Kevin C. Cox / Associated Press
Out of all the unfinished business the NBA tried to reinvent its Disney World, the Phoenix Suns’ fortunes were never in question. They were just there, invited to stuff schedules, both afterstandts and non-bullies, with yet another lottery already sealed in their return.
so much for that.
With their 130–117 win over the Philadelphia 76ers on Tuesday, the Suns are now 7–0 in the bubble and, more importantly, a heartbeat away from qualifying for the league’s postseason play-in tournament .
You read them all correctly.
Not to be lost amidst the excitement, Phoenix’s fate is not entirely his own. A win over the Dallas Mavericks on Thursday will go a long way toward strengthening their play presence but should also be with the loss of the Portland Trail Blazers to the Memphis Grizzlies for the Milwaukee Bucks or Brooklyn Nets.
Likewise Bear mentions that, whatever happens, most of the 2019–20 season appears outside of Disney. The sun is still down at rest. 500, more than a stone’s throw or two from title contention, or even from a playoff-lock situation. He just needed to be in the right place, so that he could potentially enter the postseason serving as a first-round stepstone for the Los Angeles Lakers.
Still, who cares? He did not expect to enter the bubble or even have a remote chance to crack the play-in tournament and the postseason. They do now.
Almost everything about him is a revelation. Not a play by Devin Booker. These last seven games are just a slight exaggeration of how he has been this season. Scoring, efficiency, passing, sheer command of the game — none of which are new. Their number is not miles away from normal when striking:
In fact, the addition of a trademark moment in victory – a game-winner over both Paul George and Kavi Leonard, is the most drastic change to his resume. The novelty of his stardom is the scale on which he is recognized and accepted, not all of it. Phoenix has a player who is really capable of producing a good team now, as he did before.
The rest, together, is epiphany. Where the Suns were previously occupying that laborious space between rebuilding and sub-arbitration, they instead look as if they laid the foundations for the NBA’s exit from the void.
Flashes of an improved outlook have been cast through the rest of the roster, ranging from DeAndre Ayton and Mickle Bridges to Cameron Johnson and Kelly Aubrey Jr. But development has never been at a standstill, with Phoenix now becoming champions. There are seven games in a drop in the bucket relative to the grand scheme. For the Sun, this is also somewhere His longest winning streak of the Booker era.
Critically, Eton appears to be part of a viable number 2 on both ends of the floor.
His scoring opportunities fall within the flow of the offense and when needed, on his own, and he works more at three-points in his arsenal. His defense is tight and more well-rounded. He has held on adverse switches in almost all seasons and has a strong back-line presence. When he is challenging them, the opponents are shooting 8.7 percentage points within the six percent basket.
The defense of the bridges had already been given – perhaps not fully appreciated, but known. It originates on crime. He looks more comfortable in his own skin, unscathed and inadvertently less hesitates to attack downhill. Deciding on the drive is no longer a hidden gem, and he also hinted at a pull-up triple:
Johnson, the No. 11 overall pick in 2019, has basically outperformed draft-day impressions all season. His outward touch is for real – his 35.9 percent clip His season off the bubble is well below the long-run mark of 39.2 percent – and he doesn’t budge. Shooting, dribble or pass are decided quickly.
Rubio has long provided an air of tenacity, someone who reduces Booker’s scratch burden when they play together and is hampered on defense. He is an incomplete player, yes, but he was promoting the Sun before now.
What is happening at Disney will be a different thing. 43.5 percent of clips beyond Rubio’s arc will not catch. Nor did Cameron Payne kill half of his trays forever. Jevon Carter would pick up the defensive assignment in the parking lot by the end of time, but his own scoring efficiency – 54.2 percent from distance – would come down.
There is merit to how Phoenix limits the three-point, but its top six defense since the restart cannot be considered the new standard. Dario Saric Scorched Earth is a real surprise.
Is it weird that the Suns are doing this without Aaron Baynes? And bored? And at a more macro level, who knows how much the future suggests to restart. He has faced G-League iterations of the Sixers and Oklahoma City Thunder with the Miami Heat Squad as well as Jimmy Butler or Goran Dragic.
Ashley Landis / Associated Press
Hard calls await the franchise, as well. Baynes and Saric (restricted) free agents are imminent. The bench has long needed shot-creation relief, and Payne probably isn’t the answer.
Phoenix would like to stick well with their current five starts of Rubio, Booker, Bridges, Johnson and Ayton, which owns a plus-25.9 net rating, but this complicates Oubre’s fit. He has one year left on his contract and does not have the playmaking chops in the pilot lineup as the primary initiator. Does Surya shop for him? What can they get for that? And can they possibly join with him without mortgaging his future too fast?
Playing in the West only complicates matters. It is funny to say that the Suns are on the verge of full-tilt postseason controversy. It is another thing to return them.
At the moment, all 15 teams are expecting the playoffs next year. Some will inevitably remove themselves from the field, but the conference will not be appreciated more than this season. Phoenix has read too much into false starts and non-beginnings. Doubling at this core is not without risk.
And yet, the nuts and bolts of the Sun’s big picture are an issue for another day, at a time when his season is actually over. Right now, it is not. And whether they bow out before the play-in tournament, lose in the meantime or earn the right to stop the Lakers for a five-ish game, they have earned theirs.
To be here, even about the dreamer in the situation, is a remarkable achievement and should not be taken lightly. It does not matter what happened before or that it has taken an unprecedented playoff format amidst a global pandemic to seize this opportunity.
They have it, they are using it the most, and in doing so, they have left a lasting impression, which seems more like an expression than a stopgap in keeping with a small sample.
Unless otherwise noted, NBA.com, basketball references or glass cleaning and current title stats in Wednesday games. Salary and cap-hold information via Basketball Insider, Early Bird Rights and Spotrack.
Dan Favale covered the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow her on Twitter (@danfavale), And listen to it Hardwood knocks Podcast, co-hosted by B / R Adam Adamal.