In an offseason that has seen major changes in the western conference (with some still to come), yet the top two teams (Golden State Warriors and Phoenix Suns) in NBA.com's western conference power rankings have kept their main core together.
Of course there's quite the difference between what the Golden State and Phoenix have. The Warriors have pieced together the greatest championship run since Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls were prominent in the league.
The Suns, although coming two games shy of putting their hands on the Larry O'Brien trophy, aren't quite on that level despite maintaining excellent play through the last regular season.
Phoenix is intent on running it back once more in hopes of winning their first title in franchise history, and NBA.com writer John Schuhmann believes only Golden State is ahead of Devin Booker and co.
Phoenix Suns Rank No. 2 in NBA.com Western Conference Power Rankings
The following is the excerpt from Phoenix's portion:
2021-22 record: 64-18
Pace: 100.3 (8), OffRtg: 114.2 (5), DefRtg: 106.8 (3), NetRtg: +7.5 (1)
Key addition(s): N/A
Key departure(s): JaVale McGee
Three numbers to know…
The Suns scored 131.6 points per 100 possessions with the score within five points in the last five minutes. That was the best mark for clutch offense in the 26 seasons of clutch data, and they were more efficient in the clutch (152.4, 32 points on 21 possessions) in the playoffs.
The Suns saw the biggest jump in pace from 2020-21 (98.0 possessions per 48 minutes, 24th) to last season (100.3, eighth). They then saw the second biggest drop in pace from the regular season to the playoffs (94.1, 10th).
The Suns lost more games by 25 points or more in the last two games of the conference semifinals (2) than they prior to that (93 games). Their only loss by 25 or more prior to that was their third game of the regular season (at Portland).
Key question: Why can’t they be just as good?
"Chris Paul is 37 and entering Year 18. Only 4% of the Suns’ ’21-22 minutes, the league’s lowest rate, came from rookies or second-year players last season. And the only rookies or second-year players on the current roster are Jock Landale (who turns 27 in October) and two undrafted guys – Ish Wainwright and Duane Washington Jr. – on two-way contracts. This team remains built to win now.
"But Deandre Ayton, Devin Booker, Mikal Bridges, and Cam Johnson will be 24, 25, 26 and 26 on opening night. Assuming that everyone is pulling in the same direction, this team can be just as good (or maybe better) as the 2021-22 Suns, who were (in regard to wins and losses) the best team in the league by a wide margin. A bounce-back season from Cameron Payne would be big, both in regard to bench minutes and keeping Paul fresh. Payne missed 24 games last year and saw the biggest drop in effective field goal percentage (from 57.6% to 46.9%) among 196 players with at least 300 field goal attempts in each of the last two seasons.
"The end to last season was absolutely brutal. But does that outweigh what the Suns did through their first 93 games? Perhaps they can look to the 2013-14 Spurs – who were led by a 37-year-old from Wake Forest and suffered an even more painful ending the season prior – for inspiration."
Trailing the Suns are the Los Angeles Clippers, Denver Nuggets and Memphis Grizzlies to round out the top five.
Thank you for making Inside The Suns your destination for Phoenix Suns news. Please be sure to give us a like on Facebook, subscribe to us on YouTube and follow us on Twitter @InsideTheSunsSI for news, updates, analysis and more!