The Suns Are A Shoo-In For The Playoffs Again This Season But Their Title Chances Remain In Question

The Phoenix Suns have picked up from right where they left off last season and are looking to run away with the Western Conference following their unlikely trip to the NBA Finals last year. Monty Williams’ side is leading the West at the moment, under the leadership of veteran point guard Chris Paul, young stars in Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton, and valuable role players such as Jae Crowder and Cameron Payne.

The Suns aren’t favored to win the championship right now but bet against them at your own risk. They now know how painful it is to get within a few wins of a championship and are desperate to get back into such a position – they’re certainly playing like it.

“It hurts badly,” Williams admitted after watching the Milwaukee Bucks claim the Larry O’Brien Trophy at the Suns’ expense last July, “but I’m also grateful that we had this chance to play for a championship. I’m just grateful for that part. The fourth quarter, I mean, it’s pretty evident we couldn’t score enough.

“We had opportunities, a lot of shots in and out, but our transition offense tonight we couldn’t convert. We had a number of opportunities to get a layup, get a three and we just couldn’t do it. It hurt our defense. Our defense was really good tonight. If you look at what (Bucks superstar forward) Giannis (Antetokounmpo) did, you would be like, ‘But the rest of the team, they had 105 points.’ We shot 6-for-25 from three. We just couldn’t knock down those shots, couldn’t convert in transition, and if I had to point to anything in the fourth quarter, that was it, we just couldn’t convert.”

They should have little difficulty making it to the playoffs this season; they have the best record in the NBA after all. The Golden State Warriors, who are back in contention after a few subdued campaigns, remain their biggest threat. But the young Memphis Grizzlies are putting some real intent on display and it could get really interesting down the stretch.

The Suns are the bookies’ fourth favorites to win the title right now at 6/1 and BetMGM Arizona will have some great picks on their futures as the season winds down. The Brooklyn Nets remain the outright favorites; their chances have improved now that they have Kyrie Irving back, albeit on a part-time basis.

Bookmakers are offering 29/10 odds on the Nets’ prospects, with the Warriors next up 5/1 and the defending champs, the Bucks, given odds of 7/1.

The Miami Heat took pole position in the Eastern Conference with a win over the Los Angeles Lakers last week and will be one to watch out for considering the way Erik Spoelstra managed to coach them to multiple victories despite Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo missing several games while other important players have had to miss time due to various injuries and COVID-19 protocols.

The Heat are now 13/1 to win the championship this season, following their own trip to the finals in 2020.

Williams, though, has changed the culture in Phoenix in very little time and fans know they have something special going on. The Suns brought veteran big man Bismack Biyombo in on January 11 and he’s already noticing how rare a team he’s on just weeks after joining.

Biyombo recently praised Paul and Williams, the coach in particular, who caught his attention when he said they were trying to create leaders, not followers, in Phoenix. The center also claimed to be moved by Williams taking time to mentor Ayton through the playoffs last season.

“A lot of coaches, teams look at it as a business. You come, you do your job and then you go home. I think the organization here and us as players, we’re fortunate enough to have (Williams),” he explained.

“And then you have Chris as a competitor, Devin Booker — all the guys on the team. It feels good when the guys are on the floor because nobody really cares who scores as long as we win the game. This is not normal.

“The number one thing for me was that playing this year, I wanted to play for something. I wanted a season full of purpose. … It was just a matter of being patient and waiting for the right situation.”

“I don’t think I would’ve taken [more money] anyway because my gut feeling felt like this was the right situation for me,” Biyombo continued. “I think it’s the journey, the game that we play is not so much about money. There’s only so much money you can make. But again my gut feeling felt right here.”

In other positive news, the team is reported to have signed general manager James Jones to a multi-year extension.

Jones has been a key factor in the Suns’ resurgence and is responsible for bringing Williams in. He was named the NBA’s Executive of the Year after overseeing the Suns going from 19-63 in the 2012/19 season to 34/39 and then 51/21 in the two shortened seasons that have followed.

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