The Phoenix Suns are currently the only unbeaten team in the NBA restart with a 5-0 record in Orlando. As the 13th seed, the Suns were the last team brought back to play in the Western Conference and are now just a game behind the Portland Trail Blazers for the 9th seed and a play-in for the final playoff spot in the West.
In what many thought would be a three team race between the Memphis Grizzlies, New Orleans Pelicans and the Trail Blazers, the Suns have emerged as a legitimate contender for the 8th seed with Devin Booker showcasing his star talent, DeAndre Ayton getting more comfortable in his role and their deep cast of role players filling in the gaps.
Devin Booker Shows Out
Devin Booker has been the one of the best players in the NBA restart increasing his scoring average to nearly 30 points per game on 50% shooting in the Suns 5 games. Booker has scored at least 20 points in every game so far in the restart including a 35-point game against the Clippers where he also dished out eight assists and hit the game winner over both Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. With the offseason acquisition of Ricky Rubio, Booker has had a chance to play more of a combo guard role where he is much more efficient and does not have to shoulder the entire load of the offense.
Booker has had the ‘good player on a bad team’ cliche surround him for his entire career but in the restart, he is finally getting a chance to prove himself in high leverage games with a competent supporting cast around him. In addition to Booker’s elite level scoring he is still just as willing to set up his teammates and looks to be more bought in defensively than ever in the restart.
DeAndre Ayton’s Development
DeAndre Ayton has given the Suns the interior presence they need on both ends of the court. Ayton is protecting the rim as well as he ever has in his short career and is scoring at an extremely efficient rate while still being Phoenix’s second scoring option.
Ayton has always had great touch around the rim, shooting an elite 66% on shots five feet and in from the basket. In the Suns first five games back Ayton has upped his percentage to 73% on those same shots. If Ayton had shot at that rate for the entire season, he would have ranked third overall in the NBA in field goal percentage on shots near the rim of players with at least 5 attempts per game.
Ayton has also stretched his game out a bit and has started shooting from three-point range when left open. If Ayton continues to improve from range teams will have to pull their big man out even further to defend him which will result in more space in the lane for his teammates to operate.
Of all five-man lineups that have played at least 50 minutes, Phoenix’s lineup of Ricky Rubio, Devin Booker, Mikal Bridges, Cameron Johnson and DeAndre Ayton has the third best offensive and net ratings in the NBA restart.
Ricky Rubio has been a great fit for the team all season, in addition to shooting the best three-point percentage of his career, Rubio also gets the rest of the team easy buckets when Booker is out and they need a facilitator.
Mikal Bridges continues to be a key defensive tool who can guard multiple positions. Cameron Johnson has shot the ball well all season for the Suns and continues to do so in the restart, upping his scoring average by nearly 5 points per game in Phoenix’s five games. Dario Saric, Jevon Carter and Cameron Payne have all spread the floor well with great three-point shooting.
Despite the Sun’s incredible run, they will still need help to make the final spot in the Western Conference playoffs. The Suns will likely need to win out in order to keep their playoff hopes alive and they may still end up falling just short if Memphis and Portland win out as well. While the experience of making the playoffs would be great for Phoenix’s development the Suns have shown the ability to play at a high level and can end on a positive note going into next season.
“From Our Haus to Yours”