Phoenix Suns have looked improved in the bubble; now it begins
While it hasn’t been the most ideal season, this year was arguably the most successful Phoenix Suns season since 2014. Though the team’s 26-39 record isn’t anything to write home about, improvements to the team’s offense under new head coach Monty Williams are encouraging signs.
It was questioned just how good this team was going to be with the additions made by new team executive James Jones, and despite the criticism, the players on the Suns have also improved and showed real promise.
Devin Booker continued to play like the star shooting guard he is in the NBA, while Deandre Ayton has flashed signs that he may actually be a worthy 1st overall pick. Leaps by players like Mikal Bridges and Kelly Oubre Jr. along with great performances by rookie contributors Ty Jerome and Cameron Johnson show the Suns are heading in the right direction.
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Some of the best additions to the Suns have actually come from the veteran presence the team brought in as well. Acquiring center Aron Baynes from the Boston Celtics looked to be a questionable move but proved to pay off with Baynes showing the ability to be a stretch-5 this season.
While the signing of Ricky Rubio may not have fixed the Suns’ long-term point guard problem, he certainly helped sure up the position for a least a couple of seasons.
Sure, Rubio has never become the second coming of Steve Nash many predicted him to be after being taken with the 5th pick in the 2009 NBA Draft but Rubio has proven to be a steady floor-general and quality defender.
The biggest problem for this Phoniex Suns team didn’t seem to be their talent during the year, but their ability to consistently harness it together and get everyone on the floor during the season. Starting with Ayton’s 25-game suspension to start the season as well as nagging injuries that withheld contributors like Rubio and Baynes, the Suns lacked consistency.
With a poor defense and being the last team to even make it into the seeding game qualifier in the NBA’s restart, many have argued that the Suns have no reason even being in Orlando right now. The team seems to be using that criticism as fuel and is looking to make the most of their opportunity.
The Phoenix Suns have looked good
What Phoniex has shown through three scrimmage games is that they don’t plan on going out without a fight and that the youth on this team’s roster might have even taken a step forward in the season’s absence.
Yes, these scrimmage games probably won’t matter much when it comes to the outcome of the rest of the season but the Suns did finish with a 2-1 record through their three games which are better than some of the league’s best contenders did.
The team’s offense in those games looked as good as it did all season which was surprising because the team lost Kelly Oubre for the rest of the season to injury. In the three shortened games, the team still managed to top 100 points in each game, which is fairly impressive.
The biggest revelations to come out of Phoneix’s performance came from the leaps made from Mikal Bridges and Deandre Ayton. Over the course of the scrimmage games, Bridges lead the team in scoring including going off for a 26-point outburst in the team’s final game.
Bridges looks to be blossoming into the 3-and-D wing he was projected to be when Phoniex acquired him in the 2018 draft. As for Ayton, he looks like he’s taken a leap forward as well showing a strong rebounding presence and better defensive instincts while having excellent chemistry with the Rubio-Booker backcourt.
With Devin Booker continuing to show that he’s nearing the peak of his game with a knack for both scoring and playmaking, we’re finally seeing what this Suns team was designed to be during the season at full strength.
What are the Phoenix Suns’ prospects moving forward?
Ultimately, the Suns are still a long shot to make the playoffs as their just too far behind some of the other teams competing to make it into the 8th seed. The Suns would have to make up at least two games in order to qualify for the play-in playoff tournament. That could mean going 6-2 or 7-1 to even have a shot, and even then there’d still be no guarantee it’d be enough.
The Suns do however have a powerful offense that moves the ball a lot and packs a serious punch. That means as much as the Suns might not make it far in Orlando, they can definitely be the spoiler to some other teams in the league.
Teams like Dallas, Oklahoma City, and Indiana who are on the Suns’ schedule, for example, are all teams that are still fighting for seeding and positioning in the playoffs to put themselves in the best matchups to make a run.
For the Suns, the NBA’s restart will offer them an opportunity to improve as a team which could possibly be carried over to next season.