The Phoenix Suns currently sit in seventh place in the Western Conference. Their record is 36-25 with a 22-12 home record. If they make it to the playoffs, it would most likely be as a lower seed, making them an underdog going in. That’s a familiar feeling for the Sun’s, who weren’t expected to do too much this season.
In their recent win on March 6th, they defeated the Oklahoma City Thunder 128-122 behind Gerald Green’s career-high 41 points. They have proven time and time again that they can compete against the best teams in the league. They hold a 9-6 record against the Portland Trail Blazers, Oklahoma City Thunder, Los Angeles Clippers, Golden State Warriors, Houston Rockets and the Indiana Pacers. Those are all teams that will most likely be in the playoffs. The only teams the Suns have difficulty with are the two 2013 NBA Finals teams, Miami Heat and San Antonio Spurs, and the Memphis Grizzlies. They’re 1-7 against those teams.
The Phoenix Suns have hung tough against the league’s best teams, which is definitely a confidence booster come playoff time. There are a couple of components that could make them a spoiler if they are awarded a spot in the NBA Playoffs. First, let’s take a look at their roster and the depth they have.
One of the reasons Phoenix has been such a threat to opponents is the depth they have in their roster. Coach Hornacek has a lot of different options to choose from, giving him some different things to try in the event of injury, low performance, etc.
First off, their starters have been performing great this season. "They’ve all done something more than they’ve done last year," Coach Hornacek said. In the backcourt is Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe, who is expected to make a return at some point this week. They are the two leaders offensively, but in Bledsoe’s absence, Gerald Green has performed amazingly.
Gerald Green is coming off a game where scored a career-high 41 points against the Thunder. So far this season, he is shooting lights out from beyond the arc and has been a constant momentum changer with his big-time, highlight dunking skills. Green has 20 points or more 18 times this season and has hit 30 points in four of those games.
Green’s ability to get his shot off quickly has caused a struggle for opponents. If you’re not getting a hand in his face, then he will have no problem rising up and draining threes on you all game. Then again, if you play too close then Green has shown the ability to take his man off the dribble and take the ball to the basket.
Also shooting hot from beyond the arc is veteran big man Channing Frye. Being tall, it’s a plus for him to have the ability to shoot from afar. He is making 42.9 percent of his threes from the top of the key and 43.2 percent from the right wing. He helps in spreading the floor and opening the lane to the basket. Since he can bring the taller guys outside of the paint, it allows players like Gerald Green and Goran Dragic an open lane to the hoop.
Aside from the starters, the Suns’ bench has also been performing very well. The Morris brothers, Markieff and Marcus, have done a great job coming off the bench. Markieff has been a big name for Sixth Man of the Year this season. Statistically, when Markieff scores at least 20 points, the Suns are 10-4. When younger brother Marcus scores 15 or more points, they are even better at 12-3. They do a great job of knocking down mid-range jumpers, shooting threes and rebounding effectively.
It’s been proven so far that the Suns have a lot of talent and help on the offensive end, but one player in particular has carved his way as a lockdown defender in Phoenix. P.J. Tucker has shut down superstars time and time again this season. He forced James Harden to shoot 31 percent from the field, who is averaging 45.6 percent overall this season.
Adding to that, Tucker also stopped the red-hot Paul George. George finished with 12 points against the Suns on 5 of 17 shooting, giving most of the credit to Tucker. Thunder forward Kevin Durant said "P.J. is my guy. We compete against each other. I think I compete against him harder than anybody that I play against." He has created a niche as a showstopper defender in this league, but that’s not the only thing he brings to the table.
The gritty 28-year-old out of the Texas Longhorns is also shooting very well from the left corner behind the arc. He is shooting a scorching hot 52.9 percent from there on 27-51 shooting. Bringing great defense as well as the ability to step back and hit the three has made him a great addition and big role player for the Phoenix Suns.
Eric Bledsoe has only played 24 games this year, playing phenomenal in those game. He averaged 18 points, 5.8 assists and 4.3 rebounds when suited up. During the span, the Suns recorded a 16-8 record. Set to return next week, he will bring more explosive play to a Phoenix team playing very efficiently lately.
His return would be a huge boost for this team and could be the difference in them being a spoiler these playoffs. If he and Dragic can continue to play well once he returns, they will be a tough team to beat.
So, are the Suns ready to be spoilers this season in the playoffs? Well, I would say yes if: the Morris brothers continue to bring support off the bench, Gerald Green remains a threat offensively, Tucker plays stellar defense when they need it, Bledsoe picks up where he left off and overall they play as a team and focus on winning.
They have a chance to make a serious, Cinderella run in the 2014 NBA Playoffs. First, though, they need to get there. It should be easy, but you can’t take anything for granted in this league.