one of the best teams in the NBA over the last several years, the Phoenix Suns have routinely found themselves near the top of various power rankings and amongst the betting favorites to win a championship.

This season will be no different, as they currently have the third-best odds to bring home the title. That’s nothing to be ashamed about, but after the offseason the Suns just had, they should be atop the list.

One could argue that the Suns were already the second-best team in the league last season. After all, they were the only team to take two games off the eventual champion Denver Nuggets in the playoffs. They did that despite Chris Paul getting injured early on in the series, and having little time to build chemistry after the Kevin Durant trade.

The Suns went into this offseason with a plan to fix the weakness that plagued them in that series.

At the top of the list was addressing the Paul situation, which they did by swapping him for Bradley Beal. Beal might not seem as great a fit as the true point guard Paul was, but fit doesn’t really matter when you’re not playing in the games.

Getting any younger, quality guard to replace Paul would’ve been great; getting a legitimate star like Beal was a heist. The Suns already had the best duo in the league, now they arguably have the best trio.

General manager James Jones and owner Mat Ishbia also targeted rangy defenders and consistent 3-point shooters, both things they were lacking after the KD trade. Proven snipers Eric Gordon and Yuta Watanabe will provide spacing that the Suns were lacking, while Keita Bates-Diop will give them a lockdown defender.

Of course, they brought in head coach Frank Vogel, who’s known for his adjustments, which is a stark departure from Monty Williams’ let it ride approach. All told, the Suns’ offseason was undoubtedly one of the best in the league, and clearly better than the other teams at the top.

The current favorite is the aforementioned reigning champion Nuggets. This is understandable, since they’re bringing back the same starting five and coaching staff that was so dominant last playoffs. However, they did lose two key contributors in Bruce Brown and Jeff Green, who were sixth and seventh in postseason minutes for the Nuggets, respectively.

These aren’t insignificant losses, and the Nuggets really didn’t do anything to replace those two in a meaningful way. They didn’t bring in any outside free agents aside from Justin Holiday, so it looks like that void will be filled with rookies.

Given the Nuggets’ track record in developing players, it wouldn’t be a surprise if guys like Jalen Pickett or Hunter Tyson were productive this year, but it’s hard to see them contributing at the level that Brown and Green did. The Boston Celtics are the other team with higher odds than the Suns to win the championship.

Like the Nuggets, they have largely the same core in place. Them playing in the weaker Eastern Conference is certainly a factor for their ranking, but even with a clear path last season they weren’t able to get past an eighth seed. It is hard to know at this point if they’re a better team now with Kristaps Porzingis replacing Celtics stalwarts Marcus Smart and Grant Williams.

There’s plenty of other talented teams in the league that pose substantial threats, but few of them went out and got markedly better this offseason. After a disappointing first round exit, the Milwaukee Bucks had a similarly underwhelming offseason, and are banking on bounce backs and health from their core players.

The Los Angeles Lakers had arguably the best offseason in the league in terms of addressing their weaknesses, but they didn’t bring in anyone with the caliber of Beal. The league seems to have avoided an L.A. Clippers super team, with reports saying that James Harden is now expected to stay with the Philadelphia 76ers.

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The Clippers and Sixers will enter the year with the same health and consistency questions as they always do. You can never count out the Golden State Warriors, but they will inherit CP3’s playoff availability worries that plagued the Suns all these years.

It’s not out of the question for any of these teams, or some dark-horses, to come away with the championship this year, but it is hard to see how any of those organizations with the rosters they now have are better than the ones the Suns have assembled.

The Suns started this offseason from a much better spot than all but a few teams in the league. Despite that, they attacked it as if they were a play-in team, and have put together a truly powerful roster because of it.

The game isn’t played on paper, which is why many think teams like the Nuggets and Celtics still get the nod for the time being, but if the Suns start to gel early on, don’t be surprised if they leapfrog to the top of the favorites list.