The NBA season starts in exactly 49 days for the Phoenix Suns.
When the ball tips off against the Denver Nuggets, so too does the defense of their Western Conference championship. The 2021-22 will bring a different level of intensity each night as the opposition will be gunning for the team with 34 nationally televised games.
NBA players do not, or should not, need a reason to get hyped up prior to a game. But alas, everyone is human. When you are playing Orlando on a Tuesday night in April, the focus might necessarily be there. We refer to this as “playing down to your competition”, a disease the Suns have displayed at times.
Games such as these are when teams may sit key players in an effort to manage the load. We know this because it ‘twas not so long ago that a stop on Phoenix provided the opposition an opportunity to do this. I mean, the team won just 19 games the last time the NBA posted an 82-game schedule.
That has changed.
Knowing that you are playing a team that went to the NBA Finals the previous season will add a little juice in the veins for those who play the Suns. Add in where the national media is ranking Phoenix in their power rankings, and yes, expect each night to be a fight.
Ah yes, the rankings. I wouldn’t say I am much of a fan of rankings, especially prior to the start of a season, as they are 100% subjective. Don’t get me started on college football preseason rankings. That being said, you still can use rankings as a source of how a team is being perceived and therefore have an understanding of who you should have your eyes on as a season begins.
The NBA recently released their power rankings for the Western Conference. Who was sitting on top? Your Phoenix Suns.
Forgive me. I still feel like a proud father when I see graphics like those displayed above with Devin Booker getting top billing. My, we’ve come so far.
The first knee jerk reaction by anyone creating a power ranking is to simply take the best team in the conference from the previous season and put them at the top. But NBA.com didn’t do that for the Eastern Conference. They bestowed the #1 ranking upon the Brooklyn Nets.
Again, I’m not big into power rankings. They’re like looking at a boxscore and using the +/- as your tool to determine who played well and who didn’t. It’s lazy. But, just like that +/-, they can tell you part of the story.
The part of the story that pleases me? The #1 power ranking on NBA.com fortifies that the Suns have had an above average offseason. While the Los Angeles Lakers made all of the flashy offseason acquisitions, reuniting the 2012 Team USA Basketball team with Carmelo Anthony and Russell Westbrook (four of their players were on that team including LeBron and AD), the Suns focused on reinforcing their roster.
The team added depth in all areas and all were upgrades. Elrid Payton or E’Twaun Moore? Landry Shamet or Langston Galloway? JaVale McGee or Jonthan Mobley/Damian Jones/Dario Saric? It wasn’t a sexy offseason, but it was effective.
Where do the Phoenix Suns stack up on other power rankings? I thought you’d never ask!
- ESPN: #3 overall, #1 Western Conference
- Bleacher Report: #5 overall, #2 Western Conference
- CBS Sports: #3 overall, #1 Western Conference
- NBC Sports: #3 overall, #1 Western Conference
- Yahoo Sports: #3 overall, #1 Western Conference
The moral of the story here? Bleacher Report always has to go against the grain. They’re so progressive.
These rankings will certainly change as the season nears. It’s too early to take these down to the bank and try to cash them in. It’d be like going to Best Buy and trying to pay with a check (You should try that. I did it once a couple of years ago and the poor kid working looked at me like I was from another planet. Ah, checks…). Like all Suns fans, I’d prefer to be at the top than living at the bottom.
This is the next iteration for Phoenix Suns basketball: learning to perform with the expectations and spotlight upon them. Will they uphold the ranking? Will the pressure of doing so wear them down?
The stage is now set, with both players and media focused on the Suns to see if they can live up to the hype they’ve earned. The target is on their back. 49 days to go.
Let’s go Suns.