Everyone’s been a little lukewarm about the Phoenix Suns this season, having come on the back of a franchise record 64 wins and an unexpected early exit at the hands of Luka Dončić and the Dallas Mavericks.
Expectations aren’t as high as last offseason, but nor are they too low. This, in all honesty, should have been the outlook on the Phoenix Suns all along.
After missing the playoffs by a hair on a Caris Levert shot in the 2019-20 season, the expectations for the Suns was to at least make the playoffs, especially after adding veteran point-guard Chris Paul.
The team went far beyond that though, earning the second seed and going neck and neck against the Utah Jazz for the league’s best record. Earning a record of 51-21, it was the second-best record in the league overall and subsequently gave them home court advantage throughout the playoffs.
Most assumed the Suns would put up a good fight but get bounced in the first-round. Who could blame them given they hadn’t made the playoffs since 2010, and with a young core of the players with zero playoff experience. They were facing the Los Angeles Lakers who, although stumbling and beset by injuries to LeBron James and unsurprisingly Anthony Davis, were still the defending champions.
Phoenix took Game 1, lost Game 2, then were demolished in Game 3. Once again, in what seems to be routine at this point, Davis sustained a groin injury and was effectively out for the rest of the series. The Suns effectively dispatched the Lakers from thereon out, winning by a whopping average of 15 points throughout the series.
They went on to sweep the Denver Nuggets and beat the Los Angeles Clippers without Kawhi Leonard, although the Suns were also without Chris Paul for the first two games. Phoenix proceeded to lose to the Milwaukee Bucks after being up by 2-0. In what was a very close series, games were decided by historical game winning plays like the crazy steal by Jrue Holiday and insane block by Giannis Antetokounmpo.
That surprising Finals run, especially with the playoff inexperience of the Suns young core, set the bar unreasonably high for the next season. Still, they met that challenge by producing the league’s best record.
They were unceremoniously decimated and dispatched in Game 7 of the second-round, leaving a bad taste that still lingers in everyone’s mouth after performing well below expectations. That performance has now set the bar lower for 2022-23 season, which is where it was supposed to be all along.
This is an elite Western Conference team that has championship aspirations, yet shouldn’t be considered a title favorite. The Suns perform better when there backs are against the wall and who knows, this might be the year the young core puts it all together.
They’ve experienced the emotional highs and lows of the postseason and are battle tested. What’s remaining is to put it all together and lay it all out on the floor and live with the result.
That’s what Phoenix Suns basketball is all about.