Before the season started, all the SB Nation sites made predictions on the 2021-22 season. Now, at the All-Star Break about 70% of the way through the season, we revisit those predictions to see how close or far off they were.
My own predictions for the Phoenix Suns here were just a little conservative, thanks to Chris Paul, Devin Booker, Monty Williams, James Jones and everyone else in the organization. Entering the All-Star break, where Devin Booker, Chris Paul and the whole Suns coaching staff will be in Cleveland for the game on Sunday, the Suns are league-leading 48-10 and a heavy favorite to win the West.
Not too long ago, though, some of us worried the Suns would regress a bit from last year, after their luck ran out two games into the Finals. This year, the Suns showed they weren’t lucky. Instead, they showed us they are just better than everyone else.
Let’s take a walk down memory lane.
Examination of Best Case, Worst Case and Most Likely Case scenarios from the Season Preview
- Best Case: Championship
- Worst Case: Age/stagnancy/competition reduces Suns to play-in team
- Most Likely:
“The Suns will most likely improve a bit because of the development of their young guys but maybe not win at the same 70% rate, finish 2nd or 3rd in the West and hit the playoffs ready and able to defend their Western Conference crown.”
Fortunately for us, the Suns have exceeded their ‘most likely’ scenario this season. They’ve been winning at an historic rate and are finally beginning to get the recognition as the league’s best current title contender — and a great shot to meet my ‘best case’ scenario for this season.
I could say I was right with the ‘maybe not win at the same 70% win rate’ because it’s true they aren’t! Instead, the Suns are winning at an 82.7% rate and have a wider lead over the league’s 2nd best record (6 more wins, 7 fewer losses) than any team at the All-Star break since the 1997 version of MJ’s Bulls.
At this point, this is the best Suns team we’ve ever seen. The 48-10 record is better than any Suns team ever by a wide margin (closest was 45-13 in 1992-93) and have logged the longest winning streak in franchise history (18). They are no flash in the pan, either, proving they can win tough playoff series by closing out three West teams and making the NBA Finals in 2021. They currently boast the league’s 3rd best offense and defense, and the very best net margin (+8.1).
All this despite their best lineup — Chris Paul, Devin Booker, Mikal Bridges, Jae Crowder, Deandre Ayton — only being together for 32 of 58 games so far.
Why I am excited for the rest of the season
First, let’s go back to my preseason excitement:
I am most excited to see further development from Deandre Ayton and Mikal Bridges into All-Defense players who are in the All-Star conversation in February, while Devin Booker grows even more into a new-age Chris Paul who does whatever it takes to win games. No NBA player has won more games than Booker in the past 15 months, since the Bubble started, and I look forward to seeing him continue this work!
Amazing how this came true!
If not for missing 21 of his first 49 games, Ayton might have made his first All-Star appearance. He was on the cusp, according media predictions, in mid-December but fell completely off radars by late January due to missed games. He’s still a great candidate for All-Defense in 2022, anchoring the league’s 2nd best defense when he plays (compared to middle-third when he’s been out).
Mikal Bridges never quite made the mainstream All-Star conversation, but he is a lock for All-Defense and even recently was ranked among the leaders for Defensive Player of the Year, though wings almost never get that award.
Devin Booker, now a three-time All-Star, has indeed become a clutch-time maven. He is shooting 63% in the clutch (4th-best in the league for players with 20+ attempts) for the league’s best clutch team. The Suns record in the clutch (24-3) is better than any NBA team’s home record. Book is 3rd in the league in total plus-minus in the clutch this season (+72, behind teammates Chris Paul and Mikal Bridges).
Here’s a stat for you: the Suns lead the league in total plus-minus in the clutch as a team (+91) despite only ranking 24th among 30 teams in total clutch minutes this season. They have outscored opponents by 91 points in only 85 clutch minutes.
I am excited to continue watching Mikal Bridges become a new midrange master, Deandre Ayton’s deadly hook shot and developing offensive game, and all the other guys’ development as well.
Review of preseason predictions for seeding and record
The Suns are already 48-10, on pace for a final 67-14 record.
That would far exceed the best record in franchise history (62-20, twice). They only need to 15-9 the rest of the way to finish with 63 wins, which only almost certainly keep them in the top seed (the Warriors would have to finish 24-1 to reach 64 wins).
All-Star Break Predictions
- Final record: 64-18
- Seeding: 1st
Among other odds, they have
- Devin Booker 7th and Chris Paul 8th in odds to win the Most Valuable Player award, and Mikal Bridges
- Monty Williams the odds-on favorite for Coach of the Year
- Cameron Johnson 8th and Cameron Payne 16th in odds for Sixth Man of the Year
- Mikal Bridges 5th and Deandre Ayton 15th in odds for Defensive Player of the Year
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