If you’re like me, and I pray you’re not, NBA power rankings have meant very little to you for the better part of the last ten years.
BUT EVERYTHING IS DIFFERENT NOW.
Your Suns, the most consumable product the Association offers right now, are rocketing up the charts. The bubble was no joke, the seeds of a dynasty have been planted, and winning is now expected.
Here’s what the NBA people are saying.
#4 - Three out of four against the Pelicans, Jazz, Nuggets and Clippers ain’t bad. And in the loss (to the Clippers), the Suns cut a 31-point deficit to one before coming up empty offensively over the final nine minutes. Phoenix had three “clutch” games in the last four days, despite holding second-half leads of 21 and 16 points in Utah and Denver, respectively, and falling in that 31-point hole on Sunday. Maybe Chris Paul (4-for-6) is trying to pad his clutch stats, but he’s allowed Devin Booker (4-for-14) to take more than twice as many clutch shots so far.
The Suns seemingly have the ideal offensive lineup, with one of the best point guards in league history, a star scorer, a rim-running big man and a pair of shooters in the corners. But (like the Thunder last season) their success has thus far been more about defense and that lineup hasn’t been all that great, getting outscored by 6.3 points per 100 possessions in its 116 minutes (most for any lineup in the league). Bench minutes (featuring two guys named Cam) have been big, and they’ve gotten a boost from the return of back-up center Dario Saric, who’s a plus-44 in 49 minutes.
#7 - Sunday’s loss to the Clippers aside, the Suns are showing they belong in the conversation with the top teams in the Western Conference. They’ve won in blowouts and they’ve won in close games. The scoring numbers for Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton have gone down so far this season, but the team success is there with a more balanced scoring effort. Also, Phoenix’s bench has been led by the two Cams — Cameron Johnson and Cameron Payne — who have stepped up this season.
#4 - The Suns were one more push away from having a perfect week, but couldn’t quite complete the comeback over the Clippers Sunday. They beat three good teams in the Pelicans, Jazz and Nuggets, and Phoenix has now won four of its last five games. The Suns have spread the wealth offensively with seven players averaging double figures for the week, while the defense has been elite to start the season. It’s still early, but it certainly looks like the Suns are for real.
#9 - Breakup the Suns. Adding Chris Paul instantly changed the dynamic of this team. He’s balancing the floor and getting everyone involved. Mikal Bridges has played 202 minutes of turnover free basketball and is cashing in on his potential as a 3-and-D wing.
#8 - The internal development of young guys like Deandre Ayton, Cam Johnson, and Bridges can take the Suns from a fun playoff team to a serious contender. The latter is playing the best basketball of his career. He’s still defending with ferocity and Gumby length, just as he did all of last season. But he’s also looking slick off the dribble, showing more advanced elements to his game.
#4 - Poise or Panic? Poise. Big time poise. Even down 31 to the Clippers on Sunday night, the Suns showed a poise that we just haven’t seen pre-bubble in Orlando for a very long time. The Suns have been phenomenal in their start to the season. Devin Booker has been good, but he hasn’t had to be a superhero yet. Chris Paul hasn’t made shots at the rate you’d expect, but he’s artfully controlling these games. The Suns are winning with their role players right now, and that’s an extremely encouraging sign. In their quick start last season, Booker was unreal. So far? Suns look like a team that knows how to win, rather than a team learning how to win.
They were second in the rankings until they lost to the Clippers on Sunday night. This Suns team feels legitimate. They’re really good and they’re not relying on their stars to just flat-out carry them.
#5 - Through two weeks of action, the Suns are in a three-way tie atop the Western Conference. Just as we all expected, right?
Phoenix’s hot start has been a reminder of just how special Chris Paul is.
CP3 has quickly adjusted to a new team on the fly while head coach Monty Williams is placing Paul, Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton in great spots to be successful by playing off of one another.
While many teams with new pieces have struggled out of the gates, the Suns have done quite the opposite, which should give them a nice cushion down the line once some other teams begin to string together wins as the season progresses.