The injury-depleted Warriors’ shocking stumble (2-5 and fading fast) out of the gate isn’t the only Western Conference development to stun many in the early throes of this NBA season. A positive surprise has been the remarkable early run by the Suns (5-2). Phoenix’s management and ownership groups in recent years have been notoriously dysfunctional (shout-out to Kevin Arnovitz), but suddenly, the team’s production may be catching up to their promise.
Heading into the season, expectations for Phoenix were low. The team has won 24 or fewer games in each of the last four seasons (i.e. every prior year of Devin Booker’s NBA career). The Suns’ talented young core of Booker and 2018 No. 1 draft pick Deandre Ayton (currently serving a 25-game suspension after violating the league’s drug policy) underwhelmed together last season. But that was last season.
Now, under the stabilizing stewardship of new head coach Monty Williams, and with the Suns’ solid offseason veteran additions in point guard Ricky Rubio and center Aron Baynes exceeding expectations, things are finally looking sunny in Phoenix.
Phoenix currently stands at second place in the Western Conference and could move into a tie for first if the Lakers lose tonight. The Suns have racked up quality wins against the Clippers and Sixers (still formidable, even sans a suspended Joel Embiid).
As The Ringer’s noted today, Phoenix has been impressive on both ends of the floor. The Suns are among just two teams (the other being the 5-1 Miami Heat) currently occupying the top 10 in both offensive and defensive rating. Their plus-8.6 point differential ranks fourth in the league. Booker, perpetual All-Star-in-waiting, appears to have taken another leap. New young forwards Dario Saric (acquired in a summer trade) and Kelly Oubre (added in a trade last season) have offered other competent scoring options.
Baynes, though, has been a particular revelation, as Cody Cunningham details on Suns.com. The Australian center’s three-point shooting has taken an astronomical leap. He is currently connecting on 48.4% on his looks from deep across 4.4 attempts per game, far eclipsing his career averages of 33.3% from long distance on 0.3 tries per contest. His scoring, rebounding, assists and blocks are all at career marks. His numbers will come back down to earth once he returns to the bench, but his terrific start makes him look a steal for Phoenix nevertheless.
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