Photo courtesy of azcentral.com
The Phoenix Suns have been surprising everyone in all the best possible ways. Once the laughing stock of the NBA, the team has turned their losing ways around and become legitimate title contenders in the span of just one season. While there are a litany of reasons for this sudden improvement, one reason stands chief among them all and that reason is Chris Paul.
The Chris Paul trade may go down as one of the most impactful NBA trades of the last decade. The affectionately nicknamed “Point God” has turned the Suns, a team that previously went 34-39 in their shortened 2019-2020 campaign, into a competent and well-oiled machine capable of hoisting the Larry O’Brien trophy come season’s end.
The Suns claimed the NBA’s second best regular season record and defeated both the Los Angeles Lakers and the Los Angeles Clippers en route to clinching their first NBA Finals appearance since 1993. Although both the Lakers and the Clippers were marred by injury, that doesn’t take anything away from this run that has been nothing short of stellar for an organization that is long overdue for a championship.
While Paul is more than deserving of praise for his role in instilling a winning culture in Phoenix, he is not the sole reason for the rapid improvement. A head coaching change and improvement from Paul’s two young co-stars, shooting guard Devin Booker and center Deandre Ayton, also have helped to push the Suns in the right direction.
Booker has been playing at a star level for years now, so this is par for the course for him. The biggest surprise and arguably the most impactful jump seen on this team has been from Ayton, who has been playing at an all-time level during this eye-opening postseason.
Ayton has been a question mark defensively ever since his days at the University of Arizona. He has used this postseason to put any worries about his defensive skills to rest. Ayton has held his opposing matchups to 37.5% shooting during these playoffs, which ranks 1st among all players with at least 125 attempted field goals defended. He also leads all players with 267 attempted field goals defended in the postseason.
Keeping in the same defensive vein, the efficiency of opposing shooters has decreased by 11.6% below their usual field goal percentage when they’re being guarded by Ayton. He leads all players in this stat for the postseason, as well.
Not only has he improved on defense, Ayton is having one of the most efficient offensive postseasons of all-time. He has the best postseason true-shooting percentage of all-time, at 70.5%. Ayton has stepped up big time for the Suns during these playoffs. He’s had a tremendous impact on both sides of the ball that shouldn’t be overlooked.
As a team, they have improved and the organization has committed to winning it all this year. All of their fans should be proud and happy, as they deserve this. No matter how you feel about the Suns or whatever asterisk you want to put on their postseason run, I think it’s safe to say that no team wants to face off with them and they are the safe bet to win it all.