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Phoenix Suns Are The Most Dangerous Team In The NBA: They Are Ready For The 2022 Championship

Phoenix Suns Are The Most Dangerous Team In The NBA: They Are Ready For The 2022 Championship

The Phoenix Suns have gone 14-1 over their last 15 games, increasing their lead for the overall best record in the league to 5 games over the Golden State Warriors.

Earlier in the week, the Suns cemented their case as title favorites by mollywhopping a Milwaukee Bucks team that was going 110% against them in a prove-it game. And Phoenix showed precisely why they are so ridiculously tough to beat in the process.

The Bucks tried to play their typical switch-heavy defense, but Deandre Ayton ate them up to the tune of 27 points on 12 for 14 shooting anytime he was matched up against a smaller player. Milwaukee also shifted to a man-on-man drop-back scheme, but Chris Paul picked them apart with 19 assists and 17 points (all from mid-range).

On defense, the combination of Deandre Ayton, JaVale McGee, and Bismack Biyombo gave Giannis fits, smothering the two-time MVP into a 5 for 14 showing. Mikal Bridges, Jae Crowder, and Cameron Johnson took turns harassing Khris Middleton. And Chris Paul and Devin Booker had no problem covering Jrue Holiday and Grayson Allen.

The Suns won the game 131 to 107, leaving the Bucks and the rest of the league searching for answers to a Phoenix team that is gaining momentum with the postseason looming only a few months away.

Below we’ll break down the Phoenix Suns by their main championship ingredients.


Chris Paul And Devin Booker

Chris Paul and Devin Booker flummox opposing teams by destroying the rim from mid-range, constantly catching their defenders off guard as they stare with Why-did-he-launch-that-20-foot-jumper?-Doesn’t-he-know-it’s-2022-where-everyone-should-take-a-three-or-drive-to-the-rim? blank looks pouring out their eyeballs.

CP3 and Book don’t care about the rest of the NBA’s preconceived notions about what makes a shot efficient.

Chris Paul takes over 50% of his 2021-22 attempts from just outside the key to the three-point line, using his passing ability and subtle shoulder jukes to create separation, allowing him to shoot 57.7% from 10 to 16 feet and 48.1% from 16 feet to the arch.

Devin Booker isn’t far behind Paul. Over 40 percent of his attempts come from the NBA deadzone of 10 feet to the three-point line. Book uses the threat of his rim attacks and an improving fadeaway jumper to hit a tad over 46.0% from mid-range.

Chris Paul is also leading the league in assists, dishing out 10.7 perfect dimes per game, and as you’d expect, he’s also first in assist points created at 27.1 nightly. CP3, in his wizened old age, feels like a 2330 AI robot processing the game at 1 million calculations per second, picking apart opposing defenses with a precision only he possesses.

Devin Booker is about as athletic as they come, but we’re seeing a more reserved Book this season. He’s still dropping 25.5 PPG per game, but he only gets to the rim for 10.4% of his attempts. The Suns All-Star shooting guard is saving his bursts to the rack for the postseason, a scary thought for the rest of the league, considering how easily his Suns are dominating with him driving down the highway on cruise control.


The Center Position

Deandre Ayton is a massive 6-11, 250-pound center. He might be the strongest player in the league, and he knows it.

During the Suns’ recent domination of the Bucks, Bobby Portis (that’s the same 250-pound Bobby Portis who shattered Nikola Mirotic’s jaw during a Bulls practice session) got frustrated with Ayton’s size and gave him an 85% shove. Ayton didn’t move an inch, leading Portis to bust out one of his patented crazy-eyed glares in Deandre’s face. The Suns’ center looked at Bobby Buckets (yes, that’s his nickname) with a smirk inching up his lips, no fear lining his eyes. Portis drew a technical, and everyone walked away, but you could see it was Buckets who didn’t want any part of Ayton.

Deandre Ayton has incredibly light feet for a guy his size, and his ability to combine his bulk and agility to shut down opposing All-Star frontcourt players gives the Suns a massive advantage over the competition. Per NBA.com’s matchup tool, Ayton has locked up a who’s who list of superstar big men in 2021-22.

