It feels like the Phoenix Suns are in the process of turning the page on a difficult period in their season. It began on Wednesday night, with a road win over the Houston Rockets that brought the team back to .500 and also ensured they once again occupied a play-in position in the Western Conference.
That may not seem like much - but in a season that has lurched from one problem to another - winning the final road game of the calendar year against a frisky Rockets team to steady the ship was just what this group needed. On top of that, Eric Gordon had arguably his best game this season in the win, not even a week removed from comments he made about his role on the team.
With a long homestand to begin the New Year in The Valley, the situation looks like it could be about to get even better for the franchise. With individuals like Chimezie Metu excelling in their roles and one former Suns player potentially about to become available for nothing, fans are right to be cautiously optimistic right now.
The cherry on top for the Suns came on Friday, with news that Bradley Beal is now now available to play again after spraining his ankle a few weeks back.
Beal had been questionable to play against the Charlotte Hornets as recently as Thursday, but NBA Insider Adrian Wojnarowski - the same person who on Christmas Day went on television and said that Kevin Durant was frustrated with his current situation - revealed that Beal would be available to play.
Beal's return could not come at a better time for the organization, and it is an added bonus because the gnarly ankle sprain he suffered against the New York Knicks on December 13th looked like it might keep him out of action for a while. But for the first time this season, Beal's comeback came ahead of schedule, which is great news for the team.
Beal has played in only six games so far this season as a result of both ankle and back issues, but his return is huge for a number of reasons. Beginning with the most obvious, and the Suns are sure to climb the offensive rankings quickly once Beal joins Durant and Devin Booker on the court. They sit 13th (115.7) right now - disappointing given their talent - but that is surely about to change.
Having Beal back on the court will also be a huge boost to Booker, who has had to shoulder so much of the creation for the team this season. Now the team's point guard, it may be that Beal initiates the offense on some possessions - but even if that doesn't happen as much as some fans might think - having him on the court is another brilliant option for Booker to use each trip down the court.
An underrated positive to Beal's return is what this will mean for one of Gordon or Grayson Allen. While Gordon was great last time out against the Rockets, it is Allen who has been the best role player the team have had this season. He has started all 25 games he has appeared in, and the 45.5 percent he has shot from deep is not only ridiculous, it is clearly a career high.
What having Beal back will mean is that one of Allen or Gordon will now come off the bench, which is a huge boost to their second unit. It also means one of their "Big 3" can always be on the court with the bench group, instead of just one of Booker or Durant as it has been for most of this season.
Great as both of those players are, when they're out there with the likes of Jordan Goodwin, Yuta Watanabe and Drew Eubanks, it is painfully obvious. Perhaps once Josh Okogie returns from injury himself, he can start longside Durant, Booker, Beal and Jusuf Nurkic, giving the Suns some much needed legitimate depth in the form of Gordon and Allen off the bench.
Really though the time has to be now for Beal to prove that at 30-years-old, he is still the player the Suns traded for in the offseason. A player who can average over 30 points per game in a season, and who can quickly become the best third option offensively in the entire NBA. The time for talk is over, because a healthy Beal has the potential to save this Suns season and take them to new heights.