With the Phoenix Suns having swept the Denver Nuggets, it comes as no surprise that Phoenix is going for a much-coveted championship, a series victory that would entail firsts for both Chris Paul and the entire franchise. Yet the Suns have only made the conference finals nine times – winning only twice – so why is this year any different?
Any basketball pundit could tell you that this year is reminiscent of the 2018-19 NBA playoffs for a number of reasons.
Firstly, a super team in the Brooklyn Nets is sporting multiple injuries as seen in Kyrie Irving, James Harden, and Spencer Dinwiddie, three of their star players. In comparison, the Golden State Warriors faced a relatively similar situation, with Steph Curry, Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson and DeMarcus Cousins all having major injuries throughout the 2019 playoffs, without which it would be no question that the Warriors would have secured their first-ever three-peat. Case in point, the series of injuries eventually allowed the Toronto Raptors led by Kawhi Leonard to secure the franchise’s first-ever ring.
Secondly, LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers have been eliminated from the playoffs, by none other than the Suns. While this may appear insignificant, it’s important to note that 2019 was the first year LeBron failed to make the playoffs, and one of the first years he did not appear in the NBA finals. Hence, without him, the path to success seems all too clear.
8️⃣1️⃣ points in the first two closeout wins of a postseason.@DevinBook joins Michael Jordan (1989, 1992) as the only players to score at least 81.
(Elias Sports Bureau) pic.twitter.com/3UAyJkie5R
— Phoenix Suns (@Suns) June 16, 2021
Thirdly, the Suns are coming off of one of their best seasons yet with 51 wins and only 21 losses, placing them second in the 2020-21 NBA behind only the Utah Jazz. In comparison, the Raptors also were second in the NBA for the 2018-2019 season and clocked a similar 50+ wins with less than 25 losses.
Currently, Devin Booker leads the team averaging 27.9 points per game in the playoffs, a feat that is more than remarkable for the first-time playoffs player. While this goes without saying, their offensive and defensive effectiveness may not be the only factor at hand.
Looking forward, it is likely that the Los Angeles Clippers will defeat the Utah Jazz, and this would result in a conference matchup for the ages. Led by Kawhi Leonard, the Clippers have had a significantly better season ranking (fifth) in the NBA. However, the current series with the Jazz displays a remarkable discrepancy. The Clippers lost both the games in which Leonard and Paul George, the team’s top scorers, scored less than 60, and won both the games in which they scored more than 60. This suggests that the outcome could depend largely on the health and performance of the Clippers’ two top guards, Leonard and George. Currently, Leonard is out with a knee injury and is predicted to miss the first few games of the conference finals.
Lastly, the deciding factor may lay in the Suns’ point guard, often called a point God: Chris Paul. There is no doubt now that he has an incredibly positive effect on all the teams he plays for, seen with the Houston Rockets and the Oklahoma City Thunder both of which experienced noticeable improvements in their ‘games won’ subsequent to him joining. In addition to this, he seems to be breaking records left right and centre during this year’s playoffs being the only player to record 15 assists and 0 turnovers in three or more playoff games.
He’s also the oldest player to record a triple-double and 35+ points in game seven of a series. Regardless of these achievements, Paul’s effectiveness on the court extends beyond just points scored, he’s one of the most effective passers and rarely makes mistakes when executing plays. Overall, his experience tied with Booker’s talent is a truly deadly combination that more than hints at a record NBA final.
In conclusion, while this does not guarantee Phoenix will win even one game, it suggests that the Suns have a very good chance of making it to the NBA finals and securing their first-ever championship.