Here’s a breakdown:

Embiid is shooting 47.1% against Ayton

Giannis is shooting 25.0% against Ayton

Sabonis is shooting 50.0% against Ayton

Ayton is also the premier roll man in the NBA, finishing a massive 79.7% of his shots at the rim. He’s the perfect rim runner next to Chris Paul, constantly pressuring opposing defenses with his ability to catch lobs from anywhere near the basket.

JaVale McGee, the Suns’ backup center, is an advanced stats beast this season. Dunks and Threes rate him in the 94th percentile among all NBA players, and NBA.com’s PIE places him 11th in the association in total impact ( minimum 15 MPG).

McGee gives the Suns 16.2 nightly minutes of kangaroo-spring rim protection, driving opponents crazy with his top-20 block rate (5.3%). He’s also a solid post defender, holding his man to 3.9% under his normal average for the season.

Big Daddy Wookie has been excellent on the fun side. He has a case as the best short-burst roller in the NBA, scoring a league-high (minimum 2 attempts per game) 1.51 points per possession as the finisher in pick and roll plays. McGee will guide the ball home if it’s in the same zip code as the rack.

The Suns signed Bismack Biyombo for the rest of the season after his 10-day deal expired in January. Overall, Biyombo has played 17 solid games for a Phoenix team, already teeming with talent.

Biyombo is a 6-8 center with a 7-6 wingspan, and he is more than capable of protecting the rim and scoring in the lane.

The Suns don’t have an offensive weapon like Nikola Jokic or Joel Embiid at the center position. Instead, they have three long and athletic 5s on their roster, wreaking shot-blocking havoc at the most critical defensive position in basketball. Perhaps more importantly, backups McGee and Biyombo ensure that future All-Star Deandre Ayton (29.1 MPG) never gets dead-legged at the end of games, allowing him to use his tremendous strength to pile on to his assignments on the less fun end throughout crunch time situations.


The Wings

Phoenix Suns head coach Monty Williams charges Mikal Bridges with taking on the opposing team’s best offensive weapon nightly. While other teams create defensive schemes with multiple defenders involved to stop the likes of Stephen Curry or LeBron James, Williams sends out Bridges on a bridge (sorry, the name bridges is too fun to use as a metaphor) and asks him to single-handedly stop his man from crossing to the other side, freeing up the rest of the Suns’ army to harass their assignments unshackled with the burden of playing help defense.

Bridges’ advanced stats don’t jump off the screen. Dunks and Threes put him in the 66th percentile as a defender, and Basketball-Reference ranks him eighth on the Suns in defensive box plus/minus at 1.2 for the season. This is where the numbers actually do lie, or at least tell only a partial truth.

Bridges is a top-5 defender. He’s 6-6, 209 pounds, with a 7-1 wingspan, quick feet, and most notably, the desire to make opposing NBA All-Stars sweat, panic, and eventually give up on a nightly basis. What truly separates Bridges from every other wing lockdown artist is his ability to match up against positions 1 through 4.

Have a look at Mikal Bridges 2021-22 matchups:

VS speedy point guards:

Damian Lillard is shooting 48% against Bridges

Stephen Curry is shooting 16.7%

Trae Young is shooting 50.0%

De’Aaron Fox is shooting 30.8%

VS bulkier point guards or shooting guards:

Jalen Brunson is shooting 50.0% against Bridges

Anthony Edwards is shooting 20.0%

James Harden is shooting 20.0%

LaMelo Ball is shooting 36.4%

VS Bigger wings or power forwards:

LeBron James is shooting 37.5% against Bridges

Michael Porter Jr. is shooting 50.0%

Jayson Tatum is shooting 25.0%

Draymond Green is shooting 0.0%

Jaylen Brown is shooting 0.0%

Bridges is the key to the Suns’ defense. He’s the most versatile defender in the league, and at least for now, he’s satisfied doing all the dirty work to help Phoenix pile up wins while his teammates get buckets and the glory that comes with sending the ball into its natural home through the net.


