MANILA, Philippines – The Phoenix Suns were one of the most promising teams at the start of the 2019-2020 season.
Boasting a solid starting lineup and serviceable bench, the Suns got hot and won 5 of their first 7 games, giving hope for a franchise languishing in mediocrity for the latter half of the last decade.
However, the team was handed a heavy blow right from the get-go as the NBA suspended Suns starting center DeAndre Ayton for 25 games after violating the league’s anti-drug policy.
Because of that, the Suns were unable to sustain their hot start without their former first overall selection and they quickly came crashing back to earth.
At the time the season was suspended, they have plummeted to 13th place in the Western Conference but were still invited to the 22-team resumption at Disney World in Orlando, Florida.
Are the Suns just another cannon fodder squad for the real contenders or will the new format change their mindset back to actually competing?
Current roster composition
Unlike most of their fellow West Coast cellar-dwellers-turned-contenders in the new format, the Suns are actually stacked with a nice mix of battle-tested veterans and eager breakout stars.
First-time All-Star Devin Booker is having the best season of his career at just 23 years old with stellar averages of 26.1 points, 6.6 assists and 4.2 rebounds on 49% shooting.
Back in 2017 as a 20-year-old, he already set the Suns’ single-game franchise scoring record with a staggering 70 points against the Boston Celtics and won the NBA 3-point Shootout the very next year.
Ayton has made the most out of his return from suspension and is norming a solid double-double of 19 points and 12 rebounds on a 55% clip with 1.7 blocks.
Preseason acquisition Ricky Rubio has taken full command of the offense with an 8.9 assists average, which in turn has greatly benefited rising star Kelly Oubre, who is dropping 18.7 points a night.
Other solid pieces like Mikal Bridges, Aron Baynes, Dario Saric and Cameron Johnson round out the Suns’ solid rotation, giving them multiple new options on their historically-feared fastbreak offense.
Prior to the season’s suspension, the Suns were well on their way back to the draft lottery as they carried a 26-39 record.
However, the season restart and new eight-game regular season format may just give them enough incentive to turn around and stun some legitimate contenders.
Although they are 5 spots away from the 8th seed, only 3.5 games separate them from the 9th-seeded Portland Trail Blazers, which says a lot about how deceiving their 13th-place spot really is.
Given the rebalanced lottery odds which discourages active tanking of season standings, the Suns really have nothing to lose with competing for a playoff spot to boost morale heading to the next season.
The Phoenix Suns are now a supernova. They have blown up their current campaign, but a lot of other teams will still be burned on their way out.
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