After a spectacular 2021 season that resulted in only the third finals appearance in franchise history, the Phoenix Suns followed that up with an even better 2022 season.
After winning a franchise-record 64 wins, the Suns find themselves in a surprising position. One loss away from elimination in just the second round. Against a team that many predicted wouldn’t even make it past the first round.
Back-to-back great seasons for the Suns makes it seem like this type of success will last forever. But in the NBA, greatness is fleeting and title windows close much faster than expected.
Just one calendar year ago it seemed inevitable that the Brooklyn Nets would win at least one title if not multiple. Today? Not so much.
The Lakers won the title in a dominant fashion not even two years ago and were the favorites to repeat entering the following season. But injuries have derailed those ideals.
It’s for this reason the Suns have to win. Not just this game, not just the conference but the whole shabang. Chris Paul is now 37 years old and the list of 37 year old all-stars is a short one.
Ignoring legacy selections like 2019 Dirk Nowitzki and 1989 Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, there have only been 11 instances of players 37 and over making the all-star team.
And only two of those instances (Kareem in 1985/1987) resulted in a championship.
Paul’s age and eventual decline are not the only things standing in the Suns' way. For one, their injury luck so far has been pretty good. Booker just missed some time but not enough to eliminate them and many contenders lose their chance because of injuries just like that.
Even youth cannot prevent injuries completely.
Also the Western Conference this season was as weak as it will ever be. With the fractioning of the Jazz, injuries to the Nuggets, Lakers and Clippers as well as the imminent rise of New Orleans and Memphis, this is as good as it is going to get for Phoenix.
Because next season they will have to deal with the likes of Zion Williamson, Kawhi Leonard, LeBron James, Anthony Davis and Jamal Murray.
Could the Suns pull through and win the title even against healthy versions of all these teams? It is certainly possible but not as likely. It’s important to take advantage of seasons like last year and this year when there are injuries galore and none to your own team.
Who knows how long Middleton will be out for Milwaukee? That could be the difference the Suns need to win the title.
I know the Suns and their fans are anxious to breathe that sigh of relief after the probable win against Dallas but don’t relax just yet. Because every series could be the Paul-Booker Suns’ last chance.