Can I Be Honest With You?

I don’t like Jae Crowder. I never have. He’s always rubbed me the wrong way, like Dennis Rodman next to Jordan and Pippen or Joakim Noah when he played on the Bulls and flailed about trying to draw fouls.

Here’s the thing, though: If my hometown team signed Crowder, I’d be ecstatic. He’s today’s singular love/hate player.

Rest assured, Phoenix Suns fans take great pleasure in Crowder’s over-the-top celebrations. They move their hands in and out, creating skin-on-skin noise after he hits a wide open corner three, or immediately following one of his comedic stare downs after he gets a stop on defense.

Crowder adds to the Suns on offense and defense the way an expensive dress makes an attractive woman transform into a true head-turner. Phoenix doesn’t necessarily need Crowder’s skill set. They’ve got a plethora of gifted players, but his bravado combined with Chris Paul’s consummate belief in himself lifts the Suns from a top-tier regular season team to the title frontrunner.

Jae Crowder, nicknamed appropriately “The Beast,” takes pleasure in taking his “beast” qualities and hounding the top offensive forwards in the league. Crowder handles players like LeBron James, Kevin Durant, or DeMar DeRozan about as well as anybody in the association, never shying away from them and all their fame. He takes pleasure in getting under their skin.

Overall, Crowder’s defensive numbers are excellent. He clocks in with a 44.7 defensive field goal percentage, and he averages 2.2 deflections per game. All of which shows he’s more than just an excellent one-on-one defender; he also disrupts by getting his hands on the rock.

Cameron Johnson is the most well-rounded Phoenix Suns wing. Crowder has struggled from deep this season, shooting below 34%, and while Bridges has been better, he’s no long distance marksman, connecting on only 37.3% of his three-point attempts.

Cameron Johnson, however, ranks third in the NBA in three-point shooting at 43.1% (minimum five three-point attempts per game), making him one of the best high volume snipers in the league. Johnson blends a high release with a confident stroke from beyond the arc to get deep buckets, and he’s formed a nice synergy with CP3 and Booker, helping his All-Star teammates find room in the middle of the court with his spacing capabilities.

Johnson has also rounded into a solid defensive wing, not quite on the level of Bridges or Crowder, but close. He moves his feet well for a 6-8, 210 pound forward, and he has quick hands, evidenced by his 1.6% steel rate for the season.


The Suns Versus The Other Top Squads

The Warriors are no joke. Stephen Curry is, well, Stephen Curry. Klay Thompson is back. Andrew Wiggins is an All-Star, and Draymond Green is probably the best defender in the NBA.

Still, the Suns have Mikal Bridges to hound Curry, taking away the gravity he uses to free up his teammates for easy looks. Thompson is a problem in the backcourt, but Devin Booker has been an excellent defender this season, and the Suns can put Chris Paul, a pitbull of a player, on Klay as well. Crowder has no problem sticking on Wiggins, and Deandre Ayton is more than capable of hounding Green, Looney, or Wiseman.

The Suns match up with the Warriors better than any Western Conference team.

Out East, we’ve seen the Suns smash apart the Bucks’ defense. The 76ers landed James Harden, but nobody in the league defends The Beard better than Bridges, and the combination of Ayton, McGee, and Biyombo is more than capable of slowing down Joel Embiid. The Nets now have Ben Simmons, but he hasn’t played in close to a year. KD always seems to be injured, and Irving is a part-time player who might actually hurt Brooklyn’s overall chemistry with his in-the-lineup and out-of-the-lineup 2021-22 theatrics. The Heat rest in first place, trailed closely by the Bulls, but neither team has the size to contend with the Suns’ combination of centers and wings.

The combination of Chris Paul and Devin Booker in the backcourt, with Mikal Bridges, Jae Crowder, and Cameron Johnson filling out the wing position, and Deandre Ayton, JaVale McGee, and Bismack Biyombo protecting the lane make the Phoenix Suns the most dangerous team in the league. A group capable of scoring at will and defending any 5-man lineup an opposing squad can throw at them.

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