Storming Suns here to stay or just a blitz of potential?
The Phoenix Suns have been the surprise package of the NBA's return, going 7-0 since the restart to get to within one game of the eighth seed and final playoff place in the Western Conference. It is quite the turnaround for a Phoenix team that were 26-39 entering the bubble and seven games behind the then, eighth place Grizzlies, Devin Booker is putting on a scoring clinic night after night and is showing no signs of slowing. The Suns are the form team in the bubble but still trail Portland and the Grizzlies in the race for a playoff place, and with just one game remaining are running out of time. The other question to answer now is whether this fine form is a sign of good things for the future or just a lull in the storm?
Booker and Deandre Ayton have the potential to be an all-star duo, Ricky Rubio is at the peak of his powers running the offence and with quality young pieces like Oubre Jr and Mikal Bridges, they appear to be in good hands but is Phoenix just too small a market for this team to reach their full potential. Market size is a huge factor in the success of any team in any sport and basketball is no different, the Suns have never won an NBA Championship despite having three league MVP's (Charles Barkley-1993 & Steve Nash-2005,2006) and have had just one winning season since they last reached the playoffs back in 2010. In terms of market size they rank somewhere in the middle compared to the other twenty nine NBA teams, but in terms of team success they rank 21st with just two conference and six division titles. However, they now have a young, talented core, two potential superstars and a couple of experienced heads, that, on paper, should all come together and push Phoenix right to the top. But they have been in this position before, with more than just potential and still failed to reach elite heights.
Thankfully for the Suns and their fans Devin Booker is only entering the third year of his five year contract extension with the team. Deandre Ayton is still on his rookie deal and veterans Ricky Rubio & Aron Baynes seem to be very happy playing their basketball in Arizona, they have time on their side but a slide back into mediocrity next season could lead to their stars questioning their future.
Devin Booker is no doubt the star man in Phoenix, having averaged over 26 PPG the last two seasons and 31 PPG in the bubble. It has often been said that Booker must move to a bigger market to reach his full potential but the guard is in an excellent position. By the time he next hits free agency, he will be on the verge of his 27th birthday and entering the prime years of his career so he can see out the potential of this Phoenix team and know even if it does not turn into the success it should that he can still have the best years of his career elsewhere. It's win win for Booker and that gives Phoenix the best chance of achieving the success they so desperately crave.
Minimum expectation for this Suns team, match the success of the Dame/McCollum led Trail Blazers (consistently make the playoffs, with one or two deep runs). The ceiling for this team, all things coming together has to be, multiple finals appearances and at least one championship. Booker and Ayton could be the real deal and if they reach their potential, success will follow.
It is a lot to ask of a young team without any previous success but when you get lucky in the draft, trade well and make quality free agency signings, there are no excuses, success must quickly follow. There all still a number of 'if's' when it comes to the Suns but their performance inside the bubble shows the talent is there they just have to embrace it and run.