After falling just two games short of clinching their first ever NBA Championship, the Phoenix Suns will run it back in 2021-22 with the same core.
The team’s biggest priority was to retain perennial All-Star point guard Chris Paul. The future Hall of Famer agreed to a new four-year contract worth $120 million, thus maximizing this team’s championship window in the short term.
2020-21 Season Recap
The Suns ended an 11-year playoff drought in Monty Williams’ second season as head coach. They finished second in the Western Conference (51-21) and claimed their first Pacific Division title in 14 years.
Making the postseason was more than enough. The Suns had already defied expectations, but Devin Booker and company were just getting started.
In the opening round, Phoenix dethroned LeBron James and the defending NBA Champion Los Angeles Lakers in six games. They proceeded to sweep the Denver Nuggets — who were led by league MVP Nikola Jokić — to advance to the Conference Finals for the first time since 2010.
The Suns then got past a resilient Los Angeles Clippers team (who played without Kawhi Leonard) in six games to reach the NBA Finals. There, they met Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks.
Phoenix seemingly had the Bucks on ice after taking the first two games at home. However, Giannis and the Bucks got into an offensive rhythm that Phoenix had absolutely no answer for.
Antetokounmpo racked up 149 points over the final four outings to guide the Bucks to the NBA Championship.
For the Suns, the ultra-promising and thrilling season ended on a sour note, but the pieces are here for them to take care of unfinished business.
2021-22 Outlook & Predictions
As noted above, the Suns managed to retain their core players. They bolstered their depth by acquiring Landry Shamet in a trade with the Brooklyn Nets.
In free agency, general manager James Jones brought in three-time NBA Champion Javale McGee and veteran guard Elfrid Payto, who played 19 games for Phoenix in 2018-19.
A stronger bench will greatly enhance the Suns’ chances of getting back to the finals. Paul, Booker, Deandre Ayton, Jae Crowder and Mikal Bridges form one of the league’s most well-rounded starting fives.
The Suns and Golden State Warriors share the fourth-best championship odds at +1200, per sports betting sites in Arizona. Only the Nets (+300 ), Lakers (+325) and Bucks (+900) have higher championship odds.
If James and Anthony Davis can stay healthy for the postseason, and if newcomer Russell Westbrook proves to be a good fit, then the Lakers are unquestionably the team to beat in the West.
The Clippers’ title hopes come down to Leonard, who will miss significant time as he recovers from surgery on a torn ACL. There is no timetable on a return, and there’s no guarantee that he’ll play next season.
The Nuggets will be a serious contender if Jamal Murray is healthy and fresh for the postseason. And the Utah Jazz, who finished with the league’s best record last season, cannot be ruled out.
The Golden State Warriors will return to elite status if Stephen Curry, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson (who’s missed each of the last two seasons) can stay healthy. That’s a big “if” though.
Right now, the Suns are by far a top-three team in the West. A healthy Lakers team should be considered the club to beat in the West right now. It’s a coin flip between the Jazz and the Suns for the Lakers’ biggest challengers.
There is no reason to think that last season was a fluke. Paul was the perfect complement to a well-built Phoenix team that has two franchise cornerstones in Ayton and Booker. The bench is significantly better than last year. As long as the core stays healthy, the Suns should once again vie for a top seed in the West.
The early prediction here is that the Suns once again claim the No. 2 seed with a 55-27 record. However, a vastly improved Lakers team will be too much for the Suns in the Western Conference Finals.
Right now, it’s hard to bet against the more experienced and revamped Lakers in a best-of-seven. They’ll defeat the Suns in seven games to advance to the NBA Finals.